Angkor Temples


The meaning of the word “Angkor”

The historical and touristic guides books have extensively copied and pasted a standard traduction of the word ‘Angkor’ as a term derived from the Sanskrit "nagara" that we often meet in the modern Siamese transcript of "Nakhon" and which means both "city" and "kingdom".

But the word "Nokor" also exists in Khmer and we are surely in presence of a word other than "Angkor“ :

Angkor may be a contraction of two Sanskrit words "angk" (= king, prince, religious, divinity, or his painted / carved representations) and indeed "Nokor. Angkor would be the city where dwells the king / living God ion earth, and / or his symbol because the word" angk "is also used to designate the sacred Linga present in the central tower of mountain temples...To simplify: "Angkor" means "Royal or Imperial City”. The word "Angkor" is a Khmer neologism derived from two Sanskrit words, whichfurther designates the two main cities of the ancient archaeological park: one is big: "Angkor Thom, the other small," Angkor Touch, “much better known by its other name: "Angkor Wat“, which thus became the name commonly used to designate the main large stone temple now known worldwide.

Main Angkor Monuments

Angkor Vat

Angkor Vat

Ville-temple brahmanique dédié au culte de Vishnou, construit durant la première moitié du 12ème siècle par le Roi Suryavarman II.

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom (la grande ville) telle qu'on la découvre aujourd'hui est le site de la capitale telle que bâtie au 13ème siècle par Jayavarman VII : ce plan ne sera pas modifié jusqu'à l'abandon de la cité d'Angkor environ un siècle plus tard.
Les principaux vestiges d'Angkor Thom sont concentrés dans un périmètre réduit, ce qui permet une visite complète à pied à travers ce qui constitue la plus fantastique promenade en forêt qu'il soit possible de faire sur la planète Terre.
Ces vestiges peuvent être classés en deux familles correspondant aux réalisations antérieures (Baphuon, Phiméanakas, Khléangs, ...) et postérieures (Bayon, Terrasses, Portes, remparts, ...) au règle de Jayavarman VII.

Angkor Thom


Temple bouddhiste, construit au début du 13ème siècle par le roi Jayavarman VII.

Phnom Bakheng

This monument is the temple-origin of Yacodharapura, first Angkorian main city located on the actual Angkor site. Yacovarman, got bored of his old capitale Hariharalaya (sector of Roluos) decided that the center of the world would be henceforth at the top of this hill, overlooking the river Siem Reap. He made there build a copy, a better one, of the Bakong de Roluos: the Central Mount, Phnom Bakheng. This elegant five levels sandstone pyramid has a design particularly fulled of symbols: There is first this cap of five prasats (there nothing remains any more except the one in the middle) in quincunx that one will find thereafter in the majority of the other temples, because such a unit front view presents only three towers, one for each member of the Hindu trinity (Bhrama, Vishnu, Civa) Moreover, it is girdled by 44 brick towers (formerly stuccoed but completely ruined today) and its steps support 60 small sanctuaries; that means a total of 108 (magic Hindu number) sanctuaries, which means 33 (the number of gods residing on legendary Méru Mount) visible towers on each face But it is by its characteristics of view-point that Phnom Bakheng constitutes, at sunset time, the obligatory point of convergence of tourists (the remote sight of the towers of Angkor Vat emerging from the jungle is indeed splendid)... Consequently, there are many people, noise and depredations. Visitor reaches the monument by the (absolutely ruined) east stairs which rise constitutes almost a exercise of climbing... Or then, he can use the path of the elephants much more civilized and very funny because there is indeed pachyderms, loading tourists and coated waxing (elephants, not tourists) from where this black dress of the most wonderful effect.

