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The Bayon temple was constructed in the late 12th century ( in year 1181-1220 ) by king Jayavarman VII. Bayon is a second important monumental temple in the area after Angkor Wat. Bayon also was considering as the last stone temple ever built in the period of the Khmer empire. That’s mean, when the Khmers had finished the Bayon temple, the Khmers in the Angkor period were not able to build any more stone temples. Because the country began to decline.
Bayon located exactly in the center of Angkor Thom, which 1.50km away from each monumental gate. Before restoration done by French, you could not see its temple structure at all. Because the jungle took over densely. But in 1916 they had cleared the forest away from its building, and then they began to restore until the war broken in Cambodia in 1970.
Bayon has a meaning in Khmer the Magic. They designed with 49 towers and in each tower decorated with the four faces of the compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokesvara with a combination of king Jayavarman VII's face as well.
The 54 towers of Bayon and Angkor Thom are represented to 54 days of the lunar calendar of the two circle of moon. In addition, as 54 are considering as a lucky number link to the astrological concept, then king Jayavarman VII had arranged the territory of the Khmer Empire with 54 provinces. Thus, Bayon temple was also a replica of the Khmer Empire territory.
When French began to work in this temple, they thought Bayon was a Hindu temple dedicated to Brahma (The Creator) in the 9th century. They judged to the Brahma because according to the four faces on each tower and they judged for 9thcentury because the temple looked too old as they did not realize yet about Rolous Group temples.
But in 1933 when the excavation work began at the central tower, then made them very surprised and understand that Bayon was a Buddhist temple not a Hindu temple and built in late of 12th century only not in 9th century. The excavation about 14m deep at the center chamber of Bayon were done, they found a big broken Buddha and Sanskrit inscription, it clarify about the temple’s function , temple’s symbolizing , date and the reign of temple builder. French had repaired this statue in 1935 by the request of king Monivong they decided not put this magnificent Buddha statue in the original spot of the Bayon, but they moved to Vihear Prampi Loveng, which located along an avenue to the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom.
Buddha-Mahathana. Besides, they found Buddha-King statue in the central tower, French also found an image of Lokesvara. This was the another proof to make French scholars know exactly that the Bayon was a Buddhist temple in Mahayana sect. Lokesvara image, which they just found at a pediment of the second level, later on French decided to open the stone floor from the third level in order to make the visitors are able to see Lokesvara image easily from the third level. So that the visitors don't need to go down to see the image.
According to a Chinese ambassador Chou Ta kuon, who living in city of Angkor Thom for one year in 1295.1296 had mentioned in his recording which still existed today about Bayon, he called Bayon Temple as a "Golden Tower" because at that time at the tip of its central tower was gilded.
An addition, he also mentioned about there were dozens Buddha statues in gold in some chambers of Bayon as well. For the base of central tower of Bayon has designed with round shape. This concept was symbolized of the "Wheel of Life" in the Buddhist beliefs. On the base of Bayon's central sanctuary had also arranged with 16 chambers. The 16 chambers of Bayon are significant of the 16 spokes of Wheel of Life of Buddhism.
Originally, in each chamber of the central tower of Bayon temple installed statues which mixture religion between Buddhism, Hinduism, Personal Cult and the image of the Animism altogether. This concept was a sign to prove that King Jayavaraman VII has a great toleration to all people who believed in every religion. By the way, The main tower of Bayon decorated with 8 faces of the compassion Lokesvara, but now most of these stone faces on the main tower have been damaged by Vandalism in about 14th Century.
The minor towers of Bayon decorated with four faces only, and their sizes are not identical. As we have seen, some of them designed taller and bigger scale and some are smaller and shorter scale. The reason for that they built these tower to represent to the provinces in the Kingdom and for the concept of the tower are bigger and smaller due to the size of each province.
As those minor towers of Bayon were represented to the provinces of Khmer empire under the reign of king Jayavarman VII, that is why in each shrine of those tower were installed a Buddha statue which brought from each province where its tower standing for. Thus, Bayon was a most spiritual temple of king Jayavarman VII, because this temple combined spiritual powers from the sacred Buddha statues which coming from different part of the Kingdom.
The outer galleries of Bayon have a measure of 140m from north to south and 160m from east to west. All around these galleries there are very remarkable bas-reliefs which depicting the daily life of the common people, the royalty, the dignitary and the sea trade of Chinese merchants with Cambodia, and to record the war history with Chams when they invaded Angkor in 1177-1181 so on.
But at the inner galleries of the second level of Bayon comprises its bas-reliefs which depicting traditional ceremony in the royal palaces, the excursion of pilgrims, Khmer legends, the practice in daily life of hermits, Hindu and Buddhist mythologies so on.
Most of the visitors like Bayon temple more than other temples in the Angkor area. Because Bayon's layout and plans designed more complicity, then causing the visitors have a feeling of more mysterious and fantastic. Especially, when the visitors are at the second level and the third level of the temple. Because those level structures are complicated with its corridors inter connected, then created very gloomy and secret rooms, then the spiritual smiling faces of Lokesvara in every where you go, you turn at the third level.
The faces that steer at you from the Bayon towers symbolize of the four sublime states of Buddhism include Charity , Compassion, Sympathy and Equanimity to any one in the universal.
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