Photographer's Note

The Bayon temple sits in the centre of Angkor Thom, the Great City. From a distance, the Bayon resembles a chaotic jumble of stone, lacking the classical shape and detail of other temples. However, up close, it takes on another form altogether and is a maze of galleries, towers and passageways on three levels, with huge smiling faces, identical to those at the South Gate, appearing from every angle. It is quite simply a fascinating, awe-inspiring and incredible example of Khmer architecture.

The Bayon's most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak. The inner gallery is nearly filled by the upper terrace, raised one level higher again. On this level, the visitor is surrounded by face towers, each with two, three or (most commonly) four of the famous smiling faces. Despite efforts to find significance in the number of towers and faces, the numbers varied from time to time as more towers were added: at one point there were up to 49 towers, although only 37 now remain. There are around 200 faces, each face has an individual serene expression with closed eyelids and thick, slightly curled lips. But as some are only partially preserved there can be no definitive count.

Are these the faces of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion or are they of King Jayavarman VII, who built this temple? The two hypotheses need not be regarded as mutually exclusive, but here lies the enigma.

Against the blue sky or the green foliage which surrounds the temple, some of these faces look majestic indeed.

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Additional Photos by Angshuman Chatterjee (Angshu) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7852 W: 324 N: 16061] (56760)
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