Cambodia is the oldest country in South East Asia which its history was starting to record from the 1st century. Since the 1st century, the history of Cambodia has been divided into many different stages such as Phnom Empire, Chenla, Angkor, Longvek, Oudong, and Chaktomuk. Angkor period is the most prosperous of Khmer under the leading of Varman family.
Started from 802, Angkor period was first led by Jayavarman II, and the period ended in 1431 in the reign of King Baramaraja or Chav Punnheayat. Here is a list of the king in Angkor period and their achievements in Khmer art.
Jayavarman II (802-850) Devaraja of Angkor
According to stone inscription of Sdok Kak Thom, Jayavarman II was back to Cambodia from Java in 800 AD. Then he moved to many places in Cambodia to reunite the kingdom which was divided into many parts and ruled by many kings. He is the builder of Hariharalaya, the first city of Angkor, which locates in Roluos Siem Reap province in the present day.
On Mahendra Paravata (Kulen Mountain), King Jayavarman II celebrated Devaraja ceremony in order to release Cambodia from the control of Java and made himself a Devaraja, the God King.
In his reign, he built a temple named Preah Aram Rong Chen on Kulen Mountain to keep a Shiva linga which was used for Devaraja ceremony.
Jayavarman II passed away in 850 AD at his last city Hariharalaya with the name of death as Baramesvara.
Jayavathana or Jayavarman III (850-877)
After the dead of Jayavarman II, Jayavarman III reigned after his father and continued living in Hariharalaya all his life. In his reign, he built several temples such as Prei Monti Temple, Trapeang Phong, and some part of Bakong. He has got a name of death as Vishnuloka.
Indravarman I (877-889)
Jayavarman III has no successor, so his cousin Indravaraman I have been crowned. He is the builder of Indratataka Baray, now dry, which was the first reservoir in Angkor area. The baray is 3000 m by 800 m and could store water around 6 millions meter cubic. The work at this baray was started in the first year of his reign in 877 AD.
In 879, Indravarman I started to construct Preah Ko Temple to dedicated to his ancestors. Two years later, he built the first sandstone temple of Angkor in era, Bakong Temple, and entitled it as his state temple located in the center of his capital Hariharalaya. Bakong was the house of a linga named Indrasvara. Isvaraloka was the death name of Indravarman I.
Yasovarman I (889-900) the Builder of Yasodhapura
Yasovarman I was a son of Indravarman I. In his reign, Angkor area had a new capital named Yasohapura which located at about 13 km away from the old capital Hariharalaya. Phnom Bakheng Temple was his state temple that built on a natural hill. He also built two more hill top temples Phnom Krom and Phnom Bok. Besides, Lolei Temple, Prasat Bei, some part of Phimeanakas also completed in his time. Moreover, a new reservoir, Yasodhatataka, was also constructed. This baray now is also known as East Baray, it is 7 km east west, 1.8 km north south.
Beside the temples in Angkor area, Yasovarman also built a temple named Shekharisvara on Preah Vihear Mount and another temple named Bhadresvara at Shivapura, Sandork Mount, in Siem Reap.
Yasovarman I had his name of death as Baramshivaloka.
Harshavarman I (900-922)
Harshavarman I was a son of Yasovarman I. He reigned after his father until 922 AD. He is the builder of Baksei Cham Krong, a small temple at the foot of Phnom Bakheng. There is another temple also constructed in his reign, Prasat Kravan, but it was probably built by high officials of Yasovarman I.
Harshavarman I had his name of death as Rudraloka.
Isanavarman II (922-928)
King Isanavarman II reign after his older brother, Harshavarman I. In his reign, there was another king crowned at Chok Kakiyara, Koh Ker in present day, Jayavarman IV. There was no temple has been built in his time. Baramrudraloka is his name of death.
Jayavarman IV (921-941) the Builder of Koh Ker
Jayavarman IV reign at Chok Kakiyara (Koh Ker) while Isanavarman II reign at Angkor, Yasodhapura. He was Isanavarman II’s uncle and brother-in-law of Yasovarman I. In 928, he became king of Angkor when Isanavarman II died and his capital was still at Koh Ker.
In 931, the king built a large temple in Kor Ker named Prasat Thom and built a reservoir named Rahal to support his capital. Jayavarman IV passed away in 941, his son crowned after him and took the name as Harshavarman II.
Harshavarman II (941-944)
Because of his time as king was too short, that there has no temple built in his time. He died in young age that had no successor.
Rajendravarman II (944-968) and the Returning to Angkor
Rajendravarman II was a son of Mahendravarman and Mahendradevy who was sister of King Yasovarman I. He was chosen by the high officials to crown after the dead of Harshavarman II. He moved back to Yasodhapura with Devaraja linga which was taken to Koh Ker by Jayavarman IV.
