PHNOM BAKHENG TEMPLE

Introduction:

Temple of Phnom Bakheng was built in around the year of 900 at the beginning of 10th century AD. Phnom Bakheng, temple also was built by king Yasovarman I (889-910). King Yasovarman I built Phnom Baltheng temple to dedicate of Shiva (Destroyer and Generator). and also to serve as his state temple. The king constructed Phnom Bakeng after he had finished Lolei temple at Hariharalaya. Phnom Bakheng was one of the three natural hills in Angkor. As Phnom Bakheng, located in the middle, that's the reason, king Yasovarman I chosen to build his temple-mountain on its top. Because he wanted to make his state temple getting more significant symbolic of Shiva's palace located on top of Mt. Kalasa. Thus, Phnom Bakheng is represented to Mt. Kalasa.

Pl-mom Bakheng temple was located in the center of new capital city of Yasodharapura. Yasodharapura has meaning_ in Cambodian as the city of "god Shiva whom king Yasovarman going to embody". On the other hands, Yasodharapura or Angkor used to have a dam and moat surrounding for about 4km on each side. However so far, this dam and moat remaining just only half way, another half had been removed under the reing of king Jayavatman VII for his new foundation projects.

About the access ways to the hilltop:

King Yasovarman I ordered his architectural master to make only three accesses to hilltop, which on the east, on the west and on the north but not on the south. The reason why not on the south? the answer is, we do not know. But his state temple located on the hilltop facing as usual to four cardinal points. Originally, the access stairways to hilltop of Phnom bakheng made out of laterite, But the present day. those stairways have been damaged by rainwater and tree roots.

Before going to hilltop where Phnom bakheng temple located, at the beginning of stairway, there are a pairs of very gorgeous seating styte lion statues, guarding at the front. These statues were so magnificent ones, carved out from a huge piece of sandstone, these elegant statues are still good condition, even they had been vadalized, but Henry Marchal a Frenchman in Angkor Conservation Departmant fixed them back to its appreciation works at the pass. As the lion statue of Phnom Bakheng are very nice in elegant style. at the present there are many places have copied its style for displaying at their own residence. The one loated to the north gate are still perfect shape, since the vandalism did not approach on.

Nowadays. they have closed the stairways for the public using. as they are afraid of getting more erosion. Instead of that the visitors can use the zigzag passaway on the northern side, where during the decade '40-'60 was a car passageway. While the elephants still use its own trail since Phnom Bakheng, open to Tourist at the first time in 1920. When we have approached on hilltop. then we are so thrilled of the magnificent majestic monument appearing at the front of us. It's Phnom bakheng, a temple of its 109 stone towers.

At the hilltop compound:

From the east side which to serve as temple main entrance. there is walkway which cutting from natural limestone of the hill itself leading to the Gopura II's section. In the midway of this walkway. there is a canopy to cover the 5. uddha foot print. Buhhda foot print is made in 16th century under the reign of Ang Chan Raja. In the yard. on the both side of this walkway. there are several cutting natural stone hill base shrines. those were the bases of rest houses and were the shrine of keeping statues as well.

At the second enclosing ;ye or (Gopura II):

The walkway of Buddha foot print canopy is measuring of 100m long, then we arrived at the second entrance area. The Gopura II structure of Phnom Bakheng was disappeared. except some sandstone pillars remaining. To a bit north of this section, there is a stone inscription, but its scripts is much eroded. Then coming with laterite enclosing wall measured about 150m X 250m.

In the compound of this section (Gopura II), there are two sandstone buildings located one on each side. Those were library or Agine shrines. These building have some chimney, that supported an idea of a link to sacrificial fire performance, before the pilgrims went up to central tower. Today, these shrines to serve as a store house for broken Buddha and Hindu god statue pieces. In 1993-1995 monks and nuns came from Battambang had some idea to fix back those broken statues for Cambodia prosperity. but government did not allow, that's why they store those, just in case of restoration next time.

At the third enclosing wall:

Phnom Bakheng, temple took its first level base of its central tower as its third enclosing wall. This base has a measure of 78m X 78m. At this foundation, on the ground, there are bad condition 44 brick towers, which its linga pedestals are now disarray by the treasure hunters from 14th to 15th century, There is Nandi statue one on each side near the step to top level, but it's so regretful since those statues had destroyed, except one on the southern side, had been fixed by nuns and monks from Battambang in 1993-1995.

