Banteay Srei (or Banteay Srey) is a Cambodian temple built for worshipping the Shiva Hindu god. Banteay Srei Temple, also known as "Tribhuvanamahesvara" – The temple of women, which was built in the 10th century, is located in the Angkor area of Cambodia, 25 km (15 miles) to the northeast of the group of temples that once belonged to the ancient cities of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom.
The temple is a masterpiece of sculpture on the laterite and red sandstone. The temple itself is considered the pinnacle of rock art with elaborate and graceful reliefs in each small detail. The temple was originally dedicated to Shiva God, while the shrine in the north was dedicated to Vishnu God. In the past, this temple was called Tribhuvanamahesvara. The place is considered the center of the religious image. There are many towers that are called Isvarapura surrounding the temple.
The temple was originally dedicated to Shiva God
Later, the name of the temple was changed into Banteay Srei. However, compared with the original construction, it was officially built and expanded in the eighth century. Until the following years, the motifs in the temple were sculpted in the 12th century and the temple was officially completed in the 14th century.
Banteay Srei is built primarily by red sandstone, which is a mordant that adds to the elaborate sculptures on the walls that are still visible today. These works are a miniature item which takes the Angkor buildings as a standard. These elements help the temple to be famous to the tourists, and to be referred as "the precious jewel", or "The jewelry of Khmer art".
2. How to get there
Banteay Srei Temple is 21km to the north-east of the Bayon Temple or about 32km from Siem Reap. There are road maps and different ways to get there. It takes about 1 hour from Siem Reap.
Banteay Srei is one of the hundreds of famous temples in the Angkor area. Unlike Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei is located quite far from Angkor Thom. However, visitors can easily move between the two locations because the path is quite simple.
If you go by Tuk-tuk (a motorbike with a passenger's rear compartment), you will spend a little more money, so you should negotiate with the driver. Besides, you can also combine a visit to Banteay Srei Temple with a walk along Thousand Lingas River at the Kbal Spean and Beng Mealea temples or Banteay Samre and Phnom Bok temples.
3. Detail of Banteay Srei temple
The structure of the temple
Banteay Srei is the masterpiece of Balamon Indian religious art. The temple consists of three layers: From the stone bridge to the temple gate is the outer ring; from the second stone bridge through the moat (now no longer) is the gate into the middle ring; and finally, the inner circle includes the temples and two architectural buildings called the "library".
The mandala is connected to the temple center by the temple guardian statue which actually are replicas. The ancient statues are now preserved at the National Museum of Phnom Penh. The lintel on the hallway lobby is meticulously carved. There are many patterns on the rocks such as flowers, Buddhist monks, lions and the gods which are sculptured finely to the smallest detail. On the courtyard in the middle of the temple at the inner ring, there are three temples: the northern temple worshiping Vishnu, the central temple and the south temple worshiping Shiva.
Banteay Srei - the symbol of sculpture in Angkor period
Only two temples, among a total of 1,800 temples in Cambodia built during the Angkor Period (9th to 15th centuries), has been chosen as the symbol of architecture. If Angkor Wat is the architectural symbol of monumental construction, the Banteay Srei Temple represents the sculpture that reached its peak during Angkor.
The thousand-year-old temple is the most prominent of the thousands of Angkor temples because most of the other temples were built with bricks or blue sandstones, while Banteay Srei was built entirely of the red sandstones. The temple building material was a unique feature. However, it is the beauty of Banteay Srei that makes the tourists surprised.
The temple built during the Angkor period was often built by Cambodian kings, but Banteay Srei is an exception. The temple was built by a Brahmin monk in 967 during the reigns of King Ragjanravarman (which means “whom the Moon God bless” and Jayavarman V (which means “whom Victory God bless”), to dedicate to the king Jayavarman V. Banteay Srey has three main towers: the middle tower represents the god Shiva, the two small towers worship Vishnu and Brahma. Although the temple is small in size compared to other works, Banteay Srei is the symbol of the Cambodian sculpture beauty of all time, especially the Angkor period.
Although Banteay Srei is located in the dense jungle and in the ruins of Angkor Thom, the temple is still an extremely attractive destination for tourists. Nowadays, people come here to find it a quiet place with the cultural richness and also to be astonished by the massive architecture of the ancient Khmer.