In 952, the king built East Mebon Temple in the center of East Baray or Yasodhatataka to dedicate to Shiva and his ancestors. Another temple Pre Rup was built as his state temple at the southern bank of East Baray in 961. Besides, there were many temples such as Bat Chum, Kutishvara, Srah Srang, some part of Phimeanakas, and even Banteay Srei, have been built during his reign.
Stone inscription described the name of some important people in his reign such as Rajakol Mohamuntri, a high official; Shivaraja, a master; Kavindrarimathana, the royal architect; and Yajavaraha, the royal teacher.
Rajendravarman II passed away in 968 with his name of death as Shivaloka which mean that his spirit going to be in the world of Shiva.
Jayavarman V (968-1001) the Builder of Ta Keo Temple
Rajendravarman II had his son, Jayavarman V, crowned after him. Jayavarman V was the youngest king in Angkor era that crowned when he was only 10 year olds. The remarkable temple of his time was Ta Keo Temple, a large and elegant but incomplete temple, with its original name as Hemagagiri. His capital city was named Jayendranagagiri. His death name was Baramviraloka. Later, his nephew, Udayadityavarman I, succeed him. Unfortunately, a few months later he also passed away.
Suryavarman I (1002-1050)
After the death of Udayadityavarman I, there were two kings crowned in different places, Jayaviravarman at Yasodhapura and Suryavarman I at Samphupura (eastern of Cambodia). Suryavarman I had gained victory over Jayaviravarman in 1006 and reigned at Yasodhapura.
Suryavarman I was the first king who worship to Buddhism in Angkor and he also has had a large contributions in constructing Angkorian Temples. The great Preah Vihear Temple on Dorng Rek Mountain was his largest construction. He had also taken part in building of Phimeanakas and the Royal Place, the South Kleang, Phnom Chiso Temple in Takeo province, Preah Khan Kampong Svay in Kampong Thom province, and Wat Phu in present day Laos.
Beside temples, Suryavarman I also built a Baray which is common known as the West Baray of Angkor. He passed away in 1050 with the name of death as Nivanabata.
Udayadityavarman II (1050-1066) the Builder of Baphuon Temple
Udayadityavarman II was the oldest son of Suryavarman I. After crowned, the king built a temple-mountain which was also his state temple, Baphuon, in the center of his capital. Udayadityavarman II also continued to dig the West Baray until finished and built a temple in the center of this baray, West Mebon, where the biggest Reclining Vishnu was found.
Harshavarman III (1066-1080)
Harshavarman was brother of Udayadityavarman II. In his time, no temple had been built. In 1074, Champa led by Prince Pang invaded Samphupura (eastern Cambodia) when Harshavarman III’s commander was defeated. In 1076, Harshavarman III helped Song Dynasty to fight against Dai Viet (present day Vietnam). He had got the name of death as Sateashivabata.
After the death of Harshavarman III, again Cambodia had two kings with Narutindravarman (1080-1113) at Angkor and Jayvarman VI at Mahithapura which the exact location is unknown.
Jayavarman VI (1080-1107) the Builder of Phimai Temple
Jayavarman VI was a son of Haranayavarman and Haranayalakshmi which was probably in the royal family; however, he didn’t reign at Angkor. He continued with the temple at Sandork Mount, Preah Vihear Mount, Wat Phu, and Phimai (in present day Thailand). His name of death was Baramkaivalayabata.
Dharanindravarman I (1107-1113)
Upon the request of many high officials, Dharanindravarman I, Jayavarman VI’s brother, agreed to receive the throne. In 1113, Dharanindravarman I had been assassinated by his relative and had got the name of death as Baramnispalabata.
Suryavarman II (1113-1150) the Builder of Angkor Wat Temple
According to stone inscription of Wat Phu, Suryavarman II was a king crowned by united two kingdoms, Mahethapura and Yasodhapura which ruled by Dharamindravarman I’s relative and Narutindravarman.
Suryavarman II has won many battles with the neighbor countries and he was the king who built the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat, dedicated to Vishnu which was also his state temple. Beside Angkor Wat, the king finished the construction of Phnom Chiso Temple, Phnom Sandork Temple, Wat Phu Temple and Preah Vihear Temple. Other remarkable temples of Suryavarman II are Chav Say Tevoda, Thommanon, Banteay Samre, Phnom Rung (in Thailand), and Beng Mealea.
Suryavarman II had his name of death as Baramvishnuloka, mean his spirit going to stay in the world of Vishnu.
