Banteay Samré

March 1, 2009

in Angkor Temples

Temple Name: Banteay Samré
Notable Features: Richly detailed carvings of the Vishnulegends.
Getting There: From Siem Reap, travel about 14 km along the road to East Mebon. Turn right at the Banteay Samré signpost located somewhere between Pre Rup and East Mebon. Follow the road past the village of Pradak. There is a T-junction in the road just after the village. Take a left at the junction. Continue for 2 km. Turn right at the dirt road marked by a Banteay Samré signpost. Banteay Samré’s northern entrance is located along this dirt road.

The Temple of the Samré People

Banteay Samré sits on the east side of Angkor, and was built sometime in the 12th century. The temple owes its name to the Samré people who colonized the territory at the foot of Mount Kulen. The modern-day inhabitants of the village Pradak are believed to be the descendents of the Samré.

French archeologists discovered Banteay Samré in an advanced state of ruin. Its building blocks were strewn about the temple grounds; jungle vegetation had swallowed many of Banteay Samré’s prominent structures. Using a process known as anastylosis (dismantling and reassembling), archeologists were able to restore much of Banteay Samré’s original charm and luster.

Four gopuras (gateways), one for each of the cardinal directions, and a massive outer wall enclose Banteay Samré. Another wall system is located in the temple’s coutyard. Within this inner wall system, there are two structures called ‘”libraries” and a central prasat (tower). The design of this temple sounds more confusing than it actually looks. Because Banteay Samré occupies such a great deal of space, it appears to be very simple.

There aren’t many inscriptions in Banteay Samré. As a result, archeologists have had a hard time pinpointing the exact date of construction. The inscriptions that do adorn Banteay Samré typically depict mythical creatures and scenarios. By studying the temple’s architectural style, it has been determined that Banteay Samré was constructed around the same time as Angkor Wat (in the 12th century).

Because of its location, on the far east side of Angkor, Banteay Samré doesn’t receive the same amount of tourist attention as many of the other Angkor temples. This makes for an especially peaceful visit for the adventurous traveler. Banteay Samré is covered in rich ornamentation, depicting an array of Khmer scenes and beliefs. This temple is also one of the most complete structures in all of Angkor.

All of the temple’s gopuras contain bas-reliefs that are worth noting. The carvings on the temple’s porticoes, however, are Banteay Samré’s finest. These carvings illustrate the battle of Lanka, in which monkeys and deities fought alongside men. Surely, this bas-relief is one of the most exquisite examples of Khmer art.

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