Banteay Kdei Temple
Banteay Kdei Temple



Date:                                      Built in late twelfth century

Religion:                               Buddhism

King:                                     Jayavarman VII (1181-1221)

Posthumous name:             Mahasangatapada


Banteay Kdei was constructed by King Jayavarman VII in late 12th century to dedicate to Mahayana Buddhism and his teacher. The king began to build this temple just a few months after he had liberated Ankgor city from Cham invaders and just a few months after he had crowned himself as a god king the Khmer Kingdom. The word ‘Banteay Kdei’ means Buddhism education center.

The wall of this temple was built of laterite or volcanic stone measuring 700m by 500m. There were originally a lot of Buddha figures, in an action of doing meditation, on the top of the wall. Itsfour entrances were made of sandstone as enormous towers. Each of them was decorated with four huge smiling Buddha faces on top which is similar to those at Ta Prohm. There’s a Garuda statue standing on Nagas on both side of the gate as powerful temple guardians.
A large Buddhist cruciform terrace immediately in front of the temple is slightly raised and decorated with naga and garuda-balustrades and lions that are in the Bayon style.
Unlike to the Hindu temple which was built as high as mountain, Banteay Kdei is a short Buddhist temple designed with 13 towers crowned with lotus buds. There’re many shrines used for religious activities during the holydays by Buddhism. There’s also a moat surrounding the second enclosing wall as well. It measures 320m by 300m.

At this Mahayana Buddhist monastic complex at least two different styles are evident, relating to Angkor Wat and Bayon styles. Various sanctuary towers were also apparently joined only after their construction by a system of galleries and vestibules that exploit the use of the cloister. Changes and additions to the design following the original construction result in the sometimes confused and unbalanced present-day layout.

The ensemble is on a single level and consists, within two successive enclosure walls, of two concentric galleries from which emerge towers, preceded to the east by a cloister. This temple is similar in design and architecture to Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, although smaller and less complex.

There is no information concerning the exact dedication of this temple, and a 10th century inscription found in the western gopura of the second enclosure has been noted to have been sculpted on re-used stones possibly from the neighbouring temple of Kutisvara.

As at Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, there is a vast rectangular hall that perhaps served as a space for ritual dance. The square columns, like those at the entrances to the Bayon, are decorated with paired or single dancing apsara sculpted in low-relief. Bas-relief dvarapala flank the entrances, surrounded by devata. The central sanctuary, which still carries some traces of sculpture, was probably rough-cut in order to receive a metal facing.

The gopura of the third enclosure is cruciform in plan, has internal columns and is covered by vaults. In the internal courtyard and walls of porches are Buddha images defaced in the period following Jayavarman VII's reign. The vaults of these outer galleries, constructed in both laterite and sandstone, has in places, collapsed. Access from the rear of this complex leads to the eastern entrance of Ta Prohm temple.
The vicinity of this temple was a campus of residences for Buddhist novices to stay and to study. Those buildings were made of wood and they have gone away.
The inscription in this temple tells us that Indradevi, who was the second queen of Jayavarman VII, was a professor of Buddhist philosophy and she managed this Buddhism education center.
Jayavarman VIII, who extremely believed in Shiva, and who was not a good tolerated king to other religions, ordered his Hindu followers to chop off Buddha figures in late 13th century. This incident caused a badly religious conflict between Buddhist and Hindu followers, and then Siamese took a good opportunity to declare independence from the Khmer Kingdom. 100 years later, they sent troops to invade Angkor city successfully and occupied for almost one century.
From 1960-1970, the vicinity of this temple was established as a zoo by king Norodom Sihanouk because he wanted to preserve wild animals as an attraction for tourists. Those animals were deer, antelopes, monkeys, iguanas, boars so on. Unfortunately, those animals were killed to eat by the Khmer Rouge soldiers and the Viet Cong, who were the Khmer Rouge’s alliance who struggled to fight against Lon Nol Government 1970-1975

In 2001, a team from the University of Sophia (Japan) uncovered 274 fragment pieces of Buddhist sculpture while pursuing a research excavation in Banteay Kdei. Most of the excavated statues are sculpted from sandstone and these were found together with a small number of metal artifacts.

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