Last day of my Siem Reap tour and I finally reach Banteay Srei or The Citadel of Women, the 10th Century templenear the hill of Phnom Dei. It’s a good 40 minutes drive to reach. Banteay Srei is known for its intricate decoration carved in pinkish sandstone that covers the walls like tapestry. Like other Khmer temples Banteay Srei too is east facing and the fourth eastern gopura or gate is the only one that survived in the outer wall. The entrance at present is from the east by a short doorway barely one meter high.
Banteay Srei is a Shiva temple built by the courtiers of King Rajendravarman, Vishnukumara and Yajnavaraha. It’s called the Jewel of Khmer art and rightly so. Every bit of this temple is a work of art with delicate and intricate carving.
This temple complex is carved out of pink hue stone and is very well preserved. The carvings are so delicate that people believe it must have been carved by a woman and hence Banteay Srei is also called Citadel of Women.
Banteay Srei is comparatively smaller size and its believed that the reason behind its miniature size is the fact the it was built by a priest and not the king, hence its size can not be equal to or larger than the ones built by king. This temple complex has low walls surrounding peaked towers built in red sandstone. It’s architectural style is a mix of archaic and innovative.
Every bit of the walls and doorways are decorated with delicate carvings of lead motifs and female figures. The carvings include scenes from Ramayana and also of Hindu deities, along with the seven head Naga the symbol of Naga kingdom.
This temple is built of hard red sandstone which can be carved like wood.
Around the temple there are armed dwarapals or door keepers carved out of stone having Monkey, lion or bird head. They are the guardians of the temple.
The guardian statues protect the six stairways leading up to the sanctuaries
False doors carved out of stone are a part of almost every temple in Angkor
Banteay Srei beauty can not be described in words, it’s something one has to experience just like the sunrise over Angkor Wat.
Every journey has to end to make way to start another new journey. After spending four days amidst these “ruins” that spoke to me about the glorious past of the culture, civilisation and the religion I belong to, I say good bye with a heavy heart, till we meet again. One trip can never be enough to satisfy the explorer in me. I will come back again !!
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta