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Destination Details

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Bantey Srey temple:


Consecrated in 967 A.D. Banteay Srei was the only major temple at Angkor not built by a monarch; its construction is credited to a courtier named Yajnavaraha, who served as a counsellor to king. The foundational stela says that Yajnavaraha was a scholar and philanthropist who helped those who suffered from illness, injustice, or poverty. Originally, the temple was surrounded by a town called Isvarapura.
 
The temple's modern name, Banteay Srei — citadel of the women, or citadel of beauty — is probably related to the intricacy of the bas relief carvings found on the walls and the tiny dimensions of the buildings themselves. Some have speculated that it relates to the many devatas carved into the walls of the buildings.

The temple was rediscovered only in 1914, and was the subject of a celebrated case of art theft when André Malraux stole four devatas in 1923 (he was soon arrested and the figures returned). The incident stimulated interest in the site, which was cleared the following year, and in the 1930s Banteay Srei was restored in the first important use of anastylosis at Angkor. Until the discovery of the foundation stela in 1936, it had been assumed that the extreme decoration indicated a later date than was in fact the case. To prevent the site from water damage, the joint Cambodian-Swiss Banteay Srei Conservation Project installed a drainage system between 2000 and 2003.
 
Banteay Srei is built largely of a hard red sandstone that can be carved like wood. Brick and laterite were used only for the enclosure walls and some structural elements. The temple is known for the beauty of its sandstone lintels and pediments.
 

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