Koh Ker Tem­ple

Cambodia Insight - - CONTENTS -

Koh Ker is a re­mote ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site in north­ern Cam­bo­dia about 120 kilo­me­tres (75 mi) away from Siem Reap and the an­cient site of Angkor. It is a very jun­gle filled re­gion that is sparsely pop­u­lated. More than 180 sanc­tu­ar­ies were found in a pro­tected area of 81 square kilo­me­tres (31 sq mi). Only about two dozen mon­u­ments can be vis­ited by tourists be­cause most of the sanc­tu­ar­ies are hid­den in the for­est and the whole area is not fully dem­ined.

Koh Ker is the mod­ern name for an im­por­tant city of the Kh­mer em­pire. In in­scrip­tions the town is men­tioned as Lin­ga­pua (city of lingams) or Chok Gar­g­yar (some­times trans­lated as city of glance, some­times as iron tree for­est).

Un­der the reign of the kings Jayavar­man IV and Har­shavar­man II Koh Ker was briefly the cap­i­tal of the whole em­pire (928–944 AD). Jayavar­man IV forced an am­bi­tious build­ing pro­gram. An enor­mous wa­ter-tank and about forty tem­ples were con­structed un­der his rule. The most sig­nif­i­cant tem­ple-com­plex, a dou­ble sanc­tu­ary (Prasat Thom/prang), fol­lows a lin­ear plan and not a con­cen­tric one like most of the tem­ples of the Kh­mer kings. Un­par­al­leled is the seven-tiered and 36-me­tre (118 ft) high pyra­mid, which most prob­a­bly served as state tem­ple of Jayavar­man IV. Re­ally im­pres­sive too are the shrines with the two-me­ter 6 ft 7 in high lin­gas.

Un­der Jayavar­man IV the style of Koh Ker was de­vel­oped and the art of sculp­ture reached a pin­na­cle. A great va­ri­ety of won­der­ful stat­ues were chis­elled. Be­cause of its re­mote­ness the site of Koh Ker was plun­dered many times by loot­ers. Sculp­tures of Koh Ker can be found not only in

dif­fer­ent mu­se­ums but also in pri­vate col­lec­tions. Mas­ter­pieces of Koh Ker are of­fered oc­ca­sion­ally at auc­tions. These pieces in present times are con­sid­ered stolen art.

The site is about two and half hours away from Siem Reap, and ba­sic vis­i­tors’ fa­cil­i­ties are now be­ing built. This makes Koh Ker very at­trac­tive for any­one who would like to ex­pe­ri­ence lonely tem­ples partly over­grown by the for­est.

Since 1992 the site of Koh Ker is on the UNESCO ten­ta­tive world her­itage list.

Ge­og­ra­phy

Koh Ker is sit­u­ated be­tween the south­ern slopes of the Dan­grek moun­tains, the Kulen moun­tains (Ph­nom Kulen) in the south­west and the Tbeng moun­tain (Ph­nom Tbeng, near Tbeng Meanchey) in the east. Most parts of the hilly ground are cov­ered by jun­gle, but most of the trees shed their leaves sea­son­ally. In the sec­ond part of the 19th cen­tury, as French re­searchers and ad­ven­tur­ers ranged the forests around the site of Koh Ker the game pop­u­la­tion was im­pres­sive.

His­tory

Jayavar­man IV

The city of Koh Ker was passed by the most im­por­tant strate­gic route of the Kh­mer em­pire. Com­ing from Angkor and Beng Mealea to Koh Ker this road led to Prasat Preah Vi­hear and from there to Phi­mai in Thai­land and Wat Phu in Laos. The re­gion of Koh Ker is rel­a­tively dry. Nu­mer­ous wa­ter-tanks and canals were built dur­ing the 9th and the 10th cen­tury to en­sure the wa­ter sup­ply. These days wa­ter is pumped up from a depth of 30 to 40 me­tres (98 to 131 ft) me­ters. Jayavar­man IV ruled from 928 to 941 at Koh Ker. Prob­a­bly he was a lo­cal king at this re­mote site (his home­land?) be­fore he be­came king of the whole em­pire. That could ex­plain why he pre­ferred to has his res­i­dence at Koh Ker and not at Roluos (Har­i­har­alaya) or at Yashod­hara­pura (Angkor) like the kings be­fore him. Some his­to­ri­ans think that Jayavar­man IV was an usurper.

