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Cambodia > Pictures and travelogues > Banteay Srei, Citadel of the Women

Banteay Srei, Citadel of the Women, near Angkor in Cambodia: pictures from the outer gopura, the temple, a pediment, and devatas.

Banteay Srei, Citadel of the women, near Angkor: the outer gopura
Banteay Srei, Citadel of the Women, near Angkor in Cambodia: the outer gopura.

Banteay Srei, also known as the 'Citadel of Women' or "Citadel of Beauty", is located about 30 km north of Siem Reap. It dates back to the 10th century and is therefore older than Angkor Thom. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Its original name was Isvarapura, which means City of Shiva. It was built in pink sandstone and laterite under the reign of King Rajendravarman II and completed under that of Jayavarman V. But the owner was not King Rajendravarman II, but his senior advisor who was also the guru of Jayavarman V.

Banteay Srei is a jewel of Khmer art. Decorations cover the whole complex. They are very beautiful and in good condition.

Banteay Srei, Citadel of the women, near Angkor
Banteay Srei, Citadel of the Women, near Angkor in Cambodia.

Discovered by the French in 1914 only, this temple became known due to an embarrassing incident: in 1923, the French writer, André Malraux, then 22 years old, as well as his wife and a friend stole several bas-reliefs of the temple, including 4 apsaras. They planned to resell them to museums or wealthy collectors. They were arrested in Phnom Penh and had to return the bas-reliefs.

The case had a happy epilogue since the Banteay Srei was restored by the French School of the Far East in the 1930s. The French used the technique of anastylosis which aims to rebuild the structure with original architectural elements to the greatest degree possible so that there is little difference between the old and new parts.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency funded the conservation of the temple. In addition, it installed a drainage system and added a small well documented Museum as well as a restaurant.

Banteay Srei, Citadel of the women, near Angkor: a pediment
Banteay Srei, Citadel of the Women, near Angkor in Cambodia: lintel and pediment featuring Shiva.

Open to the East as most Khmer temples, the Banteay Srei is a single level temple. It is surrounded by three enclosures. The laterite outdoor enclosure is 110 m by 95. Two libraries lie to the North and South of the central sanctuary. The later housed essentially a lingam, the phallic representation of Shiva.

The pediments of the two libraries, among many others, are particularly nice. The eastern pediment of the southern library features the multi-headed demon Ravana shaking mount Kailasa. The western pediment shows Kama, the God of love, firing an arrow at Shiva to draw the attention of Shiva to his wife Uma.

The eastern pediment of the northern library shows a scene from the Mahabharata where Indra riding his three-headed elephant produced rain to put out a fire in the Khandava forest. The western pediment of the same library represents Krishna killing his uncle Kamsa who tormented him.

The central tower of the main sanctuary was dedicated to Shiva, the northern tower to Vishnu and the southern tower to Brama. Some pieces that were stolen from the site are now in the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

Banteay Srei, Citadel of the Women, near Angkor: monkey guardians
Banteay Srei, Citadel of the Women, near Angkor in Cambodia: monkey guardians and devatas.


 

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Banteay Srei, Citadel of the Women, near Angkor in Cambodia: pictures from the outer gopura, the temple, a pediment, and devatas. Cambodia travel guide with 200 nice pictures.