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Kbal Spean

2 min read

Date: 11th century CE
Style: Baphuon
King: Udayadityavarman II (reign 1050 – 1066 CE)
Cult: Hindu


Kbal Spean (Khmer: ក្បាលស្ពាន, 'Stone Bridge') is an intriguing place, situated along a 150m (500') stretch of the Stung Kbal Spean River, 25 kilometres (16 miles) from the main Angkor group of monuments, which lie downstream.

The site is reached via a delightful 30 minute walk up the hill from the car park, some sections of the walk are quite steep.

The name Kbal Spean refers to a natural sandstone arch, marking the beginning of the carvings, upstream from the bridge. The downstream part, from the bridge to the waterfall, gives the river its Sanskrit name Sahasralinga, ‘River of a Thousand lingas’.

Kbal Spean is regarded as highly auspicious so it is not surprising that the remarkable riverbed rock carvings display a gallery of gods and celestial beings. You will find Vishnu reclining on the serpent Ananta, with Lakshmi holding the god's legs, and Brahma sitting on the lotus flower emerging from Vishnu's navel, symbolising a new cycle of the universe. Also present in the carvings are Shiva, Rama and Hanuman, as well as animals (cows and frogs). Some of the carvings are submerged by the river, and their visibility may be dependent on the time of year.

Downstream from the carvings are thousands of sculpted lingas (phallic symbols of the Hindu god Shiva) in the river bed and a large underwater representation of a yoni (womb). The lingas stretch approximately 6m (20') downstream from the bridge, to 30m (100') upstream. Carved from the coarse sandstone of the riverbed, some protrude as much as 10cm (4") from the bed; others have been worn away by the flowing water.

The waters of the stream, turned holy by their contact with the lingas, a symbol of fertility, could then irrigate the rice paddies of the Angkor region, thus ensuring rich harvests.

Beyond the series of carvings is a 15m (50') waterfall to a crystal-clear pool. A great spot to cool off and have a picnic!


Map of Kbal Spean

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