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Angkor Thom Temple

Angkor Thom, the last capital of Angkor period (AD 802-1432) until the 15th century, was indeed a Great City as it name implies, of the vast and powerful Khmer Empire. The capital of King Jayavarman VII16 (AD 1181-1220), Angkor Thom, is a microcosm of the universe divided into four parts by the main axes. Bayon temple stands as the symbolic link between heaven and earth. The wall enclosing the city of Angkor Thom represents the stone wall around the universe and the mountain ranges around meru. The surrounding moats suggest the cosmic ocean. The symbolism is reinforces by presence of god Indra on this mount the three headed elephant.

Angkor Thom is enclosed by 8-meter-high laterite rampart that is laid out on a square grid of 3kilometers long on each side. A moat with a width of 100meters surrounds the outer wall. The city is accessed along five great causeways, one in each cardinal direction-death gate on the east aligned with the terrace of the elephant and the leper king. A tall gopura distinguished by a superstructure of four faces dissects the wall in the center of each side.

Four small temples, all called Chhrung19 temple, stand at each corner of the wall around the city of Agkor Thom. Made of sandstone and designed in a cross plan, the temple built by King Jayavarman VII to worship Bodhisattva Alalokiteshvara20. An inscription tells about its construction.  The stone causeways across the broad moat surrounding Angkor Thom with their unique gopuras, are one of the great sights at Angkor, never ceasing to fill visitors with wonder. The causeway leading to the gopuras and flanked by a row of 54 stone figures on each side-gods on the left and demons on the right-to make a total 108 mythical beings guarding  each of the five approached to the city of Angkor Thom. The demons have a grimacing expression and wear a military headdress, whereas the gods look serene with their almonds-shaped eyes and conical headdresses. The gods and demons hold the scaly body of the naga on their knees. This composition defines the full length of the causeway. At the beginning of the causeway, the naga spreads its nine heads in the shape of a fan.

The five sandstone gopuras rise 23meters to the sky and is crowned with four heads, one facing each cardinal direction. At the base of each gate are finely modeled elephants with three heads. Their trunks are plucking lotus flowers, in theory out the moat. The god Indra sits at the center of the elephant with his consorts on each side. He holds a thunderbolt in his lower left hand. Stand in the center of the gopura, visitors will see a sentry box on each side. Also remains of wooden crossbeams are still visible in some of the gopuras. Beneath the gopura visitor can see the corbelled arch, as hallmark of Khmer architecture. 

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