Friday, July 25, 2014

Siem Reap : The Intricate Carvings of Banteay Srei

Awesome Bas Relief of Banteay Srei
"Bantãy Srĕi" means Citadel of Women or Citadel of Beauty. It is the modern name of a 10th-century Khmer temple originally called "Tribhuvanamaheśvara" or Great Lord of the Threefold World, an appellation of the god Siva. Banteay Srei is known for the intricacy of its bas relief carvings that historians says could only be done by gentlest of woman's touch.

Angkor Jewel

Gorgeous Pediment

I consider Banteay Srei as my favorite place in Siem Reap. It wasn't as big as Angkor Thom or as popular as Angkor Wat but it is unrivaled when it comes to intricate designs of its carvings. The site consists of three concentric rectangular enclosures constructed on an east-west axis. A causeway situated on the axis leads from an outer gopura, or gate, to the third or outermost of the three enclosures. 

Entrance with a View

Gopura

The inner enclosure contains the sanctuary, consisting of an entrance chamber and three towers, as well as two buildings conventionally referred to as libraries. It's a bit out of the way compared to other Angkor sites, but Banteay Srei is among the most beautiful for sure. Despite the relatively diminutive size, the colors of the sandstone and intricacy of the carvings create a sense of immersion into the Angkor Empire.

"Kala" - Mythical Creature of God Siva

Amazing Reliefs

Banteay Srei has the best preserved carvings I have seen in Siem Reap. The carved walls are roped off so a close inspection is not possible but you can still see a lot of details. A special feature here is the depth of the carvings which means that there are two or sometimes three interconnected layers of images, rather than the ususal one or two discrete layers.

Strong Window

Khmer Writings on the Wall

The temples in Banteay Srei is built largely of a hard red sandstone that can be carved like wood. Brick and laterite were used only for the enclosure walls and some structural elements. The temple is known for the beauty of its sandstone lintels and pediments.

Of Walls and Windows

Intricate Red Carvings

A pediment is the roughly triangular space above a rectangular doorway or openings. At Banteay Srei, pediments are relatively large in comparison to the openings below, and take a sweeping gabled shape. For the first time in the history of Khmer architecture, whole scenes of mythological subject-matter are depicted on the pediments.

Siva Nataraja

A God and A Mythical Creature

On the other hand, a lintel is a horizontal beam spanning the gap between two posts. Some lintels serve a structural purpose, serving to support the weight of the superstructure, while others are purely decorative in purpose. The lintels at Banteay Srei are beautifully carved, rivalling those of the 9th century Preah Ko style in quality. 

Curves and Carves

The Mandapa

Noteworthy decorative motifs include the kala (a toothy monster symbolic of time), the guardian dvarapala (an armed protector of the temple) and devata (demi-goddess), the false door, and the colonette. Indeed, decorative carvings seem to cover almost every available surface.

Citadel of Women


"Given the very particular charm of Banteay Srei – its remarkable state of preservation and the excellence of a near perfect ornamental technique – one should not hesitate, of all the monuments of the Angkor group, to give it the highest priority." At Banteay Srei, "the work relates more closely to the art of the goldsmith or to carving in wood than to sculpture in stone". 

Note: Some texts and reference materials were from here.

19 comments:

  1. What an awesomely beautiful place, Oman!! And your captures are superb -- the next best thing to my being there in person! Thank you for sharing the incredible beauty and history!! Have a wonderful weekend!!

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    1. Hi Sylvia, this is my favorite place in Angkor :)

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  2. I must say that these are eye-popping and beautiful work of art.

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    1. Hi Mhela, yup, eye-popping indeed.

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  3. You'll leave a little encore from the center, but it ruins you want to see by all means. After all, sculptures dug firmly in the red stone is wonderful. It is a really small ruins compared to Angkor Wat, but the quality is much above the sculpture. While it is regrettable that not only seen from a distance because the rope is stretched in front of the famous "Mona Lisa of the East". By the way, because I was carried out by chartered car first thing in the morning, the congestion was not even a medium in size, tourist bus arrived one after another time to go home after you have composed look. It seems that it is a small ruins, and write each other fairly organizations and conflicting several pairs. I think people who want to see slow is good to avoid as much as possible and the time zone tour is likely Kachiai.

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  4. Wow, this a lovely place. Would love to go there too.

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    1. Hi Vanessa, you should go there. Khmer are one of the kindest people I have met so you won't have any problem with them haha.

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  5. Astig ng last pic, parang inukit lang :p

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  6. This place is GOLDEN!!!

    Ang ganda ng detalye ng mga walls. :)

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    1. Hi Rizalenio. I know right? Golden talaga lalo na pag natamaan ng sinag ng araw.

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  7. I just returned from Siem Reap but did not visit this place but went for the bike adventure instead :). Your photography skills is amazing.

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    1. Thanks Alice, one of my favorite places in Siem Reap is this small but very detailed Banteay Srei.

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  8. one of my favorite temples in Siem Reap! cause it's small but have very intricate designs! ganda ng "strong window" shot. :)

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    1. thanks ed, favorite ko din tong lugar na to. ganda kasi ng detalye at craftsmanship :)

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  9. BEautiful photos and informative post. It is also my favorite in Siem Reap. Also the pink sandstone used is unique for Banteay Srei.

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