The German Angkor Illustration Project
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Banteay Prei, sometimes spelt Banteay Prey, means "citadel of the jungle". The Khmer word "banteay" is often used in names of temples that seem to be fortified by outer galleries or simple enclosure walls. Banteay Prei’s location is not really a jungle any more, but at the border of the forested Archaeological Park to the surrounding farmland. Sometimes the meadow of the temple is used as pastureland for cattle.
Banteay Prei is a noteworthy "off the beaten path" insider tipp for those who hope to enjoy an untouristed Khmer temple in an idyllic setting. And by sure, if Banteay Prei was not located in Angkor, but close to a beach resort, every tour operator in town would offer regular half-day excursions to visit it. But almost no tour package for bus group excursions in Angkor includes Banteay Prei, as there are too many other more important sites along this Grand Tour, where Banteay Srei is located. It is just north of the contemporary gigantic flat temple Preah Khan. Banteay Prei is neighboured by the smaller Prasat Prei and may have been connected with it.
Banteay Prei, by the way, is not at all small, it is a medium-sized compound. In layout and style, it is similar to Ta Som and Ta Nei, two more famous temples originating from the same period. But galleries, Gopurams and the central Prasat tower are less high at Banteay Prei, that's why it almost appears to be a temple en miniature.
Banteay Prei is one of the many edifices founded by the record-breaking temple-builder Jayavarman VII, about 1200. Inside the exterior (counted "third") enclosure there is a moat surrounding the core compound. It measures 80 m by 60 m. The galleries forming the inner ("first") enclosure are 30 m from east to west and 25 m from north to south, they connect enbtrances near the corners and Gopurams with towers in the cardinal directions.
There is a pillar with a peg motif of unknown function in the southwestern part of the courtyard. Similar stelae were found in other Bayon style temples, e.g. two in Preah Khan and one in Ta Som.
Walls of all buildings are decorated with floral ornaments and Devatas (Apsaras) in the typical Bayon-style. As in the case of other Buddhist monuments in Angkor, many sculptures are defaced, some by Hindu iconoclasts in the 13th century, but others during the civil war period when Khmer Rouge art thefts plagued this part of Angkor frequently.
Both morning and afternoon are recommendable for a visit. In the afternoon, also go to the back of the temple or even cross the moat at that western side, for a perfect view to the whole complex.
Ernst Ando Sundermann
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