Banteay Srei is a 10th century Hindu temple tucked away in the deep and steamy jungles of Cambodia. Part of the legendary Ankor Wat complex its reputation may not be as well known, yet almost all who visit Ankor Wat will also visit this Khmer-era relic.
Banteay Srei is a 10th century Hindu temple tucked away in the deep and steamy jungles of Cambodia. Part of the legendary Ankor Wat complex its reputation may not be as well known, yet almost all who visit Ankor Wat will also visit this Khmer-era relic. The history of Ankor reads like something from a fantasy novel; a massive city covering over 1000 square kilometers was swallowed by the jungle hundreds of years ago, lost and vanished from the knowledge of man. Only to be re-discovered and rebuilt miraculously over the last hundred years, a city out of time, an ancient remnant of a bygone civilization. These recovery efforts however were deeply hindered by the Khmer Rouge and the autocratic, Pol Pot, who only passed away as recently as 1998. The nearest city to the ruins is that of Phnom Penh, but the infrastructure in this part of the world is so poor, that no paved roads exists among the primeval complex, and although groups are available it is best toured individually via tuk tuk.
This temple in particular is one of the best known and perhaps one of the best preserved. Banteay Srei, unlike other massive temples in the area is almost miniature in size and is easily toured in less than an hour. The reason for its reputation however, is not its diminutive size, but rather the intricacies of its carvings. Built entirely from pink sandstone, it has a much different look and feel that sets it apart from its contemporaries. Our driver told us that it was a “women’s temple” built entirely by women laborers, which was his explanation for both the fine carvings as well as the pink sandstone. However, I have not found any verification of this claim. This small gem, a pink bastion in the jungle, somehow retained the beautiful art displayed upon its walls. What a gift it is that such craftsmanship can remain after so long, and in such harsh conditions. It is truly a testament to the strength and power of the Khmer empire. It is staggering and almost beyond human comprehension to try and understand the true age of these carvings. Preserved in time, it is both simultaneously easy and impossible to put myself in the shoes of those who walked these halls over 1000 years prior. I find my mind thinking about Ankor, about a city that has somehow escaped its fate, and has risen again in other time, a future so distant it might as well have been raised in a completely different place. Just as soon as this train of thought reaches its conclusion, I rejoin my surroundings and at once the howl of the jungle returns. Its oppressive heat re-envelopes my body, and I think of how easily this place can disappear from time again, become swallowed once more.
Camera: Olympus SP-500UZ
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