Bakong one of the three Angkorian temples in Roluos group temple, locates in a distance of 13 km east from Siem Reap town, was the first significant temple-mountain. Roluos is a modern name of the capital city Hariharalaya which utilized by Jayavarman II after he moved from Mahendra Paravata (Kulen Mountain). Hariharalaya, a name derived from the God Hari-Hara, where Harihara is the synthesis of Vishnu and Shiva and alaya means missing or memory, so Hariharalaya means the place where always having memory of Hari-Hara.
Bakong Temple was a temple-mountain symbolized Mount Meru, with its pyramid stand on five tiers base, dedicated to Shiva. A stone inscription at the foundation stele describes the consecration of a Shiva linga named Sri Indresvara on its tower in 881 AD.
The construction of Bakong was probably started in laterite in the reigned of Jayavarman III (835-877), and was completed in sandstone by Indravarman I (877-886) and it was entitled as his state temple in the central of his capital city of Hariharalaya. However, some scholars suggest that the central tower was added later by Yasovarman II (1150-1165).
Layout of Bakong Temple
Bakong Temple is surrounded by a moat and have two causeways that access to the temple which on the East and West. The outer enclosure measures 900 m from east to west and 700 m from north to south contains each gopura on each side. However only gopura on the east and the west are accessible, whie the other two are false gopuras.
A moat of 3 m deep locates in between the outer and the second enclosure. From the outer gopura, there is a causeway across the moat leading to the second enclosure. At the beginning of the causeway, two seven-headed nagas flanked the entrance. The second enclosure was originally by laterite walls, measures 400 m by 300 m, without gopura but with entrances from the east and west.
The third enclosure measures 160 m by 120 m, contains a total of 21 towers and buildings of brick, sandstone, and also laterite. The central sanctuary raises 15 m from the ground on a pyramid sandstone base of five tiers.
Visiting Bakong Temple
Access Bakong from the east gopura through a causeway welcomed by giant seven-headed nagas at each side. Passing the causeway and also passing the second enclosure by not seeing either gopura or the enclosure wall of it. Because it has no gopura and the walls are ruined and removed. Recently, within this enclosure, is a new built Buddhist monastery.
Right in front of you is the gopura of the third enclosure which only the steps remain. This third enclosure is originally surrounded by laterite walls as well. Right after the gopura, there is a long hall at each side of the gopura and paralleled along the east wall. Next to the long halls, there is a pair of square brick buildings at the south east and north east corners. This kind of building is also built at the south west and north west corners, but with only one at each side. Along the south wall, there is another long hall made of laterite, perhaps served as rest house, facing north.
Standing at the central of the gopura, look straight forward, two square buildings made of laterite at each side of the causeway, probably functioned as the temple’s libraries, facing west. Continue on the causeway, two more long halls made of sandstone flanked the causeway and facing onto it.
The pyramid which locates in the central of the enclosure and surrounded by eight large brick towers, the two eastern towers have double sandstone bases. All of them can access from the east, the other three are false doors but with exceptionally fine decoration. However, at each door is stairway guarded by lions. The corners of the towers are female and male guardians. The western towers, their lintels are in good condition. According to the inscription found on the northern door frame of the north east tower, said the statue of Shiva and his consort Umakunga Batisvara have been housed in this tower.
The pyramid is of five tiers, four stairways at the four directions are built with a gopura and a statue of sitting Nandi at the front. Along the stairways, a pair of lion guardians flanked at each tier of the pyramid. At each corner of the first to third tier, there is a standing elephant diminishing in size. The fourth tier of the pyramid is occupied by 12 small sandstone towers which originally has a linga in each tower. They are arranged one in each corner, and a pair flanks each stairway.
The central tower is at the fifth tier. The tower has a mixture of styles, the ogival tower indicated the style of Angkor Wat which said to be added in later time. The original tower might have been destroyed. The shrine is opening to the east with false doors on other sides. The east fronton carved dancing Shiva. The south fronton shows Churning of the Ocean of Milk. The west one is Reclining Vishnu. And the north is the scene from Ramayana where Lakshmana have wounded by the arrow of Indrajit. On the corner angles of the wall, Devadas are carved.
