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Generally, every new king built a state temple where he worshiped the God who was the Overlord of the Kingdom. He also built a baray and an ancestor temple. During his rule, the state temple related to the centre of the capital.



Temples,  Capitals



(State Temples are bold.)

Jayavarman II

c. 760/90–835


Jayavarman III


Prei Monti (?),
Trapeang Phong,

Indravarman I

881–c. 885

Bakong, Preah Ko,
Baray of Lolei,

Yasovarman I

881–c. 915

Phnom Bakheng,
Phimeanakas; Phnom Bok,
Phnom Krom, Phnom Dei,
East Baray
Preah Vihear,
Huei Thamo (Laos)

Harshavarman I

c. 915-922

Baksei Chamkrong

Jayavarman IV

c. 928–c. 941

Koh Ker



East Mebon, Pre Rup
Yasodharapura II

Jayavarman V

968-c. 1000

Ta Keo



Ta Keo, North Khleang

Suryavarman I


South Khleang,
Prasat Suor Prat,
Royal Palace, Royal Plaza,
West Baray, Preah Vihear,
Phnom Chisor,
Preah Khan of Kampong Svay,
Wat Phu (Laos)

Udayadityavarman II


Baphuon, West Mebon

Jayavarman VI

1080–c. 1107

Phimai (Thailand)

Suryavarman II

113–c. 1150

Angkor Wat,
Chau Say Tevoda,
Banteay Samré,
Beng Mealea,
Phnom Rung (Thailand)

Yasovarman II

c. 1150–1165

Beng Mealea,
Chau Say Tevoda,
Banteay Samré, Bakong

Jayavarman VII

1181-c. 1220

Ta Prohm (1186),
Preah Khan (1191),
North Baray, Neak Pean,
Bayon with Angkor Thom,
Banteay Kdei, Ta Som,
Ta Nei, Elephant Terrace,
Royal Palace,
Banteay Chhmar,
Banteay Toap



Leper King Terrace,
Preah Pithu, Preah Palilay

Source: Jacques, Roveda.



Agni • God of the fire, guardian of the Southeast, riding on a rhino

Airavan • Airavata, one- or three-headed white elephant, mount of Indra

Amrita • magic potion of immortality.

Ananta • an endless naga

Anavatapta • a legendary lake in the Himalayas "whose miraculous and curative waters escape in the four directions ..." (Coedès)

angkor • nokor, Pali/Sanskrit nagara, Thai: nakhon, nakhorn, "town" or "village"


  • The central area of the Angkor region.
  • The capital of the Khmer empire, ca. 30 km diameter.
  • The ancient Khmer empire and civilization.

Angkor Conservation (CA) • a depot of Angkor artefacts in Siem Reap

antefix • a carved stone standing on a cornice

antarala • corridor connecting the cella to the mandapa

Aniruddha • grandson of Krishna, persecuted by Bana.

apsara • celestial nymphs, see: Devata.

asram • ashram, aram, place of meditation

asura • anti-gods, demons.

Avalokiteshvara • the bodhisattva of universal compassion, see: Lokeshvara.

avatar • "descent", temporary incarnation of Vishnu to restore the harmony of the world.

avenue • route of the royal procession to the state temple, see Bakong, Angkor Wat.  


Balaha • incarnation of Avalokiteshvara as a flying horse

Bali • demon king, deceived and killed by Vishnu, see Three strides

Bana • son of Bali

banteay • “fortress”, a temple enclosed by stately walls or galleries

barang • “Frank”, Western foreigner

barangsay • French, France.

baray • huge rectangular water basin

Bodhi • "the Awakening"

bodhisattva • “enlightened being”, a Buddhist god, see Avalokiteshvara.

Brahma • a Hindu god

Brahmins • priests, highest Hindu caste

the Buddha • the “Enlightened”, the “Fully Awakened” 


chakra • circle, discus, the World

chakravartin • ruler of the World. The kings of Angkor were regarded as chakravartin.

cella • central room of a temple

colonnade • long hall, covered with beams and tiles, opening to a long side by pillars

colonnettes • “small columns”, flanking a door

columns • in Angkor there are no real columsns but only stone imitations of wooden piles.

cosmology • teachings of the origins and the entity of the world


devaraja • "god who is king", not: "god-king"! See Notes.

