The East Mebon is a mountain temple dedicated to Shiva build by King Rajendravarman II halfway the 10th century. It was constructed on a manmade 120 meters wide island in the East Baray, a huge water reservoir measuring 2 by 7 kilometers, and was only reachable by boat.

The baray, which is now dry, was named Yasodharatataka at the time, and was located East of Angkor Thom. The East Mebon was not Rajendravarman II’s state temple, that was Pre Rup that was to be build 9 years later, just outside the baray and directly South of the East Mebon.

The temple was restored in the 1930’s by Henri Marchal and Maurice Glaize, two French conservators of Angkor. Its main attraction is its intricate lintels, that are very well preserved and are among the best in Angkor.

Overview of East Mebon

The East Mebon is a 10th Century temple at Angkor, Cambodia. Built during the reign of King Rajendravarman, it stands on what was an artificial island at the center of the now dry East Baray reservoir

The East Mebon is located 1.3 km to the north of Pre Rup. The East Mebon's architecture may be less impressive than that of the similar Pre Rup, which is only one decade younger. But the lintel carvings at the East Mebon are in a much better shape and of superior craftsmanship, best examples of the Angkorian Pre Rup style.

The East Mebon was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and honors the parents of the king. Its location reflects Khmer architects’ concern with orientation and cardinal directions. The temple was built on a north–south axis with Rajendravarman's state temple, Pre Rup, located about 1,200 meters to the south just outside the baray. The East Mebon also lies on an east–west axis with the palace temple Phimeanakas, another creation of Rajendravarman's reign, located about 6,800 meters due west.

Built in the general style of Pre Rup, the East Mebon was dedicated in 953 AD. It has two enclosing walls and three tiers. It includes the full array of durable Khmer construction materials: sandstone, brick, laterite and stucco. At the top is a central tower on a square platform, surrounded by four smaller towers at the platform's corners. The towers are of brick, holes that formerly anchored stucco are visible.

The sculpture at the East Mebon is varied and exceptional, including two-meter-high free-standing stone elephants at corners of the first and second tiers. Religious scenes include the god Indra atop his three-headed elephant Airavata, and Shiva on his mount, the sacred bull Nandi. Carving on lintels is particularly elegant.

Visitors looking out from the upper level today are left to imagine the vast expanses of water that formerly surrounded the temple. Four landing stages at the base give reminder that the temple was once reached by boat.

Below is the glimpse of East Mebon Temple in 360o viewing:

Planning Your Visit to East Mebon

Temple Facts

  • Date: Mid 10th century
  • Religion: Hinduism
  • Built By: Rajendravarman II
  • Dedicated To: Shiva
  • Style: Temple Mountain
  • Best Time to Visit: Anytime
  • Length of Visit: 45 – 60 minutes
  • Temple Pass: Required (included in the pass to the whole Angkor Complex)

Location

East Mebon was built on an artificial island in the middle as East Baray. The baray was a reservoir built to store water, but it is now dry. The temple is located around 1km north of Pre Rup temple and a few kilometres south of Ta Som and Neak Pean.

Check the location of East Mebon on the below Google Map for your reference:

Getting There

You can reach East Mebon from a few directions. Firstly, you can head east out of the Victory Gate at Angkor Thom towards Ta Prohm. Then keeping heading to Srah Srang and continue to Pre Rup. Follow the road round to the left and head north to East Mebon.

Alternatively, you can head east from Angkor Wat towards Srah Srang before following the to Pre Rup and then north.

If you’re coming from Banteay Samre, you can keep heading west for 2 or 3 kilometres where East Mebon will be to your right.

Best time to visit East Mebon

The best time to visit the East Mebon is the very early morning. The second best option is the late afternoon. There is a ticket checkpoint at the foot of this monument.

East Mebon Tours

Most visitors will not just visit East Mebon alone. It will take less than an hour or two to explore the temple in its entirety. The temple usually forms part of the Angkor Wat Grand Circuit Tour.

It’s also possible to combine East Mebon with a visit to Banteay Samre as it’s not too far away.

If you want to see this temple, it’s recommended you combine it with other temples in the area such as Pre Rup, Banteay Kdei, Ta Som, or Neak Pean.

