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Banteay Srei Temple
Banteay Srei literally means the “Citadel of Women” and the site of this temple as it is known by locals, was originally called Isvarapura meaning the City of Isvara, one of the name of Shiva while the real name of its deity or the temple per se in the Sanskrit Inscription found in the temple is called Tribhuvarnamahesvara meaning “A Great Lord Of The Threefold World”. It was rediscovered by the French in 1914 but the site was not cleared until 1924. The looting of many important pieces of sculpture and lintels by a European Expedition, meticulously planned by the young Frenchman Andre Malraux, his wife and friend caused a great scandal in 1923. The looters were held under house-arrest in PP and only released after the return of the stolen pieces. One surprised story is that in 1940s he was appointed as the minister of culture in France. Banteay Srei is the first temple to have been restored in 1931 to 1936 through the process of Anaslylosis after Mr. Henri Marchal studied this method from the Dutch who rebuilt Borobudur in Indonesia. The special charm of this monument lies in its remarkable state of preservation, small size and its excellence of intricate décor and also its stunning features are the pediments of the Entry Gateway in the triangular form, at the top of pediment is a lotus’ petal within the praying figure of divinity and at the both sides of pediment in the convoluted motif. The two libraries are adorned with so beautifully false doors and the triple superimposed pediments. The unanimous opinion among the French archaeologists who worked at Angkor marveled that it is a precious gem and jewel in Khmer art. It was consecrated in 967AD so it was one year before the king Rajendravarman II demised (He ruled from 944 to 968) but however, it was not a royal temple, it was built by his advisor Yajnavarha who was later the guru of the future king, Jayavarman V. when the king still alive he granted this site to his adviser to rule over. The temple was surrounded by three enclosure walls with the Gopuras at the east and west axis, the two outers built of laterite (larva rock) and the inner of brick and built with 3 towers, the central one connected by antechamber and at the both side of the antechamber are the libraries, The concentric halls or called gallery in between the two outers used as the rest house for pilgrims, these 3 towers, according to the inscription, are the south and central for Shiva and north for Vishnu. And the temple proper connected by laterite causeway at the east. The causeway is decorated with 2 rows of poles which represented lanterns or lamp-poles and the long halls at both sides are also rest-houses.
95mx110m, 38mx42m, 24mx24m and causeway 67m
The Story Of Hindu Mythology In Banteay Srei:
- On the pediment of the eastern inner Gopura: the haut-relief depicts Shiva is dancing to smash the beauty of the widow named Karikalameya (you see her at the left corner) even if she is widowed but is so stunning beautiful; many princes and kings fight or killed each others to win her so she, the follower of Lord Shiva, doesn’t want seeing someone die and she prays and invoke to age her (to make her ugly).
- The relief on the pediment of the northern library facing east unravels the fire god Agni, having exhausted his strength by devouring too many sacrificial offerings, determines to set on fire the entire Khandava forest and devour it as a means of regaining his power. He is prevented from doing so by Indra’s torrential rain, but obtaining the help of Krishna and Arjuna he battles Indra and accomplishes his objective. The two figures standing on the chariot and shooting an arrow are Krishna and Arjuna while Indra on three elephants. This myth invented when the Hindu Brahmin tried to convinced people believing in Krishna, the 8th incarnation of Vishnu.
- The relief on the pediment of the NL facing east depicts Krishna slays his uncle Kamsa because his uncle killed his 6 brothers at birth and the son of his parents’ preceptor (Sandipani). After having killed his uncle he and his brother Balarama entered the realm of the dead to bring back to life the 6 slain brothers and the son of Sandipani. Sacred Angkor GuideBook, Pages 207
- The relief on the pediment of the southern library facing east unfolds one day, the ten-faced and 20-armed Rakshasa Dashanana (Ravana), Lord of Lanka, takes his Pushpaka chariot over the Savanna forest of reeds surrounding Mount Kailasa. Suddenly his cart comes to a stop at the foot of the mountain where Shiva is frolicking with Parvati. Nandi (Lord Shiva’s guardian, here he is in the form of monkeylike human) appears to inform Dashanana and friends that the mountain is a forbidden area. Ravana becomes furious and ridicules the situation and the simian look of Nandi. On hearing this, Nandi feels provoked and curses him by prophesying that one day monkeys will destroy him and race. Enraged by this prophecy, by being denied access to the mountain and also by Shiva’s great power to continuously sport with Parvati, Ravana decides to uproot Mt. Kailasa. Then he seizes the mountain in his arms and shakes it causing the mountain to tremble. The attendants of the god (gana) shiver and Parvati, terrified, clings to the neck of Lord Shiva. Then, as if part of a game, Shiva with his toe press down on the mountain crushing the arms of the Rakshasa, who emits a terrible cry causing the threefold world to tremble. Having heard this in the skies, Indra and the gods supplicate Shiva to release him. Shiva obeys and lets him go, but declares his name to be Ravana “the one who causes the worlds to cry out”. Ravana then begs the Lord to grant him the boon that no gods, anti-gods or monster will ever kill him ‒ he doesn’t consider men as they are too insignificant. Shiva condescends, and Ravana, leaving on his cart after paying obeisance to him, returns to the worlds where he will spread misery and death.
- The relief on the pediment of S L facing west reveals Kama, the god of love shoots his arrow to Shiva. In the Shiva Purana it is said that the demon Taraka, having propitiated Brahma by means of asceticism, obtains the boon that he could not be killed by any of gods, but only by someone who was born from the seed of Shiva. He brings havoc amongst the gods, including Vishnu. In order to restore peace, Indra summons Kama, the god of love (he who is born in the mind) and charges him to distract Shiva from his meditation and turn his mind towards lovemaking with Parvati. When he reaches the place where Lord Shiva is sitting in meditation, he releases his passion arrow to wake Shiva from his absorption in meditation but his arrow can’t hurt, wake or turn him towards lovemaking with Parvati. Suddenly, Shiva opens his third eye and burns him to ashes. On seeing this, Parvati faints, and when she regains consciousness, she asks shiva to resuscitate Kama, because without him there would be no feeling between man and woman, no happiness. Also Rati, Kama’s spouse, implores Shiva to bring her husband back. Shiva then makes Kama arise from the ashes in the disembodied form, indefinable, and “going here and there like the wind”.