Though Mangalartha is a temple close to the Victory Gate at the Small Circuit inside Angkor Thom, it is rarely visited by any tourist. The path leading to the small structure begins 400 m in front of the Victory Gate, after 300 m you arrive at the temple in the jungle. In the rainy season or after heavy rainfall the track will not be passable without boots. Mangalartha is not an imposing monument, but of some historical interest. Probably, it was the last stone building and the last Hindu sanctuary erected in Angkor. It is also the last of the monuments with a dated inscription.
There are different names in use for the Mangalartha temple, "East Prasat Top" or, plain and simple, "Monument 487", its reference number in the French inventory of monuments. "Mangalartha" is derived from "Jaya-mangalartha", the name of an influential priest living in the thirteenth century. He was the founder of the temple or was posthumously honoured by its consecration. Jayamangalartha had attained the remarkable age of 104 years.
Jayamangalartha was the son of a foreign Brahmin who was a Guru and court priest of the Buddhist King Jayavarman VII. This is one more example for his tolerance and the importance of Hindu priests at Buddhist courts in Southeast Asia. Already commissioned by Jayavarman VII in the early 13th century, this private temple was not consecrated until 1295, on 28th of April. It was finally built during - or shortly after - the period of a last Hindu resurgence under Jayavarman VIII, the only ruler in Angkor's history who persecuted a religion, viz. Mahayana Buddhism. It was him who ordered the defacing of Buddhist sculptures from the Bayon period. King Jayavarman VIII was related by marriage to Jayamangalartha's family.
Jayamangalartha and his mother Subhadra are venerated in deified forms as an Avatar of Vishnu and his consort, to whom the temple is dedicated. The veneration of this mother-son couple was maintained by subsequent generations of the royal family into the 14th century.
The monument is a single sandstone sanctuary, high on a small and narrow and very steep pyramidic base. This double plinth is moulded and decorated and cut by four projecting axial stairways. The Prasat was cruciform in plan, it is preceded to the east by a vestibule. The false doors on the other three sides are plainly moulded, as are the entrance colonnettes. The pedestal of two statues is still in place inside the sanctum. The roof is broken. There are indications, that some stones from older monuments were used for the construction. The architectural style, though post-Bayon, hardly differs from that of the Bayon period.
Some restored pediment carvings are scattered on the ground in front of the monument. One shows Vishnu reclining on the serpent Ananta (Shesha), with worshipping figures below him. Another one depicts Vamana, Vishnu's dwarf-Avatar, striding across the ocean, accompanied by various figures and animals. To the north there is a dancing Shiva with four arms, with his Shakti sitting on his knee and surrounded by Apsaras. Furthermore, there is a lintel of the "Churning of the Milk Ocean". Finally, to the west, a lintel shows Krishna lifting Mt. Govardhana in order to shelter his followers, shepherds and their flocks.
Among historians Mangalartha is well-known for two inscriptions. One is still visible on a doorjamb of the sanctuary's entrance. The other one engraved on the four sides of a stele is now conserved in Siem Reap. The texts provide detailed information on the history of this small temple and allow drawing conclusions concerning the period which followed the death of Jayavarman VII.
The site was cleared by Henry Marchal in 1924.
The late morning hours are good for visiting the monument. The early afternoon sun lights up some carvings on the ground. No ticket checkpoint will be built here during our lifetime. However, this is the geographical centre of the Angkor Archaeological Zone. Do not enter it without an Angkor ticket.