A hot breeze rustles the jungle foliage, and birds flit about noiselessly. The jungle silence envelopes the ancient stonework, and even the normally chattering tour groups have lowered their voices.
Ta Prohm elicits that kind of response – quiet awe.
Unlike the other temples in Angkor, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition it was found, overgrown with centuries-old kapok and banyon trees, strangler figs, and giant creeping vines. It has a haunted charm that conjures up post-apocalyptic images of the battle of man against nature.
And in the case of this temple complex, there is no doubt that nature is winning. Thick, serpent-like tendrils of a 300 year-old kapok tree splitting a thick stone wall sends a clear message of who’s in charge.
Built by King Jayavarman VII in the mid-12th century, this large, sprawling monument was a tribute to his mother. And even by ancient Angkor standards it was a huge building project.
“It took 79,365 people to maintain the temple including 18 great priests, 2,740 officials, 2,202 assistants and 615 dancers. Among the property belonging to the temple was a set of golden dishes weighing more than 500 kilograms, 35 diamonds, 40,620 pearls, 4,540 precious stones, 876 veils from China, 512 silk beds and 523 parasols. Even considering that these numbers were probably exaggerated to glorify the king, Ta Prohm must have been an important and impressive monument.” —Tourism Cambodia
And don’t think that tourists are the only ones who think Ta Prohm is a spectacular location – Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon as well. Some of you may recognize it as one of sets for some of the suspenseful, eerie scenes from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
Angkor has an amazing variety of symbolically complex ruins, and like the kings that built them, they’re all very different. And every visitor has their favorite. But seeing an unrelenting jungle literally devouring intricately carved stone temples, created an otherworldly ambience that made it our favorite.
Ta Prohm is an enduring testament to one ancient culture’s architecture and art, but it’s also an unmistakeable reminder that anything made by man, can be unmade by nature. If you visit Cambodia, don’t miss it.
James and Terri
P.S. The Tourism Cambodia website has detailed walking tour of the ruin.
3. Jpatokal via Wikimedia Commons