The Citadel Of Art

There are no massive city gates to welcome you here, or stone covered causeways over gigantic moats to traverse. But what Banteay Srei – Khmer for Citadel of the Women* – lacks in monumental scale and significance, it makes up for with its exquisite sculptural adornment. Each intricate, carved inch of its centuries old, pink sandstone surface, proclaiming the supremacy of art over architecture.
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Glorious depictions of scenes from the Hindu epics, in styles almost more Indian than Khmer, are splashed across every lintel and pediment of the three shrines, and even a pair of libraries facing them. While door and window frames, mimic the filigreed intricacies of traditional woodwork! Some of the most elaborate carvings are to be found on the library pediments, a few of which, along with the Uma & Shiva sculptures from the central sanctum, have been removed to museums. The rest need to be viewed from behind rope barricades, erected in 2010 to contain damage.

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Banteay Srei - Siem Reap, Cambodia   Temple Guardians, Banteay Srei - Siem Reap, Cambodia   View through a doorwayAnimal headed Dwarapalakas (guardians), Banteay Srei - Siem Reap, Cambodia
If you go, try and time a visit in the early hours of the morning, when the facade is illuminated by sunlight. We went late afternoon (having clubbed this with Beng Mealea) and although the light was wonderful, and brought out the colour of the sandstone, the sun directly behind the temple wasn’t ideal for photography.

Until next time…………….happy travels, no matter where life takes you.

*This name is attributed to the delicacy of the bas relief, implying that they were perhaps designed by women! 

Related articles:
More Posts from Siem Reap
A Great Temple Guide

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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

45 thoughts on “The Citadel Of Art

  1. Hi Madhu,
    Love you blog of The Citadel Of Art with many beautiful pictures. Love all the unique, ancient achitecture of Cambodia. I see your visit to Cambodia in 2013. And i am wondering where are you in the world now 🙂

    Happy traveling 🙂

  2. Banteay Srei looks really stunning, Madhu. I wish we’d had more time to have made it there when we were in Cambodia. Are you in SE Asia now?

  3. Sandstone should be too fragile to have endured, shouldn’t it? These carvings and the placement of the blocks are amazing.

  4. I must catch up on your posts soon… I miss your blog!

    Someone asked if you could post the quotes on the Guest Post you did on Rumi in Persian. I know I can’t! LOL

    Much Love to you! xoxox

  5. Intricate. That’d take me time to wander and wonder and ponder on what the designs are telling.
    Ahihihi… Shadows, funny how it is an adversary for photography. I did have some pictures left unshared beause of shadows.

  6. Wasn’t this a gem of a building, Madhu? I was almost beside myself, oohing and ahhing at every turn, unable to settle on which freize or niche to concentrate on! Luckily for me, a rainy night turned into a glowing dawn and the building glowed as though lit from within – I felt as though I was inside a jewel box!

  7. The extent of ancient Indian influence in Asia and the Pacific is enormous. Even though the age of the Rajas is long gone in places like Indonesia for example there are still traces of Sanskrit words in their languages. You have demonstrated how even architecture in other countries has been copied in these pictures.

  8. I would love to visit here as well Madhu. Love the intricate carvings and you’ve captured it all so well. Gorgeous shots! Thanks for sharing. 😀 *hugs*

  9. Just returned from a week in Cambodia, and you are right it is a gorgeous temple – we got there at midday unfortunately so really hot and humid… how they built all those temples around Siem Reap is mind boggling….. will be putting up my own pics soon…

  10. Fabulous gallery Madhu and the new header is so intricate !

  11. Exquisite. I’ll go as soon as I have retired…Hopefully I’m still agile and healthy. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos.

  12. Beautiful! I’ve always wanted to go to Cambodia, and Siem Reap in particular. Until this, thanks for the lovely photos!

  13. I know just how wonderful Banteay Srei is, because I visited it for myself last year. It’s a magical place and you have perfectly captured the essence in your photos, Madhu.

    Good job 🙂

  14. Extraordinary skill of stone carving, I’m assuming completed off site and put in place piece by piece? The colour too, is glorious. Thanks for the post. Brilliant

    1. The carvings are astounding enough. But the alignment of the carved blocks, boggles the mind Angeline! They are like intricate jigsaw puzzles!

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