Banteay Srei means "Citadel of Woman" in Khmer. The Banteay Srei Temple was built by Brahmin Yajnavaraha and his younger brother around the middle of the 10th century. During this period the King at the time, King Jayavarman V was only 15 years old, when his father then King Rajendravarman II died. Thus, all administrative affairs and religious practices including building the temples was then under the control of his guardian Brahmin Yajnavaraha. Brahmin Yajnavaraha was also of Royal blood as he was the grandson of King Hurshavarman I.
According to inscriptions on the door piers of its structure, the original name of the temple was Isvarapura which means “City of Shiva”. The name suggests that Banteay Srei was originally a Hindu temple which was dedicated to the Hindu God of destruction “Shiva”.
Banteay Srei is quite unique as it is one of the only temples built during the Angkor period where pink and yellow sandstone was used to build the actual temple. The pink and yellow sandstone is a harder stone than the grey and green stone which was used to build other Angkor Temples such as Angkor Wat and Bayon. Because of the pink and yellow sandstone used to build Banteay Srei the carvings are in particularly good condition due to the hardness of the stone.
Banteay Srei was rediscovered by the French in 1914, but the temple wasn’t cleared until 1924. The theft of several important pieces of sculptures by the European explorer and novelist Andre Malraux caused great controversy in 1923 with the French authorities. After he was arrested by the French authorities on his return to
Phnom Penh, he was later released after returning all of the pieces which were stolen by him.
In 1924, ten years after Banteay Srei was rediscovered, Mr Henri Marchal a French architect in the Angkor Conservation Department was sent to study a method of anastylosis with a Dutch team of architects that were using this method to restore the Borobudur temple in Indonesia. The Anastylosis method is a way of restoring the temples to its original form without having to use any new materials. Henri Marchal had great success restoring Banteay Srei using this method even though he and his team were constantly attacked by the Khmer resistance at the time. Unfortunately, Banteay Srei was damaged again during the Vietnam war and Pol Pot period but luckily a Swiss restoration team stepped into restore the temple once again. Banteay Srei is one of the most admired Angkor Temples because of its carvings and also the colour of the stone. Banteay Srei is definitely worth adding to your Angkor Tours.
“Angkor Tours by a Local” is part of Siemreaprooms Tours & Guesthouse. A British/Khmer managed tour operator based in Siem Reap, Cambodia. All of our tours are led by a local Angkor Tour Guide. Copyright 2013