Dharanindravarman II and Yasovarman II (1150-1165)
After the death of Suryavarman II, his cousin, Dharanindravarman II succeeded him. Dharanindravarman II married queen Chodiamony who was a daughter of Harshavarman III and they had got a son name Jayavathuna in 1125. The last year of Dharanindravarman was unknown, but after him, Yasovarman II crowned, who believed that was his relative. However, there is no inscription describe about the biography of Yasovarman II.
In 1165, Yasovarman II was killed by his high court official, Tribhuvanadityavarman. During that time, Prince Jayathuna was back from Champa border wanted to help Yasovarman II, but it was too late. So Tribhuvanadityavarman reigned at Angkor. In 1177, he was killed by Champa during their invading Angkor.
Jayaindravarman IV Champa’s King (1177-1181)
Angkor was under control of Champa for four years. In 1181, Jayaindravarman IV was killed at Preah Khan site, the last battle against Champa led by Prince Jayavathuna.
Jayavarman VII the Greatest Khmer King (1181-1218)
After defeated Champa in Angkor and all over the kingdom, Prince Jayavathuna have crowned with his crown name as Jayavarman VII. He was the greatest Khmer King in history of Cambodia, who built a new capital of Angkor Thom and his state temple Bayon. In the time of Jayavarman VII, the Khmer Kingdom had grown to its top with great development in all sectors and the state religion has been changed from Brahmanism to Mahayana Buddhism.
Besides Angkor Thom City and Bayon, many other major temples in Angkor area also were born in the time of Jayavarman VII. They are Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, Ta Nei, Banteay Chmar, Elephant Terrace, Leper King Terrace, Royal Palace, Srah Srang, and Jayatataka Baray.
Out of temples, King Jayavarman VII also built many route and bridges throughout his kingdom. Kampong Kdei Bridge, on the road to Siem Reap, is the ancient bridge of his time that still remains until today. Especially, there were 121 rest houses and 102 hospitals built in over the kingdom.
The date of Jayavarman VII passed away was unknown. According to researchers, he probably passed away in 1218 (some other say 1220) with his name of death as Mahabaramsavkut.
Indravarman II (1218-1243)
Indravarman II was a son of king Jayavarman VII. He continued the incomplete constructions of his father and since then no more temples have been built. According to Khmer history book, the reason in which no more temple have been built is because of the country was in war.
Jayavarman VIII (1243-1295)
The king reigned after Indravarman II was Jayavarman VIII. This king worshipped Hindu Gods and the state religion was returned to Brahmanism again. He had a hand in many previously built temples, especially the temples dedicated to Buddhism in the reign of Jayavarman VII. He destroyed almost Buddha image carvings in those temples and tried to replace with scenes from Hindu epics.
Jayavarman VIII died in 1295 with the name of death as Baramesvarabata.
Srindravarman or Indravarman III (1295-1307)
Since the second half of the 13th century, the power of Khmer Empire has been reclining. It seems there no more capable king to rule the country and it started to be invaded by its neighbor countries. Moreover, the civil wars between the royal family members also have happened in some parts of the country.
There is an inscription described about the construction of Vihara (the Buddhist Sanctuary) and Buddha statue in 1039 by Indravarman III, after he give up his throne to live in the forest. This is suggested that after the reign of Jayavarman VIII, the religion of Cambodia has returned to Buddhism again.
He was a relative of Indravarman III. During his time there has no important event were recorded.
Jayavarman IX or Jayavarman Paramesvara (1327-13xx)
Jayavarman IX was the last king of Varman family. Since then the history of Cambodia has lost. There were many kings at Angkor for nearly one century, until the reign of Chav Ponhea Yat (1394-1463). In 1431, Chav Ponhea Yat moved his capital from Angkor to Toul Basan (present day Kampong Cham province), then to Chaktomuk (Phnom Penh) in 1434. Since then, the Angkor era has end and Cambodia started another stage of history.
Nhorm Sdav – Khmer Salad
Sdav or Sdao is a kind of big growing tree in the wild of Cambodia, but it’s now brought to grow in the village also, because of its edible and contain health property. The edible parts are its young leaves and flowers with delicious bitter taste. Sdav is a seasonal plant, the new leaves and flowers only grow out during the month of November to February in Cambodia. It’s when Sdav begins to grow new branches and its flowers also grow out with new young leaves.
Sdav is served as vegetable for dipping with Teuk Kroeung and other Khmer dips. But Sdav Salad or Nhorm Sdav is a popular food for Cambodian.
Ingredients for 2 servings:
- 1 small bunch of Sdav of its young leaves and flowers
- 100 g pork
- 100 g fish flesh or smoked fish (optional)
- 1 tomato
- 1 cucumber
Ingredients for dressing:
- Ripe tamarind
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 shallot
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 or 2 red chilly
Preparation of the dressing
Put ripe tamarind in a bow, add 3 tbsp boiled water and start to crush it so that its flesh slips away from its seeds. Then take out the seed. Garlic and red chilly finely chopped, shallot slice thinly. Then add all into the bow of tamarind included sugar and fish sauce. Then taste it to the right flavor of sweet sour sauce.
