With just half a day left in Siem Reap, we decide to wake up early next morning and visit Banteay Srei. It’s 25 km away from the other temples and one hour by tuk tuk, but the ride there through the country side was the most pleasant one. The endless views of the flatlands of Cambodia, the early morning chilly breeze and the soft sunlight of the rising sun was refreshing. A cup of tea would have made it perfect!
Banteay Srei is a beautifully carved red sandstone temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Called the ‘Jewel of Khmer art’, it was built-in the 10th century by a courtier named Yajnavaraha, who served as a counsellor to king Rajendravarman II. The temple is also called ‘Citadel of women’, probably because of the intricacy of the carvings on the temple, believed to be done by women.
I am surprised as I see the temple for the first time, as it looks quite small, like a miniature model compared to all the other gigantic temples I had seen earlier. As we walk closer and enter the main gate, I realize how extravagant the bas reliefs are and how intricately they’ve been carved and restored.
It is one of the first temples to be restored by the Anastylosis method, a reconstruction technique in which the ruined monument is restored using the original architectural elements to the greatest degree possible. Borobudur in Java is another temple restored by this method.
Rightly called the ‘Ruby of Angkor’, the temple is the most beautiful one at Angkor. There are devatas and mythological creatures carved on the walls. The carvings still look very fresh and alive in spite of time. It’s amazing to walk around the temple and experience how beautiful it would have looked in those times.