Angkor Wat
khmer Ballet Dance
Khmer Shadow Theatre
Preah Vihear
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Preah Vihear
Preah Vihear
Preah Vihear

Bakheng

In the period before the end of the 9th century, the king Yashovarman I transferred the capital of Hariharalaya (in the region of Roluos) to Yashodharapura (in actuality 'Angkor') by choosing the hill of Bakheng (some 60m in altitude), to be the symbolic centre. Phnom Bakheng, in effect, was given the Khmer name 'Vnam Kandal', or the 'Central Mountain'.

On the summit a pyramid was built, comprising of five tiers, surmounted by a central sanctuary that sheltered a linga. This structure differs from all other similar Angkorian architectural models as the interior was not filled with fine compacted sand, but rather this monument is constructed directly on the rock.

An extremely complex study made by Jean Filliozat has resulted in an understanding of the number of towers and their position in space that demonstrates the ensemble is a materialization of the Indian cosmic calendar.

The 16th century seems to have marked a period of renewal of this place and a conversion to Theravada Buddhism. The temple became a symbolic beacon for pilgrimages to the Angkor region with the quincunx of the highest towers almost completely engulfed within an immense seated stone Buddha (the lower part of this image was still partially visible in the early 1920.

A Middle Period inscription records the name 'Bakheng', or 'Virile' that suggests (despite the fact the central sanctuary was covered by this Buddhist image) the earlier concept of a linga was still present in the historic collective memory. It is curious but significant to note that Muslim pilgrims left an inscription at the monument in Arabic praising Allah. This stele was removed in the 20th century for preservation reasons.

Without doubt we could explain this by the well-known tolerance that characterizes religious history in Cambodia. At the same time, as this is an important pilgrimage site at Angkor, perhaps it was also considered so by others.