Bakong Temple: Angkor’s First Mountain Temple

The Bakong Temple in Cambodia is one of the most impressive examples of Khmer architecture. The Khmer Empire controlled the area that is the north of modern-day Cambodia for centuries before falling from power. The capital of this empire, Angkor, is famous for and home to many temples, the most famous of them being Angkor Wat. While Angkor Wat’s historical and cultural significance both for Cambodia and the world is not up for debate, it is a fact that it outshines many other impressive temples such as the Bakong Temple. However, the Bakong is centuries older than Angkor Wat and holds the title of being the first mountain temple in Angkor as well.

bakong temple sign
bakong temple entrance sculpture

In the late 9th century, the Khmer king moved the capital to Angkor from Hariharalaya. After coming to Angkor, the king started the construction of the Bakong. This temple was the first mountain sandstone temple of the new capital and it was the official temple of the city for a while. Although the empire built many new temples after the construction of the Bakong, evidence shows that they never really abandoned it. There are many elements in the temple from the 12th and 13th centuries showing that the development of the temple did not stop for centuries.

bakong temple ruins

Unlike Angkor Wat, the Bakong Temple coincided with the times when Hinduism was popular in the Khmer Empire. The temple was dedicated to Shiva, one of the main deities in Hinduism. In addition, it has the image of Shiva carved into a wall near the entrance.

bakong temple

The Bakong Temple is similar to a pyramid shape and it is nearly 70 meters tall. Many statues and sculptures of animals and mythical figures surround the staircases and the entrance of the temple as well. All of these artworks demonstrate that the Khmer people were quite good at handcraft. Moreover, a fragment of a carving depicting a battle shows that the carvings used to cover the walls completely.

bakong temple garden
bakong temple main entrance
bakong temple statue carved inside the wall
bakong temple view from the entrance
the snake sculpture
the sculptures at the entrance
bakong temple staircase
the ruins bricks