Commissioned by legendary Khmer king Suryavarman II (r. 1112-1152 CE), Banteay Samre is a quiet little temple devoid of the characteristic hustle-bustle of more famous Angkorian temples. Idyllically located amidst a rural Cambodian landscape the temple is perfect for soulful sojourn. Banteay Samre was fortunate to get conservation early; cleared in 1930s and later subjected to Anastylosis. Its present state is attributable to these efforts.
Maurice Glaize who supervised Anastylosis remarked, “Banteay Samre, overrun with vegetation and cluttered with fallen blocks from its upper parts, had all the usual charm of ruins lost in the forest, but was no more than an object without form or personality. Anastylosis has transformed it into one of the finest monuments of the Angkor group, and one of the most complete. Its ornamentation, exceptional in quality and very well preserved in its entirety, became thereafter presented in its unified integrity – it is a pure specimen of the classic art from the finest period where the decoration, shown to its best advantage on a clear background, is itself a function of the architecture.”
The ground plan looks like any other temple; two layers of enclosing walls pierced through a set of four cruciform platforms in cardinal directions, two libraries to the east of main sanctum, and one central sanctum connected with the elevated inner platform through an intermediate mandapa. But there is one significant difference here – presence of internal moats. The whole structure is elevated on sturdy plinths to accommodate water in these moats. Use of such concepts was not alien in south India where many temples constructed under the Cholas had similar features. Airavateshwara and Devaki Amman Temple in Darasuram built around the same time as Banteay Samre are just examples to illustrate the prevalence.
Practicalities | This temple is remote but can be covered alongside the pyramidal shrines of Pre-Rup and East Mebon on a tuk-tuk outing from Siem Reap. However, if you are planning to visit Banteay Srei then you can include a stopover here. Because of its remote location, it is generally empty and serene. However, the temple has suffered a lot because of this remoteness with wanton theft. You are likely to get some local vendors selling statuettes, paintings, stampings and many others. Do support them, as these hand-crafted souvenirs are really a deal for their artistic value.