Angkor Thom City


Angkor Thom is 1.7 km north of Angkor Wat. It was built by King Jayavarman VII (1181-1220) for dedicating to Mahayana Buddhism. Angkor Thom means Great City, the last capital of Angkor. It served as the religious and administrative centre of Khmer Empire. The capital was bigger than city in Europe at the time. The population in the city may have been as high as one million. In the wall of Angkor Thom were the residences of the king, his family and officials, military officers and priests while the rest of the people lived outside of the enclosure. The wooden structures were perished, but remains of stone monuments let us glimpse at the past grandeur of this once great city (Rooney 2004).

Angkor Thom was not the first capital of Angkor, it was the fourth one. The first capital was Yasodhara Pura that was founded by king Yaovarman I (889 - 910) in 893. The center of the first city was Phnom Bakheng, where discovered by Goloubew. It was 4 km at each side, bigger than Angkor Thom. The second city of Angkor was Phimeanakas temple which was the center of the capital. It was erected by King Rajendravarman II (944-968) who moved his capital from Koh Ker (70km north-east of Angkor). Baphoun stand for the center of the third capital of Angkor which was founded by King Udayadityavarman II (1049-1065). The last one was Angkor Thom, which was built after a Charm fleet which had destroyed the city from end to end, and had taken away the greater part to the countrys riches. The capital decorated with special character of the 4 faces of Avalokite vara which the whole world to be put under the benevolent protection of his quadruple face. The capital's 5 gates were decorated with the churning motive which was divided in two, the god on the left and the demons on the right as you enter the city. At each Gopura were decorated by strong elephants eating lotuses. The wall was built by laterite which is 7 meters high, a ditch 100 meters wide and makes a boulevard 25 meters wide at the top, with four little temple at the corners, called the Prasat Chrung: the northeast one is the best preserved (Parmentier 1954).

At the corners stand four small temples- the Prasat Chrung- each containing an inscribed stele mentioning the foundation by Jayavarman VII of a Jayagiri scraping the brilliant sky at its top and of a Jayasindhu touching at its impenetrable depth the world of the serpents. Mr Coedes has shown that these referred, in the emphatic manner that was usual for the Khmers, to none other than the walls and the moats of Angkor Thom in comparison to the mountains and the ocean surrounding the earth (Glaize 1993, p.81).

However, the city of Jayavarman VII was also associated with the myth of the churning of the sea of milk, and after the first experiment at the Preah Khan of Angkor, the builders aligned two rows of giants in front of each gate at Angkor Thom. There were 54 devas (gods) on the left and 54 asuras (demons) on the right, totaling the sacred number of 108 protectors of the city. The asuras, which were subjugated to the royal power, kept away evil influences and enemies. The devas and asuras support a many-headed naga, which is both the primordial serpent Vasuki of Hindu myth and the Khmer symbol of the rainbow, a bridge between heaven and earth, which is the emblem of the pact of benevolence of the celestial powers that send fertilizing rain. The Nagas, with their seven heads ready to spit poison, open the rows of giants and close them with their erect tails.