Banteay Srei - Citadel of the Women
We are well aware that Siem Reap is a place in Cambodia, which is famous for its beautiful temples and for it faith in God. Amidst all the magnificently built temples, there is one small temple called the Banteay Srei which is famous not for its size but for its most intricate carvings. "Banteay" means fortress/citadel and "Srei" means Women, thus the Banteay Srei temple is women centric and is one of the most famous amongst all the temples of Siem Reap after Angkor Wat. It is the only temple that built not by a monarch, but by a Brahmin named Yajnavaraha, who was the tutor of Jayavarman V.
It was considered disrespectful to build something bigger than what the king could build at that time. This is one of the reasons why this temple in smaller than others. As per the inscriptions found in the site, it is said to be made in AD 967. Even though the temple is smaller than others, the carvings and the beauty is beyond compare truly one of a kind, and said to be made by women. Banteay Srei also means “Citadel of the Women” which reassures the fact that no man in those times could have built something so intricate and beautiful. It is also sometimes known as “The Pink Temple” because it is has a pink sandstone structure.
Banteay Srei maybe a small temple than Angkor Wat but for the tourists it is still very huge. With some explicit restoration work done in the 1930’s has made this temple a very tourist friendly attraction. Once you enter the Angkor entrance, you also enter the Banteay Srei. Tourists generally visit this temple at the end, maybe they want to save the best for the last. The Temple was found earlier, but it had greatly deteriorated. To prevent any further deterioration, the entry to the inner sanctuary of the temple has been restricted. It has an extensive car park area, a place for any visitor’s information, a good dining, shopping center and a place where information about this place can be gathered. The temple has three central towers with a well-decorated library. This Hindu temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the central towers of the temple have the sculptures of both male and female divinities. The Temple has huge square entrances on both the east and the west side. The east entrance of the temple is accompanied by a 67 meters’ causeway. It also has some great three dimensional carvings, which were rare in those times. Because of its great preservation, small size and splendid decoration - it has been called the “Jewel of Khmer art” or the “Precious Gem” by some of the archeologists.
It is located around 36 kilometers away from the main city, and has a well-made road of around forty-five minutes to an hour to reach the temple. Unlike other temples, you might not feel the need of carrying any food to the temple, as there are several restaurants located at the entrance, which allows you to begin a trip to the temple with a full stomach. It would not take the tourists more than forty-five minutes to explore the temple, and with a tour guide, the visit to the temple becomes more informational. Tourists generally never forget to carry a camera, as the pictures with the amazing stone carvings are not worth missing. There are some beautiful homestay options located near the temple, in case you want to save your travel time.
This temple might be a little out of the way, as there are no other monuments nearby, except Phnom Kulen the holy waterfall which is about 25 minutes drive from the temple. But if you are a real temple buff, you would not want to miss out on this beauty. It may be smaller is size than the other temples, but its beauty is one of a kind. Such intricate carvings on the pink sand stone will surely leave your mind blown. It is different from the other temples of the Angkor Wat and the type of stone used is beyond any comparison. The power and the creativity of the women in those times can be easily understood as soon as you enter this Citadel of the Women.