Ta Prohm Temple – The Temple in Its Natural State
Ta Prohm is one of many famous temples in Angkor area which locates 1 km east of Angkor Thom, southern of East Baray. According to its stone inscriptions, Ta Prohm was named Raja Vihara, The Royal Monastery, which was a home of 260 divinities. Ta Prohm was built by the greatest Khmer king Jayavarman VII in 1186 dedicated to his mother, Raja Jodiamony, in the form of Prajnaparamita, the female Bodhisattva which was carved in her likeness. The same stone inscription added that there were 12680 peoples living in the complex of Ta Prohm, they were included 18 principles of Mahayana Buddhism, 2740 officials, 2232 sub-officials, and 615 dancers.
Despite the collapsed state of the temple, Ta Prohm was famous and popular by the enormous trees growing upon the temple which is the cause of collapse as well as adding wonderful and unique views of the Khmer ancient temple. The big tree is silk-cotton tree (Ceiba Pentandra), the smaller is strangler fig (Ficns Gibbosa) or Gold Apple (Diospyros Decandra). Almost every visitor who has arrived Ta Prohm will have a photo of the temple with these huge trees.
Layout of Ta Prohm Temple
As in its time, Ta Prohm was not only a temple but was a city for 12,640 inhabitants. The outer most wall is 1 km from east to west and 650 m from north to south. It’s also called as city wall. However, Ta Prohm Temple is within the city wall and bordered by other four enclosures. The forth enclosure is 250 m from east to west and 220 m from north to south, with four gopuras on each cardinal give access to the next enclosure.
Ta Prohm is different from other by containing two moats. One moat surrounded the forth enclosure and another one is between the forth and the third enclosure. The third enclosure measure 112 m by 108 m, also containing four gopuras. There is a rectangular building devided into four courtyards similar to Preah Khan and Banteay Kdei, placed in front of the east gopura of third enclosure, common known as Hall of Dancers. Also within this enclosure, there is a collapsed building on the right and many shrines surrounded the inner moat in total 60 shrines.
Passed the gopura of third enclosure, several stand alone shrines occupied the central area and right behind them is a roofed causeway which was designed into four courtyards leading to the main sanctuary. There is a library on the left. On the north and south side of the enclosure, there is temple with tower on each side. The north temple stored the image of the King’s elder brother, Jayakirti-deva. The south temple stored the image of the King’s Guru, Jayamangalartha-deva. On the west, the enclosures were connected by an axial gallery adorn by stand alone tower one on each side.
The inner enclosure is designed as gallery walls with corner towers and gopuras. It connected to the second enclosure only at the eastern side by some buildings which were later added. The central sanctuary is in the same size to other corner towers at Ta Prohm. It’s connected to the inner enclosure on the east and the west. In the southeast corner, there is another library.
Visit Ta Prohm Temple
Because Ta Prohm was choosen to be left in its nature state, so it’s never been restored, the ways of visit are somehow difficult. However, start your visit at Ta Prohm from the east is recommended.
Enter through the east gopura of the laterite city wall which carrying a four faces tower of Lokesvara. Walk westward for a distance of about 500 m with trees on both of the road sides, a cross-shaped sandstone terrace is right in front of you. However, you will cross the ‘House of Fire’ before you reach the terrace. It’s on the right in the same position as at Preah Khan.
Right after you cross the terrace over the moat, you arrive at the forth gopura which is the most important entrance of Ta Prohm. The gopura is designed in cross-shaped with three doorways and double rows of pillars. On both outer and inner wall of it are carved bas-reliefs about the Life of Buddha. At the northwest corner of the gopura, he roots of a giant silk-cotton tree envelope part of the wall.
After passed through the gopura, to your right is the building with columns which is now collapsed. Then around the inner wall are small shrines in total of 60.
Hall of Dancers is right at the central measuring 20m by 30m. The building is unroofed and has four courtyards surrounded by 24 pillars each. The lintels are carved with a row of dancing Apsaras which suggested that it was used for ritual dances. On the northern and southern wall of this building, each has a false door with impressive design.
Walk through the central doorway of the third gopura, you are in the third enclosure. From here you can see the unique view of Ta Prohm which the silk-cotton trees rising over the central towers. Now turn to the right, there is another tree which its root has grown around the tower, passing this tower, you are into the north east corner of the third enclosure. Here you find two stand alone towers and beyond this is the north temple housed the image of Jayavarman VII’s older brother.
From the northeast courtyard, you can enter the second enclosure by a small door facing east at the corner of second enclosure wall. Through its double pillars gallery then turn left into the first enclosure. The central sanctuary is in the middle, at the southeast corner is the library. There are two square columns at the west side of the sanctuary, which were probably carried the wooden shrine containing offerings. On the walls of the gallery are Devatas carved in the niches.
At the space between the second and first enclosures of the west side, there is another silk-cotton tree with a cascade of roots falling over the roof of the gallery.
Now you can choose to walk westward to exit the temple or walk back eastward to the south temple of the third enclosure. The south temple is now partly ruined and many trees are growing on it. On the east wall of the south temple carved a fronton of the Great Departure, a scene from The Life of Buddha.
At the south west part of the third enclosure, there are many decorative carvings which visitors can have a close look. Leave the third gopura west, over the cross-shaped stone terrace, to the forth gopura west. And the same to the eastern, you will cross the moats, walk through the forest path to exit at the west gopura of the city wall.