Five hundred metres north of the Pre Rup temple, there once existed a large expanse of water known as the Eastern Baray. Measuring two kilometres north-south and seven kilometres east-west, it is enclosed by an earth embankment and identified as the 'Eastern Lake' by Zhou Daguan in the 13th century and the 'Yasodharatataka' mentioned in ancient inscriptions.
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.