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Home > travel > Temple Hopping in Siem Reap

Temple Hopping in Siem Reap

My recent trip to Siem Reap was an eye-opener to the grand and majestic temples constructed by Kings of the Khmer. In my 2 days there, I went temple hopping in a Tuk-Tuk and discovered the historical heritage and undisturbed beauty of Sieam Reap.

Pre Rup

Pre Rup  is a Hindu temple at AngkorCambodia, built as the state temple of Khmer king Rajendravarman and dedicated in 961 or early 962. It is a temple mountain of combined brick, laterite and
sandstone construction.

It is located about 1km south of the Eastern Mebon and is a popular spot for sunset. The temple consists of a pyramid-shaped temple-mountain with the uppermost of the three tiers carrying five lotus towers. Pre Rup means ‘Turning the Body’ and refers to a traditional method of cremation in which a corpse’s outline is traced in the cinders: this suggests that the temple may have served as an early royal crematorium.

Pre Rup is one of the most popular sunset spots around Angkor, as the view over the surrounding rice fields of the Eastern Baray is beautiful.

The southwest tower once contained a statue of Lakshmi, the northwest tower a statue of Uma, the southeast tower a statue of Vishnu and the northeast tower a statue of Shiva. The last one has an inscription on doorjambs that dates from Jayavarman VI and is the only proof of his reign at Angkor.

 

East Mebon

The East Mebon  a 10th Century temple at AngkorCambodia. 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 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.

It was constructed on a man made 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 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.

Neak Pean

Neak Pean (or Neak Poan)(“The entwined serpents”) at AngkorCambodia is an artificial island with a Buddhist temple on a circular island in Jayatataka Baray, which was associated with Preah Khan temple, built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. It is the “Mebon” of the Preah Khan baray (the “Jayatataka” of the inscription)

Some historians believe that Neak Pean represents Anavatapta, a mythical lake in the Himalayas whose waters are thought to cure all illness. The name is derived from the sculptures of snakes (Nāga) running around the base of the temple structure, neak being the Khmer rendering of the Sanskrit naga. “They are Nanda and Upananda, two nagas traditionally associated with Lake Anavatapta.

Neak Pean was originally designed for medical purposes (the ancients believed that going into these pools would balance the elements in the bather, thus curing disease); it is one of the many hospitals that Jayavarman VII built. It is based on the ancient Hindu belief of balance. Four connected pools represent Water, Earth, Fire and Wind. Each is connected to the central water source, the main tank, by a stone conduit “presided over by one of Four Great Animals (maha ajaneya pasu) namely Elephant, Bull, Horse, and Lion, corresponding to the north, east, south, and west quarters.

Preah  Khan

The Preah Khan temple located just outside the capital city Angkor Thomwas built in 1191; its name translates to “the Sacred Sword”.

The temple was built by Jayavarman VII, a Buddhist King who liberated Angkor by driving out the occupying forces of the Cham. The King who earlier dedicated the Ta Prohm temple to his mother, dedicated the Preah Khan to his father. The statue of Lokeshvara was carved to resemble the King’s father.

It is located northeast of Angkor Thom and just west of the Jayatataka baray, with which it was associated. It was the centre of a substantial organisation, with almost 100,000 officials and servants. The temple is flat in design, with a basic plan of successive rectangular galleries around a Buddhist sanctuary complicated by Hindu satellite temples and numerous later additions. Like the nearby Ta Prohm, Preah Khan has been left largely unrestored, with numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins.

Between the second and third enclosure are three satellite temples. While the Southern sanctuary building is in a ruined state, the Northern building is in a much better condition. The pediments and lintels contain several well preserved carvings including Vishnu reclining on Ananta, Krishna lifting Mount Govardhana, depictions of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu and several battle scenes.

Bayon

At the heart of Angkor Thom is the 12th-century Bayon, the mesmerising, if slightly mind-bending, state temple of Jayavarman VII. It epitomises the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Its 54 Gothic towers are decorated with 216 gargantuan smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara, and it is adorned with 1.2km of extraordinary bas-reliefs incorporating more than 11,000 figures.