Accommodation

There are no hotels or any other type of accommodation near East Mebon. Most guests will stay in Siem Reap and visit the temple as part of a tour.

In Siem Reap town, there are hundreds of hotels to suit any budget.

Here is our Siem Reap Travel Guide

Why Visit East Mebon?

East Mebon is a great place to visit and you can get some great photos. There are the two-metre tall elephants which sit on each corner, the five towers which look like Angkor Wat, and great views of the surrounding area.

The temple isn’t as widely visited as other temples, but as it is part of the grand circuit tour, so it does get quite a few visitors. However, it’s quiet enough to get some great photos without having lots of people in the background.

Layout and Design of East Mebon

There are five towers which sit on top of a three-tiered pyramid. There are three enclosures which surround the temple. The five towers represent the mythical home of the Hindu gods, Mount Meru.

In the middle of each of the four sides there is a landing platform for boats. On each corner, there is a two-metre tall elephant standing guard.

Mountain temple dedicated to Shiva

An inscribed stele found at the site states that the sacred linga Sri Rajendreshvara was consecrated in the year 952 and was placed in the central sanctuary. The outer four surrounding sanctuaries were dedicated to Shiva, Parvati (the wife of Shiva), and the Hindu Gods Vishnu and Brahma.

Like the earlier Phnom Bakheng, the temple was built to represent Mount Meru. The five towers on the square platform symbolize the five peaks of the mythological mountain. The East Mebon however does not have the tiers of the pyramid shaped Phnom Bakheng.

Temple Foundation

The foundation of the East Mebon measures 126 m by 120 m, it has a boat-landing platform on each side. As in the case of other temples constructed in the tenth century, the entrances were covered by wooden roofs. Only the laterite walls and sandstone window frames and columns still remain. The entrances are guarded by two seated lion statues.

Outer enclosure

The outer enclosure wall on the first level measures 108 m by 104 m, it is built of laterite. There are many holes on it, as the top of the wall originally had sandstone sculptures in the forms of candles. Some of them are still in situ. The spouts of the drainage are designed as lion heads. There are long rectangular shrines for pilgrims on this first level surrounding the higher platform.

They are sometimes called galleries, though they are only predecessors of those continuous roofed aisles called galleries at later temples. As with most Angkor temples, the east side is slightly wider than the west side, indicating that the temple is oriented to the east.

Inner enclosure

The inner enclosure that is about 75 meters wide contains the second platform, that also has a guarding elephant on each of its corners. 

Inside the inner (first) enclosure are five so-called library buildings at the corners (two in the southeast). There are eight more smaller brick towers surrounding the uppermost platform, in pairs at the cardinal points. They symbolize the eight Hindu guardians of the world's eight cardinal directions.

Furthermore, they enshrined eight Lingams, symbolizing the eight aspects of Shiva, called "Murtis": heavenly bodies Sun and Moon; elements earth, water, wind, fire and ether, last not least the transindividual eternal soul, Atman. The fire shrine, without roof now, is also attributed to Agni, the fire god.

The Second Level

The basis of the second level measures 65 m by 62 m. Most striking features are eight monolithic elephant statues in the corners of two levels. The most complete ones are in the south-west and north-west, the most photogenic in the south-east, the most freestanding in the north-east.

The 2 m high elephants are majestically positioned outside the second enclosure in particular, on an intermediate tier.

Some of the libraries and gateways on this second level bear well-preserved sandstone lintels with exquisite carvings. The most remarkable stone carving is at the east side of the west gate (facing the central platform).

It depicts the lion-man Narasingha (Narasimha) clawing the demon Hiranyakashipu. Narasingha is one of the ten principal Avatars of Vishnu, this means, the lion-man is an embodiment of the god. Vishnu had to transform himself into a man with a lion head, because the mighty demon threatening the world was otherwise invincible, neither man nor animal could kill him.

The Third Level

On the third level there is a large sanctuary (tower) surrounded by four smaller towers at each corner. Here you can see carvings and inscriptions showing Shiva, Indra, and other figures from Hindu mythology. All of the five towers have a door pointing to the east, with fake doors on the other three directions.

