Phimai historical park

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The Phimai historical park protects one of the most important Khmer temples of Thailand. It is located in the town of Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima province.

The temple marks one end of the Ancient Khmer Highway from Angkor. As the enclosed area of 1020x580m is comparable with that of Angkor Wat, Phimai must have been an important city in the Khmer empire. Most buildings are from the late 11th to the late 12th century, built in the Baphuon, Bayon and Angkor Wat style. However, even though the Khmer at that time were Hindu, the temple was built as a Buddhist temple, as Buddhism in the Khorat area dated back to the 7th century. Inscriptions name the site Vimayapura (which means city of Vimaya), which developed into the Thai name Phimai.

Having a lot in common with Angkor Wat, Phimai shows a great example of classical Khmer architecture. Ancient Khmer architects were best known for their superior use of sandstone over the traditional bricks and laterite architectures. Sandstones are used on the outer layer where they are visible. Laterite on the other hand was used for the outer wall and other hidden parts. All the structures are huge sandstone blocks. There are many lotus shaped roofs which represent Mount Meru (A holy mountain in Hinduism).

These Khmer temples, Phimai in this case, were intended to resemble the universe. The main building resembles the peak of the mountain that centers the universe. The surrounding walls resemble the water and encircling mountains. The Khmer didn’t develop the technique of true Vault architecture during their time. This results in that large areas could not be roofed over. They didn’t have the motivation to come up with how to develop the technique of true vaulting because their religion didn’t require this. For them, large open areas are fine. They instead developed the use multiple chapels.
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