Banteay Chhmar temple
Remarkable Angkorian ingenuity
What we say:
Banteay Chhmar means Temple of Cats, but it is unclear why it was so named. Built in the late 12th century during the reign of Jayavarman VII, who dedicated it to his eldest son (who had perished fighting the Chams). it is the fourth largest temple in modern-day Cambodia after Preah Khan (in Konpong Svay), Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. While the site's location today seems remote, during the Khmer empire this was a strategic outpost that lay fairly close to the route from Angkor to Phimai (in Thailand) and to the foot of the Dandrek Mountains.
Today there is a wide moat, still partially containing water and within the outer walls, but outside the central shrine, there is a very well preserved example of a fire temple. The central shrine itself is a complicated jumble of ruined corridors and towers. The overall style of the temple is considered to be similar to Ta Phrom and Preah Khan, with the Bayon style face towers probably having been added later during the reign of Indravarman II.
The site is especially famous for its extensive and varied reliefs in the Bayon style, showing not only mythological scenes but also everyday themes and historical events.
You'll encounter amazing bas reliefs, most notably the portrayals of Avalokiteshvara (more commonly known as Lokesvara) on the temple's outer west wall. These are so rare and valuable that only two of the temple's original eight remain. Additionally, Bayon-style towers, ancient inscriptions and passages both crumbled and barely standing can all be found within the complex.
You'll need a few hours to see everything and hiring a local guide is suggested as it's only $5.00 for the day and will ensure that you'll see the temple's finest offerings.
Elderly travellers might have a hard time climbing through the temple's inner rubble; however, much can still be seen just by taking a slow walk around the temple's outer walls.
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