Things to See and Do - Siem Reap, Cambodia
East Mebon - Siem Reap
You need to use quite a bit of imagination when visiting the East Mebon temple. It's not that the temple is badly ruined. The imagination is needed to think of the temple as it originally existed, as an island in the middle of a large artificial lake, the Eastern Baray.
On arriving at the temple, one of the first things you'll notice is are the large elephants standing at each corner of the lowest tier. The elephants are carved from a single block of stone. Gateways in the center of each side lead up to the second and third platforms.
It was realised during the reign of Yasovarman towards the end of the 9th century and supplied by waters from the Siem Reap river. This vast reservoir served to regulate the flow of the river and to irrigate the surrounding plain, is today given over to rice fields. To judge by the laterite steps that surround the small island of the Mebon, the original depth of water contained was approximately three metres and its volume must have been some 40 million cubic metres.
The Mebon has all the characteristics of a 'temple-mountain' symbolising Mount Meru - here there is a three-metre high central platform carrying the quincunx of towers. Originally the Mebon temple stood on an island surrounded entirely by the waters of the Eastern Baray - accessible only by boat. The centre of the baray was marked by this small island of 120 metres across on which the temple stands. The main entry pavilion of the Royal Palace and the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom were subsequently aligned along this axis.
Several inscriptions found in the vicinity as well as the foundation stele - dated 952 (only nine years prior to Pre- Rup) describe the placing in the various sanctuaries of the linga Sri Rajendresvara, of several gods - notably Shiva and Parvati "in the likeness of the mother and the father" of King Rajendravarman in addition to Vishnu with Brahma. Eight linga of the god in eight forms were also placed in the eight small towers of the surrounding court. The Mebon belongs to a group of temples consecrated to the memory of deified parents.
According to an inscription, the walls were originally covered externally with a lime-based plaster coating (as evident at Pre Rup temple) with the pitted hammer marks in the brickwork to adhere the stucco onto the towers, the only remaining evidence. Most lintels remain in place on this monument and are of excellent craftsmanship. On the central tower to the east, Indra on a three-headed elephant with flights of figures disgorged by makara, under a small frieze of figures in meditation; to the west, Skanda the god of war on his peacock with a line of figures holding lotus flowers; and to the south, Shiva on the sacred bull Nandin.
East Mebon, a 10th century Hindu temple, erected by Rajendravarman II, would have been on an islet in the centre of the Eastern Baray, but is now very much on dry land. This temple is like a smaller version of Pre Rup, which was built 15 to 20 years later and lies to the south. The temple-mountain form is topped off by the now familiar quincuncial arrangement of towers. The elaborate brick shrines are dotted with neatly arranged holes, which attached the original plasterwork. The base of the temple is guarded at its corners by perfectly carved stone figures of harnessed elephants, many of which are still in a very good state of preservation.
East Mebon is a small temple built in the reign of king Rajendravarman, who named the temple 'Yashodharatataka' (the reservoir of Yashodhara). King Rajendravarman greatly admired King Yashovarman I, who ruled from 889-900 AD and built the East Baray (reservoir). Out of respect, King Rajendravarman built East Mebon at the center of the baray. Its main god was Rajendreshvara, a linga of the present king.
The lovely temple of Mebon, a pyramid of receding terraces on which are placed many detached edifices, the most effective being the five towers which crown the top Could any conception be lovelier, a vast expanse of sky-tinted water as wetting for a perfectly ordered temple. The East Mebon is 500metre (1,640feet) north of Pre Rup. A enter and leave the temple from the east entrance. It was built in the second half of the tenth century (952) by king Rajendravarman II, dedicated to Siva (Hindu), an ancestor temple in memory of the parents of the king with following the Pre Rup style art.
The East Mebon is a temple with five towers arranged like the numbers on a die atop a base with three tiers. The whole is surrounded by three enclosures. The towers represent the five peaks of the mythical Mount Meru.
The stairways of the tiered base are flanked by lions (6). Beautiful monolithic elephants stand majestically at the corners of the first and second tiers (7). They are depicted naturalistically with fine detail such as harnessing. Tip: The elephant in the best condition, and the most complete, is in the southwest corner.
The large inner courtyard contains eight small brick towers (8)-two on each side opening to the East. Each one has octagonal columns and finely worked lintels with figures amongst leaf decorations. On the East Side of the courtyard there are three rectangular laterite buildings (9) without windows opening to the west. The two on the left of the entrance are decorated with either scenes of the stories of the nine planets or the seven ascetics. Vestiges of bricks above the cornices suggest they were vaulted. There are two more buildings (without windows) of similar form at the northwest and southwest (9) comers of the courtyard.
Map of East Mebon
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