Located in the vast and majestic Angkor archaeological complex in Cambodia, lies the abandoned Ta Prohm Temple, a sight that evokes a sense of awe and wonder. This temple, built in the late 12th and early 13th century, was once a flourishing Buddhist monastery and educational institution. However, through centuries of neglect and natural forces, it was left to be consumed by the surrounding jungle, giving it a hauntingly beautiful appearance.
Often overshadowed by its more famous and well-preserved neighbors, such as Angkor Wat and Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm has recently gained global recognition thanks to its appearance in the blockbuster film “Tomb Raider”. But beyond its cinematic fame, this temple holds a rich history and cultural significance that is worth exploring.
History of Ta Prohm Temple
Originally built in the 12th century during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, the temple was dedicated to the Buddhist deity Prajnaparamita. Ta Prohm is unique in its design, with massive trees growing within its walls and intertwining with the stone structures. The temple served as a center for Buddhist worship and education for centuries before being abandoned and left to the elements.
There are several reasons that led to the abandonment of the Ta Prohm Temple. One of the main reasons was the decline of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, which resulted in the loss of resources and manpower needed for maintenance and upkeep of the temple.
The constant wars and conflicts in the region during this time further contributed to the neglect of the temple. Another factor was the shift of the Khmer capital from Angkor to Phnom Penh, which led to a decrease in the importance of Ta Prohm.
Ultimately, these factors combined resulted in the abandonment of Ta Prohm, leaving it to succumb to nature and the elements for centuries before it was rediscovered and restored in the 20th century.
Current State and Preservation Efforts
In the early 21st century, the École française d’Extrême-Orient made the decision to preserve the Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia in its original state, as a testament to the general taste for the picturesque. This decision was made after extensive discussions and research on the temple’s historical significance and architectural integrity. The decision to leave Ta Prohm largely untouched was a conscious effort to balance the preservation of the temple’s heritage with the growing popularity of the site among tourists.
In 1992, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized the significance of Ta Prohm and inscribed it on the World Heritage List. This ancient temple, located in Angkor, Cambodia, is a testament to the rich cultural and architectural heritage of the Khmer civilization.
To ensure the preservation of this valuable site, a partnership project was initiated between the Archaeological Survey of India and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap). This collaboration has been instrumental in the successful conservation and restoration efforts of Ta Prohm.
Later in 2013, the Archaeological Survey of India successfully restored the majority of the temple complex, utilizing both original materials and new construction techniques. This extensive restoration project included the careful reconstruction of various parts of the complex, such as the Hall of Dancers.
To safeguard the monument from any potential harm caused by the influx of tourists, the ASI additionally installed wooden walkways, platforms, and roped railings around the site. These measures not only served to preserve the temple’s structural integrity, but also ensured the safety of visitors.
Most recently, in November 2022, the renovation of the Hall of Dancers was completed, further enhancing the beauty and historical significance of the temple.
Visiting Ta Prohm
When visiting Ta Prohm temple, one must first travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The nearest airport is Siem Reap International Airport, which offers flights from major cities such as Bangkok, Singapore, and Ho Chi Minh City.
From the airport, visitors can take a taxi or tuk-tuk to the temple, which is approximately 5 kilometers away. It is recommended to hire a guide or join a guided tour to fully appreciate the history and significance of the temple. The entrance fee for Ta Prohm is included in the Angkor Archaeological Park pass, which can be purchased at the ticket counter.
During your visit to Ta Prohm, it is important to remember that the temple is still considered a religious site, hence it is best to dress appropriately. One should also be mindful of the delicate structures and refrain from touching or climbing on any of the ancient ruins. Visitors should also be aware of the high tourist volume and plan accordingly to avoid crowds.
It is also crucial to be aware of the climate conditions when visiting Ta Prohm. Cambodia experiences a tropical climate with high temperatures and humidity, making it essential to pack appropriate clothing and stay hydrated.
Also, it is essential to stay informed about any political activities in the area, as they may impact the safety of visitors. Tourists are advised to check with local authorities and reputable news sources before finalizing travel plans.
The Ta Prohm Temple serves as a fascinating and unique example of the intersection between nature and architecture. Its abandoned state, along with the encroaching roots and foliage, give visitors a sense of mystery and wonder as they explore its ancient ruins.
Whether you are a history buff or simply seeking a different type of travel experience, the Ta Prohm Temple is a must-see destination in Cambodia.