The central sanctuary

The central tower was dedicated to Shiva, it sheltered the main Lingam. The northeastern tower was dedicated to Vishnu. The southeastern tower was dedicated to Brahma, completing the Hindu trinity. The northwestern tower was dedicated to King Rajendravarman’s mother, the southwestern one to his father.

According to the foundation inscription, the latter two Prasats sheltered sculptures of Shiva’s consort Uma and of Shiva himself respectively, "in the likeness of the mother and the father" of Rajendravarman II. Each of the five towers originally also had Linga sculptures on Yoni pedestals.

As already mentioned, eight more Lingams were placed inside those eight small towers of the surrounding courtyard. The Lingam in the main sanctuary was called Rajendreshwara, "Rajendra, Lord of the World", indicating that the East Mebon served as Rajendravarman's state temple. It connected worshipping Lord Shiva, as mighty protector of the king, with venerating the royal ancestors.

The holes in the brickwork originally carried stucco dressing the towers. Most lintels remaining in situ are of high-quality craftsmanship. On the central tower, to the east, there is the common subject of Indra on his three-headed elephant, with flights of figures on a tendril disgorged by a Makara crocodile. 

A narrow frieze of hermit figures in meditation is above the main panel. To the west there is Skanda, the god of war, on his peacock, with a line of figures holding lotus flowers. Because of the western direction this depiction the god is sometimes identified as Varuna, on a bird instead of his usual mount, the Makara crocodile. 

To the south is Shiva on his sacred bull Nandi (or Yama on a bullock). On the south lintel of the south-east tower there is another lintel with Shiva on Nandi. At the north side of the same Prasat, which was dedicated to Brahma, is a monster head devouring an elephant. 

The east side of the north-west tower depicts Ganesha curiously riding his own trunk, thereby transformed into a mount. The south lintel of the same Prasat has another strange motif, a figure dancing on a lion.

At the north-east corner building there is a lintel depicting Lakshmi flanked by two elephants with raised trunks sprinkling water on her, a common Hindu and Buddhist motif called "Gajalakshmi", meaning "Elephant-Lakshmi". 

The south-east tower has a Garuda on its east side. The lintel of the south-west tower depicts Indra on Airavata, a common subject. A lovely swirling garland surrounds small figures. The rectangular library buildings in the south-west are decorated with motifs of the nine planets or the seven ascetics.

The uppermost platform is 3 m higher and measures 30 m by 30 m. Five brick towers are arranged in quincunx order. The central tower, in particular, has excellent lintel carvings.

History of East Mebon

The East Mebon is neither a flat temple nor a real temple mountain, but a less steep kind of step pyramid with three levels. It originally was an artificial island in Angkor's main reservoir of 7.5 km length and 1.8 km width. To judge by the laterite steps that surround the East Mebon platform, the original depth of water was approximately three metres, this means the reservoir's volume must have been about 40 million cubic metres.

The so-called East Baray was supplied by waters from the Siem Reap river and monsoon rain. The reservoir already dried up in late medieval times. Its original name was Yashodharatataka, named after its founder Yashovarman I, the first Khmer king residing in Angkor.

The East Mebon island temple was built half a century later than the surrounding lake. In the meantime Koh Ker had been the capital under the usurpator Jayavarman IV. After taking the capital status back from Koh Ker to the Angkor area, King Rajendravarman II (944-968) decided to build the Mebon temple on the island of the huge Baray.

The inscriptions indicate that it was also built to reestablish the continuity of kingship at Angkor. The Mebon's architect was Kavindrarimathana, the only Angkorian architect whose name came down to us. He also constructed the even larger Pre Rup later on. Construction activities at the East Mebon started already in 947.

According to its founding inscription the island temple was consecrated on Friday, 28th January 953, at about 11.00 am. The temple is dedicated to Shiva, in honour of the king’s parents.

The foundation inscription already mentioned was found to the right of the eastern front tower, it is now in the Conservation office for safekeeping. It is remarkable in many respects. It has 216 verses, this is the second longest Sanskrit stone inscription in the world, only the Pre Rup inscription is longer.

The Mebon inscription not only contains a lot of text, being a most valuable source of information for historians. It is a masterpiece of art of poetry, too. The poem is written in the classical Indian Sanskrit metre called Kavya. Almost certainly foreigners from India were the authors.

