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Phnom Bakheng Temple

Phnom Bakheng temple was built on the natural hill. Com-monthly referred to as the temple-mountain because it is an earthly facsimile of Mount meru, it is located on the left side of the road from Angkor Wat to Angkor thom and attacts scores of tourists who come to watch the sunset or sunrise. The temple was cut from the rock that formed the natural hill and faced with sandstone in the late 9th and early 10th centuries, during the reign of king Yasovarman I (AD 889-910) , dedicating to Shiva Brahmanism.

Phnom Bakheng is 65 meters high and the temple has 109 towers. Phnom Bakheng temple was a replica of Mount meru and the number of towers suggests a cosmic sym-bolism. The seven levels-ground, five tiers, upper terrace-of the monument represent the seven heavens of Indra in Brahmanism mythology.

The temple must have been a spectacular site in its entirely because originally 108 tower were evenly spaced around the tiers with yet another one, the central sanctuary, at the apex of them all. Today, however, most of these towers have collapsed. Besides the central sanctuary, there were 4 towers on the upper terrace, 12 on each of the 5 levels of the platform, and another 44 towers around the base. Thai brick towers on the different levels represent the 12-year cycle of the animal zodiac. It is also possible that the numerology of the 108 tower symbolizes the 4 lunar phases with 27 days in each phase. The arrangement allows for only 33 of the tower to be seen from each side, a figure that corresponds with the number of Brahmanism deities.

At the top of the hill, Phnom Bakheng is set on a tiered platform of five levels. There are stairways of the very steep gradient on all four sides. Seated lions flank the step at each of the five levels. The complex is surrounded by a laterite rampart with gopuras. Beyond there is a small structure to north with sandstone pillars in which there are two lingams. A modern footprint of the Buddha is in the center of the path. Two libraries are opening only to the west on either side of the part.

At the top most platforms of 76 meters square and 13 meters high, five towers are arranged in quincunx. The central tower once contained the lingam to which the temple was dedicated. It opens to all four cardinal point. The remaining four sanctuaries also sheltered lingams on pedestals and open on two sides. The central sanctuary is decorated with female divinities set in niches at the corner of the temple which delicately carved bands of foliage above; the pilasters are finely worked and have raised interlacing of figurines. The makaras on the tympanums are lively and strongly executed. The decoration above the doors is well-preserved showing a panel of foliated cusps with the heads of 33 gods. An inscription is visible on the west side of the north door of the central sanctuary.

According to an inscription on the temple, Phnom Bakheng was the center of the city of Yasodharapura. This fact was verified in the late 9th century with the discovery of an old rampart. This temple was originally called Yasodharakiri9. Later it was known as Phnom Kandal. It might have been called Phnom Dandal10 because it is between Phnom Bok and Phnom Krom. Today visitors refer to the temple as Phnom Bakheng. This name was founds in an inscription on the temple in the 16th century.