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Banteay Srei

"This one stands out from the rest because it is made of red sandstone. The bas relief carvings are also more intricate than the ones you find at the other temples. Architecturally speaking, it is one of the most beautiful temples to visit."

Although it's out of the way, true temple buffs won't want to miss Banteay Srei, a beautiful 10th-century Hindu temple complex about 23 miles north of Angkor Wat. The temple was completed in 967. Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 25 km north-east of the main group of temples that once belonged to the medieval capitals of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom.

The temple consists of low walls surrounding peaked structures of deep red sandstone. Sandstone lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings which are still observable today. Banteay Srei means "Citadel of Women", and it is said that the reliefs on this temple are so delicate that they could only have been carved by the hand of a woman. The well-preserved relief carvings on the central buildings depict scenes from ancient Hindu tales.

The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the standards of Angkorian construction. These factors have made the temple extremely popular with tourists, and have led to its being widely praised as a "precious gem", or the "jewel of Khmer art".


Banteay Srei (was the only major temple at Angkor not built by the king; instead it was constructed by one of king Rajendravarman's counsellors, Yajnyavahara. Yajnyavaraha's temple was primarily dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva The southern buildings and the central tower were devoted to him, but the northern ones to Vishnu.
It lies near the hill of Phnom Dei 25 km northeast of the main group of temples, where the capital of the time (Yashodharapura) was located.

The temple was subject to further expansion and rebuilding work in the 11th century. At some point it came under the control of the king and had its original dedication changed; an inscription of the early 12th century records the temple being given to the priest Divarakapandita and being rededicated to Shiva. It remained in use at least until the 14th century.

town of Isvarapura was centred on the temple. The modern name, Banteay Srei "citadel of the women" or "citadel of beauty" is generally taken to refer to the intricacy of the carving and the tiny dimensions of the architecture.

This endearing little temple was discovered by the French in 1914, and soon made news when in 1923, a young Andre Malraux - the future French Minister of Culture - was arrested for plundering it. The stolen bits were returned, albeit some of the original pieces are now put away for safekeeping while replicas take their seats.

The incident stimulated interest in the site, which was cleared the following year, and in the 1930s Banteay Srei was restored in the first important use of anastylosis at Angkor. Until the discovery of the foundation stela in 1936, it had been assumed that the extreme decoration indicated a later date than was in fact the case.

To prevent the site from water damage, the joint Cambodian-Swiss Banteay Srei Conservation Project installed a drainage system between 2000 and 2003. Measures were also taken to prevent damage to the temples walls being caused by nearby trees.

two libraries

Within the Inner Enclosure at Banteay Srei are two libraries. These are each made of bricks, red stone and laterite. Each library building has an eastern and a western pediment, each with its own artistic depictions in stone from some event in Indian Hindu mythology.