Reinhart's Blog

I like to take photographs of Khmer temples and note down their story.

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Angkor Encounter

Encounter heißt „Begegnung“ oder auch „Gefecht“. Und auf ein Gefecht sollte man vorbereitet  sein.

X fliegt in den Urlaub. Er hat den kürzesten Reiseführer gekauft. Im Flugzeug beginnt er zu lesen: 13 schmale Seiten über Angkor und eine winzige Karte. (Vieles, was er hier liest, ist eher reißerisch als richtig, aber das wird er erst später merken.) Am späten Abend landet er in Siem Reap, ein Fahrer bringt ihn zu einem Hotel. Dieser bekommt dafür eine „commission“.

Am nächsten Morgen steht er wie der Ochse vorm neuen Scheuertor. Er braucht Orientierung und Einführung.

Die Lösung wäre. dass er auf jeden Fall, auch wenn er sich nur zwei Tage Zeit genommen hat, da anfängt, wo Angkor anfängt, nämlich mit dem Bakong, dem ältesten großen Tempel. Aber den kennt sein Buch nicht, auch nicht die Karte.

Ein Reiseführer ohne historische Einführung ist unbrauchbar.

Ich selbst früher so gereist und habe den Reiseführer im Flugzeug gelesen. Aber ich hatte immer viel Zeit und wohl auch bessere Bücher.

About me

Reinhart in Angkor Wat
Reinhart in Angkor Wat

In October 2000, when all Cambodia was under water, I made my first 7-days visit to Angkor. I had not got any useful introduction and I was thoroughly disappointed.

Well, the next year, I had to instruct German-speaking tour guides in Angkor. (Poor guys, I could not teach them so much.)

Any introduction to the “Angkor Archaeological Park” must fail.

But Angkor is the site of an ancient capital, and the temples are to be presented in their historical, cultural and spatial context; that’s the only way of understanding and to make them living.

We can “read” the temples; they will tell us their story. We just need some background knowledge, no further introduction.

My work is focussing on a new introduction to Angkor.

Complementary remarks about Angkorian Temples

Temples, their ruins, reliefs, and inscriptions, are the most noticeable remains of the ancient civilization of Angkor.

Only temples were built of durable materials, brick, laterite, and sandstone. 

Trapeang Phong
Trapeang Phong

3 towers in a row, Bat Chum
3 towers in row, Bat Chum

Tower with cruciform plant, Ta Keo
Tower with cruciform plant, Ta Keo

The tower of Banteay Samré
The tower of Banteay Samré

False door of a fire shrine, Phnom Chisor
False door of a fire shrine, Phnom Chisor

A king prostrates himself in front of a Vishnu shrine, Bayon.
A king prostrates himself in front of a Vishnu shrine, Bayon.

Plant of a simple temple, Prasat Dong Chan
Plant of a simple temple, Prasat Dong Chan

Drawing by Glaize
Drawing by Glaize

Two rows of towers, Preah Ko
Two rows of towers, Preah Ko

Quincunx of towers, Phnom Bakheng
Quincunx of towers, Phnom Bakheng

Mandala of 9 towers
Mandala of 9 towers

Elements of a Temple

Prasat Don Chan shows the essential elements of a simple temple:

  • a (central) tower,
  • a fire shrine, opening toward the tower
  • an enclosure wall,
  • a gate, gopura, in the axis of the central tower.

Each tower sheltered a picture or symbol of a god or goddess.


The tower consists of a square, or nearly square, chamber.

Above are four false storeys, they show repetitions of the base chamber, in proportional reduction. On top is a crowning element of sandstone.

Arrangement of towers

  • Single tower.
  • Three towers in a row.
  • Two rows of towers
  • Preah KO
  • Quincunx of towers
  • Mandala of nine towers


Orientated to the cardinal points, the tower shows equal faces in the four directions.

It opens with one, two or four doors. The other sides are walled with false doors, reliefs showing a closed door.

About 1000 A.D. the ground plan gets cruciform by adjoining porches.

On top of a door is a lintel with relief.

The lintel is supported by colonnettes, small octagonal or circular columns.

A pair of pilasters raises a pediment, again adorned with relief.

Space and Time

„The Greek term templum, from which the word temple derives, means a well defined consecrated place ...” (Sahai 2009, p. 74.)

This may seem to be trite.

  • But look at the Phnom Bakheng. The temple was mutilated and reduced to the pyramid.
  • Some ignoramuses try to separate the buildings of Prasat Preah Vihear from its mountain or even from its stairways. But the temple encompasses the entire mountain, not only the summit.
  • If one reduces Angkor Wat to the pyramid or even to its upper tier, the moat and the wonderful avenue will escape one's notice.

