Located 23 miles north of Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei – also known as the Citadel of Women – is a spectacular Hindu temple, completed 150 years prior to Angkor Wat. The delicate carvings on every surface of the temple depict traditional Hindu stories and portraits of celestial nymphs. The sandstone edifice is renowned for the complexity of its relief drawings.
Banteay Srei Photos
- The Outer Gopura – This part of the temple is a 500 m outside wall made of wood facing the old town of Isvapura. Its eastern part displays the image of Indra. The Gopura is connected to the Third Enclosure through a 67 m causeway, with galleries on each side.
- The First Enclosure – The First Enclosure – the inner one – comprises of libraries and a sanctuary. Most spectacular decorations of the temple are to be seen here. This enclosure was reopened in 2010 for the public. The libraries are built from laterite, sandstone and brick; the south library displays drawings of Shiva in different stances, while the north one – stories with Indra.
- The Second Enclosure – Situated between a laterite and a brick wall, this enclosure comprises of two libraries. One of the most interesting decorations of this enclosure is the carving of a Hindu tale on one of the two gopuras – a battle of two monkeys, Vāli and Sugrīva.
- The Third Enclosure – This outer enclosure is delimited by a laterite wall and two gopuras. It too displays several interesting scenes from the Hindu mythology on deep carvings.
- The Sanctuary – Entering through a 1 m door, in here you discover three towers and three statues with human bodies and animal heads, kneeling.
Banteay Srei was built in 967, more than one century before Angkor Wat, during the reign of King Rajendravarman, and it was dedicated to Shiva. Its construction continued in the 11th century and the temple remained in function until the 14th century as the center of the town of Isvarapura. Its name means “citadel of women” and it’s related to the delicacy of the carvings and the small dimensions of the temple.
In 1914, Banteay Srei was rediscovered and in 1930 its restoration began. Several original statues were replaced with replicas after they were stolen.
In 1923, Banteay Srei came back to the attention of the public eye after French novelist André Malraux stole 4 statues of Hindu deities from the temple. He was arrested soon afterwards and the devatas were returned.