Banteay Samre was one of those rare temples in Angkor where we were the only family touring it. This was on our way back from Banteay Srei. The tuk tuk driver of Siem Reap insisted we visit the Banteay Samre Temple and we are so glad we listened to him. One has to detour a bit from the route connecting Banteay Srei and Siem Reap, but it is definitely worth it.
Tuk tuks aren’t permitted till the entrance of the temple. We got off on the main road and walked few hundred meters to reach the entrance to Banteay Samre. It was very evident Banteay Samre temple is neglected more by the authorities compared to other temples for whatever reasons best known to them. No guards were around and I anticipated a near ruin structure inside. But what I found inside was exactly opposite.
Banteay Samre is in a far better condition than TaPhrom or Banteay Kdei! I cherish my visit to this temple a lot because we were the only family exploring the temple then. The stillness and serenity around this temple is magical. I found the lacking of same effect in other temples of Angkor.
History of Banteay Samre Temple
Banteay Samre was built during the reign of Suryavarman II and Yasovarman II in early 12th century. This is a Hindu Temple built in style similar to that of Angkor Wat only that is not as huge as Angkor Wat. The height of the temple is an indication that probably the temple was built by some high official in the court and not by the King himself.
Banteay in Khmer language means citadel. Samre was an ancient ethnic Indochinese tribe. So the name indicates the temple was Citadel of Samre tribe. Another legend that is popular about this temple is that it was named after a farmer. Under unavoidable conditions he killed the king and then made to ascend the throne.
This temple was discovered in early 20th century. The French project overlooking all these temples cleaned and enhanced the temple looks. Much of what is seen today is due to the restoration and anastylosis done by French team during 1936-1944. Since there is lack of evidence and no discovery of inscriptions detailed history of Banteay Samre temple is not available.
Banteay Samre – Exploring This Underrated Khmer Temple
The best approach to Banteay Samre Temple is from the east direction. Two lions, which look impressive even in their ruined state, guard the east entrance. Naga balustrades and these lions bear a remarkable similarity with that of Angkor. But if you are coming from the main road you land at the North side of the temple.
First Enclosure of Banteay Samre
North Gopura is impressive with fine art work on the lintel. Huge laterite wall, 6m high, makes it look more like a fort than a temple. At the north entrance you climb up a few steps, cross the wall and go down another short series. You will find yourself repeating this process several times in the unique interior layout of Banteay Samre Temple. There are gopuras with elaborate carvings on the lintels in other 3 walls too.
Inside you face another enclosure, you cross this to get to the main shrine inside.
This second enclosure measures 83m by 77m. There is gallery around this, the roof missing, indicating it was probably made of wood which has withered away with time. Lintels and pediments of this enclosure have sculpted images depicting stories from Ramayan and other Hindu mythological stories.
I read up in several sites that in its heydays this shrine must have been the center of activity and worship in the region of Baray.