Must see attractions in Temples of Angkor

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Churning of the Ocean of Milk

    The southern section of the east gallery is decorated by the most famous of the bas-relief scenes at Angkor Wat, the Churning of the Ocean of Milk. This brilliantly executed carving depicts 88 asuras on the left, and 92 devas, with crested helmets, churning up the sea to extract from it the elixir of immortality. The demons hold the head of the serpent Vasuki and the gods hold its tail. At the centre of the sea, Vasuki is coiled around Mt Mandala, which turns and churns up the water in the tug of war between the demons and the gods. Vishnu, incarnated as a huge turtle, lends his shell to serve as the base and pivot of Mt Mandala. Brahma, Shiva, Hanuman (the monkey god) and Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity) all make appearances, while overhead a host of heavenly female spirits sing and dance in encouragement. Luckily for us, the gods won through, as the apsaras above were too much for the hot-blooded devils to take. Restoration work on this incredible panel by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) was completed in 2012.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Army of Suryavarman II

    The remarkable western section of the south gallery depicts a triumphal battle march of Suryavarman II’s army. In the southwestern corner about 2m from the floor is Suryavarman II on an elephant, wearing the royal tiara and armed with a battleaxe; he is shaded by 15 parasols and fanned by legions of servants. Compare this image of the king with the image of Rama in the northern gallery and you’ll notice an uncanny likeness that helped reinforce the aura of the god-king. Further on is a procession of well-armed soldiers and officers on horseback; among them are bold and warlike chiefs on elephants. Just before the end of this panel is the rather disorderly Siamese mercenary army, with their long headdresses and ragged marching, at that time allied with the Khmers in their conflict with the Chams. The Khmer troops have square breastplates and are armed with spears; the Thais wear skirts and carry tridents. The rectangular holes seen in the Army of Suryavarman II relief were created when, so the story goes, Thai soldiers removed pieces of the scene containing inscriptions that reportedly gave clues to the location of the golden treasures of Suryavarman II, later buried during the reign of Jayavarman VII.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Battle of Kurukshetra

    The southern portion of the west gallery depicts a battle scene from the Hindu Mahabharata epic, in which the Kauravas (coming from the north) and the Pandavas (coming from the south) advance upon each other, meeting in furious battle. Infantry are shown on the lowest tier, with officers on elephants, and chiefs on the second and third tiers. Some of the more interesting details (from left to right): a dead chief lying on a pile of arrows, surrounded by his grieving parents and troops; a warrior on an elephant who, by putting down his weapon, has accepted defeat; and a mortally wounded officer, falling from his carriage into the arms of his soldiers. Over the centuries, some sections have been polished (by the millions of hands that have fallen upon them) to look like black marble. The portico at the southwestern corner is decorated with sculptures representing characters from the Ramayana.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Heaven & Hell

    The punishments and rewards of the 37 heavens and 32 hells are depicted in the eastern half of the south gallery. On the left, the upper and middle tiers show fine gentlemen and ladies proceeding towards 18-armed Yama (the judge of the dead) seated on a bull; below him are his assistants, Dharma and Sitragupta. On the lower tier, devils drag the wicked along the road to hell. To Yama’s right, the tableau is divided into two parts by a horizontal line of garudas: above, the elect dwell in beautiful mansions, served by women and attendants; below, the condemned suffer horrible tortures that might have inspired the Khmer Rouge. The ceiling in this section was restored by the French in the 1930s.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Battle of Lanka

    The northern half of the west gallery shows scenes from the Ramayana. In the Battle of Lanka, Rama (on the shoulders of Hanuman), along with his army of monkeys, battles 10-headed, 20-armed Ravana, captor of Rama’s beautiful wife Sita. Ravana rides a chariot drawn by monsters and commands an army of giants.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Battle of the Gods & the Demons

    The western section of the north gallery depicts the battle between the 21 gods of the Brahmanic pantheon and various demons. The gods are featured with their traditional attributes and mounts. Vishnu has four arms and is seated on a garuda, while Shiva rides a sacred goose.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Krishna & the Demon King

    The eastern section of the north gallery shows Vishnu incarnated as Krishna riding a garuda. He confronts a burning walled city, the residence of Bana, the demon king. The garuda puts out the fire and Bana is captured. In the final scene Krishna kneels before Shiva and asks that Bana’s life be spared.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Vishnu Conquers the Demons

    The northern section of the east gallery shows a furious and desperate encounter between Vishnu, riding on a garuda, and innumerable devils. Needless to say, he slays all comers. This gallery was most likely completed in the 16th century, and the later carving is notably inferior to the original work from the 12th century.

  • Sights in Angkor Wat

    Elephant Gate

    This gate, which has no stairway, was used by the king and others for mounting and dismounting elephants directly from the gallery. North of the gate is a Khmer inscription recording the erection of a nearby stupa in the 18th century.