The Victory Gate is one of the five entrance gates into the ancient fortified city of Angkor Thom in the Angkor Archaeological Park north of Siem Reap, Cambodia. Four gates, one for each cardinal point, lead to the temple of Bayon at the center of Angkor Thom. There is another gate on the east side that leads toward the royal palace. The East Gate from Bayon is also known as the Gate of the Dead, as it was used as the gate where the body of the dead kings were taken out from the city for the last time. The East Gate towards the palace is also known as the Victory Gate, as it was the gate used by the Khmer army to enter the city after a victorious battle campaign.
Each gate has similar architecture design. There is a causeway across the moat that surrounds the wall of the city. On the sides of the causeway you can see a row of devas (demi-gods) on one side and asuras (demon / giants) on the other side, each holding the body of a naga (serpent). This represents the scene from the Hindu myth the Churning of the Sea of Milk. Above the entrance gate, there is a 23 m high tower with faces similar to those seen at Bayon.
We stopped at the Victory Gate before entering and exploring Angkor Thom. Our guide Vanna pointed out the devas and the asuras from the myth. The day before he actually told us the story of that myth when we saw the bas reliefs at Angkor Wat. Honestly I couldn’t follow the story as there were many turns in it, and there were so many names mentioned that I couldn’t keep up on who’s who. Later on I found an online text retelling the story (as well as the explanation on the symbolism behind it), and after reading it slowly, now I think I kind of get it. The main scene of the story was the tug of war between the devas on one side and the asuras on the other, both holding the long serpent, and in the middle there is a mountain that serves as the churning rod to churn the ocean. At the Angkor Thom gate, it’s like this scene was depicted in quite large scale; you have the large devas and asuras on both sides of the causeway, and the gate’s tower in the middle in a way is like the mountain at the center of the churning scene. Another interesting observation was that there were many names in the story that sounded familiar to me: Indra, Candra, Vasuki, Vishnu, etc. These are names of Hindu gods that were adapted into common people’s names in Indonesia back when the Hindu influence was strong there.
The photo below was taken from the causeway leading into the Victory Gate. You can see the row of devas on the left side of the road, and the tall tower / gate in the middle. As size comparison, you can compare them with the tuk-tuk that was about to go through the gate.