Temples have always been one of the favorite destinations for many travelers, not only for how they look in aesthetics, but rather for the history behind them and how many decades, centuries, or even millenniums had passed from when they were built.
If you ask us, we love visiting them. Although some people can find this boring, we are always thrilled about visiting a new space and getting to know the religion and the tragic yet incredible stories behind those constructions.
Among the ones, we would love to visit very soon is the Bayon Temple, and we are confident you might have heard about it before.
As one of the most touristic temples in Cambodia, you can’t just visit the country and decide to leave without paying a short yet significant visit to the temple.
However, if you aren’t too familiar with the place, we would kind of understand why you might not be that excited, but we’re happy you decided to change that by coming here.
After all, we will go over the history of the Bayon Temple and give you a couple of reasons why you should add it to travel destinations.
What You Must Know: History & Location
We are sure you will love this place if you have heard or read about the Angkor Wat (spoiler: We also have an article about the place) and have loved it so far.
In fact, we encourage you to read a bit more about it if you want to understand this temple more deeply.
The Bayon Temple is a well-known Khmer temple in Angkor, which will start to sound a bit more familiar from now on as the capital of the Khmer Empire that flourished from the 9th to 15th centuries.
To this date, this place works as one of the most popular touristic places in Cambodia, and the beautiful and gorgeous structure just attracts more people every year.
But when was the temple build in specific?
The Bayon Temple was built in the 12th or early 13th centuries as Jayavarman VII’s official state temple and following the previously mentioned empire.
It is located at the heart of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom, and was altered and expanded by the Hindu and Theravada Buddhist Kings following Jayavarman’s passing.
Bayon, unlike many other Angkor temples, has no surrounding walls or moats. Instead, the city of Angkor Thom protects it from all sides.
It is also part of the Small Circuit, which is easily accessible from all directions because a road surrounds it.
One of the most striking features of the Bayon is the large number of calm stone faces that rise from the upper terrace and cluster around the central peak.
Two impressive bas-relief sets are also a hallmark of the temple. They present a unique combination of historical, mythological, and everyday scenes.
But what would we mention features before continuing the history? So you can have a better idea of the resemblance of the stones.
Going back to the construction and time, scholars believe that King Jayavarman VII has a strong resemblance with the Bayon’s face towers.
Others believe that the faces belonged to Avalokitesvara, or Lokesvara, the bodhisattva compassion.
These hypotheses should not be considered mutually exclusive. George Coedes, an Angkor scholar, has suggested that Jayavarman was a Khmer monarch who thought of himself as a “Devarajan” (god-king).
The difference is that his predecessors were Hindus and considered themselves consubstantial to Shiva and his symbol, the lingam. Jayavarman, a Buddhist, identified himself with both the Buddha and the bodhisattva.
Now, the Bayon was the final Angkorian temple. It was also the only one that was built primarily to serve as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine to Buddha.
However, a number of local and minor deities were included as representatives of various cities and districts.
The Bayon has been subject to many additions and modifications since Jayavarman VII died.
The Khmer Empire reverted back to Hinduism during Jayavarman VIII’s reign in the middle of the 13th century, which is why the state temple was also altered.
Later centuries saw Theravada Buddhism become the dominant religion. This led to more changes before the temple was abandoned to the jungle.
The current features that are not included in the original plan include the terrace east of the temple, the libraries, and the square corners of the inner gallery.
It is a bit hard to follow the track of the modifications since no specific registers identify each of the changes.
However, many have been included before; as we mentioned, the temple was abandoned to the jungle.
Why Would You Visit?
We know it sounds like a simple temple you should just skip. But we assure you will regret not paying a visit if you just consider it as a basic place.
To begin with, do you think the structure and pictures you’ve seen so far are dull or boring? We don’t think so.
Although we haven’t had the chance to visit (yet), we have been able to watch so many documents that we are confident it won’t disappoint, and no one has felt this way to this date.
Since the temple is inside the big structure and the centerpiece, you can enjoy the rest of the activities the Angkor has to offer.
Cycling tours, hiking, sightseeing, and short adventures by walking are included in the packages and guided tours when visiting the temple.
More than the tourist activities you can find in the tours, you will enjoy a stunning view, have a close look at the over 200 stone faces engraved in the temple, and enjoy the art creations throughout the entire area.
The unique culture you can learn about is something that even people who feel lazy about history will find entertaining and fascinating.
Meanwhile, you cannot miss the intricate carvings in the walls in the temple and other bridges and areas in Angkor.
During your trip, you will find many archeologists having a close look at the structures, walls, and every corner of the temple, and we invite you to have some tours with them if possible. After all, they know more than you think, even if it is their first visit as well.
Finally, take an entire look at the Angkor, and we are confident you will come back here and thank our blog for encouraging you to avoid leaving this destiny for later.
Bayon Temple as a Movie Scenery
Due to the location’s popularity over the last three decades, many directors and filmmakers have decided to take the time to visit and choose it as either the primary or secondary location.
Now, since the temple is the centerpiece of the Angkor and the entire center, it isn’t only about filming in the Bayon Temple only. Instead, the entire structure is the main character during the visit and chosen scenery.
This is why you can have a close look at the temple in movies like “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” which is also mentioned in our article for Angkor Wat.
The same documentaries that include any of the other temples tend to cover the entire location extension.
Thus, “Living in the Age of Airplanes” and “Madventures” are great documentaries to have a closer look at the structure and decide whether you want to visit or not (we are sure you will go for the first).
5 Facts About the Bayon Temple, Angkor, Cambodia
- Since the structure was built around 1,200, the structure is over 800 years old.
- Bayon Temple is also known as the “Face Temple” that symbolizes the strength of the empire and the power of the ancient king.
- There’s a total of 216 faces carved into the stones.
- You need a pass to access the temple yet; it is quite affordable.
- There are inner and outer galleries of the Bayon Temple with over 11k carved figures.
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