Twelve stairways rise to the third level of the pyramid. All five towers open to the cardinal directions, giving
open views along the galleries. The overall picture was a wide and airy hall, full of light. It was “the most enchanting and most focussed work of Khmer architecture”. The third level, where are the finest reliefs of Devata, was the throne room of God Vishnu. Only the king, assisted by the highest priest, was to ascend to the god. Later Buddhist monks walled up three faces of the cella, thus destroying a unique arrangement.
After more than two years the top level is open to the public again, except on Buddhist holidays. There are new wooden stairways. Only 100 people may enter, and only for half an hour. So you have to queue up. Wear decent dress, shoulders and knees should be covered. Visitors can enjoy the open views to the four directions, they can see the central tower in full extend, and the can discover some of the most beautiful goddesses. Visitors are recommended to follow this route as close as possible. In the Northeast of the second level a wooden stairway runs up to the top level.
The towers features:
• Porches, on pillars.
• High cella and four pseudo storeys, all crowned by cornices.
• The ground floor has two cornices.
• On the cornices antefixes are tapering to a point; they are slightly bent inside, thus forming a closed surface and making the roofs of the tower look like filigree.
• Three round elements, ‘lotus petals'.
• A conical top.
As a whole the tower looks like a lotus bud.
Reliefs do not simply embellish a temple; they make it a sacred space. In the images which depict the gods and their deeds, the gods themselves are present. Khmer artists at this stage did not work with perspective;
figures and parts of the body are either shown frontally or in profile. Reliefs were always carved in situ, after the walls had been finished; they were cut into the stone.
The Gallery of the Bas‐Reliefs
The outer gallery of the pyramid, including the western corner pavilions, shelters the most precious treasures of Angkor Wat, reliefs in a total length of more than 600 m. They depict narrative scenes from mythology and history. [I am working on a download describing the basreliefs.]
The construction of Angkor Wat
King Suryavarman II who built Angkor Wat reigned 35 or 37 years. It took at least 5 years to plan and
prepare the construction. This edifice was finished within only 30 or 32 years; the king must have had
tremendous manpower at his disposal. The construction was to be carefully prepared, later modifications were impossible. The plan of the pyramid was constructed in a strictly geometrical way.ix First they made a wooden model in the scale about 1:10.
The sandstone blocks were cut at the foot of the Phnom Kulen, some 30 km north‐east, and transported
by ox carts. The monolithic pillars, weighing 11 tons each, were dragged over rollers of palm tree trunks. These trunks may have been brought back by returning oxcarts. In the centre a pit was walled up step by step. A teakwood beam fixed inside the pit served as a crane to pull the 11 ton sandstone slabs into position.
The construction started from inside outwards; at last they built the enclosure wall and the moat. Who were the workers? Many jobs could be done by unskilled men, rice farmers or slaves. The stonemasons and sculptors were free handicrafts, professional workers, trained and experienced. How many men have worked there? There were men doing the masonry, others were heaving the sandstone blocks and pillars to their place, others were preparing the blocks and pillars, others did the logistics, and there were artists who did the
carvings. The estimates about the total numbers are differing.
Together with Shiva and Brahma, Vishnu makes the Trimurti of the highest ranking Hindu Gods. He is the Preserver. At the lintel in West Gopura we see the four‐armed Vishnu (on the right), reclining on an endless naga. Between the eras of time he is floating on the cosmic ocean symbolized also by the moat, opposite of the relief. Statues depicting Vishnu are only in the lateral wings of the West Gopura.
Vishnu, as the supreme god, with eight arms, is standing in the southern lateral door of the West Gopura. The statue is in a later style (about 1200). This statue is inhabited by a neak ta called Leang Neak Ta Reach, a high ranking spirit who is passionately adored by local people. Originally a statue of Vishnu was dominating the central tower; now his images have become marginal.