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March 24, 2012

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom lies on the right bank of the Siem Reap River, a tributary of Tonle Sap, about a quarter of a mile from the river. The south gate of Angkor Thom is 7.2 km north of Siem Reap, and 1.7 km north of the entrance to Angkor Wat. The walls 8 m high and flanked by a moat, are each 3 km long, enclosing an area of 900 hectares.

Angkor Thom (meaning Great City) was established as the capital of Jayavarman VII's reign and the last capital of Khmer Empire.  The monument now includes the ruins of Royal Palace, Victory Gate, Terrace of Elephants, Terrace of Leper King, Preah Pithu, Phimeanakas and the imposing Bayon at the centre.


Very little is known about organisation of the city, with its light-weight dwellings. Centred on the Bayon, it was divided into four quarters by four axial roads that were probably bordered by moats. A fifth similar road was set on the axis of the Royal Palace, leading to the east. Corresponding to these avenues are five monumental gates.

From the exterior, the crossing of the moat is made, as previously described, on a causeway. The parapets of the causeway are in solid stone, sculpted to represent nine-headed serpents, with the 54 divinities holding the serpents as if to prevent them from escaping.


This double railing in the form of a naga was perhaps “one way of symbolising a rainbow which, in the Indian tradition, is the expression of the union of man with the world of the gods - materialised here on earth by the royal city. The representation of the churning, with the moats for the ocean and the enclosure wall - and specifically the mass of its gate - for the mountain, is a kind of magic device destined to assure victory and prosperity to the country”.

(Part of this article is from The Angkor Guide)

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