Preah Khan is a 12th century Angkorian temple built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, located northeast of Angkor Thom. The temple was originally a Buddhist temple, but after the King passed away, a lot of the Buddhist images were removed and Hindu element were added in. Preah Khan is certainly an atmospheric temple ruin. It is relatively unrestored, with fig trees and numerous other vegetation ‘claiming’ the structures here and giving the temple its characteristic jungle look and ambiance. This is certainly the place to be for that quintessential Indiana Jones type snapshot moment.
The temple was built where Jayavarman VII’s forces claimed victory over the invading Champa Kingdom. The King himself was a warrior, mainly credited with restoring the Khmer Empire after a period of fragmentation.
Preah Khan was dedicated to Jayavarman’s father, represented by a carved image of the Boddhisattva Avalokitesvara (an enlightened being) and made to resemble his dad. The temple’s name means sacred sword, possibly in reference to an ancient Khmer tradition in which past Khmer rulers passed a sword to the successive king. Some historians believe that this sword may have rested here as well.
Preah Khan’s outer walls are made of laterite and contain images of garudas (mythical birdlike creatures) holding nagas (serpent-like creatures) every 50 meters or so. As with most temples, Preah Khan is orientated towards the east, with its main entrance coming from that direction. There are however, entrances from the other three cardinal points.
One outstanding feature of Preah Khan is its two story building at the main eastern entrance. The columns on the first floor are round, a solely unique feature not seen anywhere else in Angkor. The purpose of this building remains unknown. South of this structure is the Hall of Dancers. The walls are decorated with apsara (beautiful celestial nymphs) dancers. As the name implies, the building may have been used for dancing ceremonies and performances. Not too from this building is a high open terrace which may have been used for ceremonies regarding the sword. This is an excellent spot for views of the inner sanctuary. The inner sanctuary itself is single-leveled and the many fallen roofs block several of the passages, giving it an almost maze-like feel.
The temple’s initial clearing occurred in 1927 and partial restoration work was conducted in 1939. Free-standing statues have been removed from the site and placed in museums for safe-keeping. Despite some stabilization work since then, the temple is still relatively unrestored. Many conservators have attempted to balance out restoration work with the ‘jungle’ state that it is in. However, the World Monument Fund, which maintains and looks after Preah Khan insists that the ruined nature of the temple should be respected.
Angkor Thom is certainly home to some of the world’s most beautiful temple ruins. Come and see these fascinating ancient structures with Exotissimo’s Temples of Angkor tour. Not only will you get to see the grandeur of Angkor Wat, you will also discover numerous other temples and ruins in and around the site. We also have Angkor Family Holiday with several activities to keep your children entertained as well as Angkor Romantic Escape, a memorable and intimate temple touring experience with your special someone.
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