Saturday, April 18, 2009

Phnom Bakeng

Name : Phnom Bakeng
Location : Angkor Temple complex, Cambodia.
Thirteen hundred metres north of the western axial entrance to Angkor Wat and 400 metres south of the southern gate of Angkor Thom, to the west of the road, one can see a wide track in the forest ascending a natural hill of 60 metres in height. This is Phnom Bakheng, the centre of the first kingdom of Angkor, or Yasodharapura, which formed a square of about 4 kilometres on each side and of which, travelling on the main road from Siem Reap.

Description : The rulers of Angkor constructed many temple mountains, but Phnom Bakeng is all natural stone. The temple on the summit was built in the late 9th or early 10th century by Jacawarman I (or Yasovarman I). At the top of the hillock are 5 successive rows of 12 sanctuaries each. Here the Royal Linga - phallic symbol of the King in his divine state - was placed.

On his accession in 889, Yasovarman abandoned Hariharalaya (Roluos), the rudimentary capital of his predecessors situated on the plain, and became the first, seduced by the mysticism of the hills, to find his "Meru" (the seat of the gods) and his "Ganga" (the river Ganges) symbolised here in the hill of Phnom Bakheng and the river of Stung Siem Reap - the latter probably being diverted to follow the eastern boundary of the new city.

The temple has Bakheng pyramid, 4 nandis and 36 towers. The description can be seen on the website :

Attraction : The south-eastward view over the forest to the Angkor Wat towers is unequalled and the sunsets to the west over the countryside are often spectacular.

Phnom Bakheng is best climbed at the end of the day or early in the morning, either by its immediate steep slope or by the gently winding path bearing to the left, formerly taken by tourist elephants - which is a classic and very pleasant walk. From the summit one can enjoy a view stretching across the plain - dominated by the two other peaks that are also each crowned with a temple by Yasovarman; - Phnom Krom to the south, close to the Tonle Sap lake, and Phnom Bok to the north-east, standing out from the distant dark line of the Phnom Kulen - and then the plain of water of the western baray, the forest of Angkor Thom and the majestic composition of Angkor Wat, lying golden in the setting sun.

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