There is no ritual in Hinduism to suspend the consecration of a temple.  A temple is a sanctuary for all times.

Buddhism, on the other hand, strictly demands respect of the Hindu gods. It’s hard to explain what befell and still befalls the Hindu and Buddhist temples in Buddhist Cambodia.


The Khmer term prasat is translated as temple, tower, or sanctuary. But a tower is only a part of a temple.


In early temples, halls are hiding the enclosure walls. At Koh Ker the halls are fused to the enclosure walls by colonnades with tiled roofs. Beginning with the Ta Keo and the Phimeanakas there are real galleries

The function of temples

  • State Temples
    Ruling the kingdom on behalf of the God, every new king exerted himself and his kingdom to build a temple for the God and to worship him.
  • Ancestor Temples
    See Prasat Preah Ko and Prasat Lolei.
  • Private Temples, all built in the 10th century.

Temples were abodes of gods. Public religion took place at the premises or outside of the temple.

Temples were generally open for everybody. In every village was at least one temple, where people venerated Shiva or Vishnu. 

Death of an Elephant

Elephants at Angkoor Thom
Elephants at Angkor Thom

An elephant has died in Angkor. As to be expected, there was excitement on Facebook; unfortunately the Khmers like to depict and to view corpses, so we had to see the dead elephant again and again.

Based on ignorance, people were talking about mistreatment of elephants, and a stop of the elephant rides in Angkor.

I have watched and enjoyed the elephants in Angkor for more than a decade. The casualty last week was the first I had to register. NOTHING else had ever gone wrong (as far as I know). Those who take care of the elephants earn our full respect.

Two things are going wrong.

APSARA Authority has full responsibility, but

  • They don’t inform us about the background of the incident, that’s DISDAIN. Or SUSPICIOUS. And unfair to those who take care of the elephants.
  • They never show photos of the elephants bathing. Is there no bathing place? 

The Trot or Trotti Dance

This morning, April 12, 2016, Khmer New Years Eve, Trotti dancers showed up at Sala Alemong, our house near Wat Preah An Kau Sa in Siem Reap.

In recent years Trot Dance is becoming popular at the Khmer New Year festival.

The word Trot is from Sanskrit meaning to end, in this case to end the previous year. Trot is a traditional dance performed in an ancient format believed to ward off bad luck from the previous year. It is usually performed before the New Year festival.

Trot is connected to a belief that wild animals that come into the village bring bad luck and misfortune. They created Trot which showcase wild animals, allowing villagers to spray perfume, put on makeup, and tie knots on the animals. Then they pray to the animals for good luck. This serves as prevention against bad luck when wild animals come into the village in the future.

There is also a belief that this dance symbolizes the prayer for rain. In this case, they prefer using the peacock tail to represent the sun. The people pray to the sun asking for rain for their farmlands.

Nowadays, the dance is usually found in Siem Reap and Battambang province. Eventually, additional characters were added--a singer performed as peacock and another singer performed as a spirit with long black nails.


Trot is related to two folktales. The first folktale is about a hunter.

Once upon a time there was a hunter named Bun who lived with his wife name Ubma in Savchey district. One day, the hunter went to hunt as usual but he could not find a single animal. He thought that maybe the forest spirits prevented him from finding the animals, so he prepared an offering and prayer to spirits to help him find animals. Suddenly he came upon a golden deer with golden yellow fur and antlers made out of shiny precious stones. He then shot and killed the deer. Upon retrieving the animal, he realized how beautiful it was and decided to offer it to the king. The king was delighted with the gesture and granted the hunter a rank as the district head. Afterwards, Bun created the Trot dance as a remembrance by making offering to the spirit of the forest.

Another folktale is related to Buddhism. Before Buddha attained enlightenment, he first became a monk. As he was on his way, an evil appears as a golden deer blocks his path. Buddha started to pray to an angel. The angel came down and appeared as a hunter to kill the golden deer and accompanied Buddha on his way to becoming a monk


The front performer holds a kangcha which is a pole about 2.5 meters in height with the top portion shaped like a fork. The tips of the head are tied together by a string and decorated with dry fruit balls (Angkugn) with metal pieces inside which make noise when the pole is thumb on the ground. This performer provides the beat to the music with other musicians who use drums and two Tros (Tro Ou and Tro Saur - type of instruments used in classical Khmer music).

