fbpx
Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Art Travels: Ta Prohm Temple

Source: Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ta_Prohm.jpg

Art Travels

Art Travels: Ta Prohm Temple

The Ta Prohm temple along with the Bayon and the Angkor Wat are among the most visited sites in northern Cambodia. The most enchanting feature of Ta Prohm is that it looks like the sandstone structures are being swallowed up by the encroaching roots and vines. The atmospheric jungle surroundings and the 2001 movie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider have made Ta Prohm one of the most popular Khmer temples.

Art Travels: Ta Prohm Temple
Causeway Entrance of Ta Prohm. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Commissioned by Jayavarman VII

The Ta Prohm was built in the Bayon style in 1186 AD and is located close to the Angkor Thom complex. According to the inscriptions on the temple’s stele it was originally called Rajavihara, or the monastery of the king. It served as a Mahayana Buddhist complex. The main image of this temple is of Pragnya Paramita, the personification of wisdom in Mahayana Buddhism. Khmer Emperor Jayavarman VII modeled this image after his mother, Rajachudamani.

Sandstone swallowed by trees at Ta Prohm. Source: Author’s photograph.

A Bustling City

Ancient Khmer had well-planned cities with schools, hospitals, reservoirs, as well as a substantial population. The Ta Prohm is one of the few Angkorian temples where a stone inscription provides detailed information about the inhabitants of the temple. This temple was home to around 12,640 people including 18 high priests and 615 apsaras or dancers. More than 800,000 people lived in villages surrounding the temple and provided goods and services to the temple’s inhabitants. The temple itself was home to a bounty of treasures such as gold, pearls, and silks.

Ornate Doorway at Ta Prohm. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Art Travels: Ta Prohm Temple
Doorway at Ta Prohm. Source: Author’s photograph.

Layout and Design of the Temple

Unlike the pyramid structure of many Khmer temples, the layout of Ta Prohm is relatively simple. It has several one-story buildings enclosed by a rectangular wall. The main building is accessible by a short walk through the jungle and is not immediately visible from the road. There are stone terraces in the shape of a cross that form a walkway over a narrow moat. This leads to yet another enclosing wall within which the main temple sits. In the interior are many courtyards, passages, and towers that are partly destroyed and partly conserved by thick foliage.

Ta Prohm temple. Source: Author’s photograph.

The Ta Prohm comprises a central sanctuary where holes are visible in the walls that may have held a covering of stucco or metal. Additionally there are 39 other shrines with towers on top. Two of these shrines were dedicated to the guru and the brother of Jayavarman VII. The Hall of Dancers was the centerpiece of Ta Prohm, with 48 ornate pillars supporting a corbelled roof. The pillars have exquisite carvings of dancing apsaras, elephants, floral motifs, etc. The walls of the Hall of Dancers also had niches with friezes of Bodhisattvas and mythical animals.

Moss Covered Ruins of Ta Prohm. Source: Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA.

The Ta Prohm does not feature as many complex carvings or narrative bas-relief galleries as the Angkor Wat. It is possible though that more carvings existed that may have decayed over the centuries in the enveloping jungle. It is also possible that they were destroyed following the death of Jayavarman VII and during the Hinduism restoration of the Khmer empire under Jayavarman VIII.

Art Travels: Ta Prohm Temple
Carving of Devatas at Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Abandonment and Rediscovery

In the 15th century the invading Siamese destroyed the capital of the Khmer empire. Following this defeat the Khmer kings left the Angkorian region for Phnom Pehn. Thus they abandoned the Ta Prohm (along with the other surrounding Angkorian sites). The jungle eventually swallowed it up. It was forgotten until its rediscovery in 1860 by the French naturalist Henri Mouhot.

Art Travels: Ta Prohm Temple
Temple enveloped by nature at Ta Prohm. Source: Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA

Indian – Cambodian Conservation Initiatives

Extensive conservation and restoration works have taken place in recent years at the Ta Prohm including the installation of wooden walkways with handrails. The Archaeological Survey of India together with the APSARA (the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) have undertaken the conservation work.

Conversation works at Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

These agencies have chosen to leave most of Ta Prohm as it was found, however. This is to display the mesmerizing effect of the jungle on the structures after centuries of abandonment to nature. The roots of the trees have attached themselves to the porous sandstone, even extracting water from the stones. This both undermines their structural integrity and also holds them up at the same time.

Roots & sandstone synthesis at Ta Prohm. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Roots & sandstone synthesis at Ta Prohm. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Dinosaur Carving

Ta Prohm is also home to a mysterious stone carving of what appears to be a stegosaurus. This carving sparked a discussion as to whether the Khmer civilization knew about the existence of dinosaurs. Though it is an exciting prospect to imagine that the ancient Khmer people knew about dinosaurs, it is far more likely that this is a carving of a rhinoceros with foliage in the background.

Art Travels: Ta Prohm Temple
Famous ‘dinosaur carving’ at Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Art, history, mythology, and dachshund enthusiast from New Delhi, based in Los Angeles.

Comments

More in Art Travels

  • 19th Century

    Art of Opulence: Paintings of Exquisite Interiors

    By

    The notion of painting natural landscapes has been prevalent since ancient times. It is an obvious choice, of course. What can compare with the beauty of nature? The inverse concept of depicting interior spaces, however, is a much more complex and intriguing phenomenon that is believed to have...

  • Architecture

    Colorful Temples in the World

    By

    Whether colors represent environmental phenomena, human history, or personal freedom, there are canvases that exist beyond an artist’s studio. Mountains, lakes, buildings, and gardens are some of the most colorful places in the world. Let us hope this collection of colorful temples inspires you to visit them! Fushimi Inari-Taisha...

  • Architecture

    Rococo and Baroque Architecture in Turkey

    By

    Representing splendor, opulence, and brilliance, Rococo art prevailed in Europe from the year 1700. It followed the baroque period in art, which included less light and more religious depictions. When it comes to architecture, however, Baroque and Rococo styles are closely intertwined. The way the Rococo...

  • Ancient

    The Fascinating Ceramic Tile Art of the Anatolian Seljuks

    By

    The ceramic tile art of the Anatolian Seljuks dazzled with its mystical turquoise hues, fantastical creatures, and figural depictions. So, who were the Anatolian Seljuks and what inspired them to create such wildly, imaginative ceramic tiles? Who Were the Anatolian Seljuks? The Seljuks originated from the...

  • Architecture

    Global Landmarks Viewed from High in the Sky

    By

    If you are someone who does not deal well with heights, perhaps proceed through this article with caution. Because even though they are only images on a computer screen, these depicted landmarks from around the world are still very much awe inspiring when seen from high...

To Top