2 min read
|Date:||Mid 10th century CE (967)|
|King:||Rajendravarman II (reign 944 – 968 CE)|
Banteay Srei Temple (Khmer: ប្រាសាទបន្ទាយស្រី, the 'citadel of the women' or 'citadel of beauty') was originally named Tribhuvanamahesvara, meaning "great lord of the threefold world" - named, as usual, after the central image (in this case a Shaivite linga).
Banteay Srei is a superb example of the early-Angkor style, pre-dating Angkor Wat Temple by nearly 200 years and the Bayon Temple by nearly 250.
The ancient town of Isvarapura was centred on this remarkable temple, built not by a king but by two Brahmin brothers, Yajnavaraha and his younger brother Vishnukumara. Yajnavaraha, grandson of Harshavarman I, was the Brahmin tutor to Rajendravarman II and guru to his son Jayavarman V.
Banteay Srei is a small, beautifully preserved temple with finely carved pink sandstone ornaments, roofs, pediments and lintels, all magnificently decorated with tongues of flame, serpents’ tails, gods, demons and floral garlands.
The gorgeous narrative relief decoration on the walls and pediments of the sanctuaries and libraries is some of the best in all of Angkor. The pediments on the libraries depicting mythological scenes were the first of such in Angkor.
Beautiful voluptuous devatas and dvarapalas with swaying hips adorn the sanctuaries, and the foliage decoration of the walls and lintels is exquisite.
The temple is considered by many historians to be the highest achievement of art from the Angkor period. While many of Angkor’s temples are impressive because of their sheer size, Banteay Srei stands out for the quality of its craftsmanship. And the small size of Banteay Srei’s structures mean that many of the marvellous details can be inspected at close range, though the central area is roped off.
Banteay Srei can get very busy when the tour groups arrive. These groups move counterclockwise around the inner enclosure, so I always take a clockwise path when it's busy. You can avoid the crowds by arriving before 8am, and the low sun is perfect at this time for viewing the intricate reliefs.
Banteay Srei Temple is featured in my Spirit of Angkor project, please see Pediment I, Banteay Srei, Angkor, Cambodia. 2019.
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