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The Silk Route - World Travel: Ta Prohm, Banteay Samre, Pre Rup, Cambodia
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Cambodia: Ta Prohm, Pre Rup, Banteay Samre
November 2015

Ta Prohm Pre Rup Banteay Samre
Cambodia, Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm at dawn was magical.

Steep Pre Rup contrasts with the flat layout of Banteay Samre; two different styles but both peaceful with few visitors enjoying Pre Rup's warm red glow and Banteay Samre's many fine carvings.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm entrance and a full moon.

Ta Prohm at dawn - magical.

 

The temple, consecrated in 1186, was originally called Rajavihara, the royal monastery, dedicated to the king's mother in the form of Prajnaparamita, goddess of wisdom, by King Jayavarman VII. Over twelve thousand people lived at the temple site which stretched over 148 acres, the centrepiece of reconstruction after devastating wars.1

It lies to the north of Siem Reap, east of Angkor Thom. We set off at 5:15 a.m. to make sure we were there for the dawn. It was pitch black when we arrived, our driver angled the car headlights so we could see the entrance and our guide led us in.

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Deep shadow in the temple; the sky outside is beginning to lighten.

We waited for the dawn inside the temple ruins.

There was maybe half a dozen people there when we arrived.

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The cicadas in particular got very loud!
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Huge kapok tree on the east gopura; on the right, the "Hall of the Dancers".

Our guide picked a spot within a small ruined courtyard inside the east gopura of the fourth enclosure where huge tree roots clung to the walls. Here there was nobody else, though the calls of gibbons, cicadas, parrots and the odd rooster were an atmospheric backdrop - as the dawn approached it got progressively louder.

We stayed at this spot until it got light enough to see our way easily around the ruins - it really was a magical experience.

We had entered by the east gopura (gateway) of the fourth enclosure. There is a further enclosure surrounding this one, though at some distance. Within are the third, second and first enclosures, approaching the central temple.

Rather than the temple mountain layout of a series of concentric rising levels, Ta pRohm is of a later style, laid out on a flat plane within a series of concentric enclosures.2

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
"Hall of the Dancers", taken later in the morning.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Decorative fronton above an entrance to the "Hall of the Dancers".

Opposite the east gopura is the so-called "Hall of the Dancers". Measuring 20m by 36m it is not possible to go inside; the interior was once supported by 96 columns.1

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Detail from "Hall of the Dancers" fronton showing - dancers!

Continuing to head west, behind the "Hall of the Dancers" is the east gopura of the third enclosure.

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Square pillars hold up the gallery which forms the exterior four sides of the third enclosure wall.


Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Through the eastern gopura of the third enclosure.
A massive kapok tree supported by iron crutches.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Inside the third enclosure.
Once richly carved, these towers flank the east-west central axis of the temple.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
The building is the north satellite temple, dedicated to Jayakirtideva, the elder brother of Jayavarman VII.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Cambodia

The walls were once lavishly decorated, here two devatas surrounded by intricate carving.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
North east area inside the third enclosure looking north west.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia

 

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Strangler fig.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
The inner temple.

 

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Holding a bird.

Ta Prohm can best be described as in a state of managed ruin, it makes for an incredibly atmospheric site, especially when there is no-one else there!

The trees are quite phenomenal. The kapok roots are massive, slowly crushing the buildings. The strangler figs look altogether more vicious, smothering the buildings - as well as any other trees - in a fine network of roots.

Ta Prohm, Cambodia

The first enclosure surrounds the inner temple. Here the ruins verge on the truly fantastic, with a huge strangler fig sprawling over the buildings and some well-preserved carvings.

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Most frontals have suffered a high degree of erosion but here one or two figures are sufficiently well-preserved to show the beauty and dynamism of the carvings.

The second enclosure wall has an interior gallery supported by square columns, similar to the exterior gallery of the third enclosure.

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Huge kapok roots on the west gallery of the second enclosure.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Inside the third enclosure looking at the south west corner of the second enclosure.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
South satellite temple.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Outer colonnade of the third enclosure with a corbelled roof.

 

Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm, Cambodia

 

 

 

Having thoroughly explored the temple we made our way back to the east gopura of the fourth enclosure and the courtyard where we had waited for the dawn. There were still very few people at the ruins.

Ta Prohm, Cambodia

It was still dim in the courtyard, it would be some time before the sun would be high enough to light up the interior of Ta Prohm.

