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Banteay Chhmar Temple

Banteay Chhmar Temple

  • Travel Location Banteay Meanchey
  • Banteay ChhmarBanteay Chhmar dates from the late 12th to the early 13thcentury and it means Narrow Fortress. It is thought to have been built by Jayarvarman II. It was later rebuilt by Jayarvarman VII as a funerary temple for his sons and four generals who had been killed in a battle repelling a Cham invasion in ...

OVERVIEW

Banteay Chhmar (Khmer: បន្ទាយឆ្មារ) is a commune (khum) in Thma Puok District in Banteay Meanchey province in northwest Cambodia. It is located 63 km north of Sisophon and about 20 km east of the Thai border. The commune of Banteay Chhmar contains 14 villages.

The massive temple of Banteay Chhmar, along with its satellite shrines and reservoir (baray), comprises one of the most important and least understood archaeological complexes from Cambodia's Angkor period.

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Banteay Chhmar (the “Citadel of the Cat”) has been called the "second Angkor Wat” and was constructed by King Jayavarman VII, who also built Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm and Preah Khan. This remote and vast site is currently under restoration and visitors find a stunning interplay of temple and jungle.

This enormous complex, which was a temple city, is one of the most intriguing in the Khmer empire, both for it's scale and it's remote location. Never excavated, Banteay Chhmar fits the picture of a lost Khmer city with its ruined face-towers, carvings, forest surroundings and bird life flying through the temple.  It has a romantic and discovery feel to it.

Banteay ChhmarBanteay Chhmar dates from the late 12th to the early 13thcentury and it means Narrow Fortress. It is thought to have been built by Jayarvarman II. It was later rebuilt by Jayarvarman VII as a funerary temple for his sons and four generals who had been killed in a battle repelling a Cham invasion in 1177.

Like Preah Khan, Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, Banteay Chhmar originally enclosed a city with the temple at the heart. No traces of the city that surrounded the temple remain.

The temple area covers 2km by 2 and a half km. It contains the main temple complex and a number of other religious structures and a baray to its east. A mote filled with water and a huge wall inside of that encloses the center of the temple. This mote is still used to present day by locals for fishing and daily chores. A bustling small market and village bounds the east and south east and perhaps there has been continuous habitation there since the founding of the temple.

Inside the mote, a stone rest house and chapel can be seen. The highlight of Banteay Chhmar is the bas-reliefs, which are comparable with the Bayon. They depict battle against the Chams, religious scenes and a host of daily activities. In parts, the outer wall has collapsed. On the west side a spectacular multi-armed Lekesvara can be seen. The temples central complex is a jumble of towers, galleries, vegetation and fallen stones. Beautiful carvings can be seen throughout.

History of Banteay Chhmar Temple

Like Angkor Thom, the temple of Banteay Chhmar was accomplished during the reign of Jayavarman VII in the late 12th or early 13th century. One of the temple's shrines once held an image of Srindrakumararajaputra (the crown prince), a son of Jayavarman VII who died before him. The temple doors record Yasovarman I's failed invasion of Champa.

The long Old Khmer inscription found at the site (K.227), and now on display in the National Museum, Phnom Penh, relates how Prince Srindrakumara was protected on two different occasions by four companions in arms, once against Rahu, and once on a military campaign against Champa. Their four statues, with one of the prince, was placed in the central chapel.

Another bas-relief states Yasovarman II was attacked by Rahu, but "saved by a young prince.

The site

The complex resembles Angkor Thom and other structures attributed to Jayavarman VII. It is one of two sites outside Angkor with the enigmatic face-towers. Besides that, its outer gallery is carved with bas-reliefs depicting military engagements and daily life scenes very similar to the well-known ones in Bayon.

The complex is oriented to the east, where there's a dried baray (about 1.6 by 0.8 km), which had a temple on an artificial island (mebon) in its centre. There are three enclosures, as typical. The external one, largely ruined, was 1.9 by 1.7 km and surrounded by a moat. The middle enclosure, provided with a moat too, is 850 by 800 m. It contains the main temple, surrounded by a gallery with reliefs 250 by 200 m which constitutes the third inner enclosure.

Besides the main temple and the mebon there are other eight secondary temples. Four stelae detailing Jayavarman VII's genealogy were placed (though they remain unfinished) at each of the four corners of the third enclosure wall, mirroring the stelae that occupied the four corner-shrines (Prasat Chrung) of the king's capital at Angkor Thom.

Modern threats

Because of its remote location and its proximity to the Thai border, the complex has been subjected to severe looting, especially in the 1990s. In 1998, 2000 and 2002 the temple was listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the top one hundred most endangered sites in the world.

For example, in 1998 a group of soldiers stole a 30-metre section of the southern wall.[8] The bas-reliefs of Banteay Chhmar once displayed eight exceptional Avalokiteśvaras in the west gallery, but now only two remain. In January 1999 looters dismantled sections of the western gallery wall containing these bas-reliefs. They were intercepted by Thai police and 117 sandstone pieces of the wall were recovered. They are now on display in the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

Address:

Banteay Chhmar CBT
National Road No. 56A, Banteay Chhmar Commune, Thmor Puok District, Banteay Meanchey Province, Cambodia

  • Weather: 35°C, Wind SW at 10 km/h, 51% Humidity
  • Province: Banteay Meanchey Province
  • Local time: Saturday 10:20 AM
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