  • All performers start by first praying to the teachers.
  • The forest people come out running left and right in confusion outside the circle, typically in front of everyone else. Their bodies swing with the beat of the drum.
  • The hunter wears a banana trunk around his waist.
  • The person wearing the antlers represents the deer and dances in a similar fashion to the hunter and the forest people. His hands sometimes hold the antlers and sometimes hook to the front like the deer legs. He hops according to the beat swinging his head and sometimes run out of the circle.
  • The main character dancers wear colorful clothes and head dresses holding the tail of the peacock. The other two dancers dance very fluidly.
  • The girl with black nails helps to sing the song and also makes clicking sounds with her nails. The musicians with instruments swerve their bodies according to the beats.

The Trot song can be heard here: (

Another song with Trot style sang by Samouth Sin can be heard here: (KamplungLengTrot_Samouth.mp3).



A PDF Guide to Angkor

Cover Practical Guide
Cover Practical Guide

Places and things have a hidden life which unveils to those who know their history.” (Tiziano Terzani)

In Angkor, a guide book has to get into the spirit of the monuments, provide background knowledge, and let the riuns tell their history.

This way is clear and easy. Let us forget what we have already learned and open our minds.

This are the principle ideas of my guide books A Practical Guide to Angkor and Taschenführer Angkor (in German).

I have published them as ePDFs, but there are nearly no sales.

Possible reasons for this flop

It seems, nobody beside me has yet downloaded the PDF to his or her smartphone or tablet, and told me about his or her experiences. Maybe I am wrong.

Please tell me what’s wrong, and I will do it better or something else.

Here, you can download the PDFs

Heaven is with those who give feedback.


I like this graph from the Facebook Page AsapSCIENCE; it illustrates my way of thinking.

I don’t like to memorize a lot, and the way of knowledge is easyer and, at least for me, funny.


A Dancing Male Figure at the Bakong

He is the oldest dancer in Angkor and male, late 9th century.

Female dancers, Apsaras, will show up att Angkor Wat only. Early 12th century.

I took this Photo in 2005, at a stairway of the pyramid, as I remember.

I have looked for it and could not find it again. Please help me and look around.

Dancing Figure, Bakong
Dancing Figure, Bakong

Symbols, Gestures and Fuss at Preah Vihear

Is there really a conflict?

Preah Vihear from south-west. Photo courtesy of Dave Taylor.
Preah Vihear from south-west. Photo courtesy of Dave Taylor.

Though its beauty and significance may be compared with Angkor Wat, Preah Vihear has got famous only as the point at issue of a continuous border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand.

The Forgotten History

King Suryavarman I (102-1049) started the temple and called it Shiva Shikhareshvara, Shiva the Lord of the Pinnacle.

It was to Shiva Shikhareshvara, to whom King Suryavarman I let the nobles in his service give an oath of loyalty in 1011. The text is engraved at the wall of the east gate of the Royal Palace in Angkor.

Preah Vihear became a symbol of the unity and power of the Khmer Empire. This symbol is now lost.

In Khmer eyes, the temple is a remnant of a religion that is now replaced by Buddhism. It is called Preah Vihear, “Holy [modern Buddhist] Temple”. (An ancient temple is called prasat.)

For Khmer people, a temple like Preah Vihear or Angkor Wat is just something that can make them proud.

The Thai Flag

The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in 1962 that the Thais had to withdraw from the temple, what they did. 

Rather than lower the Thai national flag that had been flying at the temple, Thai soldiers dug up and removed the pole with it still flying. The pole was erected at nearby Mor I Daeng Cliff, where it is still in use.” (Wikipedia)

The general in command is quoted to have said: “There will be no lowering of the flag, for we will have it back in the near future.” – What a theatrically effective gesture!

There is no real intention to alter the border. The Thai government has not commended the action of the general. The threat serves its purpose. It’s a paper tiger, but it can help to justify military efforts.

The Spirit of Ta Di

But Khmer soldiers believe Thai troops will return.

They also believe that the spirit of Ta Di is defending Preah Vihear.

Poeuy Ta Di (“Promontory of Grandfather Di”) is the name of the highest point of the projecting cliff.

By the legend, Ta Di was the general of the Khmer army, which during a war was defeated and worn out by the Siamese. Grieved by the defeat and the loss of his soldiers, he killed himself, his wife and his children by jumping from the cliff.

The place has got his name; visitors pay respect to his spirit and offer to him in a small cave under the rock.

Ta Di is the local Neak Ta, the landlord of the temple.

A Conflict or a Fuss?

Reaping the benefits of the Preah Vihear issue are Cambodia’s army and government; they act the big shot as the defenders of the temple.


  • Khun Samén, Prasat Preah Vihear, 2008.
  • Sachchidanand Sahai, Preah Vihear An Introduction to the World Heritage Monument, 2009.
  • Wikipedia, Preah Vihear Temple.