Ta Prohm, Cambodia

 

Pre Rup

Pre Rup, Cambodia
South front of Pre Rup.

Dating from around 960 A.D. in the reign of Rajendravarman, Pre Rup was one of the earliest temples that we visited in the Angkor region, predating Ta Prohm by almost 200 years. It is the last in the area to be of the temple-mountain style without continuous surrounding galleries.2,3

It consists of a pyramid of three tiers with a central tower and four corner towers. The central pyramid is surrounded by rectangular rooms separated by gaps - all later temples would have continuous galleries, as at Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and many others.

Pre Rup translates as "turn the body" and may have had something to do with the cremation ritual being performed here, though any such links are speculation.

Pre Rup, Cambodia
East entrance.

Lying two or three kilometres east of Ta Prohm it presents much reddish laterite and brick where the covering plaster has mostly fallen away. It is a very warm-looking temple, probably very photogenic at sunrise or sunset.

We were visiting late morning on a beautiful sunny day but there were still very few visitors here - it is one of the less-visited temples of the many in the region.

The main entrance was the east gopura, through a laterite wall. Inside there were three towers on each side of the entrance.

 

Pre Rup, Cambodia


Pre Rup, Cambodia
The east staircase.
Pre Rup, Cambodia
Pre Rup, Cambodia

 

 

Banteay Samre

Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Platform and processional way to the east entrance.

 

Built some time within the first half of the twelfth century Banteay Samre is of similar age, and style, to Angkor Wat. It is remarkably complete and has some of the best-preserved carvings.

The temple is about six kilometres east of Ta Prohm and much less visited than those nearer the centre of the Angkor temple complex.

Banteay Samre, Cambodia
The platform was once decorated with fine carving.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia
None of the lions now have heads.

From the east it is approached by a very fine processional way with naga balustrades and an impressive platform edged with Khmer lions. This leads to the east entrance or gopura.

Banteay Samre, Cambodia
East facade, outer enclosure.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Outer enclosure, west gopura, east side, half fronton carving.
Battle of Lanka, from the left : Vishnu with four arms on a lion,Skanda, god of war, with ten arms and multiple heads, on a peacock, and Yama, god of the Dead, on a buffalo.2

Scenes from the Battle of Lanka, where the monkeys play an important role, are carved into frontons on the outer enclosure.

Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Outer enclosure, west gopura, east side.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Outer enclosure, west gopura, east side.
Vishnu/Krishna fighting two assuras, holding them by their topknots.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia

 

Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Outer enclosure, east gopura.


Banteay Samre, Cambodia
The central tower, very like those at Angkor Wat.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia
View from south east corner of the outer enclosure.
The remains of square pillars can be seen.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Inner enclosure, south gopura, south side.
Detail below: Vishnu on a chariot, possibly pulled by Garuda.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia

The east gopura of the outer enclosure leads into what is now a grassy space around the inner enclosure. Both enclosures have four gopuras, one on each side..

Banteay Samre, Cambodia
The south gopura of the inner enclosure.

We walked around to the south side and crossed to the inner enclosure. The temple is renowned for its beautiful carving and this is evident in the figurative carving on lintels and decorative carving on the edges of the platforms.

Banteay Samre, Cambodia

Inside the inner enclosure. The building on the right is the southern "library"; centre and left is the crossing corridor room called a mandapa leading from the east gopura to the central tower.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia

From the east gopura of the inner enclosure a rectangular building called a mandapa leads to the central tower. North and south of the mandapa are two buildings which are called "libraries".

Banteay Samre, Cambodia
The central tower.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Inside the mandapa.
It looks like a sarcophagus but is actually a stone basin.
Note the well-preserved carving on the lintel.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Inner enclosure, north gopura, south side.
Shiva on the bull Nandin?
Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Inner enclosure, north gopura.
Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Inner enclosure, west gopura.

 

 

 

It was very peaceful, at Banteay Samre, though hot.

 

We were the only people here until a few monks turned up in their orange and saffron robes, as keen to photograph the temple as we were.

Banteay Samre, Cambodia
Inner enclosure, west gopura.
Conjunction of the sun and moon.


Banteay Samre, Cambodia

 

References

  1. Asian Historical Architecture: Ta Prohm
  2. A Guide to the Angkor Monuments Maurice Glaize
  3. Asian Historical Architecture: Pre Rup Temple
  4. Asian Historical Architecture: Banteay Samre