Baphuon – A Shiva Temple

Baphuon, a pyramid shaped temple was built in the mid 11th century as the state temple of Udayadityavarman II and was dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. It is located in Angkor Thom, northwest of the Bayon in Siem Reap. In the late 15th century, the Baphuon was converted to a Buddhist temple. One side wall of the temple is in the shape of a reclining Buddha. There are scenes from epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata on the walls. It was opened to the public after restoration only a few months ago on July 3, 2011. 
There are some stones still scattered around the temple. Water forms a moat around the walkway to the temple in the rainy season. It’s a tragic but rewarding story about the conservation of this temple. The temple was built on land filled with sand, and due to its immense size the site was unstable throughout its history. By the 20th century, much of the temple had largely collapsed, and restoration efforts were problematic. The first effort begun in 1960 but was interrupted by the coming to power of the Khmer Rouge, and all records of the positions of the stones were lost. The second attempt in 1995 by a team of French archeologists lead by Pascal Royère. It took them 2 years only to figure out which block fits where on paper! The project had a total budget of about $37 million, and in April 2011, after 51 years, the archaeologists finished the restoration of the temple. King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia and Prime Minister Francois Fillon of France were among those who first toured the renovated temple during the inauguration ceremony. An article on BBC News regarding the restoration.

All sorts of colorful spiders live on the pillars and walls of all the temples here. I climb the temples’ steep stairs and see the temple mountain against the black clouds forming in the sky. The weather seems unpredictable, it was hot and sunny a few minutes ago! It starts raining heavily and as I come down I see the reclining buddha on the wall. The buddha is made by shaping the bricks of the huge temple wall itself and is difficult to spot. I reach back down for some shelter, and realize it’s a passing shower. I can’t feel many drops, so I look up. Thanks to the trees above, they’re so dense that I won’t spoil my camera!


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