Ta Prohm’s Crumbling Towers (Angkor Monuments) :
Ta Prohm temple is also known as “Tomb Raider Temple”, is cloaked in mystery, its cracked walls and crumbling towers locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast root systems. The most atmospheric ruin at Angkor, Ta Prohm should be high on the list of every visitor to Angkor. Its most appealing features unlike the other monuments of Angkor is that it has been swallowed by the jungle and looks very much the way most monuments of Angkor appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them.
Constructed in the late 12th century, it was originally known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King). Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple built for King Jayavarman VII’s mother. It’s one of those few temples in the Angkor region where an inscription provides information about the temple’s dependents and inhabitants. About 80’000 people were required to the temple, among them there were more than 2’700 officials and 615 dancers.
Ta Prohm was a temple of towers, closed courtyards and narrow corridors. Unfortunately, many of the corridors are now impassable as they are clogged with piles of carved stone blocks dislodged by the roots of long-decayed trees. Bas-reliefs on bulging walls are carpeted with lichen, moss and creeping plants, and shrubs sprout from the roofs of monumental porches. The Trees, hundreds of years old towering overhead, their leaves filtering the sunlight and casting a greenish light shadow over the whole scene.
Architecture vs Nature :
If only Ta Prohm was maintained from its construction in 1186 to the present day, it would still be just a footnote to the majestic Angkor Wat temple. Although Ta Prohm lay forgotten and neglected by men, the Cambodian jungle wasted no time in devouring it. The roots of Silk-cotton and strangler fig trees claimed the loosened stones of the temple, which was built entirely without mortar. Their roots in an everlasting wrestle with the structure create an astonishing merger of nature and architecture.
Built at the height of the Khmer Empire by Jayavarman VII as a Buddhist monastery and centre of learning, Ta Prohm’ traditional Khmer structure consists of a series of gradually smaller enclosures, the largest is about 1000 by 650 meters. In the centre of its sanctuary is the huge and elevated stone face of Prajnaparamita, the personification of wisdom, whose features were modelled after those of the king’s mother.
In the early 20th century when Angkor was rediscovered by French archaeologists, all of the temples had become overgrown–but none so spectacularly as Ta Prohm. As other temples were excavated and restored, the archaeologists had to make sure that the giant tree roots enveloping Ta Prohm would not further deteriorate the structure or make it dangerous to visit. Though Ta Prohm may look like nature unfettered, the appearance of neglect is fastidiously maintained.
Ta Prohm’s has gained its popularity in recent years along with the rest of the Angkor complex, especially because of its appearance in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Be sure to also check out the controversial Dinosaur of Ta Prohm in a corner of the Ta Prohm temple with a strange story of its own.
More photos of Ta Prohm Temple here.
Our group trip photos on Instagram.