Preah Khan is one of the largest temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park and a temple included on many tour programmes of the park.
About Preah Khan
A lot more is known about Preah Khan Temple than most of the other temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park. This is because of the discovery of a large carved stone with inscriptions detailing the history of the temple, its wealth and its inhabitants. Preah Khan was constructed in 1191 and the name means ‘Sacred Sword’ in reference King Jayavarman VII’s victory over the Cham people. King Jayavarman VII restored the Khmer kingdom of Angkor by staging an invasion shortly after the Cham Empire of Vietnam had invaded displacing a usurper King who had earlier taken control of the city. Preah Khan was for a time the capital city of the Angkor Kingdom whilst Angkor Thom was under construction. In its heyday Preah Khan was home to slightly under 100,000 people ranging from Buddhist monks through to the rice farmers who fed the temple city. Preah Khan suffered over the centuries, first with the wide spread desecration of the Buddhist images at the temple during the Hindu revival of King Jayavarman VIII in the 13th Century, before the temple was entirely abandoned and left for the jungle to reclaim. Many of the large trees which engulfed the temple have been left in place as in many parts of the temple it is the trees which are holding the structures up.
Preah Khan is a flat temple, which unlike many of the Hindu temples in the area does not have a pyramid type structure in the centre, with four enclosures. The outer enclosure measures 900 metres by 750 metres. There are four entrances to the temple. By the eastern entrance to the temple remnants of a boat pier have been discovered as access to the temple, which is located on a large reservoir, would have been by boat. There is a large open space between the wall of the outer enclosure and the next enclosure, which measures 220 metres and 165 metres, and this is where the majority of the temple’s population would have lived. The three inner spaces are tightly packed with a variety of galleries and smaller buildings. The second largest enclosure features a Hall of Dancers with elaborate carvings and a two storey structure with circular columns, the design of which is unique amongst the many temples of the Angkor Archaeological Park. The inner most enclosure in the temple measures 55 metres by 55 metres and contains the only Buddhist images which were not destroyed during the 13th Century. Also notable in the inner enclosure is the linga stone on a pedestal and a small circular stupa constructed on the site where the temple’s original principal shrine, to the bodhisattva Lokeshvara, was located.
Location of Preah Khan
Preah Khan is located 12.4 km by road from Siem Reap Town.