Baksei Chamkrong/Prasat Bei

Magnetized by the prospect for the southern Gate of Angkor Thôm, the visitor does not hardly notice this small group nested between Phnom Bakheng and the moats of Angkor Thôm. Baksei Chamkrong is a very elegant small pyramid on three levels, built by one of Yacovarman's sons, i.e. at the beginning of the Angkorian era. Contemporary of Prasat Kravan, it is built out of bricks; the stucco of which it was formerly coated completely disappeared. It has a engraved stele constituting an major source of information on the first Angkorian kings. This is why someone thinks it was an element of the Royal Palace of Yacodarapura, a kind of first Phiméanakas of which he has the shape. Other one says that it is not possible because the temple is located in the first rank of moats surrounding Phnom Bakheng and that only the gods are entitled to live in this sector. Other says: " not-of-all, Baksei Chamkrong is out of these moats " Other says: " why want you that Baksei Chamkrong is different thing that a small brick pyramid? " Etc... Prasat Bey (“three towers”), its small neighbour is slightly posterior: its visit requires only a few minutes and its share of mystery (unfinished temple, aligned with a faraway twin : Prasat Bat Chum) is note easy to find out.

Thomanon - Chau Say Tevoda

The small circuit begins as soon as visitor crosses the " fifth gate " of Angkor Thom (Victoria Gate, in the East). he discovers at a few hundred meters down a first site made up of two small temples laid out symmetrically on both sides of the road. These two temples are twin: they have an identical plan except Thomanon, the one in the north of the road which remains unfinished: two gopuras and a library are missing: the invasion of Chams had maybe put a little disorder on the building works. However, thanks tAo the works of Maurice Glaize, Thomanon offers the image of a lovely small very fresh and very nice temple. Chau Say Tevauda, the one which they had time to complete, is a true example of the Angkorvatian style with most beautiful apsaras that you can imagine... Unfortunately, it is in ruins... But not more for a long time, because a Chinese team magicians masons stone actively occupies itself to give again its splendour of formerly to him.

Ta Kéo

After Angkor Thôm, the road of the “petit circuit” walks us in the forest, crosses the river Siem Reap, and circumvents Ta Kéo (“Crystal Ancestor ") which appears in the edge of a clearing (which is the vestige of Baray Oriental, Yasodaratataka), plunges the visitor into astonishment and joy. This mountain-temple has perfect proportions: the khmer architects pushed-up all the easy ways aiming at accentuating the impression of rise while innovating (surrounding gallery,…) and by purifying (compared to the complexity of the design of the anterior moutain-temples It is only afterwards that one realizes that Ta Kéo is almost completely deprived of sculptures and that it is acted in fact of an unfinished temple. Its construction was first disturbed by the premature death of the good king Jayavarman V, then again with that of the abominable Jayaviravarman usurper whom one did not wish to honour by completing his job. One also says that the central sanctuary was struck by the lightning, and this Juste after the starting of work of ornamentation. This event was interpreted as a refusal of Civa of this new residence. Though it is, Ta Kéo, the future " pyramid with the style of Banteay Srey " with rocked in a less glorious destiny of “temple maudit”

Ta Nei

Ta Nei forms part of these temples forgotten Aby tourists in a hurry and which is usually visited in most complete loneliness. In Ta Kéo, visitor gives up his Motor-Dop before turning on the right towards Ta Prohm; there, he goes up towards to the north a sympathetic forest path which further leads two kilometers to a Gopura. Ta Nei is on the right, in the middle of the forest. The temple appears first in the shape of a laterite enclosing wall square framed of two basin-moats long and narrow. Inside the wall, it is the great classic design of Jayavarman VII times, wich means some small towers-sanctuaries connected by a squared gallery. The parts made of sandstone are richly decorated, but the quality is less good than in - Ta Prohm for example. Moreover, we are sometimes a little afraid of all to receive on the head! Thus, a little mitigated visit, but a true pleasant walk in the nature.

Ta Prohm

However, in this chaos of vegetation and stone lived 12000 people of which the half are monks... Of which the quarter are apsaras (celestial dancers dressed of simple a sarong as well as many jewels). They ate there in gold plates, they slept there in silk cloths. Ta Prohm (Brahma ancestor) is a temple city of 60 hectares, girdled of a laterite enclosure. The temple, built by Jayavarman VII (still him) dedicated to the memory of his mother has a design " full cruciform foot ", i.e. which it looks like Angkor Vat (ditches, three enclosures, cruciform courtyard, quincunx of prassats…), but without any research in raising in degrees the interior parts (like on a pyramid). On the other hand, the axial galleries crossing on the level of the central sanctuary are excessively underlined... And as in Prah Khan and Banteay Kdei, the temple underwent a certain number of additions and transformations scrambling the original cruciform architectural. In additiAon to the magic and the romanticism born of the marriage sculpture-nature Ta Prohm is full of stony wonders mixing with happiness styles of Angkor Vat with those of Bayon.

