Angkor, Eastern Mebon
Angkor, Eastern Mebon, northeastern tower
Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer Empire, which was also recognized as Yasodharapura and flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor was a megacity supporting at least 0.1% of the global population during 1010–1220. The city houses the magnificent Angkor Wat, one of Cambodia's most popular tourist attractions.
The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara, meaning "city". The Angkorian period began in AD 802, when the Khmer Hindu monarch Jayavarman II declared himself a "universal monarch" and "god-king", and lasted until the late 14th century, first falling under Ayutthayan suzerainty in 1351. A Khmer rebellion against Siamese authority resulted in the 1431 sacking of Angkor by Ayutthaya, causing its population to migrate south to Longvek.
The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland north of the Great Lake (Tonlé Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern-day Siem Reap city, in Siem Reap Province. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the Angkor Wat, said to be the world's largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitors approach two million annually, and the entire expanse, including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom is collectively protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The popularity of the site among tourists presents multiple challenges to the preservation of the ruins.
In 2007, an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest pre-industrial city in the world, with an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres to the well-known temples at its core. Angkor is considered to be a "hydraulic city" because it had a complicated water management network, which was used for systematically stabilizing, storing, and dispersing water throughout the area. This network is believed to have been used for irrigation in order to offset the unpredictable monsoon season and to also support the increasing population. Although the size of its population remains a topic of research and debate, newly identified agricultural systems in the Angkor area may have supported up to one million people.
The East Mebon is a 10th Century temple at Angkor. Built during the reign of King Rajendravarman, it stands on what was an artificial island at the center of the now dry East Baray reservoir. The East Mebon was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and honors the parents of the king. Its location reflects Khmer architects’ concern with orientation and cardinal directions. 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 6,800 meters due west.
Built in the general style of Pre Rup, the East Mebon was dedicated in 953 AD. It has two enclosing walls and three tiers. It includes the full array of durable Khmer construction materials: sandstone, brick, laterite and stucco. 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.