East Mebon - Filip Šubrt Photo

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Angkor Wat

Phnom Penh

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East Mebon

The East Mebon is a 10th Century large temple at Angkor, Cambodia. Built during the reign of King Jayavarman IV, it stands on what was an artificial island at the center of the now dry East Baray reservoir. 

The East Mebon is 500 metre north of Pre Rup. The Mebon stands on a small island in the middle of the Eastern Baray, which was a large body of water (2 by 7 kilometres) fed by the Siem Reap River. The temple was accessible only by boat. Today the baray, once a source of water for irrigation, is a plain of rice fields and the visitor is left to imagine the original majesty of this temple in the middle of a large lake.

The temple is dedicated to Hindu Shiva in honor of the king’s parents. Inscriptions indicate that it was also built to help reestablish the continuity of kingship at Angkor in light of the interruption that occurred when the seat of power had been moved to Koh Ker. There is some scholarly debate as to whether East Mebon should be categorized as a temple-mountain. Inscriptions record activity as early as 947AD, but the temple was not consecrated until 952AD.

The temple was built on a north-south axis with Rajendravarman’s state temple, Pre Rup, located about 1,200 meters to the south just outside the baray. The East Mebon also lies on an east-west axis with the palace temple Phimeanakas, another creation of Rajendravarman’s reign, located about 6800 meters due west.

At the top is a central tower on a square platform, surrounded by four smaller towers at the platform’s corners. The towers are of brick, holes that formerly anchored stucco are visible. The sculpture at the East Mebon is varied and exceptional, including two-meter-high free-standing stone elephants at corners of the first and second tiers. Religious scenes include the god Indra atop his three-headed elephant Airavata, and Shiva on his mount, the sacred bull Nandi. Carving on lintels is particularly elegant. Visitors looking out from the upper level today are left to imagine the vast expanses of water that formerly surrounded the temple. Four landing stages at the base give reminder that the temple was once reached by boat.