Devata • goddesses or deities; in Angkor wrongly mixed up with apsara. See also: tevoda

Durga • “The Great Goddess”, consort of Shiva. In her terrible aspect: Kali, Chandi or Bhairavi.

Durga kills the buffalo monster – who could not be defeated by any god.

dvarapala • male guardians, gods or demons


EFEO • Ecole française d'Extrême Orient, French archaeological institute

elephants • symbols of stability

enclosures • walls or galleries framing a tower or a group of towers; enclosures are counted with Roman numerals (I, II, III) from inside to outside.


fire shrine • sheltering the Holy Fire, or a fire for ritual sacrifices, wrongly called "library".

flying palaces • reliefs of palaces of gods at temples' walls, supported by a frieze of flying hamsa.  


GACP • German Apsara Conservation Project

gajasimha • "elephant lion", a mythical beast, shaped like a lion, with an elephant's trunk

Ganesha • son of Shiva, with an elephant's head, lord of Shiva's troops, sets up or removes obstacles, god of knowledge, patron saint of educated persons and voyagers. His mount is a rat.

GAP • Greater Angkor Project

Garuda • divine king of the birds, mount of Vishnu.   

GHF • Global Heritage Fund

gopa • gopi, cowherd or shepherd

gopura • gate tower or gate pavilion

Great Departure • The future Buddha leaving his palace.   


hamsa • sacred wild goose, mount of Brahma

Hanuman • white faced monkey general in the Ramayana

Harihara • Hindu god, half Shiva, half Vishnu.

Hariharalaya • the first capital in Roluos

Heritage Watch • an NGO safeguarding the cultural heritage of Cambodia

Hinayana • "the small vehicle", a Mahayana Buddhist misnomer of Theravada Buddhism.


Indra • Hindu god of the weather, riding on Airavan, and guardian of the East.   

Indradevi and Jayarajadevi • queens, in succession spouses of King Jayavarman VII.   


Kala • head of a monster, representing the terrible aspect of Shiva.

Kama • the god of love

Kambujadesa • "Land of the Descendants of Kambu" (a legendary founder of the Khmer kingdom), Cambodia

Kesin • an asura.

Ketu • comet, the tail of Rahu.

Khmer • Cambodian

Krishna • an incarnation of Vishnu.   

Kubera • god of wealth, lord of the yakshas and guardian of the North.

kuk • tower, cave


Lakshmana • brother of Rama

Lakshmi • spouse of Vishnu, goddess of luck, also called Sri ("The Beauty").

Lanka • capital city of the demon king Ravana

laterite • soil of non volcanic origin, a mixture of clay, loam, and bauxite

"library" • Fire shrines in Angkor are sometimes wrongly called "libraries”.

lingam • linga, “symbol”, phallic symbol, in Angkor always in a pedestal, the "yoni"..   

lintel • sandstone block above a door, often adorned with a relief.

lions • are more mythical figures than animals; they serve as guardians.

Lokeshvara • "lord of the world"; title of Shiva, and of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara


Mahabharata • Sanskrit epic of ancient India, containing myths of Krishna

Mahayana • "the great vehicle", later form of Buddhism, the Buddha and bodhisattvas are worshiped like gods

Mahendraparvata • temple site of King Jayavarman II at the Phnom Kulen.   

Makara • deity of the water, half a fish and half a crocodile, with a short trunk. The month January is called makara in Khmer.

mandala • image of the cosmos

mandapa • antechamber

Mara • Buddhist god of death, lord of the demons, enemy of the Buddha. His tail is Ketu.

mebon • "supreme place for ceremonies or offerings", temple on an artificial island in a baray.

moats • are enclosing temples or capitals; they are square or rectangular.

Mount Kailasha • abode of Shiva

Mount Mandara • the pivot at the churning of the sea.

Mount Maniparvata • summit of Mount Mandara

Mount Meru • abode of the gods in the centre of the world

Muchalinda • a Naga king.   

Mukata • conical hairdo of gods and kings


Naga • Naga Raja, cobra-shaped snake with multiple heads; King of the snakes, symbol of nature, water, and the earth.   

