Monday, January 11, 2010

Banteay Srei - briefly

A small diety, probably Vishvakarma, sits atop a grinning kala at Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Angkor group of temples. Over the last few years the sheer weight of numbers of tourists that have descended on this tiny prasat, dedicated to women and uniquely constructed with pinkish sandstone, has seen the inner sanctuary roped off and access severely restricted, compared to the 'good old days' when there were no restrictions. Of course I understand the need to protect the temple but a visit to Banteay Srei isn't what it used to be. I paid a flying visit there a couple of weeks ago with my work colleagues and here are a few photos of some of the carvings and iconography that are viewable. For a detailed look at the reliefs on the inner sanctuary, you'll need a very good zoom on your camera or binoculars. Banteay Srei originally dates from the middle of the 10th century but was added to over later centuries.
This relief seems to show a makara being eaten by a larger makara. That's sea-monsters for you, they'll eat anything, even their own.
Add ImageOne of the most popular scenes, Indra sits on top of the 3-headed elephant Airavata, with a munching kala head below
A pediment on the northern gallery shows the lion-man Narasimha disemboweling the demon Hiranyakasipu (upside down)
Relief detail of a female, judging by the breasts, clutching foliage, next to a finely-carved colonette
I think this is Varuna riding a hamsa (sacred goose) flanked by two lions holding up the foliage
This lintel is located on the ground and shows the abduction of Sita by Ravana
A perfect example of a makara, a sea-monster, with a crocodile head and a long elephant's trunk, that can be found on the end of lintels and pediments at Banteay Srei
At the top of this pediment, Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu) is flanked by two elephants who are pouring sacred water on her. At the bottom, Garuda occupies a place normally reserved for kala.
The western gopura features a duel between the monkey princes Valin and Sugriva on its pediment, taken from the Ramayana epic. On the left Valin is shown dying.
As the monkey brothers duel, left, Rama intervenes with an arrow that kills Valin, right. A good example of the pinkish sandstone used in the construction of Banteay Srei.
The inner sanctuary at Banteay Srei, which has been roped off. The small guardians in front of the prasat are recent cement copies.



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