Located a mile north of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom is a city founded in the late 12th century by the famed Khmer King Jayavarman VII on the western banks of the Siem Reap River. It served as the Khmer capital until the 17th century. The city now contains the ruins of several temples within its limits, some of them already existed when the city was founded and some of them were built by Jayavarman VII and his successors. The most significant among them is Bayon, which was commissioned by Jayavarman VII as the state temple.
The city of Angkor Thom has four gates, one each on the cardinal direction. The ruins of the south gate are one of the most photographed structures in Siem Reap and visited by most tourists.
The south gate is on the banks of Siem Reap River, which flows into the Tonle Sap Lake. The pathway leading to the gate is on a bridge over this river. Lined on the left side of the pathway are the statues of devas (demigods) and on the right side are the statues of asuras (demons). Both devas and asuras are sitting on the body of a naga (serpent).
The upper part of the gate has four towers, each of which is carved with a statue of the head pointing to a cardinal direction. Standing on the lower part on both sides of the doorway are the sculptures of Indra’s vehicle Airavata, which is a three-headed elephant. Above Airavata are the damaged and weathered statues of Indra and Devas.
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