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Bayon Temples Cambodia -216 smiling faces

Bayon temples – 216 gigantic faces

Welcome to the Bayon temples, built end of the 12th Century. The Bayon temples feature 216 faces, a nearly surreal masterpiece unlike any I’d ever seen. Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Bayon temples, along with Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, are easily the best 1-2 day trip you can take in southeast Asia. Here’s a 29 photo tour:

Reflections of Bayon in Angkor Thom
Reflections of Bayon in Angkor Thom. Brilliant photo by Mike Behnken
Bayon temples in the Angkor Thom area of Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat
it’s 90-degrees fahrenheit, but I kept reading about killer mosquitos. They said it’s crucial to get vaccinated, and cover yourself from head to toe.

Who are the faces of?  They Bayon faces are said represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions, or even the king himself. Here’s the explanation:

Initially the faces were believed to represent Brahma, the Hindu God of creation depicted with four heads. When it was later established that the Bayon was not a Hindu temple but a Buddhist one, archeologists believed the faces to be of Lokeshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. The similarity of statues of Jayavarman VII and the face towers had led some to believe that it is the King himself whose face is depicted on the towers.

Bayon Cambodia -003

History:  Bayon was the state temple of Jayavarman VII, a powerful ruler in the late 13th century (Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII). The temple sat at the center of Angkor Thom, a walled city that served as the capital of the Khmer Empire.

There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers, in the Angkor Thom area of Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat
There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers

There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers, measuring as tall as 7 feet just for the face, across 37 towers.

The white and green spots on the face are lichen (fungus, green alga).
The white and green spots on the face sculptures are lichen (fungus, green alga).
Photo by Tartarin2009

The Bayon temple was “intended to evoke the form of Mt. Meru—the cosmic mountain at the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In keeping with this cosmic symbolism, the plan of the temple is based on a ‘yantra’, a symbol used by Tantric Buddhists as the basis of mandala diagrams that represent the layout of the universe. The temple honored not just one deity, but a host of gods found throughout the Khmer empire. Its central shrine held an image of Jayavarman VII, who perhaps imagined himself as a god-King ruling in the name of the Buddha” [source]

Bayon temples, built end of the 12th Century, capital of the Khmer Empire , Cambodia
Welcome to Bayon, built at the end of the 12th Century, capital of the Khmer Empire
our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war
our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war

our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war

Facing in four directions on each Bayon tower, the faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions.. Cambodia
Facing in four directions on each tower, the faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions.
Bayon In the Golden Hour Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
photo by Lee Phelps Photography
Aspara dancers at the Bayon temples Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Aspara dancers
great photos of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
so many great photos of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom
photo from from the vantage point of the Bayon temple's the upper terrace, Cambodia
photo from from the vantage point of the Bayon temple’s the upper terrace
Bayon temples at Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia, near Angkor Wat
photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Smiling face of Avalokiteshvara at the Bayon temples at Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Smiling face of Avalokiteshvara
nearly every wall of the Bayon temples were sculpted. Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
nearly every wall of the Bayon temples are sculpted
Central structure tower of Bayon, in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Central structure tower of Bayon
A scene from the eastern gallery shows a Khmer army on the march in the Cambodia ruins
A scene from the eastern gallery shows a Khmer army on the march
scene from the outer gallery at the Bayon temples. Our guide said it shows Chinese expats negotiating with Khmer merchants at an Angkorean market.
This scene is from the outer gallery at the Bayon temples. Our guide said it shows Chinese expats negotiating with Khmer merchants at an Angkorean market.

walls of Angkor Thom in Cambodia walls of Bayon in Angkor Thom in Cambodia

face to face at the Bayon temples
face to face at the Bayon temples of Angkor Thom near Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodiafaces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia -014

my face between the faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia

wide shot of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
photo from Tushar Dayal

faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodiafaces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in CambodiaBayon temples in Angkor Thom are an impressive display of Khmer architecture

entrance to Bayon temples, in the Bayon complex - Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia
entrance to Bayon temples area

I’ve included links to learn more of the history of the Bayon temples at the center of Angkor Thom, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

How to get there: it’s a short flight from Bangkok, Thailand. Do it!

2 thoughts on “Bayon Temples Cambodia -216 smiling faces”

  1. Some great shots here! I really enjoyed the faces of Bayon, but probably my favorite site in the Angkor complex was Preah Khan on the Grand Tour. It was huge, and largely devoid of crowds. There were moments where it felt like I was the first person to walk through the area in centuries. Such a cool feeling!
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