Preparation for Sdav Salad
Put the bunch of Sdav into a bow to dip it with boiling water. Do not dip it into the boiling water on fire. But after the water is boiled, pour it onto the bow of Sdav. Then Sdav will turn into a very beautiful green leaves. Just for 5 minutes, Sdav must take out from boiled water and wash out with cold clean water. After drained, Sdav leaves and flowers must be picking up from its branches. And this is ready for Sdav.
Pork after boiled, thinly slice into small slices. If you choose to add fish or smoked fish, then it’s must be grilled, then remove bones. Tomato and cucumber also thinly slice. Coriander also finely picked, and cut into small pieces. Now mix all the ingredients together and add the tamarind sauce slowly.
Nhorm Sdav or Sdav Salad is a great food for people who like bitter vegetables. Everyone in my family like it, we will have a big meal with Nhorm Sdav that consists of the bitter flavor of Sdav, the sweet of cucumber, the sour of tomato, the aroma of coriander, and the hot of chilly.
If you haven’t tried Nhorm Sdav before, give it a try!
Ta Som Temple – The Home of Divinities
Ta Som Temple (ប្រាសាទតាសោម) locates in the northeast of Angkor Thom on the Grand Circuit which was built in the late 12th century and the beginning of 13th century by King Jayavarman VII (1181-1218). It dedicated to Mahayana Buddhism and also his father, King Dharanindravarman II, reigned from 1150 to 1160. Ta Som is also dedicated to King Ancestors, especially one of his teachers.
Like Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, and Preah Khan, Ta Som is also decorated with the four face tower of Bayon style on its outer gopuras. However, it’s the smaller one among the group.
Inside the temple, there are four places contain inscription which describe that there were many divinity statues placed in the chambers of Ta Som, each statue represented his ancestor and hero under Avaloketesvara’s statue. Now only the inscription at the north entrance to the sanctuary is still in good condition. At Preah Khan Temple there was a stone inscription talks about the name Gaurasrigajaratana, which means ‘The Jewel of the Propitious White Elephants’, where was a home of 22 divinities which probably refer to Ta Som Temple.
Layout of Ta Som Temple
Perhaps Ta Som is the only temple of Jayavarman VII with face tower at gopuras that has got a simple layout. Ta Som is bounded with three concentric enclosures. The outer enclosure is 240 m by 200 m. Two gopuras on the east and west connected together by laterite walls. Inside the outer enclosure there is a moat and the second enclosure of Ta Som is at the central of the moat which also has two gopuras with laterite walls.
The inner enclosure is designed to be gallery walls, measure 30 m by 20 m. It has four gopuras at cardinal points and a tower at each corner. Two libraries at northeast and southeast of the courtyard. The central sanctuary is at a straight line with the north and south gopura of the enclosure. It’s one level single shrine of cruciform with porches on four sides.
Visiting Ta Som Temple
To Som locates at 2 km east of Neak Pean, 2 km northwest of East Mebon. The path leads to Ta Som’s west outer gopura. It has only one entrance door at the center top with a four-face tower. There are two small rooms decorated with balustered windows flanks the entrance. The west facing fronton depicts a standing Boddhisvatta Alovaketesvara surrounded by dancing Apsaras and devotees.
After crossing the moat is the gopura of second enclosure. In front of gopura II, there is a short raised causeway in cruciform, but there is no evidence of naga balustrade decoration. The second gopuras have no tower, one doorway at the center, also with two small rooms as wings. On its walls are smiling Apsaras.
The inner gopura has one entrance door top with a tower but not the face tower. Just like the second gopura, the inner gopura has its wings as small rooms decorated with delight Apsaras. The fronton of this inner gopura also has standing Alovaketesvara with devotees paying respect as praying, however, the fronton is now placed on the ground nearby.
The central tower is in cruciform. On its walls are Apsaras and on both sides of each door are Dvarapalas. Some parts of the sanctuary are collapsed and are under restoration process.
The gopura II east is covered by roots of a big tree which created a strange but natural state. To the east also has the same arrangement as the west.
Preah Khan Temple – The Holy Sword
At about 2 km North East of Angkor Thom, there was a wonderful temple which we are common known as Preah Khan. Preah Khan is Khmer words which mean “The holy sword or sacred sword or the royal sword”. Preah Khan temple was built by the greatest Khmer king of Angkor era, Jayavarman VII in 1191 AD, 10 years after his victory on Champa, who was invading and controlling Angkor for four year (1177-1181).