The inscription describes the temple construction, it furthermore reports events of Rajendravarman's war with Champa in 965/66, and the capturing of the gold statue of goddess Bhagavati from the Cham city Kauthara. It was later on replaced by a stone statue. The inscription reveals a slightly distanced attitude of King Rajendravarman II. towards Buddhism, though his counsellor and architect Kavindrarimathana was Buddhist.

East Mebon was rediscovered by French explorers in the 19th century and it was restored in the 1930s.

Nowadays, it’s a relatively popular temple and included on the Angkor Grand Circuit Tour.

Photos of East Mebon

image
24-hour response
guaranteed!
REQUEST A FREE QUOTE

My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

Comments
SIMILAR BLOG ARTICLES

Preah Vihear Temple (Prasat Preah Vihear) is an ancient Hindu temple built during the period of the Khmer Empire, that is situated atop a 525-metre (1,722 ft) cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains, in the Preah Vihear province, Cambodia. In 1962, following a lengthy dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over ownership, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled that the temple is in Cambodia.

Affording a view for many kilometers across a plain, Prasat Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-century-long Khmer Empire. As a key edifice of the empire's spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bears elements of several architectural styles.

Preah Vihear is unusual among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north–south axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan with orientation toward the east. The temple gives its name to Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, in which it is now located, as well as the Khao Phra Wihan National Park which borders it in Thailand's Sisaket province, though it is no longer accessible from Thailand.

On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

...more

Deep in the forests of Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, the elegant spires of an ancient stone city soar skyward above the sprawling complex of Angkor Archaeological Park.

The Khmer Empire’s various capitals thrived here from the 9th to 15th centuries, while their rulers presided over an empire that stretched from Myanmar (Burma) to Vietnam. Including forested areas and newly discovered “suburbs” Angkor covers more than 400 square kilometers.

Though just one of hundreds of surviving temples and structures, the massive Angkor Wat is the most famed of all Cambodia’s temples - it appears on the nation’s flag - and it is revered for good reason. The 12th century “temple-mountain” was built as a spiritual home for the Hindu god Vishnu. The temple is an architectural triumph laden with artistic treasures like the bas-relief galleries that line many walls and tell enduring tales of Cambodian history and legend.

In other parts of Angkor such art depicts scenes of daily life - offering scholars a precious window into the past.

Reading the below epic guide for Angkor Archaeological Park, you will have all the information you need from its history, maps, best time to visit and so on to have the best out of your Angkor tours

...more

Banteay Kdei Temple (Prasat Banteay Kdei), meaning "A Citadel of Chambers", also known as "Citadel of Monks' cells", is a Buddhist temple in Angkor, Cambodia. It is located southeast of Ta Prohm and east of Angkor Thom. 

Built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries AD during the reign of Jayavarman VII (who was posthumously given the title "Maha paramasangata pada"), it is in the Bayon architectural style, similar in plan to Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, but less complex and smaller. Its structures are contained within two successive enclosure walls and consist of two concentric galleries from which emerge towers, preceded to the east by a cloister.

This Buddhist monastic complex is currently dilapidated due to faulty construction and poor quality of sandstone used in its buildings and is now undergoing renovation. Banteay Kdei had been occupied by monks at various intervals over the centuries till 1960s.

...more

Just east of Angkor Thom’s Victory Gate is Chau Say Tevoda. It was probably built during the second quarter of the 12th century, under the reign of Suryavarman II, and dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. It has been renovated by the Chinese to bring it up to the condition of its twin temple, Thommanon.

...more

Thommanon Temple is a Hindu temple site that's covered in intricate carvings and surrounded by forests in Angkor. The temple is in relatively excellent condition, thanks to extensive restoration work in the 1960s.

It was constructed about the same time as Angkor Wat. The style of architecture is quite evident in the towers and carvings, which are in very good condition. During the rainy season, the dampened sandstone offers great photo opportunities.

Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the complex dates back between the 11th and 12th centuries. It is about 600 metres east of the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom, just opposite Chau Say Tevoda. Even before restoration, Thommanon was in much a better condition than Chau Say Tevoda. Unlike the latter, which was built using wooden beams enclosed in stone, Thommanon Temple's entire structure was made out of stone. 

