East Baray

East Baray

The East Baray (Khmer: បារាយខាងកើត) is a now-dry baray, or artificial body of water, at Angkor, Cambodia, oriented east-west and located just east of the walled city Angkor Thom. It was built around the year 900 A.D. during the reign of King Yasovarman. Fed by the Siem Reap River flowing down from the Kulen Hills, it was the second-largest baray in the Angkor region, measuring roughly 7,150 by 1,740 meters and holding close to 50 million cubic meters of water. The labor and organization necessary for its construction were staggering: Its dikes contain roughly 8 million cubic meters of fill.

Stones bearing inscriptions that mark the construction of the baray have been found at all four of its corners. It was originally called Yashodharatataka, after its creator king.

Scholars are divided on the purpose of this and other barays. By some theories, they held water for irrigation, but no inscription has been found mentioning such a function. Other theories say that barays served primarily a symbolic purpose in Khmer religious life, representing the seas of creation that surround Mount Meru, home of the Hindu gods.

The East Baray today contains no water; farmers till crops on its bed. But its outlines remain clearly visible in satellite photographs. In the middle of the baray is the East Mebon temple, located on elevated ground that was an island in the days when the baray contained water.

References

* Higham, Charles. "The Civilization of Angkor." University of California Press 2001


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