According to its stone inscription, Preah Khan was buily on the last battle site where King Jayavarman VII defeated Champa and the Champa’s king had been killed here.
This temple was probably the site of previous palace of Yasovarman II (1150-1165) and Tribhuvanadityavarman and also the palace of King Jayavarman VII before he move to Angkor Thom.
The original named of Preah Khan was Nagarajayacri which means the Kingdom Protected by a Holy Sword. The stone inscription describes about the holy sword that it is the prosperous treasure of the Kingdom. It was made by 21 different kinds of metal. Then, Preah Khan also a home of the royal family, dignitaies, monks, teachers and many servant in total about 10000 peoples.
Preah Khan lies within a laterite wall about 800meters from East to West, 700 meters from North to South and surrounding by a moat. It locates at the end of Jayatataka Baray which is the last great reservoir to be built in Angkor era. Nowadays this baray is dry and it has got a new name called Rajatataka field.
Preah Khan was dedicate to Mahayana Buddhism and also to the king Dharanindravarman, king father of Jayavarman VII. A statue of Bodhisattva Avaloketisvara named Jayavarmesvara has been kept inside this temple is a statue represented to the king’s father. Beside this statue, there were many others deities at others site of the whole temple, in totally about 430 deities. Preah Khan was not only a palace or temple, but also a Buddhism university in the late 12th century.
Visiting Preah Khan Temple
To visit this temple, visitors could enter from the four Gopuras which locates at the main cardinal points. The most popular entrance is on the Eastern. It is available for visitors to see Jayatataka Baray and a terrace with lions guardians and nagas balustrade.
Walkway and the Naga Bridge
Walking on the walkway flanked by boundary stones for about 200 meters long from East to West, we arrive the causeways across the moat. The carving on boundary stones were changed in the late of 13th century while the original carvings were Buddha image.
The same to Angkor Thom, the causeway across the moat or the Naga bridge is decorating with two lines of deities and Asuras who were holding the naga king, Vasuki, appeared in the scene of Churning of the Ocean of Milk. At the end of this scene, there are two giant mythical guardians, Garudas.
The Outer Gopura
Now we arrive a Gopura with three entrances, each top with the Bayon style four-face-tower, the largest entrance is in the middle. This is the gopura of the city wall or the fourth enclosure of Preah Khan. It is connected with others three more Gopuras by laterite walls. On the exterior of the laterite wall carved 68 giant Garudas, each about 5 meters high which symbolized protector of the air and water. This mythical bird is also the mount of Vishnu. They are regarded as powerful guardians and they were placed around the walls in a distance of 35 meters from each other. This mythical bird appeared with its traditional enemy, Nagas, the hands of Garuda hold and lift up the tail of Nagas and his legs stepping on the Naga’s body.
Passing Gopura IV and continue to the West through the forest to the third Gopura. Before we reach the third Gopura, there is a substantial “House of Fire” which is one of the 121 chapels built by King Jayavarman VII in his empire.
The Third Gopura
Continued a little while, there is a raised platform decorated with Naga balustrades and guarded by lions. Standing on this platform, a wonderful architectural composition of the third Gopura with it five entrances is in front of us, which leading to the central sanctuary.
There were many carvings at the external surface, which is supporting by many pillars, connected the three large entrances at the center to the two smaller at the end of the both sides. The central entrance was probably serving as the royal entrance to the temple.
Hall of Dancer
Passing the third Gopura, you will reach a large building where many Apsaras were carved on the lintel in the form of dancing. They are either single or in pairs. This hall is called “Hall of Dancers” which derived from the carving here. The hall is divided into four courtyards, each surrounded by 24 pillars. Formerly, this hall probably a place where worshippers presented offering of food, gifts to the king and Preah Khan Divinities, because this hall is close to the entrance of the main sanctuary. Many Buddha images also carving in the niches above Apsaras, but after the reigned of Jayavarman VII, the religious in Cambodia was returning to Hinduism and most of the Buddha images were defaced.
There is a small entrance on the north side of the “Hall of Dancer” which lead you to see the Storey Pavilion. The Storey Pavilion is a strange and most unusual building of Angkor. It’s decorated with closely large round columns and has no trace of a stairway to the upper storey. It is maybe accessed to the upper level by wooden staircase in former time. The view of Storey Pavilion somehow made visitors feel like being somewhere in the Western country. A legend said that it’s once housed “Preah Khan”, the holy sword, which proceeded the king’s procession.
The Second Gopura
Return to “Hall of Dancer” and continued to the West, there are two libraries facing to the West at the end of “Hall of Dancer”. The second enclosure is built as gallery walls. From the second Gopura to the inner Gopura are many buildings that were added in later time, making it a complicated area. However, the carvings here are something visitors could admire: Garudas are exceptionally carved at the corners; Buddha images on the columns have been transformed into hermits.