Nandi • sacred bull, mount of Shiva

neak ta • anak ta, tutelary spirits of ancestors.  

neriphal • "women-fruit"

NGO • Non Government Organization

Nirrti • god of misfortune, death, destruction, corruption, guardian of the Southwest, riding on a yaksha


"pagodas" • In Cambodia wats and vihears are called "pagodas".

“palace” • four halls forming a rectangle with interior courtyard, the function is unknown.

phnom • hill, mountain, in Cambodia generally not of volcanic origin, "Inselberg"..

Prajnaparamita • female bodhisattva of universal wisdom

Pralamba • a demon who wants to seduce boys, killed by Krishna

prasat • temple, tower, sacred site

preah • brah, sacred, holy

Preah Ang, preah Aung • name of the Buddha; kings, royalties, and venerated chiefs are also addressed "preah ang"

Preah Thorani or Dharani, • Buddhist goddess of Earth.


quincunx • five towers arranged like the five pips on a dice. See Phnom Bakheng.


Rahu, Reahu • off-putting, grotesque face of a monster, with two hands, transformed into the demon of eclipses. See Kala.

rakshasa • demon

Rama • incarnation of Vishnu

Ramayana • Hindu epic, telling the story of Rama and Sita

Ravana • powerful King of Lanka, friend of Shiva; see Ramayana.   

reachisey • sea monster

redent • gradation

rishis • hermits, sages, gurus

Roluos • temple site in the south-east of Angkor


shakti • the feminine aspect of a god, his consort

Shiva • a Hindu god, national god of the Khmer.   

shrine • chapel, small temple, sanctuary as a part of a temple complex

Sita • consort of Rama; see Ramayana

Skanda • Hindu god of war, son of Shiva, his mount is a peacock.

snanadroni • gargoyle

Sokha Hotel Company • a private company, selling the Angkor tickets See Notes.

state temple • central place of worship, centre of the kingdom

stele • stone with inscriptions

steung • river, stream

stupa • a Buddhist monument, representation of a burial mound, shelters relics or ashes.

Sugriva • king of the monkeys in the Ramayana


Tevoda • guardian angel; see: Devata

Theravada • is the Buddhism based on the teachings of the Buddha

Three Strides • Vishnu killing Bali.   

Tonlé Sap • large lake in the South-West of Angkor, connected to the Mekong by the Tonlé Sap river

trimurti • “trinity”, the Hindu trimurti consists of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.   

“tuk-tuk”, • the Khmer “tuk-tuk” is a motorbike trailer without breaks


Uma • consort of Shiva


Valin • brother of Sugriva, king of the monkeys, killed by Rama in the Ramayana.   

-varman • "he who is protected by ...", ending of names of kings

Varuna • god of the ocean, the rain, guardian of the West

Vasuki • a Naga king.   

Vayu • guardian of the Northwest

Vessantara • prince, a figure of Buddhist legends

vihear • Buddhist temple, called “pagoda”

Viradha • a demon, abducts Sita on behalf of Ravana

Vishnu • a Hindu god.   


wat • Buddhist monastery

WMF • World Monuments Fund


Yaksha • semi-divine guardian of treasures, in the entourage of Kubera

Yama • Hindu god of death and judgement, guardian of the South, riding a water buffalo

Yasodharapura • capital founded by King Yasovarman I, now called Angkor

"yoni" • see lingam

New Glossary

Hariharalaya, from Angkor Map
Hariharalaya, from Angkor Map

2.Prasat Prei Prasat, sample of a simple temple, drawing by Lajonquière
2.Prasat Prei Prasat, sample of a simple temple, drawing by Lajonquière

A tower, from Stierlin
A tower, from Stierlin

4.False door with lintel, colonnettes, pilasters, and pediment. Phnom Chisor
4.False door with lintel, colonnettes, pilasters, and pediment. Phnom Chisor


Theroute of the Royal procession to the state temple, see Temples, Bakong, Angkor Wat.


Huge rectangular water basins, over the ground, arranged east-west and north-south, dedicated to a God. Barays were essential elements of the hydraulic system.


Circle, discus, the World


 “Ruler of the World”. The kings of Angkor were regarded as Chakravartin. See Kings.


Early kings founded Capitals in Angkor: a Baray, an Ancestor Temple, and a State Temple. There were three of them: Hariharalaya, Yasodharapura, and Yasodharapura II. They were the cores of the sprawling city which we now call Angkor. (Angkor Thom was not a capital but the royal Quarter inside of the capital city.)