But the ma­jor­ity of them say that he was a le­gal ruler and could as­cend the throne be­cause he mar­ried a half-sis­ter of king Yaso­var­man I (889 – 900). It seems to be sure, that the two sons of Yaso­var­man I (Har­shavar­man I, who ruled from 900 to 922 and Isanavar­man II, who ruled from about 922 to 925) had no chil­dren.

In the short time as Jayavar­man IV reigned in Koh Ker an am­bi­tious build­ing pro­gram was re­alised. That was only pos­si­ble be­cause of a re­stric­tive sys­tem of rais­ing taxes as in­scrip­tions say. About 40 tem­ples, the unique seven-tiered pyra­mid and a huge baray (wa­ter-reser­voir) were built. Un­der Jayavar­man IV the Koh Ker-style was de­vel­oped and the art of sculp­ture reached a pin­na­cle.

Har­shavar­man II

Af­ter the de­cease of Jayavar­man IV the des­ig­nated prince did not be­came his heir. Har­shavar­man II (another son of Jayavar­man IV) claimed the throne. Like his fa­ther he ruled at Koh Ker (941 – 944) but af­ter three years he died. It was prob­a­bly not due to nat­u­ral causes. No tem­ples at Koh Ker can be as­cribed to him. His fol­lower on the throne (a cousin of his) went back to Roluos (Har­i­har­alaya).

Koh Ker af­ter 944 AD

Even af­ter 944 as the cap­i­tal of the Kh­mer Em­pire had changed back to the plains north of the Tonle Sap-lake some more tem­ples were built at the site of Koh Ker. At the be­gin­ning of the 13th cen­tury the last sanc­tu­ary was re­alised there. Un­der Jayavar­man VII the Prasat An­dong Kuk, a so-called hos­pi­tal-chapel was built (one of more than 100 hos­pi­tal-sanc­tu­ar­ies at­trib­uted to this ruler).

His­tory of re­search

19th cen­tury

In the sec­ond half of the 19th cen­tury, the French re­searchers Lunet de La­jon­quière and Éti­enne Ay­monier came to Koh Ker. They saw the main tem­ple-com­plex Prasat Thom/prang, the Baray and a group of linga-shrines. They also dis­cov­ered a few sub­sec­tions of a chaussée (i.e. high­way) with a breadth of more than 8 m (26 ft). They sup­posed that a road once con­nected Koh Ker with Wat Phu (to­day in south­ern Laos). In about 1880 mem­bers of a French ex­pe­di­tion ar­rived at Koh Ker and looted nu­mer­ous stat­ues and re­liefs. These pieces are now in the Musée Guimet in Paris.

20th cen­tury

At the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury art his­to­ri­ans re­alised that a full-fledged style was de­vel­oped at Koh Ker. Ge­orges Coedès con­cluded from in­scrip­tions that Koh Ker was cap­i­tal of the Kh­mer em­pire (928 – 944 AD) un­der the reign of Jayavar­man IV and his fol­lower Har­shavar­man II. In the 1930s again French re­searchers came to Koh Ker. They dis­cov­ered nu­mer­ous mon­u­ments and counted fi­nally fifty sanc­tu­ar­ies in an area of 35

square kilo­me­tres (8,649 acres). Henry Par­men­tier made a num­ber of masterful draw­ings. Af­ter an in­ter­rup­tion be­cause of the reign of ter­ror of the Kh­mer Rouge, re­search at Koh Ker con­tin­ued with the work of AP­SARA, French, Ja­panese and Aus­tralian sci­en­tists.

21st cen­tury

At the be­gin­ning of the 21st cen­tury sci­en­tists con­cluded that not all of the mon­u­ments could have been built in the short time when Koh Ker was cap­i­tal of the Kh­mer em­pire (928 – 944 AD). A new era started at Koh Ker as pho­to­graphs made by satel­lites were an­a­lysed. In 2004 the pro­tected area was ex­tended to 81 square kilo­me­tres.

For five years Ja­panese re­searchers ex­plored and de­scribed 184 mon­u­ments (in­clud­ing the ex­act po­si­tion). The Aus­tralian re­searcher Damian Evans and his team were able to ver­ify La­jon­quière’s the­ory that there once was a Kh­mer route be­tween Koh Ker and Wat Phu, prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant strate­gic road built in the Kh­mer em­pire.

