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Banteay Srei Temple

Banteay Srei loosely translates to ‘citadel of the women,’ but this is a modern appellation that probably refers to the delicate beauty of the carvings. This temple was discovered by French archaeologists comparatively late in their research, not until in 1914. Banteay Srei was built at a time when the Khmer Empire was gaining significant power and territory, constructed by a brahmin counselor under a powerful king, Rajendravarman, and later under Jayavarman V. The temple displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art - the walls densely covered with some of the most beautiful, deep and intricate carvings of any Angkorian temple. The temple's relatively small size, pink sandstone construction and ornate design give it a fairyland ambiance.

Considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art, Banteay Srei is cut from stone of a pinkish hue and includes some of the finest stone carving anywhere on Earth. Begun in AD 967, it is one of the smallest sites at Angkor, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in stature. The art gallery of Angkor, Banteay Srei, a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, is wonderfully well preserved and many of its carvings are three-dimensional. Banteay Srei is one of the few temples around Angkor to be commissioned not by a king but by a brahmin, who may have been a tutor to Jayavarman V. The temple is square and has entrances at the east and west, with the east approached by a causeway. Of interest are the lavishly decorated libraries and the three central towers, which are decorated with male and female divinities and beautiful filigree relief work. Classic carvings at Banteay Srei include delicate women with lotus flowers in hand and traditional skirts clearly visible, as well as breathtaking re-creations of scenes from the epic Ramayana adorning the library pediments (carved inlays above a lintel). However, the sum of the parts is no greater than the whole – almost every inch of these interior buildings is covered in decoration. Standing watch over such perfect creations are the mythical guardians, all of which are copies of originals stored in the National Museum.