One of the biggest temples constructed during the Khmer kingdom is Ta Prohm. The external, enclosing wall is composed of laterite and measures 1000 m by 600 m. Today, just a few elements of the wall are still visible. Each side of the outer wall has four entry houses (gopuras). However, only two are accessible. In reality, the majority of visitors will arrive from one side and go across to the other to be received by their driver. On each gopura, there are “face towers.” These are assumed to have been added in the 13th century. A moat would have existed both inside and outside the outer wall. In accordance with this theory, two moats indicate a later enlargement of the outer perimeter.

Ta Prohm Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Sheet1
Ta Prohm_©upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8c/Ta_Prohm_%28III%29.jpg/1280px-Ta_Prohm_%28III%29.jpg

From east to west, all functions follow the main central axis. First on the way is the third enclosure gallery, followed by the fifth enclosure west entrance gopura, and then the main tower on the central axis. As the symmetrical plan continues, we come to the causeway connecting the third and fourth enclosures, and then we come to the entrance of the fifth enclosure, where we conclude the site. A library, satellite temples, a house of fire, and a hall of dancers are among the features found in the three inner enclosures. Visitors need to approach each enclosure from a different side of the temple, which makes it difficult to grasp the senses of the inner enclosure. The trees that grow through the building can be found in the inner enclosures. The middle sanctuary holds the primary “Tomb Raider Tree” which makes a unique identity of this temple.

Ta Prohm Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Sheet2
Tomb Raider Tree_©miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*kofzI_V0bCmXhR2i0Y7Z_Q.jpeg

Apart from the structural narration, there is the history and importance which increase the curiosity to visit. Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple constructed starting in 1186 and commonly called Rajavihara (Monastery of the King), which was devoted to the mother of Jayavarman VII. It is among the few monuments in the Angkor area where an inscription details the temple’s inhabitants and dependents. The temple’s main part depicts Prajnaparamita, the ideal of knowledge and the mother of the ruler. Jayamangalartha, the king’s guru, was honored at the northern satellite temple of the third enclosure. In the southern satellite temple, Jayavarman’s brother was honored. Ta Prohm was first constructed as a university and monastery for Buddhists. 12,500 people lived there, including approximately 20 spiritual leaders and more than 600 dancers. Around 80,000 people lived in the villages that served as Ta Prohm’s suppliers of goods and services.

The temple of Ta Prohm was neglected for centuries after the Khmer Empire collapsed in the 15th century. Ta Prohm would be mainly left as it had been found when the endeavor to preserve and rebuild the temples of Angkor started in the early 21st century, as a “concession to the widespread demand for the picturesque, according to the École française d’Extrême-Orient. Ta Prohm was chosen because it was amongst the most temples and the one which had mingled with the forest, but not yet to the point of being a part of it,” according to pioneering Angkor historian Maurice Glaize. However, a lot of work has been put into stabilizing the ruins, allowing access, and maintaining this seeming neglect. The majority of the temple complex’s structures, some of which were entirely new construction as of 2013, have been repaired by the Archaeological Survey of India. Wooden walkways, platforms, and roped fencing have been installed all around the monument to prevent additional harm from the heavy influx of tourists.

Ta Prohm Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Sheet3
Ta Prohm_©media.tacdn.com/media/attractions-splice-spp-674×446/0b/2c/f9/d7.jpg

Ta Prohm is one of the most visited temples in Angkor because it is mostly in the same state as when it was discovered, unlike other Angkorian structures. This is due to the picturesque and atmospheric mix of trees sprouting from the ruins and the surrounding forest. This temple is a good example of Khmer Architecture. The center sanctuary of Khmer temples was often located in the center of a concentric circle of walls, which depicted the mountain ranges around Mount Meru, the fabled location of the gods. The areas between these walls and between the innermost wall as well as the temple itself are known as enclosures. Nowadays, enclosures are numbered starting from the center and moving outward. Galleries usually line the walls that define the boundaries of Khmer temples, and gopuras at the cardinal points are the only ways to get through the walls. There are certain functions that are known in this style of temple. A gallery is a walkway that runs along an enclosure’s wall or along a temple’s axis. A gopura is frequently built at each of the four compass points of enclosures that surround temples. The rectangular Chamber of Dancers is extended along the eastern axis of the temple and is separated into four sections by galleries. A Hall of Fire features tall walls, windows facing south, a structure at the west end. Although they are a prominent element of Khmer temple construction, libraries still serve an unclear purpose. They probably served more extensively as religious sanctuaries than simply as text stores. They were often set in pairs on either side of an enclosure’s entrance that opened to the west. Ta Prohm’s incredible view is further enhanced by the fact that the forest is physically encroaching into the center of the temple.

References:

Online sources

  1. Justsiemreap_Ta Prohm Temple Guide, Available at:

https://justsiemreap.com/temple-guide/ta-prohm/

  1. Haswell Travelled(2020)_Angkor’s Ta prohm, Jungle Temple-Best of Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia Travel, Available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-ac9fEAuJM

Image sources

01_Ta Prohm_wikimedia

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8c/Ta_Prohm_%28III%29.jpg/1280px-Ta_Prohm_%28III%29.jpg

02_Tomb Raider Tree_miro.media 

https://miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*kofzI_V0bCmXhR2i0Y7Z_Q.jpeg

03_Ta Prohm_media.tacdn 

https://media.tacdn.com/media/attractions-splice-spp-674×446/0b/2c/f9/d7.jpg

Author

Abhigna is a young architect who has a unique architectural way of interpreting things. Her interest lies in articulating sensible spaces according to the needs of society. She believes in the exploration of continuum architecture.

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