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Banteay Srei – Cambodia’s Citadel of Beauty (In Khmer)

Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Khmer and English, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish Slovenian, Spanish and Thai.

Greetings, pure-hearted viewers. Welcome to The World Around Us on Supreme Master Television. With strong spiritual roots, Cambodia is known as the land of temples.

There are astonishingly more than one thousand temples of Angkor, the once capital of the Khmer Empire. Among them, Angkor Wat is the magnificent centerpiece and one of the largest Hindu monuments in the world. Most recognizable are its five towers 65 meters high like giant lotus buds. In fact, Angkor Wat is a great symbol of Cambodia and is shown on the country’s flag.

The Bayon Temple is located to the north of Angkor Wat, and has 51 towers around it. Built around 1190 by King Jayavarman VII, Bayon is a Buddhist temple but has Hindu cosmological elements. By being at the center of the walled city, it symbolizes the point where Heaven meets the Earth. Built as a square, the sides of temple run exactly north-south and east-west. The Bayon Temple is famous for its large stone faces of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

Phnom Bakheng is King Yasovarman I’s state temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva. It was built more than two centuries before Angkor Wat when the capital of the Khmer Empire was moved from Roluos to Angkor in the late 9th century.

Ta Prohm is unlike most of the other temples of Angkor, Cambodia. It has become one with the living jungle. The trees, called “spung,” have embraced the temple halls with its roots. It is the result of having been untouched for centuries. The successful adventure film “Tomb Raider,” starring Academy Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie, features about 25 minutes of footage of some of the majestic temples of Angkor. In particular, famous scenes were filmed at Ta Prohm for its unique atmosphere.

Now, let’s explore in more detail one of the most beautiful temples in Angkor Thom, which is the name of Cambodia’s ancient capital. This temple we are about to feature is known as Banteay Srei. Built in the 10th century, Banteay Sri is a Hindu temple complex just north of Angkor Wat. Immediately, visitors are impressed by the deep reddish pink sandstone. It is famous for its well preserved reliefs that were easily carved out of the wood-like sandstone surfaces.

These marvellous carvings show scenes from ancient Hindu legends. Banteay Srei means “Citadel of Women” or “Citadel of Beauty,” possibly because the reliefs are so delicate that they must have been created by a woman’s hand. It is also smaller and finer in scale than other temples. The temple’s shimmering beauty attracts tourists from all corners of the world. Let’s find out more about Banteay Srei with our knowledgeable tour guide.

Here we are on the second pavilion and trees of the eastern entrance of Banteay Srei temple. Over here on the wall, where you see inscriptions, which lasted more than a thousand years ago; hard for us to identify what type of language it was. And it really gives information on the dates and temple constructions of Banteay Srei temple. And they list some Cambodian Buddhist monks who (have) expertise in literature, who still can tell some words on the inscription that can be understandable. So the majority of people publicly cannot identify and understand most of the scriptures.

When visiting Banteay Srei, one must see the intricate pediments. A pediment is an architectural element that is triangular and supported by columns above a doorway or opening. Almost every surface of the pediments at Banteay Srei are decorated. For the first time in Khmer architecture, whole scenes of Hindu myths appear on Banteay Srei’s pediments.

Here we are on the third entrance on the eastern side where you see the wall pediments here. Especially on this side, at the end of the first pediment, which is so beautifully carved in the form of curved carving like the human fingerprints. And you move there further to the second one. Center of the pediment there, where you see goddess Lakshmi appearing on an opening lotus, two elephants with holy water purify her before her marriage to the god Vishnu. And she was guarded by Garuda (Lakshmi’s vehicle) with detailed carving there. The whole triangular pediment has been decorated and framed with the serpent-shaped body creature called makara, with the three different natural colors on the triangular pediment there. It seems very unique and so neat on detailed carvings.

Banteay Srei has an outer gate, called a gopura, that leads to the three rectangular enclosures of the temple. The innermost enclosure has three towers, plus two libraries. French archaeologist Maurice Glaize, author of “The Monuments of the Angkor Group,” commented that the four library pediments “are works of the highest order. Superior in composition to any which followed, they show true craftsmanship in their modeling in a skillful blend of stylization and realism.”

