Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda

Date late 11th to first half of the 12th century
Cult Brahmanic
Clearing H. Marchal in 1919 - 1920 and from 1925 to 1927
Anastylosis of Thommanon gopura west from 1961- 1966 by B.P. Groslier

Leaving Angkor Thom by the Victory gate - on the axis of the eastern gopura of the Royal Palace - one finds, in just under 500 metres on either side of the road known as the "Small Circuit", two charming temples of modest proportions - Thommanon to the left and Chau Say Tevoda to the right - whose situation and similarity in plan render them inseparable. Although they have not been dated with any precision, their state of ruin has left sufficient architectural and decorative elements remaining to allow one to place them in time between the Baphuon and Angkor Wat - they appear to be therefore from the best period of classic art - the late 11th or the first half of the 12th century - and represent two variations on a particular theme of composition which is also evident in the central core of Beng Mealea and Banteay Samre, dating from the same period.

THOMMANON is essentially composed of a sanctuary opening to the east onto a rectangular room, with two differing gopuras to the east and west, and a single "library" on the southern side.

Crossing the surrounding moat on a causeway, one passes the remains of the base of a laterite wall that enclosed an area of about 45 metres by 60.

The sanctuary tower has four upper tiers and clearly dominates, as much by the prominence of its finely sculpted 2m.50 high base plinth - which has the foliated scrolls of its central band enlivened with tiny figures - as by the bold proportion of its corner piers. These are entirely decorated and rise uninterrupted to the full height of the frontons. There are four avant-corps, three of which have ornate false doors that are amongst the finest in Angkor. The highly stylised devatas are no less remarkable.

With a change in level, a small vestibule joins the eastern avant-corps to the long room with its false upper storey - whose corbel-vaulted roof ends in a simulation of stop-tiles in the form of garudas instead of the usual lotus petals. Its base is only 1m.80 and the walls, which are more restrained in their decoration, are each pierced by a door in addition to the entrance corresponding to the eastern vestibule. The frontons are badly deteriorated. Above the southern door one can see Ravana with multiple heads and arms trying to shake the mountain where Shiva is throned and, inside, above the door towards the adjoining vestibule, the death of Valin after his fight with Sugriva. The dimensions of the long room are 3 metres by 6 metres overall. A linga of 0.95m in height was found in the sanctuary chamber, which is 3 metres square. Its eastern lintel shows Vishnou on Garuda.

The eastern gopura is adjacent to the long room with which it is connected by the arrangement of its foundations. It has three independent passageways - the linking openings having been walled in.(17) The central tower measures 3 metres each side internally and has four avant-corps with a door towards the west. Its single reduced upper storey is in the form of a barrel vault. The decoration is quite restrained and the eastern fronton remains unfinished, while on the northern fronton, Vishnou overcomes two of his enemies whom he holds by the hair. On the southern side, another representation of the same god has been reconstructed on the ground.

The single "library" is conceived in the same spirit and has, like the long room, a false upper storey with long balustered windows that have been walled in. The base plinth is only 1m.10 high, and the room of 3 metres by 3m.70 overall. It is lined with laterite and opens to the west by a small portico with two windows, while the east end is closed with a false door.

The western gopura is similar but composed only of a central passage and two wings without windows. It differs from the other annexe buildings by the absolute purity of its lines and the care taken in its decoration - which is limited to some superb details shown on a clear background. The west fronton shows Vishnou on Garuda fighting with the Asuras. The pilaster bottoms are decorated with small scenes with figures - a motif that was typical in the period of Angkor Wat. The false tiles which terminate the vaults are in the form of small lions.

chau say tevoda  

CHAU SAY TEVODA is in a more advanced state of ruin, evident by the numerous remarkable fragments of sculpture in the vicinity. This temple has the same plan as Thommanon, but with four gopuras and two "libraries".

Of the 40 by 50 metre enclosure wall there remains only the moulded laterite base. The north and south gopuras are cruciform in plan and have been almost entirely rased to their base plinths and sculpted stairways - as have the "libraries", opening to the west by a vestibule, of which only the bases of some walls still remain standing.

The central sanctuary has retained only a part of three of its four upper tiers, and the composition is less majestic than Thommanon since the corner piers are cut by the horizontal line of the cornice at the height of the springing of the vault of the long room. The general decoration, which is based on the covering of every available bare space, is also less architectural - though the ornamentation is no less remarkable, with its more animated devatas, - the false doors where foliated scrolls replace the vertical patterned motifs, - the pilasters with horizontal diamonds and fleurons, - and the bands of foliated scrolls enlivened in places with small figures. The junction vestibule and the long room are covered with a motif of rosettes set in squares delicately sculpted in the surface of the stone - like those one can find at Banteay Srei and the Baphuon. The sanctuary chamber forms a square of 2m.80 each side, and the long room, whose vault has collapsed, measures 6m.80 by 3m.60. It is preceded by a door opening that links with the eastern gopura by means of a pathway raised on three rows of columns.

This gopura with three passageways is similar to the one at Thommanon, except that the side entrances are no longer independent from the central core. It has received the same decoration as the long room and was linked to the river, which is just to the east, by means of a pavement raised on three rows of octagonal-sectioned supports - that are later than the monument - and a terrace. Of the badly damaged frontons, two at least relate to the Ramayana; - to the south of the lateral passage is the combat between Sugriva and Valin, while to the east of the northern passage are other monkeys. Generally in the monument the Shiva´te and Vishnou´te scenes alternate, which one can see in the various frontons reconstructed on the ground at the south side. Here one can recognise notably Shiva and Uma on Nandin, with other familiar scenes and some apsaras.

All that remains of the western gopura with its central body and two wings is the central section with its single barrel-formed upper tier. As elsewhere in the monument, the presence of double wooden beams has caused the masonry to collapse

A rather gaunt and not particularly impressive Nandin, the mount of Shiva, was found to the south of the northern library.