Ta Phrom – A Pas de Deux!

When Meenakshi of Laughing Penguins kindly agreed – thank you Meenakshi! – to pair her verses with my images of the iconic ‘Lara Croft’ temple of Ta Phrom, I knew she would bring more to this post than just her evocative words.

Here is her homage to the desolate grandeur of the tree strangled monument. Her lyrical accompaniment dancing a pas de deux with my photographs of the eerie tableaux.

Hope you enjoy this as much as we did 🙂

Ta Phrom - Ancestor Brahma TempleAt Ta Prohm, in the verdant womb of the forest, stones are believers.

And walls of trees, are dusted with heavenly graces.

“Come fly away with us,”  low-hung banyan roots entice thought-echoes as they sift the ancient moss-licked stone.

“The sky above the Rajavihara is dry and intonations will quench its sandy face.”

Shadows, wrinkled, wise, gaze into shards of broken stone walls and swathes of silences that stayed on when voices faded and footfalls died. Mystery darkens faces of the deities lovingly etched by workmen a thousand years ago…

Ta Phrom - Central courtyard

“It had been a time of plenty, when the Prajnaparamita was honored by Jayavarman.

It had been a time of joy when anklets of dancers and chants of priests orated into the gentle forest. Ephemeral all….”

“As time walked away, wisdom withdrew behind a veil, and contemplation became astonished stones,

….it’s been ages since worshipers genuflected here!”

After the faithful fell with the Khmer, a sparrow flew down one morning from the green sky above the eastern gopura.

Ta Phrom Buddha

She hesitated beside a gently flaring pillar:

“Why is there this eerie silence, only the dust mites can be heard sighing and soughing…..

and is that an ancient monk hurrying out?  Why, only the other day, silks rustled disdainfully in hues of magenta and cyan……

Blushing ankle bells tinkled delicately to a celestial web of rhythm and song……

Hidden Apsara

Why, only the other day, voices of hope rose into the air like a haze of butterflies, and occasionally, a fervent call touched the cheek of the sky with a tear.”

The sparrow remembered. She grew sad.

Then, tremulously, bravely, she began to pipe her morning song, a brown or grey ditty of modest trillings and callings.

The beatific sunlight in morning corridors touched it with divine strings and her humble song transformed into an aria in paradise.

…….That was when the jungle came to think of Ta Prohm as its own. Banyan roots linked arms with shy columns and vines clung to filigree wall faces of moss.

Ta Phrom covered with roots

“We will uphold your columns, as you will uplift us, and we will soar into heaven.”

It was a bond of love forged in faith.

Ta Phrom

And so, even to this day, as steps approach leonine arches, forest fairies press forward…..

leafy wings and eager sky-lined faces, bowing in ageless courtesies.

A fig tree abides atop a patiently upstanding gopura.

Look on… a breathing curtain of roots shields against the harsh badgering of sun and rain,

and a sturdy band of banyan flows along the ground to shore up moisture-laden stones.

All elements are together: a root-hand drapes over an arch here, and there it hugs a secret entrance.

Ta Phrom

…….And so, it stands, lofty like timeless poetry.

Softly flowing waves of stone and prayer merging

in unseen currents,

serene breath of wonder,

a wisp,

a whisper,

in a forest absently……

to a temple agelessly……



Posted by

Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

65 thoughts on “Ta Phrom – A Pas de Deux!

  1. Those roots/temples are incredible!! I was kicking around the idea to go to Cambodia and Laos in December…pretty sure your pics have convinced me that I MUST go! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I think this is one of your best posts yet — absolutely beautiful and the words paired with those photos bring the images to life! Added to the Travel Bucket List on Pinterest! ~ Kat

    1. It certainly is. Thanks Paula. I knew I wanted Meenakshi to describe this place as soon as I read one of her poems

  3. What a great match you two made! The poetry is beautiful, and I have no idea how you capture such atmosphere in your photos, Madhu.

  4. Magnificent combination of words and photos…this is so beautiful – beyond everything… I have never heard of this monument before. Is it inside Anchor Wat or is it a separate temple? The roots, the trees…I would not have wanted to be alone here at dusk.

  5. Roots around the stone building and trees above… how incredible. It must be difficult to take pictures since it’s so shady, but your shots look stunning! Thank you for the great post, Madhu!

  6. Beautiful images and words together 🙂

    This post brings happy memories flooding back of our visit to Angkor Wat, last year. Thank you, Madhu.

  7. Words and images danced in a wonderfully in this well-choreographed presentation. Thank you Madhu and also to your friend Meenakshi.

    Cheers, Eric

  8. Thank you, dear readers, for your heart warming words. Madhu’s pictures are inspirational, and to weave words for this set was a sheer pleasure. I loved the whole process: seeing the pictures in my inbox, thinking about them as I went about my work, putting down the words in a way I imagined the place would look and feel… all of it hardly felt like ‘work’. Madhu is a great collaborator… her warm infectious energy spills into her emails, trust me. 🙂

    Thank you again for enjoying this post. Makes it an even more pleasurable outing!

  9. Wow, this is brilliant…and the images are just amazing! I’m in awe of how those roots grow around, over, under and through the structures!

  10. Madhu, this is such a great job of you pairing your photos with great verses – Meenakshi really did a great job! I almost forgot how beautiful and serene Ta Prohm was until I saw your pictures and feel amazed once again.

  11. A great pairing. I love your photos and the words added to them in a magical way.


  12. Gorgeous post, Madhu, thank you so much to you both. I have seen pictures of this place before but never knew where it was. Now I think I must go there one day….

  13. The words and photos are perfectly melded together, just as the banyan roots and temples. We are definitely including this area of Cambodia in our SE Asia trip next winter.

  14. Great shots! We were just there at the beginning of February and it is truly a magical place. What an amazing world we live in!

  15. Brava Madhu! Brava to you and Meenakshi! What haunting words befitting the raw beauty of this famous temple. It all looks so wonderfully desolate, and begging the imagination to wander back to its halcyon days. I can almost hear the mournful song of the sparrow in those photos!

  16. This is so wonderful, a great jugalbandi. The photos give the words eyes and the words make the pictures speak. The two of you should combine to produce some tourist material. What you produce will speak to the “real” seeker.

  17. GASP! Now I badly would want to go there! I want to see those amazing, magnificent looking roots. That’s incredible, Madhu. My golly, this one is for the gold. Truly quaint, remarkable and darn so fascinating.

  18. read all three posts yesterday; couldn’t comment.

    do you visit all these eerie and exquisite places? Lucky you!!

    those are some awe-inspiring photographs! loved that lyrical accompaniment as well!!

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