...more

Koh Ker is a remote archaeological site in northern Cambodia about 120 kilometres (75 mi) away from Siem Reap and the ancient site of Angkor. It is a jungle filled region that is sparsely populated. More than 180 sanctuaries were found in a protected area of 81 square kilometres (31 sq mi). Only about two dozen monuments can be visited by tourists because most of the sanctuaries are hidden in the forest and the whole area is not fully demined.

Koh Ker is the modern name for an important city of the Khmer empire. In inscriptions the town is mentioned as Lingapura (city of lingams) or Chok Gargyar (translated as city of glance, or as iron tree forest).

Within this article, you will learn everything about Koh Ker before visiting this ancient temple ruin.

...more
NOT READY YET?

We believe you have the right to arm yourselves with as much information as possible before making any decision.

Check below the detailed information for our different destinations, our plans by travel theme or time frame to learn more before moving forward...

places to visit in Cambodia
Siem Reap
bee-white Siem Reap

Tonle Sap Lake
bee-white Tonle Sap Lake

One of the most fish abundant lakes in the world and supports 360 floating villages and thousands of waterbirds.

Phnom Penh
bee-white Phnom Penh

Battambang
bee-white Battambang

Sihanoukville
bee-white Sihanoukville

Koh Rong Island
bee-white Koh Rong Island

Cambodia PLANS BY TRAVEL THEME
Must-see
bee-white Must-see

Check out all the must-see places and things to do & see

Luxury
bee-white Luxury

Unique experience combined with top-notch services

Wellness & Leisure
bee-white Wellness & Leisure

Easy excursion combined with week-long beach break

Cruise
bee-white Cruise

The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

Cycling
bee-white Cycling

Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

Honeymoon
bee-white Honeymoon

Easy excursions combined with unique experience making the long-lasting romantic memories

Unseen
bee-white Unseen

Reveal off-the-beatentrack routes, least explored destinations, and unknown tribe groups

Trek & Hike
bee-white Trek & Hike

Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

Family
bee-white Family

The combination of fun and educational activities

Cambodia PLANS BY TIME FRAME
white-icon About 1 week
yellow-icon About 1 week
white-icon About 2 weeks
yellow-icon About 2 weeks
white-icon About 3 weeks
yellow-icon About 3 weeks
white-icon About 4 weeks
yellow-icon About 4 weeks
image
Already got a plan? REQUEST A FREE QUOTE
Cambodia TRAVEL TIPS & GUIDE

Either are you wondering about best time to visit, visa policy, or how to get the cheapest flight, we have your back!
WHAT MORE? Choose the country you plan to visit, then search for your nationality below to see our special travel tips & advice for your country. CONTACT US if you cannot find yours.

Best Time to Visit
bee-white Best Time to Visit
Tourist Visa Policy
bee-white Tourist Visa Policy
Budget & Currency
bee-white Budget & Currency
Getting Flight There
bee-white Getting Flight There
Getting Around
bee-white Getting Around
Vaccinations
bee-white Vaccinations
Local Etiquette
bee-white Local Etiquette
Safety & Precautions
bee-white Safety & Precautions
Tipping Customs
bee-white Tipping Customs
Useful addresses
bee-white Useful addresses
Internet & Phone
bee-white Internet & Phone
Buying & Bargaining
bee-white Buying & Bargaining
Packing List
bee-white Packing List
Travel Insurance
bee-white Travel Insurance
CHECK OUT OTHER DESTINATIONS
Vietnam
bee-white Vietnam
A land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling.
Thailand
bee-white Thailand
Friendly and food-obsessed, hedonistic and historic, cultured and curious, Thailand tempts visitors with a smile as golden as the country's glittering temples and tropical beaches.
Myanmar
bee-white Myanmar
It's a new era for this extraordinary and complex land, where the landscape is scattered with gilded pagodas and the traditional ways of Asia endure.
Laos
bee-white Laos
Vivid nature, voluptuous landscapes and a vibrant culture collide with a painful past and optimistic future to make Laos an enigmatic experience for the adventurous.
loading
back top