Located on the Eastern bank of Tonle Sap close to the Sen River, about 30 kilometers to the north of the town of Kampong Thom, Cambodia, Sambor Prei Kuk “The City of Shiva in the Forest of Towers” is the pre-Angkorian temple complex, also known as Isanapura (ឥសាន្តបុរៈ), and was the capital of the Chenla Kingdom.
** This is my short visit during field work in Kampong Thom province (26-29/3/2014), so I briefly took photos with my phone only as I regretfully did not bring my camera along with.
Sambor Prei Kuk is divided into 3 main groups, namely North group or Sambor temple complex (ក្រុមប្រាសាទសំបូរ), Central group or Lion temple complex (ក្រុមប្រាសាទតោ) and South group or Yeay Poan temple complex (ក្រុមប្រាសាទយាយព័ន្ធ). Each group is located in a square lay out surrounded by a brick wall, and all towers were built of brick in octagonal shape (though some other parts like false doors made of sandstone)
1. North group or Sambor temple complex (ក្រុមប្រាសាទសំបូរ)
This group was built by King Ishanavarman I to Rajendravarman II, comprising 14 temples but only some remain, and a few under restoration. From the road to the area, this group is the first to be visited.
2. Central group or Lion temple complex (ក្រុមប្រាសាទតោ)
It is known as the most well-remaining complex as its shape has still maintained a little better if compared with the other 2 groups which many parts have already been ruined. This group was built by King Jayavarman II, comprising 18 temples, yet some damaged. A local folk (a little girl in her 12-14 years old with her willing to absorb Khmer history and preserve Khmer heritages, narrated lots of stories of the visited temples as she has learned about them) told me that lion in Tao temple is the nicest among all lion statues in the country for its handsome pose with well-curly hair.
3. South group or Yeay Poan temple complex (ក្រុមប្រាសាទយាយព័ន្ធ)
This group was built by King Isanavarman I, comprising 22 sanctuaries. The main temple is Yeay Poan temple which can also be called as Neak Poan (នាគព័ន្ធ) or Yeay Poun temple (យាយពួន). Yeay Poun is named based on a story (I’m terribly sorry for not remembering the story clearly as I did not note the narration that a little girl told me, so I would tell it in a vague way) of a king’s daughter who refused to marry the foreigner who won the chess game against the king as they bet. She then went to hide in a temple and prayed to the holy temple to hide her from being seen by others (Yeay/យាយ means an old woman, Poun/ពួន means hide). Another name, Neak Poan is for the carving on the temple itself with the image of dragon/naga intertwining (Neak/នាគ means dragon/naga, Poan/ព័ន្ធ means intertwine).
Below is the amazing gate that actually is ruined, but the part remaining is supported by a big tree grown tied up with the bricks making it left this way.
I could not go further detailed about Sambor Prei Kuk due to time limit, but it was nice enough to have the chance to visit the area. Hopefully, next time I could gather more information about this ancient place in Kampong Thom🙂