Symbolism and style:

Phnom Bakheng temple style is quite similar to Bakong temple. except Phnom Bakheng is much hioger. taller and designation with more towers. Otherwise, it's almost the same of its five level foundation structure. Talking about foundation structure, we know that, of level one and level three of Phnom Bakheng. they used natural rock from the hill itself, they only chopped the rock to have a shape they wanted and putting sandstone outside to look nicer, that's it. But of level four and level five they built up with laterite and face sandstone outside. Phnom Bakheng temple has 13m high, but altogether with the hill itself. Phnom Bakheng occupied its total bight for 65m. Phnom Bakheng temple considering as a temple appearing most towers ever built by the Khmer in Angkor period. No temple in the Angkor period have had 109 liked Phnom Bakhen,g, temple.

We already knew that there are 44 towers at the ground level. and from level one to level five. there are
11 towers each (12 X 5). Particularly. on top level measured of 46m X 46m where main five more

locatert—So_in_lotal_ae-1.0-9s.pds.toae towers. With 109  of Phnom Bakheng towers are represented of Mt. Meru for the one in the center. while 108 more are represented to number of the days that moon rotates around the earth for four times. This natural concept (moon rotates around the earth) is creating the lunar astrology for allowing Mt. Meru using to control the fates of beings and natures.

We know that. one round of moon that rotation on earth is controlling for 27 days. Thus. four rounds are controlling of 108 days. Until 108 days is able to support existed life. and also to suppor the germinated nature. One rotation (of 27 days) is not able to get enough energy power to create life. it must be four times of rotation in 108 days. The concept believed that one round of 27 clays created one element only (earth). tv,o of 54 days create one more element (wate0. three of 81 days create its own element (air). and four of 108 days create another element (tire). Thus. one round is represented to one element.. A rosary of 108 beads \vhich have been using to all religions in the world. represented the recycle of life and nature under the sacred power of planet rotations.

French in Angkor Conservation Department chosen Phnom Bakheng temple to restore in 1922. During the time of restoration, they decided removing a huge broken Buddha statue away from the top level. Buddha statue was believed to construct in 16th century, as the same time as Buddha foot print in the middle of walkway, under the reign of king Ang Chan. The statue was remaining just half part from his nevel to the lotus leg position from the vandalism of Siamese. Siamese returned for looting and pillaging at Angkor again after Longvek city was falling to their hands.

As Buddha statue was broken off, that's the reason of French dismantling the statue, for putting the towers back at its original layout. Today, these five towers were a restoration structure. Most of its original stone material had been missing, that's why those towers were not completely done.

Phnom Bakheng was the first temple ever built in Angkor or Yasodharapura, it known as "First Angkor". because Phnom Bakheng is located in the middle of Phnom Bok and Phnom Krom. Since the concept always believed that "the middle is holy" that's why Phnom Bakheng is chosen to become the center of the new city. An additional, at the eastern side of Phnom Bakheng used to have a river (Siem Reap) flowing across, that made an idea a great significant decision for Phnom Bakheng to be the one of a sacred spot.

Although. Phnom Bok and Phnom Krom were not selected as a center of the new city. but king Yasovarman I had ordered to built temples on top of those hills. The temples located on those hills designed with three towers., which to represent to Trinity of Hindu include Shiva. Brahma and Vishnu. Temple structure at Phnom Bok is better condition, even it never had been restored, more than the temple located on top of Phnom Krom, however Phnom Krom had been restored by French. The reason is because temple structure of Phnom Krom was the home of millions bats living for many dozen years. If go to visit Phnom Krom temple, you might see the eroded and cracked condition on temple tower's surface, these happening of bat dropping. At the decade of '40 -60 Phnom Krom served as great resort for French official families at the week end, some ruined concrete brick building of their Bangalore are still can see to the southwest of the temple. On top of Phnom Krom serves as superb view of Tole Sap Lake and ricefields surrounding.

Phnom Bok is taller than Phnom Krom and to the west of temple itself, there is a huge linga about 5m high, but it is so regrateful because this sacred artifact had destroyed by treasure huntes since 14th to 15th century. Everyone arrived at Phnom Bok temple. feeling so amazed to see two old .. t. big frangipani trees growing on buildings. Phnom Bok also serves a great view. interesting. very nice and enjoyable to climb up with its hundreds of step.

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