You may wish to see a page with some historical background information first.
East Mebon is one of the first temples built in the Angkor region. King Rajendravarman built it in 952 at the centre of a large water reservoir (Eastern Baray).
Today East Mebon is surrounded by trees, but when it was built it could be accessed only by boat: because of its high temples and its location in a basin, it represented mythological Mount Mandara which stood at the centre of the Ocean of Milk.
Elephants at the corners of the terraces and lions at the sides of the steps acted as wardens of the shrine: it is interesting to note that the statues of the elephants are very true to life, while those of the lions are a "literary" representation of the king of the animals and rather more similar to dogs.
The lintels (1)
These scenes are drawn more from the sacred books of the people than from their history; for men with ten heads and twenty arms, fantastic animals, griffins and dragons, are favourite subjects.
Henri Mouhout - Travels in the central parts of Indo-China (Siam), Cambodia, and Laos: during the years 1858, 1859, and 1860 - 1864
Mouhout made reference to reliefs at Angkor Thom, but his remark applies to East Mebon too.
The lintels (2)
The lintels (3)
East Mebon was dedicated to Shiva, one of the main Hindu deities: he is viewed as the Destroyer and this may explain why many lintels are decorated with Kala, the time-eater deity represented with an open mouth in the act of devouring something.
East Mebon is mainly a masonry building, but the lintels were carved on grey sandstone blocks.
The temples and their decoration
View from the main entrance
In 961 King Rajendravarman built a second large temple dedicated to Shiva on the southern shore of Eastern Baray: it was aligned with Mebon and the view of the two temples must have been very evocative: today the effect is lost because of the high trees between the two monuments.
View at sunset
The reddish colour of the bricks is heightened at sunset. Pre Rup has more vertical thrust than Mebon.
Entrance to a temple and a rare example of "dome"
All temples of Angkor had four doors aligned with the cardinal points: of these doors usually three were blind doors and only one (almost always the eastern one) gave access to the interior.
Khmer architects did not know about the true arch and they used corbelling to close openings: notwithstanding this limitation they were able to build (on a small scale) elegant roofs which resembled a dome (see larger corbelled domes at Mycenae).
Decorations: (left to right) Airavata, the three-headed elephant; a kala; a devata (dancer)
The guardian deities presiding over the cardinal points all sat on elephants. Indra, one of the oldest Hindu deities, sat on Airavata.
The image used as background for this page shows a relief at Banteay Srey.
View from the top terrace
|Day One - Page One||Introduction - Angkor Thom (Southern Gate and Terraces)|
|Day One - Page Two||Angkor Thom (Temples)|
|Day One - Page Three||Angkor Vat|
|Day Two - Page One||Prah Khan - Ta Som|
|Day Two - Page Two||Banteay Srey|
|Day Two - Page Three||East Mebon - Pre Rup|
|Day Three - Page One||Baksei Chamkrong - Ta Prohm|
|Day Three - Page Two||Prasat Kravan - Phnom Bakheng|
|Day Three - Page Three||An excursion to Tonle Sap|