From Bakong to Bayon: The Emergence of the Temple Mountain in Angkor

New features are italicized

Large five-step pyramids: Bakong. Phnom Bakheng.

Steep pyramids in laterite, three steps: Baksei Chamkrong

Five steps: Pre Rup

Pyramids in sandstone, cruciform towers, gallery: Ta Keo

Perfect galleries: Baphuon, Angkor Wat, Bayon.


  • Temple Mountains in Angkor
    Temple Mountains in Angkor
  • Bakong
  • Phnom Bakheng
    Phnom Bakheng
  • Baksei Chamkrong
    Baksei Chamkrong
  • Pre Rup
    Pre Rup
  • Ta Keo
    Ta Keo
  • Baphuon
  • Angkor Wat
    Angkor Wat
  • Bayon

Architectural Innovations

Quincunx: Phnom Bakheng, East Mebon, Pr Rup, Ta Keo and Angkor Wat.

Contracted steps three, four and five: Pre Rup, Ta Keo, Baphuon and Angkor Wat,

Cruciform towers: Ta Keo, Angkor Wat and Bayon.

Galleries: Ta Keo, Phimeanakas, Baphuon, Angkor Wat and Bayon.

Narrative reliefs: Baphuon, Angkor Wat and Bayon.

Towers shaped like lotus buds: Thommanon, Banteay Samré and Angkor Wat.


  • Angkor Wat, view from Phnom Bakheng
    Angkor Wat, view from Phnom Bakheng
  • Pre Rup: Summit
    Pre Rup: Summit
  • Ta Keo: Summit
    Ta Keo: Summit
  • Angkor Wat: Summit
    Angkor Wat: Summit
  • Ta Keo: Tower
    Ta Keo: Tower
  • Ta Keo: Gallery
    Ta Keo: Gallery
  • Baphuon: Gallery
    Baphuon: Gallery
  • Baphuon: Narrative Reliefs
    Baphuon: Narrative Reliefs
  • Angkor Wat: Towers
    Angkor Wat: Towers

The Third Eye

In Angkor, the third eye is a main attribute of Shiva.

“The third eye (also known as the inner eye) is a mystical and esoteric concept referring to a speculative invisible eye which provides perception beyond ordinary sight.”

[Reference: Richard Cavendish, ed. (1994). Man, Myth and Magic – Volume 19. New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish. p. 2606. ISBN 0839360355]. (Wikipedia)

In a relief at Banteay Srei, Shiva kills Kama, the God of Love, with the fire energy of his third eye.

When the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara “goes Shiva” and is made similar to Shiva, he gets his title Lokeshvara (“Lord of the World”) and wears his third eye.

Vishnu’s Spouse Lakshmi has sometimes attributes of Shiva; in Prasat Kravan she has the trident and as Devata in Angkor Wat, she has the third eye.

More at Google

  • Head of Shiva (Muse Guimet)
    Head of Shiva (Muse Guimet)
  • Banteay Srei: Shiva killing Kama
    Banteay Srei: Shiva killing Kama
  • Devata at Angkor Wat
    Devata at Angkor Wat
  • Lakshmi at Prasat Kravan
    Lakshmi at Prasat Kravan
  • Face of the Bodhisattva at the Bayon
    Face of the Bodhisattva at the Bayon
  • Eye at One-Dollar Note
    Eye at One-Dollar Note

Mysteries of Angkor Wat - Six and a Half Answers

Angkor Wat, view from Phnom Bakheng
Angkor Wat, view from Phnom Bakheng


Love Seats
Love Seats

Vishnu and Shiva
Vishnu and Shiva


Angkor Wat: Dancing Apsara in the West Gate
Angkor Wat: Dancing Apsara in the West Gate


The original name of the temple was probably Vrah Vishnuloka or Preah Pisnulok ("Holy Temple of Vishnu"). When Angkor Wat was discovered for the western world in 1860, this name was forgotten.

In colloquial Khmer, angkor or nokor means "village", like Angkor Chum or Nokor Krau.

Till now, the locals use to refer to Angkor Wat as Nokor Touich, "Small Place".

Angkor Wat has never been a city.


Angkor Wat is located diagonally opposite of the Phnom Bakheng.

The towers in the diagonal are in a single line.

Facing each other and arranged like loveseats, the temples make a pair.

(To explain the location of Angkor Wat relative to buildings which were later, like Angkor Thom or the Grand Hotel d'Angkor, is misleading. [So Glaize, 1944])

Vishnu and Shiva

First the Blessed was unique.

At the time of the creation of the world,

[He] divided himself into three to take pleasure in the form

of [the god with] four faces [Brahma], 

[the God with] four arms [Vishnu],

and Shambhu [The Being, Shiva].

At the end of the Cosmic Time Period [Yuga]

He assumes his unified form.

Homage to Him, Shiva!

(Inscription of Lolei, 886. By Sahai 2009, p. 96.)

Vishnu is a form or manifestation of Shiva.

Dedicating the new state temple to Vishnu - and locating it in close neighbourhood with the Phnom Bakheng, the noblest Shiva temple - King Suryavarman II did not at all break with Shiva. 

Shiva in Angkor Wat

In the final scene of the "Victory of Krishna over the Asura [Demon] Bana" we see Krishna, who, having chased and mutilated the demon, is ready to kill him. But instead of this, Krishna, in the Shape of Vishnu is summoned to Shiva, who is sitting, surrounded by his sons Skanda and Ganesha as well as by Brahma.

Krishna has to safe Bana’s life.

This relief in Angkor Wat marks Shiva as the supreme God.

Angkor Wat is a state temple

Khmer Kings ruled the World on behalf of Shiva. They honoured the God by building a state temple and paying homage to Him in His temple.

Angkor Wat is a perfect stage for the Royal Visits to the Gods. This function is well visible.

(Glaize 1944 is wrong again: unusual orientation, funerary temple…)

Devatas: The "radiant beauty" of a Goddess

Thousands of reliefs, depicting Devatas as pretty girls and young women in a fantastic outfit, are manifestations of Vishnu's spouse Lakshmi.

According to customs of their time, they are bare-breasted. 

By the way

Apsaras are beautiful, supernatural female beings. They are youthful and elegant, and superb in the art of dancing. … They dance to the music made by the Gandharvas, usually in the palaces of the gods, entertain and sometimes seduce gods and men. As ethereal beings who inhabit the skies, and are often depicted taking flight, or at service of a god, they may be compared to angels. (Wikipedia)

The Apsaras are born at the Churning of the Sea of Milk. We know the grand bas-relief in Angkor Wat. They are best depicted at the West Gate of Angkor Wat.


  • Briggs 1951, 1999
  • Glaize 1944, 2003,
  • Roveda 2003,
  • Roveda 2005
  • Sahai 2009.

Facebook Page Einladung nach Angkor

Liebe Freundinnen und Freunde,

Mit diesen Zeilen will ich die Facebook Page Einladung nach Angkor abmelden.

Die Webseite, die ich damit vorbereiten wollte, steht inzwischen:

Wer nach Angkor reisen will, findet auf meiner Webseite was er braucht. Ich kann Angkor.

Wenn man mich findet. Die Konkurrenz drängelt sich nach vorne. Ich bin Amateur und kann mir Marketing-Dienste nicht leisten.

Reisen Sie bald. Nicht weil alles immer schlechter würde, das ist Unsinn. Sondern weil es das Angkor von jetzt bald nicht mehr gibt. Es wird anders, dann kommen Sie wieder.

Bitte helfen Sie mir: Machen Sie Ihre Freunde auf meine Seite aufmerksam.

Ich lade Sie ein zu der Facebook-Gruppe The Revival of Ancient Angkor,

Freundliche Grüße aus Angkor

von Reinhart Zieger

Wer macht denn hier das Programm?

Gegen Mittag kommt im Ta Prohm die richtige Stimmung auf. Manche kriegen das nicht mit, weil sie nicht in den innersten Hof hineinkommen zu den Wurzeln, wo Lara …Ich sehe nix als Selfies, oder besser gesagt, Menschen, die solche anzufertigen versuchen.

Als ich wieder in den Ta Prohm kam, war’s richtig schön. Nein, zu ruhig war es nicht gerade, aber jeder konnte knipsen, was er wollte.

Wie kommt das? Ich habe mal einen Tour-Guide nach dem Standard-Programm gefragt. Der Ta Prohm ist der letzte Tempel am ersten Vormittag. Das machen mehr oder weniger alle so. Geht man zum Beispiel erst zum Essen ins Kolab Angkor Restaurant, ganz in der Nähe gelegen, kann man danach den Ta Prohm fast für sich allein haben.

Dieses Standard-Programm macht ja durchaus Sinn. Aber was ist mit den anderen?

Ich weiß so gut wie nix. Was ich im Internet darüber lese ist entweder nichtsagend oder haarsträubend. Kennt jemand jemanden, der solche Programme macht.

