An imperial hunt in the somber forests of the realm. There are formidable elephants…. The forest in which they travel is impenetrable to all but tiny creatures, able to squeeze their smallness between the fissures of the undergrowth, and to the biggest animals, which crush chasms for the in the virgin vegetation. The elephants are ridden by servants and princes, and tread as quietly as if they were on an excursive promenade. Their steps of even length have no respect for any obstacle.
Location: Royal Plaza of Angkor Thom
Access: from the road at the east
Date: end of the 12th century
King: Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181-1220)
Art style: Bayon
The Terrace of the Elephants shows evidence of having been rebuilt and added to; and ~t is believed that alterations took place during the reign of Jayavarman VII at the end of the 12th or the beginning of the 13th century. It is located directly in front of the east gopura of the Royal Palace enclosure wall.
The Terrace of the Elephants extends over 300 metres (984 feet) in length from the Baphuon to the Terrace of the Leper King. It has three main platforms and two subsidiary ones. The south stairway is framed with three-headed elephants gathering lotus flowers with their trunks (which form columns). The central stairway is decorated by lions and garudas in bas-reliefs in a stance of support for the stairway.
Several projections above are marked by lions and naga balustrades with garudas flanking the dais. The terrace has two levels: one of which is square and another which has a gaggle of sacred geese carved along its base. It is likely that these platforms originally formed the bases for wooden pavilions which were highlighted with gold.
One of the main attractions of this terrace is the facade decorated with elephants and their riders depicted in profile. Photograph them from the main road then walk up close to get a sense of scale and proportion. ‘All the pachyderms, almost life-size, are magnificent … and the whole effect has an indescribable splendour. The elephants are using their trunks to hunt and fight while tigers claw at them.
HORSE WITH FIVEH EADS
At the northern end of the platform behind the outer wall, a large horse with five heads sculpted in high relief stands on each side at the base of the inner retaining wall. This wall must have been part of an earlier retaining wall for the terrace. The horse is an exceptional piece of sculpture, lively and remarkably worked. It is the horse of a king, as indicated by the tiered umbrellas over his head; it is surrounded by apsaras and menacing demons armed with sticks in pursuit of several people bearing terrified expressions. Some French savants believe this is a representation of Avalokiteshvara in the form of the divine horse Balaha.