Ta Prohm



Ta Prohm

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Perhaps the most evocative and mysterious of all the tem ple structures at Angkor, Ta Prohm, which means Ancestor of Brahma, was originally a Buddhist monastery, built during King Jayavarman VII’s reign. A stone stele at the complex describes how powerful the monastery used to be. At its peak, it owned more than 3,000 villages, and was maintained by 80,000 attendants, including 18 high priests and over 600 temple dancers. The wealth of the temple, and of its founder, Jayavarman VII, is also listed, and included more than 35 diamonds and 40,000 pearls.

The French started their archaeological restoration during the colonial period, and a deliberate attempt was made to preserve Ta Prohm in its existing condition, limiting restoration, and cutting down as little of the dense jungle as possible. As a result, the temple buildings remain smothered with the roots of giant banyan trees, preserving the atmosphere that 19th­century explorers must have experienced. The temple sits on the peak of a hill and has a complex of stone buildings, surrounded by a rectangular laterite wall. The narrow passageways of the structure, along with huge kapok trees, provide relief from the tropical sun, and link a series of musty, darkened galleries. The main entrance is decaying yet magnificent, and filled with images of the Buddha that were recovered from the ruins. Beyond the gate is the fascinating Hall of  Dancers. This must­see sand- stone building rests on square  pillars, and is decorated with false doorways and rows of intricate apsara (celestial dancing girl) bas­reliefs. To the west is the main sanctuary, a simple stone structure distinguished by its jungle setting.

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