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Corridors of Ta Prohm
Location in Cambodia
Proper Name: Ta Prohm (Rajavihara)
: ប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្ម) is the modern name of a temple at Angkor
, Siem Reap Province
, built in the Bayon
style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara
: រាជវិហារ). Located approximately one kilometre east of Angkor Thom
and on the southern edge of the East Baray
, it was founded by the Khmer
King Jayavarman VII
as a Mahayana Buddhist
monastery and university. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle
surroundings have made it one of Angkor's most temples with visitors. UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List in 1992. Today, it is one of the most complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region. The conservation and restoration of Ta Prohm is a partnership project of the Archaeological Survey of India
and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap).
History of Ta Prohm[edit
Foundation and expansion[edit
In 1186 A.D., embarked on a massive program of construction and public works. Rajavihara ("monestary of the king"), today known as Ta Prohm ("ancestor Brahma"), was one of the first temples founded pursuant to that program. The commemorating the foundation gives a date of 1186 A.D.
Jayavarman VII constructed Rajavihara in honor of his family. The temple's main image, representing , the personification of wisdom, was modelled on the king's mother. The northern and southern satellite temples in the third enclosure were dedicated to the king's guru and his elder brother respectively. As such, Ta Prohm formed a complementary pair with the temple monastery of , dedicated in 1191 A.D., the main image of which represented the of compassion and was modelled on the king's father.
The temple's records that the site was home to more than 12,500 people (including 18 high priests and 615 dancers), with an additional 800,000 souls in the surrounding villages working to provide services and supplies. The stele also notes that the temple amassed considerable , including gold, pearls and silks. Expansions and additions to Ta Prohm continued as late as the rule of Srindravarman at the end of the 15th century.
Abandonment and restoration[edit
After the fall of the Khmer Empire
in the 17th century, the
temple of Ta Prohm was abandoned and neglected for centuries. When the effort
to conserve and restore the temples of Angkor
began in the early 21st century, the École
decided that Ta Prohm would be left
largely as it had been found, as a "concession to the general taste for
the picturesque." According to pioneering Angkor scholar Maurice Glaize
, Ta Prohm was singled out
because it was "one of the most imposing [temples] and the one which had
best merged with the jungle, but not yet to the point of becoming a part of
Roots of a running along the gallery of the second enclosure.
The design of Ta Prohm is that of a typical "flat" Khmer temple (as opposed to a temple-pyramid or , the inner levels of which are higher than the outer). Five rectangular surround a . Like most Khmer temples, Ta Prohm is oriented to the east, so the temple proper is set back to the west along an elongated east-west axis. The outer wall of 1000 by 650 metres encloses an area of 650,000 square metres that at one time would have been the site of a substantial town, but that is now largely forested. There are entrance at each of the, although access today is now only possible from the east and west. In the 13th century, face towers similar to those found at the were added to the gopuras.
Some of the face towers have collapsed. At one time, moats could be found inside and outside the fourth enclosure.
The three inner enclosures of the temple proper are , while the corner towers of the first enclosure form a with the tower of the central sanctuary. This basic plan is complicated for the visitor by the circuitous access necessitated by the temple's partially collapsed state, as well as by the large number of other buildings dotting the site, some of which represent later additions. The most substantial of these other buildings are the in the southeast corners of the first and third enclosures; the satellite temples on the north and south sides of the third enclosure; the Hall of Dancers
between the third and fourth eastern gopuras; and a House of Fire
east of the fourth eastern gopura.edit
of the temple, showing the relative locations of the main features.
A bas-relief over an entrance at Ta Prohm includes this intense meditating or praying figure.
Bas relief on Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm has not many narrative bas-reliefs
(compared to Angkor Wat or Angkor
Thom). One explanation that has been proffered for this dearth is that much of
the temple's original Buddhist narrative artwork must have been destroyed by
Hindu iconoclasts following the death of Jayavarman VII. At any rate, some
depictions of scenes from Buddhist mythology do remain. One badly eroded
bas-relief illustrates the "Great Departure" of Siddhartha
, the future Buddha
, from his father's palace. The temple also features stone
reliefs of devatas
female deities), meditating monks or ascetics, anddvarapalas
The trees growing out of the ruins are
perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm, and "have prompted more
writers to descriptive excess than any other feature of Angkor." Two species predominate, but
sources disagree on their identification: the larger is either the silk-cotton tree
) or thitpok Tetrameles nudiflora
, and the smaller is either
the strangler fig
). or Gold Apple (Diospyros decandra
).Indulging in what might be regarded
as "descriptive excess," Angkor scholar Maurice Glaize
observed, "On every
side, in fantastic over-scale, the trunks of the silk-cotton trees soar
skywards under a shadowy green canopy, their long spreading skirts trailing the
ground and their endless roots coiling more like reptiles than plants."
The temple of Ta Prohm was used as a location
in the film Tomb Raider
Although the film took visual liberties with other Angkorian
temples, its scenes of Ta Prohm were quite
faithful to the temple's actual appearance, and made use of its eerie
Some believe that one of the carvings
resembles a stegosaurus
- APSARA Accessed 17 May 2005.
- Coèdes, George. "La stèle de Ta-Prohm," in Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient, Vol.6, No.1-2 (1906), pp. 44–86. This article, written in French by Angkor-scholar Coedes, gives the original text of the foundational stele at Ta Prohm, as well as a French translation of the text. The article is available online at gallica.bnf.fr, the website for the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
- Freeman, Michael and Jacques, Claude. Ancient Angkor. River Books, 1999. ISBN 0-8348-0426-3.
- Glaize, Maurice. The Monuments of the Angkor Group. Revised 1993 and published online at theangkorguide.com.
- Rooney, Dawn. Angkor: An Introduction to the Temples. Odyssey Publications 3rd edition 1999. ISBN 962-217-601-1.