Re­li­gion

Be­fore Koh Ker be­came the Kh­mer cap­i­tal (928 AD) nu­mer­ous sanc­tu­ar­ies with Shiva-lin­gas ex­isted al­ready. Koh Ker was a cult site where Shiva had been wor­shipped a long time. Also Jayavar­man IV was an ar­dent worshipper of this Hindu god. As later kings (whose res­i­dence was not in Koh Ker) changed from Hin­duism to Bud­dhism they gave or­ders to make the nec­es­sary ad­just­ments at their tem­ples. Be­cause of its re­mote­ness for­tu­nately the sanc­tu­ar­ies at Koh Ker were spared from these in­ter­ven­tions.

In­scrip­tions

Sev­eral in­scrip­tions were found which men­tion Koh Ker as cap­i­tal of the em­pire so in Siem Reap, Bat­tam­bang, Takeo and Kam­pong Cham (city). From in­scrip­tions dis­cov­ered at Koh Ker one can con­clude that more than ten thou­sand peo­ple lived at Koh Ker when it was the cap­i­tal from 928 to 944 AD. The in­scrip­tions ex­plain too how man­power was or­gan­ised: taxes in form of rice were raised in the whole coun­try and served to pro­vide the work­ers who came from dif­fer­ent prov­inces.

An in­scrip­tion at Prasat Dam­rei says that the shrine on the top of the state tem­ple (Prang) houses a lingam of about 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in) and that the erec­tion of this Shiva-sym­bol gave a lot of prob­lems. A San­skrit in­scrip­tion at Prasat Thom gives ev­i­dence of the con­se­cra­tion of a Shiva-lingam 921 AD which was wor­shipped un­der the name of Trib­hu­vanesh­vara (“Lord of the Three­fold World”).

Style of Koh Ker

None of the im­mense, ex­pres­sive and beau­ti­ful sculp­tures are left at the site. Nu­mer­ous of them were stolen and are stand­ing now in mu­se­ums and also in pri­vate col­lec­tions. Some stat­ues were put away by govern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions to pro­tect them from loot­ers. Many mas­ter­pieces of Koh Ker are now in the col­lec­tion of the Na­tional Mu­seum in Ph­nom Penh.

In late 2011, the re­mote lo­ca­tion drew me­dia at­ten­tion world­wide when Sotheby’s at­tempted to sell a statue of a myth­i­cal Kh­mer Em­pire war­rior. In March 2012, the US and Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ments filed court doc­u­ments to seize the statue that they pur­port was il­le­gally re­moved from the site. A twin statue, also linked to the Koh Ker site, is on dis­play at the Nor­ton Si­mon Mu­seum in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia, USA.

An­cient city Koh Ker

The cen­ter of the an­cient city was in the northeast cor­ner of the baray (wa­ter-tank). As in­scrip­tions say at least ten thou­sand in­hab­i­tants lived there dur­ing the rule of Jayavar­man IV. Some au­thors speak about a square wall with a side length of 1.2 km (1,312 yd) which should have pro­tected the town. But new re­searches in­di­cate, that the lin­ear struc­tures found in this part of Koh Ker were dykes of an­cient canals. No arte­facts are found of the wooden build­ings of the time.

La­t­erite, sand­stone and brick were used as con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als in Koh Ker. La­t­erite and sand­stone of ex­cel­lent qual­ity were quar­ried in great quan­ti­ties in the re­gion of Koh Ker. So the trans­port of stones was no prob­lem. The bricks pro­duced were small, reg­u­lar and very solid. A thin layer of or­ganic mor­tar (plant sap?) of un­known for­mula was used.

Af­ter more than a mil­len­nium the brick sanc­tu­ar­ies in Koh Ker are in a much bet­ter con­di­tion than the la­t­erite ones. The roofs of some tem­ples in Koh Ker had a wood con­struc­tion and were cov­ered with tiles. In these mon­u­ments one can find the holes for

the gird­ers. The main sanc­tu­ary (the tem­ple-com­plex Prasat Thom/prang) was not stand­ing in the mid­dle of the an­cient city.

Wa­ter-tanks

Ra­hal

The huge Baray (wa­ter-tank) called Ra­hal is the largest ob­ject at the site of the an­cient cap­i­tal Koh Ker. Its length is about 1,200 m (1,312 yd) and its breath about 560 m (612 yd). The wa­ter-tank has three dams cov­ered by steps of la­t­erite. The ori­en­ta­tion of the Ra­hal is not from east to west like the huge wa­ter-reser­voirs in Angkor; it fol­lows an ori­en­ta­tion of North 15° West. Be­cause the most im­por­tant mon­u­ments at Koh Ker have the same ori­en­ta­tion one can con­clude that the Baray was con­structed first of them. The Ra­hal was carved out partly of the stone ground but its not clear if a nat­u­ral hol­low was the rea­son for its ori­en­ta­tion. These days most parts of the Baray are dried out and cov­ered by grass. Some pud­dles can be seen in the cor­ner next to the dou­ble-sanc­tu­ary.

