When exploring Preah Khan you are immediately struck by the majesty of trees, for they are just as impressive and monolithic as the structures that root them, creating a mystical atmosphere that is this temple’s very own.
Like the Angkorian temple Ta Prohm, the jungle has steadily re-claimed Preah Khan. Yet there appears to be a symbiotic relationship in how the trees embrace the ruins, their roots growing around columns that would otherwise be crushed by their mammoth weight, and instead of crashing through the roofs they stretch around corridors, becoming an integral part of these incredible relics.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PREAH KHAN
Preah Khan was built in the 12th century under King Jayavarman VII’s rule to honor his father. Once a hub of nearly 100,000 officials and servants, the temple is built on the site of Jayavarman’s victory against the invading Chams in 1191. It’s modern name, adapted from the original, means ‘holy sword.’
At its height, the site was a combination of city, temple and Buddhist university housing 1,000 teachers and another 1,000 dancers.
Surrounded by a moat, the temple is built in a flat style with successive rectangular galleries gathered around a central Buddhist sanctuary. The temple has been largely unrestored, allowing the jungle to slowly overtake it. Clearing of brush and other vegetation was undertaken from 1927 – 1932, and The World Monuments Fund has maintained the site since 1991.
The largest of all the trees rooted amongst the temples are of the spung variety, with roots resembling elephant trunks. They’re even hollow! Their appearance throughout the ruins is quite magical.
We visited Preah Khan in the late afternoon in March, which proved to be a quiet time with very few crowds.
ENJOY YOUR VISIT!
At Preah Khan, visitors get the sense the jungle is not simply engulfing, but honoring this treasured temple. It is a place where ancient history lives both in defiance and harmony with the nature.