Referred to as “The lady temple”, “The tiny temple”, and “The pink temple”, Banteay Srei is a distinctive emblem of the rich Cambodian heritage. Set apart from the majestic grandeur of the main Angkorian complex, this petite temple offers visitors an experience unlike any other in its vicinity. Originally christened as Tribhuvanamahesvara, Banteay Srei (translating to “citadel of the women” or “citadel of beauty”) seems to derive its name from its unique pinkish hue, intricate depictions of female deities, and its miniature scale.
A Dive into History and Rediscovery
The architectural marvel of Banteay Srei initially mislead historians to place its origins in the 13th or 14th century. However, inscriptions discovered later pinpointed its consecration to 22nd April 967 A.D. Remarkably, it is the only temple not credited to a monarch, but to Yajnavaraha, a royal counselor. The temple witnessed several modifications and remained functional until the 14th century.
Its rediscovery in 1914 was not immediately followed by restoration. However, a theft by a French novelist and politician brought it into the limelight, sparking interest and restoration endeavors. Banteay Srei’s renovation is notable for its pioneering use of anastylosis, which then became a gold standard for restoring other Angkorian sites.
Banteay Srei greets its visitors with an east-facing entrance, leading them through a causeway to three enclosures. This causeway once was flanked by corridors. The temple’s reddish sandstone, responsible for its “pink” epithet, boasts intricate carvings reminiscent of woodwork. Stories from Hindu mythology adorn every possible surface, with the inner enclosure stealing the spotlight with its unprecedented detailing. Though primarily a tribute to Shiva, Vishnu too finds significant representation, especially in the southern structures.
Navigating to the Temple
Located merely 20km from the main Angkor complex and about 30km from Siem Reap’s core, Banteay Srei is easily accessible. The route to this temple offers travelers a visual treat of quaint villages and vast rice paddies. While a tuk-tuk journey provides an immersive experience, those looking for a touch of adventure might prefer cycling. For ease and comfort, taxis remain a reliable option. En route, the Landmine Museum stands as a touching tribute to Cambodia’s past, shedding light on aid initiatives for landmine-affected children.
Choosing the Right Time to Visit
To truly appreciate the temple’s aesthetic, visiting during the early hours of the morning or as the sun sets is ideal. With limited shade to offer, Banteay Srei basks in sunlight, making the cooler hours both a comfortable and visually enchanting experience. The temple’s rosy hue under the shifting colors of dawn and dusk offers photographers a dream canvas.
Entrance and Fees
The admission to Banteay Srei is encompassed within the main Angkor complex pass. Visitors are advised to integrate their trip to this temple with other site visits to ensure value for the ticket price. As one charts their return to Siem Reap, a detour to the often-overlooked Banteay Samre temple promises a tranquil respite from the usual tourist bustle.
A Temple Like No Other
Banteay Srei stands as a testament to Angkor’s versatility. It does not evoke awe with its vastness like Angkor Wat or Bayon. Instead, it captivates with its intricate details and craftsmanship, offering visitors a fresh perspective on the Kingdom of Angkor’s legacy. For those keen on delving deep into Cambodian history, this temple is an unmissable chapter.