Vorläufig sieht das so aus: Der Tour-Guide kriegt einen Zettel in die Hand gedrückt. „Dass du dich ja daran hältst!“ Kunden könnten sich beschweren, dass ein Tempel nicht besichtigt worden ist. Der Tour-Guide will keinen Ärger mit dem Auftraggeber. Dieser hat keine Ahnung, was die Namen bedeuten.

Jetzt werbe ich mal für mich selber: Über meine Webseite kriegen Gäste ein durchdachtes Programm.

Aber ich will auch wissen und weitersagen, wer noch gescheite Programme macht.  

Prasat Tor

Der Tempel ist abgelegen; er steht hinter dem Östlichen Baray in der Ecke.

Zwei Türme, nach Osten orientiert, stehen neben einander. Vor dem größeren, südlichen steht ein Mandapa (ein Vorbau).

Es war mit dem Turm durch einen Gang verbunden, von dem noch Reste zu sehen sind.

Das Lintel des südlichen Turms zeigt Shiva über Kala. Kala, die absolute Zeit, die alles verschlingt, ist ein Kopf-Ungeheuer und ein schrecklicher Aspekt Shivas.

Der große Turm hat den gewöhnlichen, abgestuften Aufbau; aber der kleine hat ein altmodisches Tonnengewölbe.

Alles ist aus Laterit gebaut, nur die Tore sind aus Sandstein.

Gebaut wurde der Tempel vielleicht im späten 9. Jahrhundert.

Prasat Tor ist schön gelegen und deshalb einen Besuch wert. In der Nähe steht auf dem Damm des Baray die Ruine eines Stelen-Gehäuses. (Eine Stele ist ein Inschriften-Stein.)

Prasat Tor von Osten. Luftbild mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Dave Taylor.

  • Prasat Tor, Luftbild
    Prasat Tor, Luftbild
  • Prasat Tor von Westen
    Prasat Tor von Westen
  • Prasat Tor, Sdost-Ecke
    Prasat Tor, Sdost-Ecke
  • Prasat Tor, Lintel
    Prasat Tor, Lintel
  • Prasat Tor, Sued-Turm von Nordosten
    Prasat Tor, Sued-Turm von Nordosten
  • Prasat Tor, Blick von Nord-Osten
    Prasat Tor, Blick von Nord-Osten
  • Prasat Tor, Mandapa
    Prasat Tor, Mandapa
  • Stele am Oestlichen Baray
    Stele am Oestlichen Baray
  • Neak-Ta-Schrein bei Prasat Tor
    Neak-Ta-Schrein bei Prasat Tor

Peculiar Angkor Tours

Bicycle tours Along the Walls of Angkor Thom and Around Angkor Wat and Phnom Bakheng. Angkor Conservation is a veritable museum in speakeasy style. Mahendraparvata, the ancient city at the Phnom Kulen. Peung Komnou, surprising reliefs in nowhere land.  The grand and battered Appearance of the Devatas at Phnom Bok. Sun sets best at Phnom Krom ashore of the Tonlé Sap. Trapeang Khyangg is a genuine jungle temple. Trapeang Phong is old, secluded and choice.


  • Around Angkor Wat and Phnom Bakheng
    Around Angkor Wat and Phnom Bakheng
  • Angkor Conservation
    Angkor Conservation
  • Along the Walls of Angkor Thom
    Along the Walls of Angkor Thom
  • Mahendraparvata
  • Phnom Bok
    Phnom Bok
  • Peung Komnou
    Peung Komnou
  • Phnom Krom
    Phnom Krom
  • Trapeang Khyangg
    Trapeang Khyangg
  • Trapeang Phong
    Trapeang Phong

Banteay Chhmar Update

Banteay Chhmar, aerial view from east
Banteay Chhmar, aerial view from east

Banteay Chhmar, plan of the city (CAC)
Banteay Chhmar, plan of the city (CAC)

Banteay Chhmar, plan of the temple (CAC)
Banteay Chhmar, plan of the temple (CAC)

Banteay Chhmar, Demon at the South Causeway
Banteay Chhmar, Demon at the South Causeway

Banteay Chhmar: Demon at the East Causeway
Banteay Chhmar: Demon at the East Causeway

Located a hundred kilometres north-west of Angkor, Banteay Chhmar displays the remains of an ancient city which was centred by an intricate temple plant of enormous size.

A state of indescribable ruin

Aymonier, 1901,

"This temple, which could be ranked among the three or four most beautiful of ancient Cambodia, has fallen (...) in a state of indescribable ruin. It was built on the same level as the ground, but the foundations have certainly been poorly made.
These heavy structures were erected on imported earth only, and soon collapsed under their weight as well as because of the penetration of the rains. (...) The Khmers have never known cement (...)"
(Aymonier 1999, p. 143.)


