INM Asia Guides -> Angkor Travel Guide ->Glossary of Khmer Temple Terms

Glossary of Angkor Temple Terms

Apsara

A heavenly dancer, also called celestial nymph. The apsaras are famous artistic features of Angkor, lovely examples of Khmer relief carving.

Apsara (from an relief at the Bayon, Angkor thom)
Apsara (from a relief at the Bayon, Angkor Thom)

Banteay

A temple with an enclosure wall. The translation is "fortress" or "citadel".

Baray

A baray is a large artificial lake, a water reservoir. The function of the barays is not entirely clear, some believe that they were used to supply water to the surrounding rice field during the dry periods, others believe that their water was used only for drinking and bathing - there is some doubt as to whether the barays were really used for irrigation as there is no evidence for canals that would have to have been part of such a controlled, centralised system. There are all in all four barays in and around Angkor, but only one of them, the West Baray, is still filled with water.

Fronton

Also called pediment. The triangular portion of a wall above the portico.

Fronton above a door in Banteay Kdei

Fronton above a door in Banteay Kdei

Gopura

A gateway to a temple; elaborate entrance pavilion in enclosure walls. 

Laterite

A soft mud stone that hardens in the sun. It is red and has a very porous structure. It abounds in northeastern Thailand and Cambodia. Because of its course grain it could not be carved but was often used for foundations. It was probably excavated from the moats around the temples.

Lintel

A crossbeam resting on two posts. 

Door at the Bayon in Angkor Thom
Door at the Bayon in Angkor Thom

Phnom

"Hill" or "mountain"

Preah

The word means "sacred" or "holy".

Sikhara

A sikhara is a tower. They are typical architectural features of Angkor - just think of the famous five towers of Angkor Wat. They were probably crowned with gilded metal spires.

Temple Mountain

The temple mountain is typical for Khmer architecture of the Angkor period. The Bakong temple at Roluos is one of the earliest examples, the Bayon in Angkor Thom perhaps the most beautiful one. The temple mountain symbolizes the holy Mount Meru from Hindu mythology. Some temples mountains were built on real hills, like Phnom Bakheng, but most of them not. The typical form are five towers, arranged in a quincunx,  on the top level of a tiered base (the mythical Mount Meru had five peaks).

Wat

A Thai (not Khmer) word that means "temple".
 

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Last Updated 01.03.2006