Thursday, October 19, 2023

Baphuon Temple at Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Baphuon Temple is a multi tiered temple built on an artificial hill in the Angkor Thom region near Siem Reap. Just a short walk from Bayon Temple, it is part of a walking loop that takes a couple of hours to complete, depending on how much time you wish to spend at each temple. The Baphuon was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, but was converted to a Theravada Buddhist temple at some point, with current estimates placing that conversion around 1440 AD. This style of temple is sometimes referred to as a Temple Mountain, designed to represent Mount Meru, the sacred five peaked mountain at the heart of Jain, Hindu and Buddist mythology.

This is the walkway towards the main approach terrace of the Baphuon. This would orginally have been part of a large entrance gate to the temple.

The long terrace to the Baphuon passes through a pavillion with a large, stone lined pool to the south and reflectng pools on either side of the walkway.

Lori and Mikah in the windows of the pavillion on the approach causeway to the Baphuon.

Passing through the pavillion on approach to the heart of the Baphuon.

Looking back from the outer part of the main mountain part of the Baphuon, you can see here we have already started to climb. You can also see part of the pool near the pavillion.

Part of the next tier of the mountain like Baphuon. There is a tall set of steps on the side here that leads up to the higher levels of the temple, Ken and I decided to head up to the upper tiers while Mikah, Mel and Lori walked around the outside with Simon.

The view from the highest terrace at the Baphuon, showing the terrace we walked down, the pavillion and the gopura at the entrance to the main mountain part of the temple.

The view from the north east corner of the highest accessible part of Baphuon Temple, the entrance gopura to the main part of the temple and the pool near the pavillion in the centre of the shot here.

There were stairs to the top of this central pyramid, but they were closed on the day we visited, it wasn't clear from the signs if they were ever actually open to the public. At this point, we have climbed about 34 metres, and this central pyramid was originally fitted with a large tower taking the total height to 50 metres. Some scholars beleive the statue was constructed of wood and gilded with bronze, which would explain why it has long sice perished.

Passage way along the eastern edge of the uppermost tier of the Baphuon temple mountain.

Baphuon temple, like so many of the temples in the Angkor Archaelogical Park, and indeed througout Cambodia, is an eye opening testament to the skill of those who constructed it. As with many of these temples, all along the way there are bas reliefs to admire and classic Hindu and Buddist temple architecture.

Once described as the worlds biggest 3D jigsaw puzzle, the Baphuon had been partially deconstructed, with around 300,000 blocks carefully removed and labelled before the civil war and the rise of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's forced that project to be put on hold. Sometime in the years that followed, the plans showing where those blocks had been removed from were lost or destroyed, and it was not until 1996 that another restoration project began to attempt to rebuild the temple. There are still some of these numbered stones laying in the jungle around the Baphuon, athough the restoration is now considered to be complete, so these may be from another temple, or just were not able to be correctly sited at the Baphuon.

If you have the opportunity to visit the Baphuon, I highly recommed the climb to the top of this mountain temple, although it will certainly put your knees to the test.

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