Temples in the Style of Angkor Wat
Thommanon, Chau Say Tevoda, Banteay Samré, Prasat Wat Athvea, and Beng Mealea
A number of temples were built from the late 11th century to the middle of the 12th century:
They are in the “Style of Angkor Wat” but most of them seem to predate Angkor Wat.
- Each temple is distinguished by a single dominant and elegant tower with spire, preceded by an elaborated mandapa.
- The temples are Buddhist (not Hindu, as is often said).
- The temples are flat; all elements are on one level.
- They are orientated east, apart from Prasat Wat Athvea which is orientated west.
The temple is located north of the road running from the Royal Palace to the east, near the west bank of the river. It was built in the late 11th or early 121th centuries in the style of Angkor Wat, and was restored 1919-20, 1925-27, and 1961-66.
A tower (T) with antarala (A) and mandapa (M) and a fire shrine (F) are enclosed by a laterite wall (W), some 45 m by 60 m, with gates (G) in the east and west, and a moat. To the east is a terrace (T).
Today visitors enter the temple from south, where the moat is now almost flattened and the enclosure wall has vanished. The original entrance is by the east gate with adjacent terrace.
The tower is cruciform similar to Ta Keo or Phimeanakas, but opens only to the east. The other porches shelter false doors.
"The sanctuary tower has four upper tears and clearly
dominates, as much by the prominence of the finely sculpted … plinth … as by the bold proportions of its corner piers [pillars]. These are
entirely decorated and rise uninterrupted to the full height of the
frontons. … The highly stylised devata are not less remarkable."
(Glaize, p. 131)
In the mandapa and the antarala are well preserved lintel reliefs: Vishnu rescuing the Lord of the Elephants; the elephant is irregularly depicted with three heads, and Vishnu on Garuda.
Most reliefs are on superimposed, 'telescopic' pediments..
Thommanon is a typical Buddhist flat temple
The Buddha is on eye level with his followers. Raised on high pedestals, the buildings of this temple are more or less at one level. Buddhist myths are depicted on reliefs.
The temple is located south of the road from the Royal Palace to the East Mebon (which was built much later). It is linked to the nearby river by an avenue, a stone bridge, and a cruciform terrace. It was built at the middle of the 12th century, it was recently restored by a Chinese team
Enclosed by a laterite wall with four gopura in the cardinal directions, is a tower with antarala and mandapa, and two fire shrines.
Some reliefs at the pediments were thoroughly scratched out at the iconoclasm. That's why Glaize calls the temple 'brahmanic' . But the pediment at the west face of the southern fire shrine marks the temple Buddhist.
Buddhist images are never to be seen in Hindu temples.
The temple is located some 300 m east of the East Baray.
"Like Angkor Wat, Banteay Samré is approached by a long, raised causeway, leading to a cruciform terrace ... The causeway's length, more than 200 m and unfinished to the east, suggests that Banteay Samré enclosed a reasonably sized town as well as a temple at its heart. To the west an avenue of 350 m leads from the East Baray, ending in another cruciform terrace."
There are two enclosures.
- The outer enclosure was framed by a colonnade, the tiled roofs are vanished. Both enclosures have gate pavilions at the cardinal points.
- The inner enclosure is similar to Chau Say but Banteay Samré is framed by a gallery. The buildings inside are framed by narrow platform; the make a way to go around but they also let it look like perched together.
Reliefs are at pediments and lintels, and at the bases of the pilasters at the tower and the mandapa.
Banteay Samré was cleared in 1930 and restored 1936-44.
"Anastylosis has transformed it into one of the finest monuments of the Angkor group, and one of the most complete. Its ornamentation, exceptional in quality and very well preserved in its entirety, became thereafter presented in its unique integrity – it is a pure specimen of the classic art from the finest period where the decoration, shown to its best advantage on a clear background, is itself a function of the architecture."
(Glaize, p. 190.)
Located east of the Phnom Kulen, 25 km from Angkor, Beng Mealea was a large Buddhist monastic city centred by a flat temple.
By the dimensions, by the ground plan, and by the style the temple is similar to Angkor Wat (first half of 12th century) with which it is contemporary. Unlike at Angkor Wat there is no pyramid; Beng Mealea is a Buddhist flat temple. (Reconstruction by Parmentier.)
The central tower is framed by three galleries; the outer gallery measures 190 m by 170 m.
In the east, a cruciform gallery links the first gallery to the second. In the south of the third enclosure are two "palaces" (gallery halls).
The city was surrounded by an enclosure wall and a moat. The moat is crossed by causeways of sandstone. Naga parapets are protecting the edges, which are supported by columns: an imitation of a wooden bridge.
East of it is a Baray; from here, starting with a terrace, an avenue runs to the temple's main entrance. Map.
Beng Mealea is to a great extend collapsed and partially overgrown.
The finest approach is from the Terrace T at the dike of the Baray. (A paved road ends just south of the terrace.)
An Avenue, framed by stone poles and water basins, runs to the main gate of the temple. See the remains of the outer east gate E with Naga paraapet.
Turn right to find the entrance A to the northern and central parts of the complex, accessible by wooden stairways and bridges. This you can do on your own.
The southern and western parts are accessible from inside B, near the south Fire Shrine is the gate to the gallery halls. Here a guide is strongly recommended! Look around.
Leave the temple at the outer south Gate S. Here you can find restaurants R.