Preah Khan, meaning 'sacred sword’, is a huge monastic complex situated in a dense jungle at the northern edge of the Angkor Archaeological Park.
Preah Khan temple is located 2 kilometers north-east of Angkor Thorn on the Grand Circuit. The temple was one of the most significant cultural sites during early Khmer period. Today it becomes a stunningly iconic Khmer style and a powerful symbol of the country’s heritage.
Preah Khan was built in the second half of the 12th century in AD 1191 by King Jaya-varman VII, dedicating to his father King Dharanindra Varman. As an important temple complex, Preah Khan simultaneously served as a city, a temple and a Buddhist university. The temple once was abandoned for hundreds of years and swallowed by the jungle. Since 1991, the temple has been restored and under maintenance project managed by the World Monuments Fund.
Mysterious Preah Khan temple in the jungle
The Buddhist complex covers 56 hectares served as the nucleus of a group that includes Neak Pean and Ta Som, located 4 kilometers long Jayapataka Baray – the last of the great reservoirs to be built in Angkor. Preah Khan’s architecture is similar to the Ta Prohm temple with vegetation and trees which likely to swallow the ruins.
Ruins of Preah Khan at sunset
In the structure of four enclosures, the temple complex includes entry gates, towers, ceremonial spaces, courtyards, shrines, and a variety of connecting corridor. The 4th enclosure was occupied by prolonged wooden houses of villagers and servants. Plenty of mythological half man and half bird creatures are placed at intervals around the enclosure. Strikingly, the wall consists of 5-meter-high Garudas fighting Naga snakes. Along the pathway to the 3rd enclosure is a well preserved Dharmasala, also call House of Fire. Passing the gopura of the 3rd enclosure, you’ll see a majestic Hall of Dancers, decorated in a style familiar to the Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei. Also there are well preserved towers, statue, columns and libraries in this enclosure. At a later stage, the 2nd one has 6 sanctuary buildings on the eastern side of the temple. Lastly, the 1st enclosure or the inner sanctuary is the most sacred part of Preah Khan, which is decorated by Buddha images on the walls, stupas, small chapels and tombs.
Sculpture in Preah Khan temple
Being a part of the Grand Circuit within Angkor Archaeological Park, Preah Khan is easily to access and combined with a whole circuit tour. You can hire a tuk-tuk from the central of Siem Reap and ride a bicycle to enter the smaller circuit.