An inscription at the eastern adjacent temple honours five heroes who lost their lives in the fights after the death of Suryavarman II (about 1150-1181).

Banteay Chhmar was one of the monastic cities which Jayavarman VII (1181-1217/20) founded or extended in his kingdom. Numerous water basins indicate that there were the housings of Buddhist monks.

Banteay Chhmar is located near the Royal Road to Phimai, in the core of the kingdom.


Global Heritage Fund (GHF) has started the restoration at the southern causeway, the south wing of the east gallery, and at a tower in the central complex. Visiting the temple in 2012, I met John Sanday, Field Director of GHF. He told me that now fifty local people are working at Banteay Chhmar.

The central temple

The central temple opens to the east. A Hall of Dancers is adjacent. The centre is where the north-south axis is crossing. There are eight face towers.

The complex looks somehow similar to Preah Khan in Angkor.


"The outer gallery is decorated with important reliefs, very similar to those (...) at the Bayon. (...) Banteay Chhmar presents a striking mix of historic events with religious (...) and mythological themes."

Naval battle

 "High up in the relief, the largest boat has its stern decorated with a devata sculpture, makara and ramming horn. On board, above the sixteen pairs of rowers are soldiers with weapons and standards, and, on a platform, the Khmer leader, wearing a breastplate, in the process of throwing an arrow at the Chams. His hairstyle, with the chignon fixed by a pin ending with a Lokeshvara statuette indicates he might be the king."

Bharata Rahu

"A monstrously large man with the head of a lion, crawling on the ground and about to devour the man with the Cham hat on his chariot. Above is a large man trying to kill an even larger similar monster. (...) The monster depicted is believed to be the Bharata Rahu (?)."

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Originally, the south wing of the west gallery was more than 25 m long and showed eight large images of the bodhisattva; two are still in place.
In 1998 the biggest part of the gallery was dismantled and carried away. Eyewitnesses have reported that they have seen Cambodian soldiers loading the stones on military trucks. 1999 the Thai border police confiscated a truck with the enumerated stones of a 6 m long sector. Later these stones were handed over to the National Museum Phnom Penh, where they are now on display.

Moat and Gates

The core of Banteay Chhmar is the central temple. All other structures are relating to this temple.

  • South Causeway in 2006 and 2012. (A)
  • South-East Corner of the Moat in 2006. In 2012, this place was dirty. (B)
  • East Causeway and ruin of the Outer East Gate in 2006. (C)
  • House of Fire (D)
  • East Gate of the Temple with Terrace. A pair of sprawling Nagas was recently unearthed. Photo courtesy of Alex Angkor. (E)

A beautiful face tower at Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is located south of the southern causeway. The tower and the moat are well preserved. The best light is in the late afternoon.

The Mebon, or: Prasat Samnang Tasok, has another face tower.

Banteay Toap

After some 7 km on the road from Banteay Chhmar to Sisophon, a road goes to the left (west), marked by an adorned doorway. After some 2 km, you see the towers on the right. Five towers were linked by axial galleries and a mandapa at the east. At the east and the west are large entrance buildings. The temple is surrounded by a wide moat and two enclosure walls. At the centre, and at east and south, three towers are still standing upright. Some remains of the original carved wooden ceiling still exist. The towers make an impressive picture; best light is in the afternoon.

Banteay Chmar Gallery

  • Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2006.
    Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2006.
  • Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2006
    Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2006
  • Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2012
    Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2012
  • Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2012
    Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2012
  • Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2012
    Banteay Chhmar: South Causeway in 2012
  • Banteay Chhmar: South-East Corner of the Moat in 2006. In 2012, this place was dirty.
    Banteay Chhmar: South-East Corner of the Moat in 2006. In 2012, this place was dirty.
  • Banteay Chhmar: East Causeway and ruin of the Outer East Gate in 2006.
    Banteay Chhmar: East Causeway and ruin of the Outer East Gate in 2006.
  • Banteay Chhmar: Ruin of the Outer East Gate in 2006.
    Banteay Chhmar: Ruin of the Outer East Gate in 2006.
  • Banteay Chhmar: House of Fire
    Banteay Chhmar: House of Fire
  • Banteay Chhmar: Terrace at the East Gate of the Temple. A pair of sprawling Nagas was recently unearthed. Photo courtesy of Alex Angkor.
    Banteay Chhmar: Terrace at the East Gate of the Temple. A pair of sprawling Nagas was recently unearthed. Photo courtesy of Alex Angkor.
  • Banteay Chhmar: Restoration work in 2012.
    Banteay Chhmar: Restoration work in 2012.
  • Banteay Chhmar: John Sanday, 2012.
    Banteay Chhmar: John Sanday, 2012.
  • Banteay Chhmar: Ta Prohm
    Banteay Chhmar: Ta Prohm
  • Banteay Toap
    Banteay Toap

Visiting Banteay Chhmar

Banteay Chhmar: "Community"
Banteay Chhmar: "Community"

Community Based Tourism

Banteay Chhmar is more than a "second Angkor"

Banteay Chhmar is a relaxed rural place. Visitors are rare. Visiting the temple you may be alone.