The Inner Gopura and Central Sanctuary
The East facing fronton of the inner Gopura carved a male and female divinity standing on the pedestals, probably represented to the king and the queen. Beautiful Devadas are standing in the niches which are almost hidden. At the western of the inner gopura is where the famous stele of Preah Khan was found. It’s 2 meters high and 60cm square with inscription on all four sides. It is now kept in the Conservancy.
Continue to the west and we are now in the inner enclosure. The fronton of the inner gopura, facing west, is depicted a scene from Ramayana, in which Rama and Sita returning to Ayodhana. Within this enclosure is again contained many later additional small buildings. The central sanctuary has a small stupa at its center which was added around the 16th century. This place was originally placed the statue of Jayamesvara, the statue represents king father of Jayavarman VII. On both interior and exterior walls of the central sanctuary are pierced with small holes on purpose of attaching large bronze plates as covers. The inscription mentioned that about 1500 tones of bronze were used at this temple. There are four doorways to the cardinal points, looking at each with the long narrow views.
Small Temples Around the Second Enclosure
Surrounded the second enclosure are three small rectangular temples. The north dedicated to Shiva; the south to the kings and queens who were deceased ancestors; the west to Vishnu. From the central sanctuary, visitors can choose to turn north, or south to see the temples.
The north temple has some interesting frontons: the west fronton has Reclining Vishnu in exceptionally fine condition; Hindu trinities at the East, in which Shiva is dancing while Vishnu and Brahma sit on both sides, the same fronton is found at the west of temple U at Preah Pithu group temple.
Back from the North temple, continue westward from the central sanctuary, a linga with its yoni pedestal is immediately west of the central sanctuary. More small chambers occupied the Southwest and Northwest corners of the inner enclosure.
After leaving the west Gopura of the second enclosure, we are entering the west temple which dedicated to Vishnu. A long pedestal with holes for three statues is placed right after its Eastern entrance. The inscription on its door frame says that they were Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita. A library of this small temple is at the northwest corner. The west fronton is identified as Krishna lifts mount Govardhana.
The West Approach of Preah Khan
The west Gopura of the third enclosure is a few steps away from the temple of Vishnu. Its fronton depicts people playing chess on a boat. The west fronton has a scene of the Battle at Langka. The west entrance is guarded by two large Dvarapalas.
Leave Preah Khan through its west which has the same design as the eastern one, though it’s shorter in distance: the outer Gopura of the laterite town wall carved with giant Garudas; the naga bridge over the moat flanked by Gods and Asuras and the long walkway with boundary stones.
Preah Pithu Group Temple
Preah Pithu is the name of a group of five temples which were built separately from each other. There were regarded as a group just because they are near to each other, in fact, they were not intended to be a group. Preah Pithu group locates next to the North Kleang temple. It’s a peaceful place, visitors rarely arrive this area, and it’s probably because of the ruined state of these temples. However, Preah Pithu temples are worth a visit for their remains of good decorative carvings.
The five temples at Preah Pithu were named by researchers as 481T, 482U, 483X, 484V, and 485Y. For ease in writing and momorize, the numbers are omitted and they are called Temple T, Temple U, Temple X, Temple V, and Temple Y.
Preah Pithu are small temple-mountains which contain the architectural style of Angkor Wat in the reign of Suryavarman II (1113-1150). Here is a good illusion of religion assembly. Temple T and U are probably dedicated to Vishnu, because of its architectural style are similar to Angkor Wat. Temple V and Y are dedicated to Shiva, while Temple X dedicated to Buddhism. To the east of Temple X there is a Buddhist square surrounded by the twin-boundary stones carved Buddha image which were scattered throughout the area of Angkor Thom. This have proofed that Buddhism has started to gain popularity in the middle age in which those constructions couldn’t have the construction date before the 14th century. And they might have related to the name of this temple group ‘Preah Pithu’ which is derived from the name of a Boddhisvatta Vithura, the ninth birth of Buddha, before the birth as Vissana Jakata.
Layout of Preah Pithu Group Temple
Starting from the main road that almost opposite Tep Pranam pagoda, the first temple you encounter is Temple T with enclosure measured 45m by 40 m. Right behind Temple T is Temple U within smaller enclosure of 35 m by 28 m. Both temples are surrounded by the same moat and facing west, which are unusual. A cruciform terrace is built as the approach over the moat to the temples from the west.
To the east of Temple T and U is Temple X which was the latest construction of the group, dating from the 14th century. Temple X is also surrounded by moat and connects with the moat of Temple T and U at its southwest corner. The sanctuary rises in two tiers platform, measures 40 m square and 4 m high. However, it has no enclosure.