He also emphasized the specialness of Banteay Srei, saying, “Given the very particular charm of Banteay Srei – its remarkable state of preservation and the excellence of a near perfect ornamental technique – one should not hesitate, of all the monuments of the Angkor group, to give it the highest priority … the work relates more closely to the art of the goldsmith or to carving in wood than to sculpture in stone.”

Here we are inside Banteay Srei temple. Banteay Srei, it loosely means “Citadel of Women,” which original name (was) found on an inscription called Srei Tribhuvanamahesvara (Great Lord of the Threefold World). A Hindu temple was built under the reign of the Hindu King Rajendravarman II in 967, more than 1,000 years ago, dedicated to the god Shiva, orientated to the east. In 968, a year later, the king first founder died. Then the royal son who was royal next successor, who became crowned at the young age, (was) supported by a spiritual suitor (counselor), Yajnavaraha, and his younger Vishnukumara.

Banteay Srei is unique in that it was built not by a monarch, but by a counselor to the king. This counselor named Yajnavaraha was an admired scholar and humanitarian who helped people who suffered from injustice, poverty, and illness. The temple was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, hence its original name was “Great Lord of the Threefold World.”

This temple was religiously and historically constructed completely. The other temples, for example, Angkor Wat or Bayon temples, they were not completely constructed. Temple of Banteay Srei was one of the older temples comparatively to Bayon or Angkor Wat. And this temple has been called “the pink temple,” because it has been constructed from the best quality of the pink sandstone, which was taken from the natural quarry of Kulen nearby here. And this temple is also called “the jewelry one,” because this is so small a monument but (has) so beautiful and detailed carvings. Look at the back there, where you see how detailed carvings, they are sculpted. And on it’s a bit more different Hindu legendary relief and a small ornate statue.

Fortunately, the Cambodian government has wisely preserved many parts of the temple in museums, while placing replicas at the site. Now, let’s explore the three towers of Banteay Srei. Each tower has four doors. But only one of them opens to the east where the sun rises. The others are false doors for spirits.

Here we are on the southwest corner of the beautiful temple, Banteay Srei. Ladies and gentlemen, you pay attention at the so beautiful temple with the detailed carving there. It has been set up that it lies on the same floor of three towers, which the south one was built and dedicated to the god Brahma, the central one for the god Shiva, and the north one for the god Vishnu. Set into the five tiers directly, where you see the each tier corner with the detailed tiny carvings (that) symbolize like a sample of the entire big tower. The five tiers symbolize the five worlds in Hinduism, and only the eastern doors of the three towers open to the east orientation of the temple originally.

But the other three doors of every tower are just faux doors, well decorated and carved in detail there. And every part of these temples (are) with detailed relief on Hindu legendary episodes, tales and myths. Further up there, all the details there including the two human statues with human faces, and some further there with the human bodies and animal heads, they are newly constituted. Original ones have been retained in national Angkor conservation museum, replaced by this new sandstone one.

Historically, when these temples were entirely abandoned in 1431 AD, it was later naturally over-grown. By later years, after the 16th century, they still left it under the jungle. It was later found by a French explorer in 1914. And in 1931-1936, this had been cleared and restored under leadership of French archaeologist Henri Marchal. The temple of Banteay Srei is still daily visited with thousands of people daily. Very fascinating and detailed carvings.

King Jayavarman VII once said that his construction of temples sprang from an intention that was “full of deep sympathy for the good of the world, so as to bestow on men the ambrosia of remedies to win them immortality… By virtue of these good works would that I might rescue all those who are struggling in the ocean of existence.” Indeed, the noble Cambodian king’s wish lives on today, for the temples still inspire awe in all who visit them.

Perhaps many of us visitors are also reminded by their splendor that we should strive to rise above this ephemeral world and seek our immortal Self, our Heavenly origin. Our appreciation to Cambodia for the efforts in preserving this precious cultural heritage of Banteay Srei and the other grand temples of Angkor Thom. May these glorious monuments be treasured always, and may Heaven bless Cambodia with peace and prosperity.

Gracious viewers, thank you for being with us today on The World Around Us. Coming up is Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News. May your life be serene and joyful.

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