Pre Rup Tem­ple

Cambodia Insight - - FRONT PAGE - Credit: Tourism­cam­bo­

Pre Rup is a tem­ple at Angkor, Cam­bo­dia, built as the state tem­ple of Kh­mer king Ra­jen­dravar­man and ded­i­cated in 961 or early 962. It is a tem­ple moun­tain of com­bined brick, la­t­erite and sand­stone con­struc­tion.

The tem­ple’s name is a com­par­a­tively mod­ern one mean­ing “turn the body”. This re­flects the com­mon be­lief among Cam­bo­di­ans that fu­ner­als were con­ducted at the tem­ple, with the ashes of the body be­ing rit­u­ally ro­tated in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions as the ser­vice pro­gressed.

Some ar­chae­ol­o­gists be­lieve that the large vat lo­cated at the base of the east stair­way to the cen­tral area was used at cre­ma­tions.

‘A work of great dig­nity and im­pec­ca­ble pro­por­tions’, wrote Mauize of Pre­rup in his guide­book which came out in 1963. Pre Rup is lo­cated at north­east of Srah Srang and 500 me­ters (1,640 feet) south of the south end of the East Baray. An en­trance and exit the mon­u­ment from the east en­trance. To climb to the up­per ter­race use the east stair­way; it is slightly less steep than the oth­ers.

Tip: Be­cause the tem­ple is built en­tirely of brick and la­t­erite, the warm tones of th­ese ma­te­ri­als are best are seen early in the morn­ing or when the sun is set­ting.

There are two views from the top ter­race: the first look­ing east to­wards Ph­nom Bok and the moun­tain chain of Ph­nom Kulen; and the se­cond look­ing west where the tow­ers of Angkor Wat can be dis­tin­guished on the far hori­zon.


The bold­ness of the ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign of Pre Rup is su­perb and give the tem­ple fine bal­ance, scale and pro­por­tion. The tem­ple is al­most iden­ti­cal in style to the East Me­bon, al­though it was built sev­eral yeas later. It is the last real ‘tem­ple-moun­tain‘. Pre Rup was called the ‘City of the East‘ by Philippe Stern, a French­man who pre­vi­ously worked on the site.

The site

Pre Rup is aligned on a northsouth axis with the East Me­bon tem­ple, which is lo­cated on what was an ar­ti­fi­cial is­land in the baray. The East Me­bon was also a cre­ation of the reign of Ra­jen­dravar­man. Pre Rup’s ex­ten­sive la­t­erite and brick give it a pleas­ing red­dish tone that is height­ened by early morn­ing and late af­ter­noon sun­light. The tem­ple has a square lay-out and two perime­ter walls. The outer en­clo­sure is a plat­form bounded by a la­t­erite wall, 117 me­ters N-S by 127 me­ters E-W. A la­t­erite cause­way gives en­try from the east; un­for­tu­nately, a mod­ern road cuts across it.

The four ex­ter­nal gop­uras are cross-shaped, hav­ing a cen­tral brick sec­tion (con­sist­ing of three rooms flanked by two in­de­pen­dent pas­sage­ways), and a sand­stone vestibule on both sides. To ei­ther side in­side the east­ern gate is a group of three tow­ers aligned north to south.

One of the tow­ers ap­pears to have never been built or to have been dis­man­tled later, how­ever they are later ad­di­tions, prob­a­bly by Jayavar­man V. Fur­ther ahead, through an­other gate, li­braries lie to ei­ther side of the walk­way on the se­cond plat­form. Just be­fore the en­trance there is a stone “cis­tern”, but schol­ars be­lieve it was a base­ment for a Nandi bronze statue rather than be­ing used for some of their cre­ma­tion cer­e­monies.

There is also a se­ries of long dis­tinct gal­leries run­ning along each side, a dis­tinc­tive fea­ture of 10th cen­tury archi-

tec­ture that would be sub­sti­tuted by a con­tin­u­ous gallery from Ta Keo on­ward.


On the left and right sides of the east en­try tower of the se­cond en­clo­sure there are li­braries with high tow­ers. They shel­tered carved stones with mo­tifs of the nine plan­ets and the seven as­cetics. In the cen­ter there is a vat be­tween two rows of sand­stone pil­lars. Glaize sug­gested that this might have been, rather than a sar­coph­a­gus, a base for a wooden build­ing or for a statue of Nandi, the sa­cred bull, the mount of Siva to whom the tem­ple was ded­i­cated long ago.

The fi­nal squared pyra­mid, mea­sur­ing 50 m at its base, rises in three steep tiers a dozen me­tres in height to a 35 m square plat­form at the sum­mit. The low­est tier is sym­met­ri­cally sur­rounded by 12 small shrines. At the top, five tow­ers are ar­ranged in a quin­cunx, one at each cor­ner of the square and

one in the cen­ter. Deities carved as bas-re­liefs stand guard at ei­ther side of the cen­tral tower’s east­ern door. All of the other doors are false.

The south­west tower once con­tained a statue of Lak­shmi, the northwest tower a statue of Uma, the south­east tower a statue of Vishnu and the north­east tower a statue of Shiva. The last one has an in­scrip­tion on door­jambs that dates from Jayavar­man VI and is the only proof of his reign at Angkor. His­tory Pre Rup was ded­i­cated to the Hindu god Shiva, and it is prob­a­bly lo­cated on a for­mer shiv­aite ashram, built by Yaso­var­man I in the pre­vi­ous cen­tury. Per­haps it was stand­ing at the cen­tre of a new cap­i­tal city built by Ra­jen­dravar­man, with the south­ern dike of East Baray as north­ern city limit, but noth­ing of the dwellings sur­vived and this “east­ern city hy­poth­e­sis” by Philippe Stern was never con­firmed by archeologists.

Stairs lead­ing up the front of Pre Rup

Aerial view of Pre Rup

One of the large walls

Pre Rup at Sun­set

Ele­phant Statue

Look­ing down on the Tem­ple

Look­ing down from the top

Young girl sell­ing her goods

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