Tra­peang An­dong Preng

200 m (219 yd) south of the dou­ble-sanc­tu­ary Prasat Thom/prang is a basin dug into the earth with a length of 40 m (44 yd). It has steps of la­t­erite on all sides. Dur­ing the rainy sea­son the wa­ter is stand­ing to a depth of 7 m (23 ft 0 in). The Tra­peang An­dong Preng does not be­long to a tem­ple. But it could have been a royal bath, be­cause near this place was once the wooden palace of the king.

Tem­ples and shrines

Com­plex of the dou­ble sanc­tu­ary

Prasat Thom/prang

Lin­ear plan

The com­plex of the main mon­u­ment in Koh Ker has a lin­ear plan and is about 800 me­tres (875 yd) long. Its ori­en­ta­tion is E15°N, that is rec­tan­gu­lar to the Baray. The park­ing area cuts the com­plex in two parts. On the east side of the park­ing are two struc­tures, called palaces. On the west side are the other mon­u­ments. They are stand­ing be­hind the restau­rants and are from east to west: an im­mense en­trance pav­il­ion, two tow­ers, a red brick en­trance-tower (Prasat Kra­hom), a sur­round­ing wall with two courts (in the east­ern court is the tem­ple-com­plex Prasat Thom with a moat, in the western court stands the seven tiered pyra­mid, named Prang). Be­hind the en­clo­sure is an ar­ti­fi­cial hill, the so-called Tomb of the White Ele­phant. Ex­cept the Prasat Kra­hom and

the Prang (pyra­mid), this tem­ple-com­plex is in a bad con­di­tion.

Palaces

At the east side of the park­ing area are two struc­tures the so-called palaces. Each con­sists of four rec­tan­gu­lar build­ings sur­round­ing a court. All eight build­ings have three rooms, some have a pa­tio with pil­lars. Pos­si­bly these palaces served as med­i­ta­tion or prayer-rooms for the king or for the no­bles.

En­trance pav­il­ion and la­t­erite tow­ers

Be­tween the palaces and the clos­est mon­u­ment is a dis­tance of 185 me­tres (607 ft). On the left side of the park­ing area (be­hind the restau­rants) is the im­pres­sive en­trance pav­il­ion made of sand­stone. It stands 45 me­tres (148 ft) away from the dou­ble sanc­tu­ary and has a cru­ci­form ground-plan. The cross­bar is 60 me­tres (197 ft) long; the stringer has a length of 30 me­tres (98 ft). Par­al­lel to the cross-bar are two halls. Di­rectly be­hind the en­trance-pav­il­ion are the ru­ins of two huge la­t­erite tow­ers.

Prasat Kra­hom

Be­hind the ru­ins of the en­trance-pav­il­ion and the la­t­erite tow­ers is an im­pres­sive red brick tower, called Prasat Kra­hom (kra­hom = red), which gives en­trance to the en­closed mon­u­ments. It has a cru­ci­form plan, is in a good con­di­tion and once housed a statue of the Danc­ing Shiva with five heads and ten arms. The sculp­ture of a height of 3.50 me­tres (11 ft 6 in) is bro­ken com­pletely. A frag­ment of a hand of 0.5 me­tres (20 in) can be seen in the Na­tional Mu­seum in the cap­i­tal, Ph­nom Penh.

Outer en­clo­sure

The outer en­clo­sure (3. en­clo­sure) has a length of 328 me­tres (1,076 ft) and a breadth of 151 me­tres (495 ft) An ad­di­tional wall di­vides the in­ner area in two. In the east­ern court are a moat and the tem­ple-com­plex Prasat Thom; in the western court is the pyra­mid, called Prang. The east­ern court with a length of 153 me­tres (502 ft) is nearly square, the western court has a length of 171 me­tres (561 ft).

Moat

The moat in the east­ern court is about 47 me­tres (154 ft) wide. It bor­ders the Prasat Thom. Lined by trees it looks re­ally pic­to­ri­ally. Two dams, one at the east side, the other at the west side are lead­ing to the ground within the moat. The dams are flanked by Naga-balustrades. On the east­ern dam be­tween the Na­gas was ad­di­tion­ally a colon­nade with pil­lars. Be­hind each Naga of the east side was stand­ing a huge Garuda.

