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Angkor Archeological Park

Elephant Terrace

Explore the heart of the Khmer ancestral empire

     300 meters long terrace at the heart of Angkor Thom that gets its name from the elephants that decorate its walls within the same area, lions and garudas. In Angkorian times, it served as a platform for the king’s reception pavilion. Its recently restored northern perron features exceptionally beautiful bas-reliefs, including an amazing horse with five heads.

     Aligned due north from the centre of Bayon to the Terraee of the Leper King, the 300m (100oft) long Elephant Terrace is a viewing platform from where the king and his retinue would view military parades and preside over other public functions of the state. Zhou Daguan observed at the end of the 13th century that the king would appear daily on the terrace where, framed by a golden window, he would listen to complaints and dispense justice.

The terrace today appears as an open stone platform but would originally have supported substantial wooden pavilions as illustrated in the virtual reconstruction on the facing page. Early restoration of the surface of the terrace uncovered large postholes for these pavilions indicating both orientation and scale.

The principal scene carved into the terrace is of elephants hunting under the guidance of their mahouts. They dominate the jungle and charge through the foliage using their trunks to fight off tigers that appear to leap out from behind the trees. Elsewhere they can be seen grabbing a cow or holding a man upside down. Another scene shows elephants decked out for a royal procession led by the king, and attended by his court.

     Look out for the mount of the Hindu god Indra, the three- headed elephant Airavata, who flanks the stairway up to the three-metre high terrace, and represents rain as well as prosperity.

To the north lies the Terrace of the Leper King with a replica statue of the Leper King himself (the original is in the National Museum of Cambodia, in Phnom Penh). Thanks to an inscription on the base, we know the so-called Leper King is actually an image of Yama, the god of the dead who judges all souls and assesses their suitability for heaven or hell. He is represented without clothing and with fangs. Thus scholarly conjecture has it that this was perhaps the location of a pavilion used as a funeral pyre.

Discover all the current projects happening in The Elephant Terrace

Info and tips for visitor

Date :

12th century

Style

Bayon

Opening hours

7:30 am to 5:30 pm

Reign

Remodeled by Jayavarman VII

Religion

Buddhist

Tour

30 minutes

Click to take a tour of the photo gallery of the Elephant Terrace