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Bayon, the last temple of the empire

I suddenly shuddered from an incomprehensible fright, noticing a huge immovable smile falling down from a height on me … then another smile, from the bottom, on the other side of the wall, then three, then five, and then ten; they were everywhere, they were watching me from all sides …
This morning they seemed to say: “We are dead and harmless; There is no irony in our smiles and looks from under the covered eyelids; we just know what a world without a dream is … ”
Pierre Loti, “The Pilgrim of Angkor”, 1902

Bayon today is recognized as one of the most unusual architectural structures not only in Cambodia, but the whole world. Visitors are shocked by the cyclopean stone faces on the towers – subtle smiles and covered eyes follow people everywhere, suppressing and admiring them. When the French first saw this temple, they refused to believe that it was built by the Khmer, the indigenous people of Cambodia. The authorship of Bayon was attributed to Chinese Jews, the lost legion of Alexander the Great and even the legendary builders of the Greek Troy. At various times it was believed that the towers displayed Brahma, Buddha, Avalokiteshvara … The prevailing theory now attributes the external similarity of the faces of Bayon to the face of the last great emperor Cambujadeshi – Jayavarman VII, who built this temple in the 13th century.

Temples of Cambodia. Bayon

Jayavarman VII was the first to accept Buddhism among the rulers of the country. Having spent a huge amount of public money on the construction of hospitals, roadside hotels and monasteries throughout Cambujadeh, he followed the path of compassion and aid proclaimed by Buddhism. On the other hand, Jayavarman VII remained a strong personality, full of pride, and just a man who was afraid of death. In Bayon he perpetuated the greatness of his empire, and himself – the bearer of the new faith, the main attribute of which was humility.

Temples of Cambodia. Bayon

The center of Bayon was the majestic statue of the Buddha. After the death of Jayavarman VII, Hindu fanatics smashed it and threw it into the shaft of the central tower of the temple. Here the statue and found the French; today it, safely restored, stands on a site near North Cleang.

… Perhaps in Bayona lies a more complex symbolism that relates the temple, in the literal sense of the word, with the heavens. The theory of conformity of the temple to the north pole of the ecliptic, a point in the constellation of the Dragon, around which the earth’s axis rotates, has been rather well developed. This is indirectly confirmed by the inscription found in Bayon – “The Land of Kambu is like the sky” … But this is a topic for another conversation.

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