Banteay Kdei

Banteay Kdei (the citadel with the cells) is the most recent of the "large temples " of Angkor, which does not mean at all - the best preserved : Following the example of its fellow-members - Ta Prohm and PrahKhan, - it underwent heavily the attacks of the jungle invasion. The temple was cleaned-out of it, but with no accompaniment of a true reconstruction and so, visitor feels like chaos which is amplified by the additions and rehandlings operated by the various brotherhoods of monks who followed one another there. Nevertheless, Banteay Kdei remains a very wonderful stopover of the "petit circuit" because it shows the most beautiful stones of Angkor, worked in the totality of their visible surface according to more succeeded "style of Bayon ". The visit can end while pushing to the small artificial lake named Srah Sang.

Prasat Kravan

This small temple is not be forgotten by visitor and it will constitute a short and pleasant stopover (after the two large pieces which are Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei). It is especially full with characteristics that one will not find elsewhere. Prasat Kravan is indeed the only temple whose five towers are aligned on only one line, and not laid out in quincunx. Overall, it contains 3 superb brick low-reliefs (never seen in Angkor!) Vishnu representative, his Lakshmi wife, his Garuda mounting… The whole in an astonishing state of conservation. Athough three towers out of five are decapitated, the sanctuary is perfectly restored yet the coating of white stucco is missing. This state of freshness is a pleasant surpArise, especially if we consider the age of the monument and if visitor has already seen the ruins of Bat-Chum, also made of bricks and also dating from the tenth century. Let's suggest something stupid: to take the 3 roofs of Bat Chum and to move them on the sanctuaries of Prasat Kravan?

Pré Rup

Pre-Rup, the huge works of the reign of Rajendravarman, is a majestic pyramid on three floors to which one allots the function of funerary temple because of its name which means "to turn the body". As us point out these single pink and orange and brown colours, which underline with a particular delicacy the shaving rays of the Angkorian dawns and twilights, Pre-Rup consists of a laterite base and brick towers; the sandstone was used only for the framing of the gates. Unfortunately, this choice of materials causes, especially with regard to the erosion of the towers a first unpleasant impression of advanced ruin. More especially as there is has many towers not only on the node of the pyramid (5 in quincunx) but also on the front side (6 in line) But this rather complex design confers on Pre-Rup a strong personality in which also takes part the originality of the style of its ornamentation. Formerly, like all its brick-laterite predecessors, Pre-Rup was entirely covered with stucco and remained (time that lasts the stucco) only temple mountain of this dimension to raise this white aspect, engraved. And unfortunately transitory.

East Mebon


Yacodaratataka, the large Eastern Baray (gigantic artificial basin detaining the abundant water of the rainy season) contains today few water, allowing the existence of some small rice plantations the output well less brilliance than that of the Angkorian time. In the west, large Western Baray is stAill full of water (advised bathe) but its Mébon, its temple-small island, is in an quasi-ultimate state of ruin...Nobody is perfect. Here, in the East, there is not water, but a very beautiful Mebon, which hardly competes with his " brother " (close immediate in time and in location) the mountain temple of Pre Rup. Rajendravarman wanted indeed all at the same time to occupy the vacant space arranged by Yacovarman in the medium of Eastern Baray, and to build its small personal pyramid . Thus, 2 teams worked simultaneously starting from a similar schedule of conditions, of temple mountain out of laterite, surmounted by a quincunx of brick towers (sandstone being present only in the lintels and the columns) East Mebon thus resembles a copy of the last stage of Pre Rup which one would have posed on a terrace overcoming the surface of water. The comparison stops here, as East-Mébon has its own identity, and its completions - bas-reliefs, statues, lintels. - are of a perfect elegance very often exceeding those of its majestic 3 floored neighbor. So, visitor would forget the advanced state of erosion of its brick towers, which causes at the blunt tourist a first impression of very ruined temple. By contemplating the two lions framing the old unloading dock, he dreams the eyes open to good old days of the city of Angkor, of his artificial lakes, his channels, locks, dams. East-Mebon emerged in the middle of a gigantic motionless mirror in which was reflected the engraved whiteness of its stuccoed towers.

