Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King

Today, we used day 3 of our 3 day Angkor Wat flexi pass to visit some more temples in the greater Angkor area, with our first stop being the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King, located in the North East corner of Angkor Thom. The two Terraces cover a length of almost 400 metres, with detailed carvings along their length.

Built in the twelfth century, the detail on these carvings, like the rest of the temples around Siem Reap, is simply amazing. Most of these temples, gates and terraces were built first and then the murals were carved into them after the temple was constructed, so only the best were able to work on these as there was so very little margin for error.

Lori, Mikah and myself in front of one of the airvata, or three headed elephants, that can be found at many points along the Terrace of the Elephants. These airvata also feature in the gates of Angkor Thom and elsewhere in the former Angkor-era Khmer empire.

Just some of the length of the Terrace of the Elephants at Angkor Thom.

The central part of the Terrace of the Elephants leads back into the Royal Enclosure and was used as a stage for Angkor-era public ceremonies.

Large parts of the Terrace of the Elephants are shown as being held up by carvings of Garuda and Chimera with lion heads.

Another view of the centre "stage" part of the Terrace of the Elephants.

The Terrace of the Elephants eventually meets the Terrace of the Leper King, a large, intricately carved structure.

Both the outer wall and some of the inner walls here are carved in detail, leading some to speculate that the inner wall started to collapse and so a new wall was built in front of it. Another theory is that the Terrace of the Leper King was also home to the Royal Crematorium.

The three headed elephant, Airvata, also features here in this carving on top of the Terrace of the Leper King.

The statue that gave this terrace its name, there is no definitive answer on who the statue represents, some suggest it is either King Jayavarman VII, who was not known to suffer from leprosy, or King Yasovarman I, who was referred to as the Leper King. Other theories suggest is is Dharmaraja, the Indian god of death, also known as Yama. This is a replica of the original statue, which is now in the National Museum in Phnom Penh and is about 200 - 300 years older than the terrace on which it was located.

Our awesome Angkor guide Kea Simon, a very knowledgeable man who has been a real asset here over our time at the temples of Angkor and Siem Reap, seen here at the Terrace of the Leper King. This was the last day we had Simon with us.

We had actually visited part of the Terrace of the Elephants a couple of days earlier, but when we walked across the centre stage out of the jungle in the Royal Enclosure, we were hot and tired after a long day of trekking and climbing and just wanted to get back to the hotel. This was probably a good thing, as we took a bit more time to explore the Terraces than we would have at the end of that day.

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