Angkor Thom (Big Angkor) is a 3km x 3km walled and moated royal city and was the last capital of the Angkorian empire. After King Jayavarman VII recaptured the Angkorian capital from the Cham in 1181, he began a massive building campaign across the empire and built Angkor Thom as his new capital city. He began the new city with existing structures such as Baphuon and Phimeanakas, building a grand enclosed city around them, adding the outer wall/moat and raising other important temples including the Bayon set at the center of the city and probably serving as his state temple. Five grand entrances allowed access to the capital city - five towering face gates - one for each cardinal point, and the Victory Gate leading to the Royal Palace area. Each gate is crowned with 4 giant faces and framed by elephants wading amongst lotus flowers. Most modern visitors and tourists first enter Angkor Thom by the South Gate, coming from Siem Reap town 9km south.
Angkor Thom is quadrangle of defensive walls totaling 12 kilometers that once protected the Khmer capital of the same name (Angkor Thom means 'Great City'). Built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries by King Jayavarman VII, the walls are divided by two axes running north-south and east-west. A gateway lies at the end of each axis, four in total, facing the four cardinal directions. An additional gate, called the 'Gate of Victory', pierces the east wall just north of the 'Gate of the Dead', the east gate along the central axis. The significance of the additional gate is that it provided access to a terrace of the royal palace. As for the other gates, the two axes intersect at the center of the enclosed area where the Bayon temple sits.
There are five gates in the wall and five causeways crossing the moat, four are at the cardinal points and one is east of the Royal Palace.
All gates and causeways are of the same construction:
The central tower, more than 23 m high, is flanked by two smaller towers.
Huge faces are looking to the cardinal points.
In the corners of the towers' bases, god Indra appears with two spouses, mounted on the three-headed elephant Airavan, whose trunks are pulling lotus flowers.
In front of the gate, Naga Kings are guarding the causeway, escorting human beings from the secular world to the sacred area of the temple.
The Naga are held by giants. Looking outside you see 54 gods to the right and demons in equal number to the left.
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