Banteay Srei Temple

The Banteay Srei temple was built by a Brahmin priest Yajnavaraha with his younger brother. Thid temple was dedicated to the Siva god. That’s why at the originally this temple was given name as “Isvarapura” which mean “The city of Siva”. But today this temple called Bnteay Srei mean “The citadel of women”. The Banteay Srei temple was just only temple used the ping and yellow sandstone. The ping and the yellow sandstone consideredas harder than grey sandstone which used as the material in Angkor Wat and Bayon. As its material so hard, that’s why the carving in this temple are still good condition, which looked like they have done recently. The Banteay Srei temple was built in 10th century at the year 967 under the reign of king Jayavarman V this temple also discovered by French in 1914 and restored in 1924 by Mr. Henry Marchal by the anastylosis theory, after he went to Borobudu a Buddhist temple in Java of Indonesia to study his method from the Dutch who at that time restored this temple by this system of anastylosis. Hanri Marchal was getting successful job on Banteay Srei temple by this method of the Dutch. We notice that when they saw this temple in 1914-1923, the structure was completely collapsed and shrouded by a densely jungle.

The entrance tower was decorated with Indra who is the god of rain and the king of heaven riding on the three headed of elephant named Aravata. And below is the face of Kala, he was a guardian of above the door. And at the edge of the pediment, they designed the Naga with three heads whose comes out from the mouth of Makara was the mythical sea animal, which his body liked a snake and his head liked the lion. On the frame of the door, there are the octagonal balusters which decorated carving so elaborated. This entry tower used the timber to build the roof. We notice that on this structure also have two windows and five columns, because the monument from the early period. The Khmer monument temples were share similarity of its designed style. For example at the beginning, they built the entry tower and behind the tower of the entrance, there is a walkway leading to second entrance and then another causeway leads direct to the main structure where was the religious area. This concept was significant of the connection between the three worlds, including underworld to the world and to the heaven.

The first walkway of Banteay Srei is 67m long which flanking by the 34 stone lanterns on the each side. This causeway is paved by the laterite. On the each side of this walkway, there were the halls for taking a rest by the pilgrims, but today it remained only some stone pillars and its walls built of Lava stone. In the midway of this area, if you turn on the right you may see a structure with empty roof, but pediment excellent carving of Narasingha is turning the chest of Haranyakashipu. And the mythical lion with elephant trunk whose coming out the mouth of Makara at the edge. The opposite one on the south, this building is bigger, which its lintel depicting the god Siva riding on Nandin with his below wife Pavati. At the below the bull, you will see the Kala face again, and Garuda, Naga, Makara and the side of its pediment. There is a pediment on the ground which the French did not have time to restore, is depicting the story of Ramayana, which one in the middle of the scene, Ravana the demon king abducted Sita and fly a way to his palace. Those structure are located in this area were also served as the rest house. The end of this walkway we can see the second Gupura, which at the door frames, there inscription which are still good condition. From this writing tells us about the purpose of the temple, the history and the foundation of religion under king Jayavarman V.

This section, there is an enclosing wall built of laterite which one it measures 90m x 110m and there is a moat surrounding the main area of the temple. And then on the mouth of this moat next to the wall, you can see the pile of rock which they just gathered for in case of next time restoration, which one piece is from the lintel and it has beautiful carving which depicted the Brahma the creator riding on the goose. There is also another short walkway crossing the moat leading to the entrance of the main structure. This entry tower designed so distinctive which we never seen such extraordinary ornamentation like this in around the temples of the Angkor Wat. They adorned with double entrances, with its beautiful spiral like a shape of conch shell and on the top decorated the shape of the demons and the flame of fire emerged to the top. But as unfortunately the flame of fire had been stolen in 1993, so it remained only the second one. At the lintel of the inner or the second entrance building, they decorated Laksmei the goddess of beauty and the chief of the Apsara dancers and the mother of Kamashutra the god of loves, is being pouring the holy water from the two white elephants bring the coronation when herself just emerged from the milky sea and ready to get married to Vishnu. That’s why we see the Garuda (Vishnu mount) is below to carrying her to the Vishnu palace in mountain Meru.

And the third Gopura, there is another enclosing wall, which it measure 38m x 42m and when we enter to this section you will see the structure which they built surrounding the main tower, they were served as the rest house as well, but the roof had gone, because its perished wood. There is a statue of bull Nandi lying on the courtyard, but unfortunately this statue had been destroyed and poor condition. The opposite of bull statue on the lintel of the fourth Gopura is depicting the Siva dancing for destining of the world. On behalf of himself as the destroyer and generator, Siva must dance for creating the season and recycle all the life of three worlds. Here we can the wall built of brick, but today is ruined, but remained its trace, which its side was 24m x 24m. In this wall, there are two libraries which one the real door facing to the west. On the pediment of the south library the relief are depicting the story of Ravana shaking the mountain Kailasa where the home of Siva. Every one on the palace were shocking because they thought the earthquake occurred, but only Siva he ha known the reality, and then he presses his toes down for protection, that causing the mountain Kailasa fell down and crushed Ravana underneath. Ravana was not able to move and then he beseeched the lord Siva to let him out as promising for 1000 years stop coming to make in trouble. Siva agreed and even he gave a sword as present for Ravana. From then on Siva fell confidence for his meditation.

On the west lintel of the south library is depicting the god of love (Kamashutra) shooting an arrow which he made from one hundred different of flowers to the heart of Siva for making him to love his wife Pavati. Because Siva had been forgotten to make a honeymoon for three years. That’s why Pavati granted Kamashutra to help for attractive her husband from his meditation. And at the lintel of the north library part east, is depicting the Indra god of rain and king of the heaven who riding on the three headed elephant is being offering the rain water to the earth, that made the people, animals, birds even the jungle look happy and fresh. In the carving, you see the waving lines is mean the cloud and the lines coming down are the drop of the rains. On the west lintel of the north library is the story of the Mahabarata, which from the chapters of Krisna the eight reincarnation of Vishnu is taking his revenge to his tyrant uncle king Kamsa who when he was so young executed his parents. After the killing, he through the body of Kamsa to the down stair, and causing his concubine were shocking and weeping. And if you go round to the west Gopura, you may see the beautiful lintel with its intricate details into the yellow sandstone, and at the upper part of the pediment is depicting the two monkeys who was a twin are being struggle, and later Rama came to interfere and help the younger Sogriva as shooting an arrow to kill the older or named Vatin.

The central tower of Banteay Srtei, there are three towers which represented to the trinity of the Hinduism. The middle tower was dedicated to Siva which at the doorway was guard by the man. On the north tower was dedicated to Brahma, the creator god, which at the door protected by the lion-man as the guardian. And on the south, this shrine dedicated to Vishnu the protector, at his shrine door was guarded by Garuda. All the guardians of three gods were reproduction the original kept in the national museum, and some are in the Angkor conservatory. The female divinities adorned in this tower are unique one, as she stand in the sway shape rather than the frontal position in Angkor Wat and Bayon for example. The main tower for the Siva was adorned with the main divinities. The for Apsaras in this area were stolen by André Malraux in 1923, but he was arrested, and decided removing these sculptures and then Mr. Hanri Marchal took them in the same places. Some of the Apsaras of this area also had been defaced by a Vietnamese solder in 1985. Banteay Srei temple is considered as the gem arts in the Khmer civilization. Most of visitors feel in deep appreciation by its special workmanship.

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