Angkor’s Most Beautiful Temple

Not all Ankgor’s temples impress by their size and complex geometry. Angkor Wat’s sculpture, for example, is often repetitive and stereotyped. One of the temples we visited today, the Banleay Srei, is one of the smallest ones and yet it totally enchants by the transcendental beauty of if its sculptural details.

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Built in 967 it’s unusual in not having been ordered by a king but by two courtiers, Vishnukumara and Yajnararaha. The entrance passageway is lined on both sides by phallic lingaram showing that this temple was dedicated to Shiva. The lintels and columns are wonderful in their delicacy and in the representation of tales from the great Hindu epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. One could spend days rather than the few hours we had at our disposal to make sense and meditate on the intricate book the temple unfolds.

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Banleay Srei has left an indelible impression on me and showed that the inordinate celestiality of Angkor’s thousand plus temples isn’t just a matter of scale but of intimacy. It was a fitting conclusion to our short overview of the world’s greatest (in all senses of the word) religious site.

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