To the north of Temple U is Temple V, also has no enclosure. It main entrance is from the west by a large terrace and a 70 m causeway.
Temple Y locates about 30 m north of Temple V. So Temple U, V and Y are almost in a south-north line. Temple Y is of a late date then other but before Temple X. It faces east and consists of a sanctuary, mandapa and a short corridor (antarala).
Visiting Preah Pithu Group Temple
The platform from the west, which is the main entrance to Temple T, supported by the round short columns and decorated with naga balustrades similar to those of Preah Palilay, Banteay Samre, and Angkor Wat. The sanctuary is on a three-tier platform of 6 m square with four stairways. The sanctuary is 3 m square, four porches open to all four sides flanks with windows. It outer walls decorated with female divinities. The west facing lintel is a scene of Churning of the Ocean of Milk.
Leave Temple T by its east gopura and enter the Temple U. Its architectural is the same to Temple T, just smaller in size. The sanctuary is open to all four sides and guarded by Dvarapalas, now only their feet remain. The west lintel has dancing Shiva with Brahma and Vishnu sit and watch. The south facing lintel has Krishna lifting Mount Govardhana. The east facing lintel contains the art style of the 11th century. The north facing lintel shows the Churning of the Ocean of Milk.
The shrine of Temple X is on a broad terrace with stairways on four sides guarded by lion. The design is similar to the Temple T and U, however the decoration is incomplete. This is the only temple of the group that dedicated to Buddhism, in which lintel depicts Buddha story. Inside the shrine there is a frieze of Buddha. To the east of Temple X is the Buddhist square with two elephants stand on each side of the stairway and surrounded by boundary stones carved Buddha image. To me it seems Temple X was formerly dedicated to Hinduism too and later it was changed to be a Buddha temple. Because Temple X is also a temple-mountain represented Mount Meru and around the courtyard there are many partials of stone carved Hindu divinities.
Temple V has the largest shrine in the group, about 4 m square. The shrine contains a large linga. Its decoration is incomplete.
Temple Y is set on an earthen platform, has no stairway and porches. The shrine is connected with a large mandapa from the east. It also contained a linga. The mandapa is decorated with fronton and half fronton in the style of Banteay Samre. The story depicted included Krishna’s defeat asura Bana, Vishnu crossing the ocean, the fight between the monkey brothers Valin and Sugriva. This is very common that a shrine dedicated to Shiva but the decorations of it are mostly about Vishnu.
Preah Palilay Temple
Preah Palilay (ប្រាសាទព្រះបាលីលេយ្យ) is an Angkorian temple which dedicated to Buddhism locates in the north west of the Royal Palace in Angkor Thom. There is no stone inscription was found for this temple, thus according to the art style show that the sanctuary was built in the second half of 12th century and the gopura was added in later time.
Palilay is the Khmer pronoun of Parilayaka, a name of a forest which located in India which related to the life of Buddha. About 10 years after attained enlightenment, there was once Lord Buddha travelled into the forest of Palilay on purpose of practicing meditation. At there, Lord Buddha has always received fruit offering from monkeys and elephants. By their kindness, after they died they going to bornd in the heaven.
The decorations of the sanctuary at Palilay are about Hidunism while the gopura are about Buddha. This is suggested that the temple was formerly dedicated to Hinduism and later it was changed to be a temple dedicated to Buddhism during the changing of religion in Cambodia in the 13th century.
Visiting Preah Palilay
Approaching Preah Palilay
Preah Palilay can be approached either from Tep Pranam pagoda and Phimeanakas Temple. From Tep Pranam, walk futher about 200 m west and then turn right for about 50 m to reach the terrace decorated with naga balustrades. Coming from Phimeanakas, leave the Royal Palace compound from its north gopura and walk north for about 200 m too, then you will reach the laterite enclosure wall of Preah Palilay which measures 50 m square.
East Entrance and the Platform
At the east entrance, there were originally two lion guardians, but now there is only one left at the right side. There were also two statues of Dvarapalas, now the remaining is a pair of feet of one guardian at the left side.
The platform is about 1.5 m raised from the ground level which is decorated by Naga balustrades in the same style as Banteay Samre Temple. The platform is 8.5 m long and 6 m wide. From the terrace, a causeway of 33 m long connects to the gopura. Before arrive the gopura, there is a Buddha shrine that added later, inside there is a Buddha statue of 3 m high. The shrine is always an active worship place for local tourists.
Gopura and Its Decoration
The architecture of the entrance gopura is very much similar to the entrance gopura of the Royal Palace, the difference is it’s smaller in size and the quality of workmanship is lower. This is why the date of construction of the gopura was determined to be later than the sanctuary. The only gopura of Preah Palilay is from the east, in cross-shaped with three entrance doors, each designed with lintel two-tier frontons depicted scenes about The Life of Buddha.
