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Royal Terraces

Royal Terraces

- Terrace of the Elephants
- Terrace of Yama
(so called 'Terrace of the Lepra King')

Constructed: Late 12th century C.E.
King: Jayavarman VII
Religion: Buddhist
Style: Bayon

The Terrace of the Elephants is an impressive, two and a half meter tall wall spanning the heart of Angkor Thom in front of Baphuon and Phimenakas.
Carved elephants and giant garudas adorn the wall. Constructed in part by Jayavarman VII and extended by his successor. The wall faces east so the best lighting for photography occurs before noon.


At the north end of the Terrace of the Elephants is the terrace of Yama, the so called 'Terrace of the Leper King', a double terrace with deeply carved nagas, demons and other mythological beings. The terrace was named for the statue of the leper king that sits on top. Why the statue is known as the leper king is less clear.
Some argue that when the statue was found, its lichen-eaten condition gave it the appearance of leprosy. Others have argued that it is the statue of the leper king of Khmer legend, or that the condition of the statue inspired its connection to the legend.
The model for the statue is also a matter of debate. Suggestions include a couple of different Hindu gods, and the Khmer kings Yasovarman I and Yayavarman VII. Recent scholarship favors a combination of Jayavarman VII and Buddha. The statue of the leper king on display at the terrace is a replica. The original resides in the National Museum in Phnom Penh.
The royal palace itself, probably made of wood, and located westwards to the royal terraces, is vanished. Borland tries to bring the royal palace to life:


Though the palace is gone, it is easy to imagine a glittering Khmer king on the Royal Terrace, upheld by garudas and elephants, reviewing his troops or watching cruel but gloriously spectacular games in the vast open square in front of him. The Cambodian army is still on parade around the walls of the Bayon and Angkor Wat.
(Borland, Passports for Asia, p. 81)

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