Known as the ‘face temple’ thanks to its iconic visages, these huge heads glare down from every angle, exuding power and control with a hint of humanity. As you walk around, a dozen or more of the heads are visible at any one time, full face or in profile, sometimes level with your eyes, sometimes staring down from on high. Over 2000 large faces carved on the 54 tower give this temple its majestic character. The characteristics of this faces – a broad forehead, downcast eyes, wild nostrils, thick lips that curl upwards slightly at the ends-combine to reflect the famous ‘Smile of Angkor’.

Bayon 5

Baphuon

The Baphuon is the state temple of King Udayadityavarman II. It is located in the old Khmer capital city Angkor Thom, between the Royal Palace and the Prasat Bayon. The sandstone monument that was dedicated to Shiva is in the shape of a stepped pyramid.

When the temple was converted into a Buddhist temple in the 15th century, part of the Baphuon was demolished and the stones used to build a Buddha image on the West end of the temple. The very large reclining Buddha image, which shape is difficult to make out, was never completed.

Royal Palace, Angkor Thom

The Royal Palace was first built by king Suryavarman I and used continuously from the 11th to the late 16th century AD. During that period, the area was transformed and restored several times. Recent excavations have revealed many remains, such as a 10th century temple which was built by a minister to Yasovarman I, was probably considered to be this minister’s residence.

Most of the royal palace buildings were constructed by using perishable materials because they would have been non-religious in nature.

The rectangular place of the royal palace was surrounded by a 5 meters high laterite wall with 246 meters along the north-south axis and 585 meters along the east-west axis, covering an area of more than 14 hectares. Five sandstone gopuras with steps served as the entrance to the palace. Two gupuras are located on the south ,other two are on the north, the largest one faces to the east and aligned with the Elephant Terrace and Victory Gate.

IMG_7162

The Elephant Terrace

The Terrace of the Elephants is part of the walled city of Angkor Thom, a ruined temple complex in Cambodia. The terrace was used by Angkor‘s king Jayavarman VII as a platform from which to view his victorious returning army. It was attached to the palace of Phimeanakas, of which only a few ruins remain. Most of the original structure was made of organic material and has long since disappeared. Most of what remains are the foundation platforms of the complex. The terrace is named for the carvings of elephants on its eastern face.

The 350m-long Terrace of Elephants was used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall. It has five outworks extending towards the Central Square-three in the centre and one at each end. The middle section of the retaining wall is decorated with life size garuda and lions; towards either end are the two parts of the famous parade of elephants complete with their Khmer mahouts.

The Terrace of the Elephant King is a 2.5-meter tall terrace that stretches over 300 meters through the core of Angkor Thom. Three main platforms and two secondary platforms compose the terrace. On the terrace’s north end is the Terrace of the Leper King. On the terrace’s south end is the Baphuon.

Khmer King Jayavarman VII ordered the construction of the terrace sometime in the late 12th or early 13th century. The Terrace of the Elephants is considered to be the magnum opus of King Jayavarman VII’s kingship, and perhaps the grandest royal terrace in Cambodia.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world, on a site measuring 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 m2; 402 acres). It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.[3] It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II[4] in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura, the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors.

Angkor Wat itself is surrounded by a 650-foot-wide (200 m) moat that encompasses a perimeter of more than 3 miles (5 km). This moat is 13 feet deep (4 m) and would have helped stabilize the temple’s foundation, preventing groundwater from rising too high or falling too low.

Angkor Wat’s main entrance was to the west (a direction associated with Vishnu) across a stone causeway, with guardian lions marking the way. To the east of the temple was a second, more modest, entrance.

The heart of the temple was the central tower, entered by way of a steep staircase, a statue of Vishnu at top.  

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple at AngkorSiem Reap ProvinceCambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara). Located approximately one kilometre east of Angkor Thom and on the southern edge of the East Baray, it was founded by the KhmerKing Jayavarman VI as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm is in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors. UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List in 1992. Today, it is one of the most visited complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region. The conservation and restoration of Ta Prohm is a partnership project of the Archaeological Survey of India and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap). The temple of Ta Prohm was used as a location in the film Tomb Raider.

 

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