The central entrance has a lintel depicts Reclining Buddha, and on fronton shows standing Buddha with devotees. The facing west frontons show scenes of Buddha as Vissana Jakata.
The northern entrance, fronton facing east is a scene of Buddha during his time in Palilay forest receiving fruit offering from monkey and elephant. The facing west fronton shows Buddha receiving offerings from devotees. The facing north fronton is about elephant Nalagiri was defeated by Buddha, the upper part shows a sculptor working on a statue of Buddha.
The southern entrance, fronton facing east is a scene of Buddha sitting under a bodhi tree with devotees paying respect by praying, it’s should be a scene of Buddha preaching. The south facing fronton shows Buddha in Bhumispara Mudra in which Buddha touching the earth for witness. The one facing west is unclear.
Sanctuary of Preah Palilay
The sanctuary is 5 m square stands on a three-tier platform. Both platform and the sanctuary are made of sandstone. The sanctuary has doors open to all four sides with unadorned chimney-like tower rises above. The lintels of the four doors depicted the Hindu Gods of Direction (East guard by Indra, West by Varuna, South by Yama, and North by Kubera). The frontons are now placed on the ground. There is one could be identified as the attack of Mara, the devil king, and his army toward Buddha. Another one is Indra on his mount, Airavata.
At about 12 km west of Battambang town there are several hills locate near to each other, they are Phnom Sampoev, Phnom Kroper, Phnom Trung Morn, Phnom Prung Tea, Phnom Rumsay Sork. There is a legend relates to the names of these hills that have been told throughout generations of Khmer people. The story goes that:
There was a king name Rajakola (រាជកុល) had his royal place along the Dongrek mountain range. He felt in love with a beautiful girl named Sovann Masa (សុវណ្ណមសា) who was a daughter of a poor farmer family. Sovann Masa had a pet as a big crocodile and named it Athuna (អាធន់). This crocodile has strong power with its huge body, and he would do anything ordered by his owner, Sovann Masa. In fact, Athuna was born from an egg which Sovann Masa has picked up in the forest and brought home. After a while, the egg hatched out a crocodile, Sovann Masa felt pitty for it, so had brought it up as pet.
After a period of time that Sovann Masa has become lover of Rajakola, the king felt out of mind toward her and wanted to find another woman with his reason that Sovann Masa has origin from a poor farmer family that she’s not suitable to be entitle a queen of him.
In Chanborei city which located quite far away, the king there has a princess named Preah Neang Rumsay Sork. The princess has celestial hair, she simply grasp her hair with fingers and wish for what she wanted. Even the wish of drying the sea or turning the land into a sea also could become true.
The parent of king Rajakola has sent a letter to father of Preah Neang Rumsay Sork to ask for his daughter to be the queen of their son. The request has been accepted and Rajakola was very happy. He ordered his people to prepare the engagement gift into a ship and travel to Chanborei.
When Sovann Masa knew about this, she was very angry and ordered her crocodile, Athuna, to sink the ship on the way, so that Rajakola couldn’t meet Preah Neang Rumsay Sork. Athuna received the order and hurriedly swam to follow the ship. When he was near the ship, Rajakola saw him and he shouted out: “Hey Athuna, this is me, you can’t do anything harm to me.” “Only those who feed me that I listen to.” Athuna replied.
All the people on the ship were very frighten because they saw the crocodile was too big and mean. They took all the vegetables and other foods throw into water, even the chicken and duck in the cage, to feed Athuna. But the crocodile didn’t eat at all. Rajakola tried to calm down and prayed to God to protect him from this danger.
With sincere praying, he’s got the help from angel, in which an angel informed Preah Neang Rumsay Sork about the danger of Rajakola facing. Immediately, she grasped her hair and wish that the sea drying into land. So the crocodile got stuck in the ground and died. The body of Athuna has become a big mountain called Phnom Kroper (crocodile mountain) until today. While he was trying to release himself from the ground, Athuna waved his tail strongly and took a big breath, created two large lakes by these. The two lakes were named Crocodile Tail Lake and Crocodile Nose Lake.
The ship of Rajakola also became a mountain which has the shape of the real ship called Phnom Sampoev, The Ship Mountain. The chicken cage and duck cage that was through into the sea to feed Athuna also became small hills near there, and they are named Phnom Trung Morn (Chicken Cage Hill) and Phnom Trung Tea (Duck Cage Hill).
After the sea has been turned to be the plain, Rajakola and his people continued their way by walking. The place in which Preah Neang Rumsay Sork has grasped her hair also grew out a mountain, and it’s named Phnom Rumsay Srok (hair grasping mountain).