Prasat Thom

Prob­a­bly some parts of the Prasat Thom in­clud­ing the moat and the 1 (in­ner) en­clo­sure were built be­fore 921 AD. The sanc­tu­ary was ex­panded un­der the reign of Jayavar­man IV and has now two sur­round­ing walls in­side of the moat. The first wall (in­ner wall) is made of brick; the sec­ond wall (outer wall) with a length of 66 m (217 ft) and a breath of 55 m (180 ft) is made of la­t­erite. Two doors are in the east and in the west. The doors of the sec­ond wall have a cru­ci­form plan.

The doors of the first wall are smaller and not of cru­ci­form lay­out. The plane be­tween the first and sec­ond wall is com­pletely over­built with rec­tan­gu­lar struc­tures, pos­si­bly later ad­di­tions. In the cen­ter court is the sanc­tu­ary and op­po­site it are two so-called li­braries. Be­hind the sanc­tu­ary on a rec­tan­gu­lar plat­form stand nine tow­ers in two rows (one of five, one four tow­ers). Twelve smaller prasats in groups of three sur­round the plat­form. All 21 tow­ers once housed lin­gas.

Prang

The seven-tiered pyra­mid called Prang was prob­a­bly the state tem­ple of Jayavar­man IV. Con­struc­tion of the sanc­tu­ary was started in 928 AD. At ground level one, side of the square build­ing mea­sures 62 m (203 ft). The height is 36 m (118 ft). Orig­i­nally on the top plat­form stood a huge lingam prob­a­bly more than 4 m (13 ft) high and hav­ing a weight of sev­eral tons. In­scrip­tions say that it was the tallest and most beau­ti­ful Shiva-lingam. The lingam prob­a­bly stood in a shrine which some say could have been about 15 m (49 ft) high.

On the north side of the pyra­mid is a steep stair­case lead­ing to the top. The orig­i­nal stairs are in a very bad con­di­tion as is the bam­boo-lad­der which was con­structed in the 20th cen­tury, so it is for­bid­den to climb to the top of the pyra­mid via this route. There is how­ever a new stair­case which can be used to as­cend to the top of the pyra­mid. Con­cern­ing the sev­enth tier some sci­en­tists say, this was the plat­form of the shrine be­cause on its sides beau­ti­ful re­liefs of Garu­das were made.

There is just one Kh­mer tem­ple which re­sem­bles the tem­ple Bak­sey Chamkrong in Angkor. But the four-tiered mon­u­ment there is much smaller and has a stair­case on each of the four sides. On the plat­form on the top of the Bak­sey Chamkrong is a prasat in a good con­di­tion.

Tomb of the White Ele­phant

Be­hind the court with the seven-tiered pyra­mid is an ar­ti­fi­cial hill of ex­act cir­cle form cov­ered with trees. It is named Tomb of the White ele­phant. “The white Ele­phant” is a very well-known leg­end in south­east Asia. There are dif­fer­ent the­o­ries about the hill. Some say that this struc­ture could be the foun­da­tion of a sec­ond pyra­mid. Oth­ers say that it could be the grave of Jayavar­man IV. The steep path lead­ing to the top of the hill is closed now be­cause of se­cu­rity rea­sons.

Sanc­tu­ar­ies along the ac­cess road

Prasat Pram

The most south sanc­tu­ary of this group is the Prasat Pram on the west side of the road. A small (300 me­tres (328 yd)) long path leads to the mon­u­ment. It has five tow­ers or prasats (pram = five). Three brick tow­ers stand in a row on the same plat­form. They face east. The cen­tral one is a bit taller than the oth­ers. In each of these prasats, once stood a lingam. These and the beau­ti­fully carved lin­tels were looted.

Two prasats (faced west) are stand­ing in front of the plat­form. One is built of brick and has di­a­mond-shaped holes in the up­per part. This fact in­di­cates that this tower once served as a fire sanc­tu­ary (fire cults were very im­por­tant dur­ing the era of the Kh­mer kings). The other build­ing is small, made of la­t­erite and (in com­par­i­son with the brick tow­ers) in bad con­di­tion. The bricks of small reg­u­lar size are held to­gether with an or­ganic mor­tar of un­known com­po­si­tion; plant sap?

