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city
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temple
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the Temple-City

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Bayon. One of the most important Buddhist temples sites at ANGKOR THOM, the temple-city of the ancient Khmer kingdom; built by the Khmer king Jayavarman VII (r. 1181-c. 1220). The Bayon is a funerary temple located at the center of the Angkor Thom city complex. Constructed of sandstone and in the form of a terraced pyramid, the Bayon represents among other symbols Mt. SUMERU, the axis mundi of the Hindu-Buddhist universe. The temple is entered through four doorways, one on each side, that lead through galleries richly carved with bas-reliefs depicting scenes from contemporary life and Hindu mythology. The temple is crowned with fifty-two towers, the largest of which occupies the center and pinnacle of the structure. The four sides of every tower bear colossal guardian faces that are believed to be portraits of Jayavarman VII in the guise of the bodhisattva AVALOKITEsVARA. The Bayon is the first of Angkor's many temples specifically dedicated to a MAHAYANA Buddhist cult; those built earlier were exclusively Hindu in affiliation. Beneath the central tower is a chamber that once housed a buddha image protected by a hooded cobra. This image was situated above a receptacle intended to receive the king's ashes at death. The Bayon thus combines the function and architectural elements of a Hindu temple and a Buddhist STuPA, while Jayavarman's identification with Avalokitesvara was but an extension of Angkor's long-standing Hindu devarAjan (divine king) cult.



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