Jan 11 2009
Ta Prohm is a Buddhist monastery dedicated to the “ancestor Brahma” and dates back to the middle of the XII. century and beginning of the XIII. century. If you´re looking for tranquillity (compared to most busy Wat´s in Angkor) and the amazing harmony between nature and Khmer design, I reckon this could be paradise for you…
Situated in the Eastern Bay between Ta Keo and Banteay Kdei and either coming from Angkor Wat itself or from the route of Angkor Thom (over Ta Keo) you cannot miss it. The proposition what some guides say, to enter at the east entrance and walk through the building and leave at the west entrance makes sense, however I did not follow any “marked” path due to the size you should not get lost like you could in a maze. By the way my recipe for a proper maze if you want to get out, just pick a wall on one side, start walking but never lift your hand, never move your hand from the wall and go along like this. You will get out, sooner or later with this method. I Haven´t learned much while I was doing technical drawings, but this I remember.
But back to Ta Prohm with its galleries, courtyards, towers and passageways. Ta Prohm was transformed under the king Jayavaraman VII however it was build over a period of time as it has a mixture of styles included those of Angkor Wat, Bayon and others.
The idea was by the French South East Asian School to leave a temple in the original state of art, how the jungle took back its own territory many hundred years ago. The civilian houses which were made out of wood lost the battle against nature, but the stone buildings, those who were meant for religious purposes mainly fought well. And today this is a delicate balance, maintaining the reliefs, stones and the building itself but let nature still rule in Ta Prohm. Nature would win again, but this time they complete each other in a remarkable and breath-taking way.
According to the guide books (e.g. Angkor by Dawn Rooney; The Monuments of the Angkor Group by Maurice Glaize) 79,365 people were involved in the service of the temple including 18 high priests, 2740 officials, 2202 assistants and 615 dancers, 3140 villages were owned by Ta Prohm. The must have been an important place as further documents translate wealth and significance.
Let´s say you´re arriving from the east side (recommended timing is early morning or afternoon) and walk though the east tower on the outer end you´ll also walk through the so called gopura which serves as an entrance and is also very popular in Indian temples too. Going straight on you arrive in the quadratic shape constructed main building. The stunning synthesis between natural history and man made history is breathtaking. The trees look like elastic material, as they grow and cover the buildings. Almost a picture of surrealism yet it´s true.
It really does give you a sense, how Henri Mouhot and the others could have found Angkor back in the XIX. century. The so called “natural state” fusion of the jungle and religious monuments has to be controlled yet it´s remarkable in any means. Take your time and have fun!