Ta Som

Ta Som (the Som Ancestor) is a kind of mini-Banteay-Kdei of which it is contemporary. And like Banteay Kdei, it would be dazzling after a serious anastylosis. This is why it can be interesting to place this temple in first "plein-pied cruciform " visited, before Prah Khan (located him-also in the largAe circuit), and before even the "plein-pied cruciform" of the "petit circuit" (in order to initiate gradually with this concept of "plein-pied cruciform " Angkorian typicccally) …Instead of removing it from visit program as do it many tourists influenced in that by their motor-dops. Ta Som has an ornamentation worked in the purest " style of Bayon " as us points out it openly gopura it with four faces of Western entrance. If this article is the first of the site which you consult and if you do no understand all, just know that it is "parfaitement normal".

Neak Pean

Neak Pean is an astonishing construction, although declining without transgression but with much elegance great Angkorian architectural principle (square forms, quincunx of sanctuaries.) The general design of this temple plunges us in the surrealist splendour of Angkor to its climax... Neak Pean was a square terrace (350 meters on side), surmounting like an island the smallest three Barays (rectangular artificial basins retaining the abundant water of the rainy season, keystone of the very efficient system of irrigation of Angkor). This small Baray (of its true name: Jayatataka) now drained, extended on 5 kilometers length, between Ta Som and Prah Khan of which it fed the moats. Both other Barays were almost twice larger. This terrace comprises in its center a basin of 75 side meters, girdled steps, and in the medium of which visitor finds the principal sanctuary. That terrace includes a base consisted of a circular rolling up of two stoned Nagas, from where its name (rolled up snakes) Each side of this basin is connected to an additional basin thanks to 4 (elephant, horse, lion, human) khmer adaptations of our gargoils. They are all surmounted by a sanctuary forming quincunx with the central prasat. At the beginning of the century this onAe was capped with a large and very discussed banian: was it necessary or not to preserve it? The lightning put everyone agree by destroying the tree, causing the collapse of the sanctuary at the same time. Concurently, but in another place died the archaeologist Sylvain Lévi, the leader of the party of the "pros-banian". Maurice Glaize rebuilt all and Neak Pean is today in excellent state; it is even more beautiful at the end of the summer, when the water of monsoon fills its basins.

Prah Khan

First (or last) temple of the Large Circuit, Prah Khan (the Crowned Sword) is located on the site of the decisive victory won by Jayavarman VII against the Cham invader; it constitutes the begining of the huge works undertaken by this famous king in the northern sector of Angkor Prah Khan, like the majority of the temples designed according to a one-floored design (Ta-Prohm, Ta-Som, Ta-Nei, Banteay Kdei.) underwent heavily deteriorations due to the invasion of the vegetation. It is currently the object of a huge program of restoration, carried out by World Monument Fund, which, wich will at least, thrust this site in one of the very first of Angkor. While waiting, the visit of Prah Khan constitutes an amazement: There is the impressive size of the monument, which was in fact a true city, girded by a laterite wall, and having as in Angkor Thôm a monumental roadway of access marked out by colossi churning the milk ocean. There is also its plentiful ornamentation, full of lintels, balusters, dévatas, of pilasters...: not the slightest square centimeter of stone were forgotten. Some grumpies will say that all that is not always of the best quality, as the best sculptors of Jayavarman VII were all on the building site of Bayon, etc etc. They will also say to you that the 500 statues representing the numerous godenesAses living formerly in Prah Khan (put for some in various deposits or cambodian museums, but, alas, stolen for the majority) are missing. Prah Khan was at the beginning a boudhist temple devoted by Jayavarman VII to the memory of his father and his ancestors: thereafter, other worships settled from where (regret the grumpy ones) a certain jamming of the purity of the original plan, but also (is delighted the flannor) a big lot of mysterious recesses and pretty small houses of which most famous is that with columns on two levels (which holds still upright one wanders how) the amators of the style Ta Prohm will love in Prah Khan the superb specimens of cheesemongers hurled towards the sky and lengthily rolled up through the galleries and the many monastic cells.