The confusion in the plan of the Bayon and the intricacy
of its buildings results no doubt from the successive alterations
to which the monument was subjected, that are evident just
These changes could well have been made either during the
course of construction or at other times so not all necessarily
corresponding to the reign of Jayavarman VII.
The Bayon is without a doubt Angkor Thom's most extraordinary
The temple design would seem to have been repeatedly revised
over the course of construction such that four different
phases have been identified. The principal elements of the
final lay-out are as follows:
- an orthodox cross encloses the circular central sanctuary
- the inner galleries form a rectangle enclosing, in
turn, the orthodox cross
- another rectangle - the outer galleries - encloses
and communicates with the first through passages on each
of the four axes.
One of the specificities of the Bayon is its towers crowned
with faces looking out to the four cardinal points. Modern
Khmer call them "Prohm Bayon", with the name "Prohm"
(Brahma) remaining as a vestige of Cambodia's Brahmanic
past. The multiple scholarly attempts to identify the Bayon
faces have generally focussed on Brahmanic-Mahayanic gods,
in view of the religious particularities of Jayavarman VII's
The most frequently cited is Lokesvara, a Buddhist divinity
widely venerated during that time. It is also possible that
the faces represented that of Jayavarman VII himself, as
a new expression of an old Khmer tradition of belief in
the apotheosis of kings.
The Bayon is also remarkable for its bas-reliefs, in particular
those of the outer galleries. Certain reliefs depict historical
events such as naval combat against the Cham on the Great
Lake .Taking up on the artistic innovations of the Baphuon,
others show touching scenes of daily life amongst common
people.It is the Bayon, more than any other temple, which
materializes the assembly of the principal gods of the Angkorian
Inscriptions engraved on the doorjambs of the temple's
many small sanctuaries tell us that these once harbored
statues of different provincial or even local divinities.
It is tempting in fact to call the Bayon "Tevea Vinichay",
or "Assembly of the Gods", the name of the throne
hall in Phnom Penh's Royal Palace.
The central tower of the Bayon once sheltered a Buddha
seated on the naga. Cast into the well of the central tower
with the 13th-century return to Brahmanism, this statue
was discovered and transported for worship and display at
Vihear Prampil Loveng in 1935.