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Terrace of the Leper King

Terrace of the Leper King

Updated: 2017-05-24 15:43:38

Intro of Terrace of the Leper King

The Terrace of the Leper King (or Leper King Terrace) (Khmer: ព្រះលានស្តេចគំលង់, Preah Learn Sdech Kunlung) is located in the northwest corner of the Royal Square of Angkor Thom, Cambodia.

It was built in the Bayon style under Jayavarman VII, though its modern name derives from a 15th-century sculpture discovered at the site. The statue depicts the Hindu god Yama, the god of death.

The statue was called the "Leper King" because discolouration and moss growing on it was reminiscent of a person with leprosy, and also because it fit in with a Cambodian legend of an Angkorian king Yasovarman I who had leprosy. The name that the Cambodians know him by, however, is Dharmaraja, as this is what was etched at the bottom of the original statue.

The U-shaped structure is thought by some to have been used as a royal cremation site.

Terrace of the Elephants is an impressive, two and a half-meter tall, 300 meter long terrace wall adorned with carved elephants and garudas spanning the front of Baphuon, Phimeanakas and the Royal Palace area at the heart of Angkor Thom. The northern section of the wall displays some particularly fine sculpture including the five headed horse and scenes of warriors and dancers. Constructed in part by Jayavarman VII and extended by his successor. The wall faces east so the best lighting for photography before noon. The Terrace of the Leper King is at the north end of the Terrace of the Elephants.

Background of Terrace of the Leper King

The terrace of the Leper King carries on the theme of grandeur that characterises the building during Jayavarman VII's reign. It is faced with dramatic bas-reliefs, both on the interior and exterior. During clearing, the EFEO found a second wall with bas-relief similar in composition to those of the outer wall.

Some archaeologists believe that this second wall is evidence of a late rites, two meters wide of laterite faced with sandstone. It collapsed and a second wall of the materials, two meters wide, was built right in front of it without any of the rubble being cleared. Recently, the EFEO has created a false corridor which allows visitor to inspect the relief on the first wall.

Leper King

The curious name of this terrace refers to a statue of the Leper King that is on the platform of the terrace. The one you see today is a copy. The original is in the court-yard of the National Museum in Phnom Penh. the figure is depicted in a seated position with his right knee raised, a position some art historians consider to be Javanese-style. Its nakedness is unusual in Khmer art.

Who was the Leper King ? Mystery and uncertainty surround the origin of the name. The long-held theory that Jayavarman VII was a leper and that is why he built so many hospitals throughout the empire has no historical support whatsoever. Some historians think the figure represents Kubera, god of wealth, or Yasovaraman I, both of whom were allegedly lepers.

Another ideas is based on an inscription that appears on the statue in characters of the 14th or 15th century which may be translated as the equivalent of the assessor of Yama, god of death or of judgment. Yet another theory suggests that the Leper King statue got its name because of the lichen which grows on it. The position of the hand, now missing, also suggests it was holding something.

Coedès believes that most of the Khmer monuments were funerary temples and that the remains of kings were deposited there after cremation. He thinks, therefore, that the royal crematorium was located on the Terrace of the Leper King. The statues, then, represents the god of death and is properly situated on the terrace to serve this purpose. Yet another theory derives from a legend in a Cambodian chronicle that tells of a minister who refused to prostrate before the king, who hit him with his sword. Venomous spittle fell on the king, who then became a leper and was called the Leper King thereafter.

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