Bayon temples – 216 gigantic faces
Welcome to the Bayon temples, built end of the 12th Century. The Bayon temples feature 216 faces! It’s a nearly surreal masterpiece, unlike any I’d ever seen.
29 photo Bayon tour:
I’ll start with geography, then stats on the scale, and even the history beyond it, with photos of Bayon throughout.
Are you ready to get started with the Bayon tour? Here we go!
Where is Bayon?
Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom, which is located in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Bayon by the numbers
First, let’s give a sense of the scale of these Bayon faces.
How many Bayon temples are there? How tall are these massive structures?
There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers. They faces measure as tall as 7 feet just for the face, and there’s 37 towers!
Who are the faces of?
They Bayon faces are everywhere, and you might be wondering if they’re of someone specific. They’re nearly the same face over and over and over. I was wondering the same question.
To clarify, most historians say that they 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 temples History:
But who’s Jayavarman?
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.
Next, we’ll explain the cosmic angle.
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]
Our guide explained how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war
Bayon faces are facing in all four directions on each tower. The faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions
Details on every Bayon wall!
Next, I’d like you to focus in closer up on the actual walls. Every wall has detail that’s interesting in Bayon!
Finally, let’s finish the tour with some more photos of these structures. You can’t tell from my expression here but I loved it!
Angkor Wat Itinerary
If you have just a day or two, make sure you get to these three areas of temples.
- The Bayon temples
- Angkor Wat
- Ta Prohm (post coming soon!)
Those three are all near each other in Cambodia. They’re easily the best 1-2 day trip you can take in southeast Asia.Bayon temples in Angkor Thom are an impressive display of Khmer architecture
How to get to the Bayon temples and Angkor Wat
You might be wondering how you’ll get all the way to Siem Reap. Most visitors seem to build it into their Thailand trip.
Siem Reap is a short flight from Bangkok, Thailand. Do it!
Want more Cambodia photos?
I’ve posted a bunch more about Cambodia too! Check out the crown jewel, with a photo tour of Angkor Wat, and an Angkor Wat Video Tour,
Finally, I’ve included links to learn more of the history of the Bayon temples at the center of Angkor Thom, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.