"God who is king" or “king of the [small] gods”. The kings of Angkor were NOT "god-kings". See Kings.


The images of Goddesses, the spouses of Gods, mostly on the walls of towers. The Devatas are wrongly mixed up with Apsaras. See also: Phnom Bok, and Angkor Wat.


Images of Gods or Demons, on the walls of towers, guardians.


Courts are concentrically framing a sanctuary; enclosures are counted with Roman numerals (I, II, III) from inside to outside.


Elephants are symbols of stability, guarding the corners of pyramids or temples.

Fire Shrines

Fire shrines are tower-like buildings, sheltering fireplaces with chimneys. They made room for the ritual burning of offerings, and open to the central sanctuary. At an east-orientated temple, the first Fire Shrine is in the south-east, the direction of Agni, the God of Fire.

the Holy Fire, or fire for ritual sacrifices, traditionally called "library".


The first capital of Angkor, founded by Indravarman I 877–c. 889). Figure 1.


The Kings of Angkor ruled the World on behalf of Shiva whom they venerated in pyramid temples. They had to bring and keep the World in peace and in harmony with the Universe. By their posthumous names, we know that they were believed to be in Heaven. They were NOT god-kings. See Chakravartin and Devaraja.


Stone, got by simple drying from sediment soil (of non-volcanic origin), a mixture of clay, loam, and bauxite.


Rectangular or square ditches enclosing temples or palaces.

Mount Meru

A mythical mountain in the centre of the World. Its five peaks are looming into the heaven and are the abode of the Gods.


The Naga symbolizes Water, Earth, Nature, the female and maternal energy and principle.  Heis the great Ancestor of the Khmers.

He is a God, residing in the deepest Underworld.

The Naga King is depicted as a cobra-shaped serpent with multiple heads.

Nagini (Naga Princesses) take shape as beautiful young women with Naga heads in their hairdo.

The Naga is proudly guarding the causeways of the Bakong and other temples.


Sacred bull, mount of Shiva.


In Angkor, Shiva is regarded as the supreme god. The kings of Angkor ruled on behalf of Shiva, “the Lord of the World”, and built pyramid temples for him: Bakong, Phnom Bakheng, Prasat Thom (Koh Ker), Pre Rup, Ta Keo, and Baphuon. 

State Temples

The central place of worship, the centre of the kingdom. See Temples.


Temple means “field”, an area sacred to a God (and not only a tower!).
The temple is also a meeting place, where humans may approach the God and venerate him.

The essential parts of a simple temple are the tower (here with mandapa), the fire shrine, and the enclosure with entrance gate. Figure 2.

The avenue is a genuine part of the temple; a temple without an avenue would be like a pan without a handle.

Temple Pyramids

State temples in Angkor are centred by pyramids.

Simple pyramids

I – II – III

Baksei Chamkrong, Phimeanakas

I – II – III – IV – V

Bakong, Phnom Bakheng

I – II – III – IV – V – VI –VII

Prasat Thom, Koh Ker

Five-tiers pyramids with three steps


Pre Rup, To Keo, Angkor Wat




The core of a tower is a square cella (central room) which shelters the idol of the God. It is closed by a wooden ceiling.
Brick towers have an entrance door, generally to the east; the other walls have false doors.
The tower symbolizes the Mount Meru, the centre of the World. Its four faces look identical. Above the base with the cella is a four-tiers pyramidal roof: this is corresponding to the five peaks of Mount Meru. Figures 3 and 4.


“Trinity”, the Hindu Trimurti consists of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma.   


Kings have to stabilize the World, the space of living, by bringing it in harmony with the Universe.


The second capital of Angkor, founded by Yasovarman I (889–c. 900).

Yasodharapura consisted of the East Baray, Phnom Bakheng, and the Royal Palace near the Phimeanakas.

He marked the cardinal directions by Phnom Bok in the east, Phnom Krom in the south, and Phnom Dei in the north, near Banteay Srei. (The temple in the west was never discovered.)

Yasodharapura II

King Rajendravarman II (944–968) re-founded the capital after the Koh-Ker interruption, with East Mebon and Pre Rup.



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