Orig­i­nally the tow­ers were cov­ered by white stucco; re­mains of it can still be seen. Two of the tow­ers are pic­to­ri­ally cov­ered by roots. The five tow­ers are sur­rounded by an en­clo­sure. The col­lapsed en­trance door (gop­u­ram) is at the east side. Two arte­facts of the Prasat Pram can be seen in the Na­tional Mu­seum in Ph­nom Penh: A dam­aged lion statue and frag­ments of a stand­ing four-armed Vishnu.

Prasat Bak

More north than the Prasat Neang Kh­mau and on the west side of the road is the Prasat Bak, a small square sanc­tu­ary built of la­t­erite; one side mea­sures only 5 m (16 ft). The tem­ple which is in a very bad con­di­tion to­day housed till 1960 a colos­sal statue of Gane­sha, a Hindu god, son of Shiva and Uma. He is de­picted with a hu­man body and an ele­phant’s head. It is known that the sculp­ture with the sit­ting Gane­sha is in a col­lec­tion out­side of Cam­bo­dia.

Prasat Chen

This sanc­tu­ary is the most north of this group and lies too on the west side of the street. It has two en­clo­sures. The main en­trance door (now col­lapsed) was it­self a sanc­tu­ary with a square cen­tral room (one side mea­sured 4 m (13 ft)). Three la­t­erite tow­ers (par­tially col­lapsed) stand on the same plat­form. In front of them are the re­mains of two brick li­braries. The statue of the

two fight­ing mon­key kings Su­griva and Valin (fig­ures of the Hindu epic Ra­mayana) was found at this site and is now in the Na­tional Mu­seum in Ph­nom Penh. A frag­ment of a multi-armed statue of Vishnu was found in front of the tower in the mid­dle. In this tem­ple are five in­scrip­tions. They men­tion the names of all the nu­mer­ous peo­ples con­nected to the tem­ple site and their in­di­vid­ual func­tions.

Mon­u­ments that are along the ring-road

Prasat Balang (Prasat Le­ung Moi)

The Prasat Balang is the first of three Linga-shrines stand­ing along the ringroad. It is a square la­t­erite build­ing stand­ing on a plat­form and has one door­way and an open roof. In the sanc­tu­ary is an im­pres­sive lingam stand­ing on yoni. The phal­lus-sym­bol is about 2 m (7 ft) high, has a di­am­e­ter of nearly 1 m (39 in) and a weight of sev­eral tons. To­gether with the yoni it was carved out of the bedrock at this place. The lingam is in a good con­di­tion. The yoni is about 1 m (39 in) high and looks like an al­tar. On all four sides once were carved re­liefs. In each of the four cor­ners stood a beau­ti­ful chis­elled Garudu with raised arms giv­ing the im­pres­sion these myth­i­cal fig­ures would bear the yoni. Un­for­tu­nately the re­liefs and the Garu­das were looted. Around the Yoni there is just a small space giv­ing room for priests to per­form the pre­scribed rit­u­als. The wa­ter they put on the lingam be­came holy by touch­ing the sym­bol of Shiva, which ran down and was col­lected in a ditch of the yoni. Then it flowed though a spout to the out­side of the shrine where be­liev­ers could touch the blessed wa­ter.

Prasat Dam­rei

A small path is lead­ing from the ring-road to the Prasat Dam­rei (dam­rei = ele­phant). This sanc­tu­ary has an en­clo­sure and is stand­ing on a high plat­form. On each of the four sides is a stair­case with about ten steps. To­tally eight stone li­ons flanked once the stairs but only one of them is at the orig­i­nal place. On all four cor­ners of the plat­form once stood a beau­ti­ful ele­phant sculp­ture but only two of them re­main. The sanc­tu­ary built of brick is in a good con­di­tion. A San­skrit in­scrip­tion found at this tem­ple gives ev­i­dence for the erst­while lingam on the top of the pyra­mid (Prang).

Prasat Thom at Koh Ker tem­ple

Close-up of the stairs

Prasat Kra­hom

Lo­ca­tion of Koh Ker

Ele­phant Statue

Stone carv­ings

Prasat Thom in­ner (first) en­clo­sure wall

Monk at Koh Ker

On the road to Koh Ker

Sa­cred Bud­dhist fig­ures are carved into the rock­face at Tra­peang Ang Kh­nar

Dec­o­rated door carv­ing

10th Cen­tury carv­ing, now in the Cleve­land Mu­seum of Art

Ru­ins at Prasat Thom

Multi-headed Naga

Prasat Thom cen­tral sanc­tu­ary

Look­ing down from Prasat Thom

Rock-bed stone carv­ing

Prasat Pram

Prasat Thom

Credit: wikipedia.org

Door carv­ing

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