Angkor Archeological Park

East Mebon

Explore the heart of the Khmer ancestral empire

     The East Mebon rises up from the middle of a huge dry reservoir, the East Baray (7.5 km x 1.83 km) that was capable of holding 55 million cubic meters of water. The same architect who built Bat Chum built the Mebon. An inscription indicates that the divinity of this Temple was dedicated on Friday 28th January 953 at 11 AM. Generally well preserved, the first lintels of the sanctuaries constitute a beautiful attraction. Visitors should imagine that they are standing on an artificial island.

History

     Five hundred meters north of the Pre Rup temple, there once existed a large expanse of water known as the Eastern Baray. Measuring two kilometers north-south and seven kilometers 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 realized 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 meters and its volume must have been some 40 million cubic meters.

The Mebon has all the characteristics of a ‘temple-mountain’ symbolising Mount Meru – here there is a three-meter 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 center of the baray was marked by this small island of 120 meters 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.

Standing here today surrounded by rice paddies and palms you may struggle to imagine East Mebon as an island temple in the middle of a colossal baray (reservoir) called the Yashodharatataka. The virtual reconstruction (facing page) places the viewer at the eastern face of the top, central sanctuary looking towards the southeast.

The baray, 1.7km (1mi) by 7.2km (4.5mi), was created by containing over 8 million cubic meters of earth. embankments Its construction involved harnessing and diverting the natural flow of water across the Angkor plain. We now know that the formally planned urban spaces of Angkor Thom extended beyond the ‘city walls’, with densely populated neighbourhoods extending right up to the western shore of this baray.

East Mebon was accessible only by boat. Laterite landing platforms are flanked by guardian lions and you will notice the lack of stone stairs to the current ground level.

Your first impression of East Mebon from the road is of a pyramid temple but of course your viewpoint now would have been underwater when the temple was built. It seems that its builders sought to avoid creating too much weight in this precarious position. The structure consists of a modest 3m (10oft) high platform on which sit five brick towers.

The four corners of the temple’s first two levels display masterfully carved elephants in good condition and showing remarkable detail. You will find the most completely preserved examples at the southern corner of the second level.

Discover all the current projects happening in East Mebon Temple

Info and tips for visitor

Date :

10th century

Style

Bakheng

Opening hours

7:00 am to 5:30 pm

Reign

Rajendravarman II

Religion

Hindu

Tour

30 minutes

Click to take a tour of the photo gallery of East Mebon Temple