Ta Prohm, one of the temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia, is probably better known today as the Tomb Raider temple, being one of the locations where Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed. Unfortunately, you won't find Angelina Jolie swinging off some tree roots here, but you might come across a dinosaur...!
A Snippet of its History
Built in 1186, Ta Prohm was a Buddhist monastery, temple, and university. At one point in time, 12,500 people called this place home, and it remained in use until sometime in the 15th century. After that, it was abandoned and taken over by nature until it was rediscovered in the early 20th century.
Like with Banteay Srei (the Lady Temple) and all the other temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park, I do think that having a guide take you around and point out highlights and the stories and history behind them will enhance your temple touring experience. I always feel that context gives more meaning and significance to what you're looking at! But, if you don't have a guide, here are some points of interest to look out for.
THE MAGNIFICENT STRENGTH OF NATURE
Ta Prohm stands out from other temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park because it still has an ethereal and abandoned feel to it, thanks to the trees that overtook the complex when it fell into disuse. When Ta Prohm was rediscovered, while pathways were cleared so that we can now enter and explore the temple, the trees that grew its roots through and around the structures were largely untouched. You'll see roots spilling up and over the sides of the buildings, and trees that have outgrown and burst through the roofs. It's an incredibly beautiful sight, seeing how nature has engulfed the man-made structures, embracing and supporting them, and making them one with nature again.
A PEEKING DEVATA
Aside from giving Ta Prohm its beautifully abandoned look, Mother Nature created an interesting art piece by growing tree roots around a smiling devata, making it look like she is sneakily peeking out from a gap in the trees, almost like she is playing hide and seek with us!
THE CURIOUS STEGOSAURUS
In the midst of a column of carvings of various animals, there is one carving that looks strangely like a stegosaurus. Opinions on whether this carving is indeed of a stegosaurus are divided. Some think that it is proof that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. Others think it is most likely a carving of a different animal, and that the plates on its back are just decorations or are supposed to represent leaves. Whichever side you believe, it's still a fun carving to see!
This curious stegosaurus can be found on the side of one of the doorways in Ta Prohm. If you're entering from the western gate, if you walk through two doorways, it should be immediately on the right hand side of that second doorway. Or if you see a crowd huddled by a doorway, it's likely that the stegosaurus is there!
THE CENTRAL SANCTUARY
In the central sanctuary, you'll see many holes in the wall. Some believe that these holes were once filled with gems. If this is true, can you imagine how colourful and beautiful it would have been? You'll also see what looks like cut-outs in the stone in the shape of a Christmas tree (at least one that I would draw with my very advanced drawing skills...!) It is said that the holes were cut out in that shape to strengthen the support of the structure, to prevent collapse.
THE ECHO CHAMBER
One of the small towers in the inner sanctuary is an echo chamber where if you stand within it and pound your chest, you'll hear a loud, resonating echo. There are echo chambers found at other temples within the Angkor Archaeological Park as well. I've heard varying reasons about why these echo chambers are a part of the temples. Some say people with worries would come here and beat their chest and their worries would go away, while others say that it is a form of prayer to the Gods.
Want to get here?
Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Getting here: Ta Prohm is part of the small circuit (or inner circuit) at Angkor Wat. If you're not doing the circuits and just want to visit Ta Prohm, it is about 30 minutes by tuk tuk from Siem Reap.
Admission: Admission to Ta Prohm is included as part of your Angkor Pass.
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This post is linked up on Our World Tuesday, and...