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Banteay Chhmar Temple
Banteay Chhmar Temple

Date:                                   Built in late twelfth century
Religion:                             Buddhism
King:                                  Jayavarman VII (1181-1221)
Posthumous name:             Mahasangatapada

Years of shifting earth, some looting and the advancing trees have taken their toll on Banteay Chhmar. The tourist gets the sense that the forest is reclaiming the temple for itself. Banteay Chhmar temple is amazing and attractive for tourists who want to visit the new discovered remote temple.

The bas-reliefs along the surrounding wall of the temple are some of the finest in Cambodia. Yet the stories are incomplete due to sustained looting, which continued as late as 2002. Huge sections of the outer wall have been chiseled away, and are now scattered to the four winds. While the loss is felt as you wander around the massive complex, it also drives home the importance of visitors to this remote site.
The massive temple of Banteay Chhmar, along with its satellite shrines and reservoir (baray), comprises one of the most important and least understood archaeological complexes from Cambodia's Angkor period. The complex is full of sandstone bas-reliefs that tell stories of ancient Cambodian battles. Witnessing the preservation of the temple and experiencing the beauty of the local community will reward the adventurous traveller.

Banteay Chhmar temple locates along the National Road No 69A, which is 63 km north of Sisophon in Banteay Meanchey province in northwest Cambodia and about 20 km east of the Thai border.

The temple is today much damaged because of war and treasures hunters who have stolen statues and the temple stone for selling them to Thailand. In addition, there are some other temples in Ban Teay Mean Chey province such as Pra Sat Preah Chhor and Pra Sat Pram as well that have mostly been abandoned and not arranged.

History
In the far northwestern corner of Cambodia the looted Angkorian temple of Banteay Chhmar sits teetering on the brink of a revival. Commissioned by King Jayavarman VII and Banteay Chhmar is often compared to Angkor Thom in size and structure.
One of the temple's shrines once held an image of Srindrakumara rajaputra (the crown prince), probably a son of Jayavarman VII. The long Old Khmer inscription found at the site (K.227), and now on display in the National Museum, Phnom Penh, relates how this prince or a king (samtac) was protected on two different occasions by four royal servants, all of whom lost their lives in his defense. The inscription lists the names of these officials and informs us that their respective images were once placed in the four corners of the shrine.

The Site
The complex resembles Angkor Thom and other structures attributed to Jayavarman VII. It is one of two sites outside Angkor with the enigmatic face-towers. Besides that, its outer gallery is carved with bas-reliefs depicting military engagements and daily life scenes very similar to the well-known ones in Bayon.
The complex is oriented to the east, where there's a dried baray (about 1.6 by 0.8 km), which had a temple on an artificial island (mebon) in its centre. There are three enclosures, as typical. The external one, largely ruined, was 1.9 by 1.7 km and surrounded by a moat. The middle enclosure, provided with a moat too, is 850 by 800 m. It contains the main temple, surrounded by a gallery with reliefs 250 by 200&nbps;m which constitutes the third inner enclosure.
Besides the main temple and the mebon there are other eight secondary temples. Four stelae detailing Jayavarman VII's genealogy were placed (though they remain unfinished) at each of the four corners of the third enclosure wall, mirroring the stelae that occupied the four corner-shrines (Prasat Chrung) of the king's capital at Angkor Thom.

Modern Threats
Because of its remote location and its proximity to the Thai border, the complex has been subjected to severe looting, especially in the 1990s. In 1998, 2000 and 2002 the temple was listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the hundred most endangered sites in all countries.
As example, in 1998 a group of soldiers stole a 30-meters section from the southern wall.  The bas-reliefs of Banteay Chhmar once displayed eight exceptional AvalokiteĊ›varas in the west gallery, but now only two of these images remain: in January 1999 some looters dismantled sections of the western gallery wall containing these wonderful bas-reliefs. The truck that transported them was intercepted by Thai police by chance, and the 117 sandstone pieces of the wall were recovered. At present, these are on display in the National Museum of Cambodia at Phnom Penh. However, there has been no serious investigation of that theft.

Global Heritage Fund efforts
Preservation of Banteay Chhmar is currently being led by Global Heritage Fund, a non-profit organization based in California. The organization's efforts thus far have included training a local Khmer team to conserve the sandstone bas-reliefs of the temple complex. Ultimately, GHF seeks to conserve the largely collapsed temple complex as a ruin "with low-impact, safe visitor access via suspended cable platforms over the fallen structures, along with selective interventions for high-risk structures, bas-reliefs and towers." GHF is also assisting the Cambodian government with the UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination and inscription process.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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