Cambodia Travel Guide ->Sightseeing in Angkor-> Banteay Srei


 

Almost everybody loves Banteay Srei (which means "Citadel of the Ladies"; this, by the way,  is not the original name of the temple, but one the locals at the time of the "rediscovery" of Angkor gave the ruin, the original name was Isvarapura). It is a 10th century Hindu temple built in pink sandstone (quartz arenite) that is very hard and especially suited for chiseling and carving - it enables a very crisp effect with sharp contours. Abundant use has been made of this feature at Banteay Srei, there is hardly a surface that is not covered with rosettas and other floral or geometrical patterns, there are triple frontons with haut reliefs displaying narrative scenes, mostly form the Ramayana. and finally carved figures of gods and goddesses in the recessed niches of the towers. In short, the temple is almost over decorated. 

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei 

It is best to go as early as possible, because later in the day the place is full of other tourists who crowd the temple grounds, or worse, are setting up complicated photographic equipment that is in the way everywhere, but especially in front of the most attractive things.

Compared with the massive monuments of Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei is small, almost doll-sized. It lies about 30 kilometers northeast of Siem Reap; the best way to get there is by taxi or with an organized tour. The road takes you past Angkor Wat and Pre Rhup through the lovely Cambodian countryside.

Banteay Srei is a Hindu temple, dedicated to Shiva. The shrines were originally guarded by beautiful statues and animal heads but today most of them have been removed for safekeeping to Phnom Penh.

(Looting is and always was a major problem at Angkor. In 1933 a European expedition led by the Frenchman Malreaux, removed all the best sculptures and even lintels from Banteay Srei, which led to a big scandal. Fortunately, the theft was discovered in time and the thieves were held under arrest in Phnom Penh until they returned all stolen pieces. The ones that can be seen today at Banteay Srei are either slightly damaged or they are copies.) 

There is hardly a surface in Bataey Srei that is not decorated
There is hardly a surface in Banteay Srei that is not decorated 

The central sanctuary once contained a linga of Shiva. Allow plenty of time to walk around it and examine the lintels, the panels, and the carved divinities in the corners of the towers, all flanked by decorated pillars. The lintels show "The Abduction of Sita", an episode from the Ramayana, and other mythical scenes. At the library left of the central shrine the frontons are especially noteworthy. 

Portals
Portals

The east fronton shows another scene from the Ramayana, the one where the evil king Ravana attacks Mount Kailasa, the home of Shiva and his wife Parvati. Shiva holds the frightened Parvati on his knees. The west fronton displays the story how Shiva and Parvati fell in love (he was living the life of an ascetic in the Himalayas but she enlisted the help of the god Kama to wake him from his meditation. When Shiva finally sees Parvati he marries her immediately). On the north library (right of the central shrine) the frontons display adventures of Krishna (Krishna as a baby in the forest and Krishna taking revenge on his uncle King Kama, who tried to murder him). Other highlights of Banteay Srei are the statues of the guardians in the corners of the central towers that are excellent specimens of Khmer sculpture.

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Last Updated 01.03.2006