The place is in the best sense of the word undeveloped, charming with its naturalness, genuine Cambodian.

Community Based Tourism (CBT) is a great asset of Banteay Chhmar: Visitors are welcomed as guests, and not taken as subjects of exploitation as in Angkor. The money they spend is channelled to the village.

Travelling from Siem Reao to Banteay Chhmar

Taxis to Sisophon start from "near the river", a few meters from La Noria Hotel. For the front seat (which counts for two) you pay $ 10. There are also regular busses running Siem Reap – Sisophon and retour.

In Sisophon you change the taxi at Phsar Thmei ("New Market"), to Banteay Chhmar it is $ 10 again.

In Banteay Chhmar, you head to "Community", the office of CBT.

Back to Sisophon in the afternoon, taxis are at the Bus Station. Have the phone number of your accommodation, as the drivers don't speak English.


  • Aymonier 1999, p. 132-145.
  • Briggs, p. 225-227.
  • Roveda 2005, p. 434-444.
    Vittorio Roveda has thoroughly studied and described the reliefs of Banteay Chhmar. (Citations from there.)
  • Jacques/Lafond, p. 239, 246-255.
  • CAC, Groupe de Banteay Chhmar, 2007
  • Jacques/Lafond, p. 235-240, 246-256.

Photo album

External links

Durga - the Hidden Goddess

Durga at Banteay Srei
Durga at Banteay Srei

The Most Dreadful Goddess – Stronger Than All the Gods Together

The great asura Mahisha, a demon had won a great mythological battle against the gods and taken up residence in their heaven after having expelled them to wander homeless on Earth.

Worried about these events, the gods together with Shiva and Vishnu, concentrated their power [and fury] to create flames that took shape first as a ball of fire and the as the goddess Durga. 

She carried Shiva’s trident, Vishnu’s disc, Indra’s thunderbolt and other attributes from various gods.

The Killer of Mahisha

Riding a lion she defeated the armies of the antigods and fought the demon Mahisha.

To disguise himself, Mahisha ha assumed different shapes including finally that of a buffalo, symbolic of death.

But Durga recognised him and pierced his throat with a spear.

Then, when he tried to escape from his animal body, she cut off his head with a sword.  

At last, the gods were vindicated and could return to their heavenly abode.

(Roveda 2005, p. 169.)

A relief at Banteay Srei 

Durga with eight arms, assisted by her lion, is holding the monster's tail. At the moment when she kills the buffalo, Mahisha escapes by his mouth in human shape. A Naga ties him, and Durga cuts off his head with a sword. (This head is eroded.) 
This image of Durga is unequalled.

Located on the west face of the inner eastern gate pavillion of Banteay Srei, it is now within the closed area, and not accessible to visitors. It should be better presented! 

Durga as the wife of Shiva

Durga is regarded as the spouse of Shiva. In India, Durga is mostly venerated in her terrible aspect as Kali, the Black. In Angkor, she turns to the more convenient Uma, “the Favourable”.

Google: Durga Indian Mythology

The Cult of Durga in Cambodia

Google: Durga Angkor

 “When compared to the Indian pantheon, the Khmer version was limited though consistent. Female deities were reduced to the role of partners or consorts of the gods.”
(Roveda 2005, p. 11.)

Several statues of Durga, from the 7th century, were found in different places in southern and central Cambodia. These sculptures indicate a cult of Durga as an autonomous goddess. Three of them are displayed at the National Museum Phnom Penh. (Dalsheimer, p. 80-86.)

At the central tower of the South Group of Sambor Prei Kuk, built in early 7th century, is a relief of a "flying palace" showing an autonomous Goddess in her own Heavenly residence. I dare say; she is Uma.

King Yasovarman I dedicated Huei Thamo, a temple near Wat Phu in Laos, to Rudrani (= Durga) in 893 AD.

  • Indian Illumination, c. 1800
    Indian Illumination, c. 1800
  • Flying Palace at Sambor Prei Kuk S1
    Flying Palace at Sambor Prei Kuk S1
  • Huei Thamo, photo courtesy of Mark Ord
    Huei Thamo, photo courtesy of Mark Ord