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Roluos Group

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These ancient temples have borrowed their name from the small town of Roluos. The oldest monuments in the Angkor area, the temples mark the site of Hariharalaya, the very first Khmer capital established by Indravarman I (r.877–89). Three main com plexes can be found here. To the north of Highway 6, on the way to Phnom Penh  from Siem Reap, is Lolei. Found- ed by Yasovarman I (r.889–910),  this temple stands on an arti- ficial mound in the middle of a  small reser voir, and is based on a double platform, sur rounded by a thick laterite wall. The four central brick towers have surprisingly well­preserved false doors and inscriptions. To the south of Lolei stands Preah Ko or the Sacred Bull. Built by Indravarman I, this Hindu temple was  dedicated to the wor- ship of Shiva. It was  built to honor the king’s parents, as well as Jayavarman II, the founder of the Khmer Empire. The main sanctuary consists of six brick towers rest ing on a raised laterite platform. Close by are three statues of the sacred bull Nandi, for whom the temple was named, which are in a remarkably good condition. The motifs on the false doors, lintels, and columns are very well­preserved. They include kala, mythical creatures with a grinning mouth and large bulging eyes, makara, sea creatures with a trunk­like snout, and Garuda, the eagle mount of the god Vishnu. The temple sits resplen dent in its serene rural setting, and  has undergone large- scale restoration.  Beyond Preah Ko, the huge mass of Bakong cannot be missed. This temple is also dedicated to Shiva, and was founded by Indravarman I in the 9th century. By far the largest monument of the Roluos Group, it is approach ed by a pathway protected by a seven­headed naga, and flanked by guesthouses built for pilgrims. In the center of the complex is an artificial mound representing the mythical Mount Meru, said to be the center of the Hindu world and the abode of the gods. The mount rises in five stages, the first three of which are enhanced by stone elephants on their edges. At the summit rests the square central sanctuary, with four levels and a lotus­shaped tower rising from the middle. The mound is surrounded by eight massive brick towers which, like the rest of Roluos Group, feature finely carved sandstone decorations.

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