Ta Keo Temple
Ta Keo is one of the great temple-mountain at Angkor area which locates at the west edge of the East Baray and about 2 km east of Victory Gate of Angkor Thom. Ta Keo was designed in the same style of Bakheng and Pre Rup with five-peaked towers in quincunx represents Mount Meru. Ta Keo is outstanding for being the first temple-mountain to be built entirely of sandstone, however, it’s an incomplete temple in which the construction had stopped when the carvings had just begun.
The first special impression that visitors might have toward Ta Keo is probably the size and the architectural style of the temple which consist of strength and power. Rises to a height of 22 m from the ground, Ta Keo is also unique with its greenish-grey sandstone.
History of Ta Keo Temple
Ta Keo temple was constructed in the reign of King Jayavarman V (968-1000), the successor of Rajendravarman II who built Pre Rup and East Mebon. Jayendranagari (capital of the victorious king) is the name of his capital city located at the north of the Ta Keo and at the center of western bank of East Baray. Ta Keo was constructed to be his state temple, but its construction position was not in the central of the capital city, which was considered to be breaking the tradition in building the state temple.
According to Kok Po stone inscription, Jayavarman V reigned in Jayendranagari at 978 AD and his capital was recognized by a temple-mountain with Golden Peaks in which Sanskrit called Hemasringagiri. This have made confused for scholars between Ta Keo and Phimeanakas, which one was Hemasringagiri? Because Phimeanakas was also called this name.
The construction of Ta Keo was started in 975 and it was dedicated sometime around 1000, when the temple was not completed and the construction had stopped. The reason of stopping the construction is uncertain; probably it’s simply because of the dead of the King. It’s believed that the construction of Ta Keo has against the will of God by which it was entitled the state temple, but was not situated in the central of the capital. Jayavarman V passed away in the age of 42 while his state temple has not completed. The wrong position of Ta Keo is also said to be the cause of the King’s death.
Later, in 1010, King Suryavarman I gave Ta Keo to Yogisvara Pandita, who was a high priest as well as a minister of him. An inscription said Yogisvara Pandita had tried to continue the construction, but then the central tower of Ta Keo was struck by lightning which confirmed the mistake. Thus the temple was left uncompleted ever after.
Architectural Plan of Ta Keo
Ta Keo is surrounded by moats which measure 255 m east west, 195 m north south. A causeway over the moat, preceded by a pair of lion guardians, from the east entrance of the Ta Keo to the East Baray of some 500 m long is ended at a small terrace and lined with boundary stone. Within the compound sit the temple and two basins to the east. The outer enclosure of the temple was built as a raised platform measures 122 m by 106 m, surrounded by sandstone walls on laterite bases. There is gopura at each cardinal point. The inner enclosure is also a platform of 5.5 m higher, measuring 80 m by 75 m, instead of the wall, the continuous gallery was built at this level with inward facing windows and decorated with balustered columns. The gallery originally has roof of brick.
From the second terrace, the pyramid rises in 14 m high (about 22 m above the ground) in three tiers. The base is 60 m square, the summit is 47 m square, and crowned by five towers arranged in a quincunx. The central tower is larger and on a higher platform.
Visiting Ta Keo Temple
Ta Keo is easily accessible from either the west or the south side of the temple. Though compared with other temple, the stairways are steep, the south side is considered easier to climb. If entering from the south, after pass through the outer enclosure gopura, turn right and walk to the east side of the temple. The east gopura has three doorways and flanked by two raised long galleries with the entrance porch facing inwards towards the gopura.
Now climb the steps up to the east gopura of the inner enclosure, the pyramid is in the center of the courtyard. On either front sides of the pyramid are two sandstone libraries, facing west with false windows on the recessed upper storey. In the corners of the courtyard, two long galleries were built on the lower terrace than libraries. At the foot of the staircase to the uppermost level is a statue of kneeling Nandi. There some decorative carvings can be seen, as we approach the east face of the pyramid, which indicated the decoration has been started.
The pyramid is set on three tiers with steep stair set at each cardinal point to climb the uppermost level. At the top, the five towers occupied the summit. The towers are in massive stones and without decoration. When I was there, I have a got a feeling of regret and imagined how marvelous the towers would be if they were completely decorated. All the five towers have a porch at each cardinal point which is an innovation at Ta Keo. Climb the central tower of the 4 m high steep staircase to see the stunning views over the Angkor area, especially towards sunset.