Banteay Samre and Banteay Srei
Banteay Samre is a compact and beautifully proportioned temple laid out during the reigns of Suryavarman II and Yasovarman II. It was probably built by a high-ranking official, not by the king, which was unusual but not unheard of (Prasat Kravan, also at Angkor, was another privately built temple). The temple stands about 500 meters east of the southeast corner of the (now dry) eastern baray. Its relative isolation prevents it from receiving as many tourists as the larger temples to the west, although the quality of the bas-reliefs and stonework is among the best at Angkor. In fact, the temple was originally believed to have been erected in the 15th century as the quality of its design suggested that was built at the apex of Khmer artistry and technological know-how.
The layout of Banteay Samre is similar in many respects to other temples built in the reign of Suryavarman II, including Chau Say Tevoda, Thommanon and Angkor Wat. Similar features include the distinctive shape of the central sanctuary’s tower, along with the mandapa (antechamber) connected to the central shrine via an antarala (small corridor). The layout and positioning of the ‘libraries’ is also a common feature, as is the series of galleries encircling the temple’s core pavilions. One curious omission at Banteay Samre is the lack of apsara bas-reliefs, which were used extensively in the other major temples of Suryavarman’s era.
Consecrated on 22 April 967 A.D., Bantãy Srĕi was the only major temple at Angkor not built by a monarch; its construction is credited to the courtiers named Vishnukumara and Yajnavaraha who served as a counsellor to king Rajendravarman II. The foundational stela says that Yajnavaraha, grandson of king Harsavarman I was a scholar and philanthropist who helped those who suffered from illness, injustice, or poverty.His pupil was the future king Jayavarman V (r. 968- ca. 1001). Originally, the temple was surrounded by a town called Īśvarapura
Banteay Srei is known for the intricacy of its carvings. Yajñavarāha’s temple was primarily dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Originally, it carried the name Tribhuvanamaheśvara—great lord of the threefold world—in reference to the Shaivite Linga that served as its central religious image. However, the temple buildings appear to be divided along the central east–west axis between those buildings located south of the axis, which are devoted to Śiva, and those north of the axis, which are devoted to Vishnu.
The temple’s modern name, Bantãy Srĕi—citadel of the women, or citadel of beauty—is probably related to the intricacy of the bas relief cavings 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
Banteay Srei was subject to further expansion and rebuilding work in the eleventh century. At some point it came under the control of the king and had its original dedication changed; the inscription K 194 from Phnoṃ Sandak, dated Monday, the 14th or 28 July 1119 A.D. records (line B 13) the temple being given to the priest Divākarapaṇḍita and being rededicated to Shiva It remained in use at least until the fourteenth century according to the last known inscription K 569, dated Thursday, 8 August 1303 A.D.
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