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ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA: Citadel of Women

Claire Orrell

Visiting the temple complex of Angkor was a humbling and breathtaking experience. The entire site sprawls over 400km2 and is home to over 100 temples built between 802 and 1220 AD by the Khmer people.

Packed into a dusty tuktuk with an enthusiastic driver I was lucky enough to visit around 6 of these magnificent crumbling monuments over a couple of days.

The first temple I visited was the beautiful Banteay Srei (Citadel of Women), originally called Tribhuvanamaheśvara (Great Lord of the Threefold World), dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Created on a much smaller scale than many of the other temples at Angkor, it is intricately carved from a dusky orange-pink sandstone. The amazingly well preserved decorative walls and lintels display scenes from Mahabhārata, demi-goddess (devatas) and monsters. Walking through the temple in the early morning sunlight was a moving experience, I hope you get a small taste of this from my photographs!

I'm not entirely sure what's happening on this carving but perhaps it is Kala (a monster that represents time) trying to get the better of our Shiva — not likely! © Claire Orrell 2014

I'm not entirely sure what's happening on this carving but perhaps it is Kala (a monster that represents time) trying to get the better of our Shiva — not likely! © Claire Orrell 2014

View of Banteay Srei through the encroaching jungle. © Claire Orrell 2014.

View of Banteay Srei through the encroaching jungle. © Claire Orrell 2014.

Carving depicting a scene from the Ramayan: Sugrīva lures Vali out of the city by challenging him to a fight. On the right you can see Ram about to shoot and kill Vali with an arrow. © Claire Orrell 2014.

Carving depicting a scene from the Ramayan: Sugrīva lures Vali out of the city by challenging him to a fight.
On the right you can see Ram about to shoot and kill Vali with an arrow. © Claire Orrell 2014.

Banteay Srei details, © Claire Orrell 2014

Banteay Srei details, © Claire Orrell 2014

Carving showing a scene from the Mahabarata: the burning of Khāṇḍava Forest over which Indra was a protecting deity, by Arjuna and Vasudeva Krishna. © Claire Orrell 2014.

Carving showing a scene from the Mahabarata: the burning of Khāṇḍava Forest over which Indra was a protecting deity, by Arjuna and Vasudeva Krishna. © Claire Orrell 2014.

Doorway with kala, a monster that symbolises time, in Banteay Srei, © Claire Orrell 2014

Doorway with kala, a monster that symbolises time, in Banteay Srei, © Claire Orrell 2014