World Travel GuidesUNESCO World Heritage Site Judgement of Yama, Angkor Wat

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Judgement of Yama Gallery is a panel of bas-relief on the southeast section of Angkor Wat. The theme of the Judgement of Yama gallery is the judgement of the souls, and whether they are sent to heaven or to hell. This gallery is 66 meters long, significantly shorter than the preceding Army of Suryavarman II gallery. That's because the temple's enclosures are not perfect squares, but rectangulars with the centre set closer to the east. The ceiling of this gallery has been restored to give present-day visitors an idea how it originally looked like over eight hundred years ago. It was reconstructed based on a small piece of wood found here.

The Judgement of Yama is located after the Army of Suryavarman II Gallery in Angkor Wat, directly after passing the South Gopura. At the Judgement of Yama gallery, we see the souls of the good being carried on thrones and palanquins on their way to Heaven, while the damned are dragged to hell, towards their punishment, like cattle, with a rope through their nostrils.

Left: The restored ceiling at the Judgement of Yama gallery.
Below: The 18-arm Yama, Khmer god of judgement and the underworld.

20 meters down the gallery we see them being menaced by Yama's dogs, and attacked by a tiger and a Javan rhinoceros. After another 18 meters we meet Yama, the Khmer deity of the judgement and the underworld. He has 18 hands, and he is riding his traditional mount, the buffalo. 3 meters further on, we meet Dharma and Chitragupta, Yama's assessors. They listen without mercy to the pleas of sinners, and then toss them into Hell through a trapdoor. There are 32 different levels of sin-specific Hell, where the torture and cruelty are imaginatively extreme. Also depicted are the 37 levels of Heaven, with its succession of palaces, but where nothing much else happens. Still, better there, than the spectacularly horrible Hell.

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