Giant Strangler Fig crushes Gallery|Ta Prohm




The ancient temple of Ta Prohm looks so fragile from a distance I thought it might crumble before we reached it!  A giant strangler fig rears its smooth grey trunk and light leafy canopy above the temple roof to the sky, no sign of the devastation lying inside. The ruins of Ta Prohm gripped in a crushing vice of  giant tree roots, collapsing and distorting the temple ruins.

 giant tree roots, collapsing and distorting temple ruins-Ta Prohm

Giant tree roots, collapsing and distorting temple ruins.


Ta Prohm gallery gripped in a crushing vice of giant tree roots

Ta Prohm gallery gripped in a crushing vice of giant strangler fig.

East Baray – King  Yasovarman

Ta Prohm lies one kilometer east of Angkor Thom on the southern edge of the East Baray. The East Baray is the second largest Baray in Angkor, built during the reign of King Yasovarman around 900 A.D., designed to hold an estimated 50 million cubic meters of water. The Baray, dry since around the fall of the Khmer empire, local farmers now use the bed of the Baray for crop growing.



Gallery roof tiles covered in bright green moss, thick and fur like

Gallery roof tiles covered in bright green moss, thick and fur like-Ta Prohm

King Jayavarman VII – Ta Prohm

The building program of King Jayavarman VII  began in 1186 A.D., and included the building of Ta Prohm. The temple called Rajavihara means “monastery of the King”. There exists a stele (or commemorative stone slab) giving the foundation date of the temple as 1186 A.D. The Stela also describes the temple site as home to 12,500 people, a population of more than 80,000 people in the surrounding villages. Riches such as  gold, pearls and silk recorded as part of the temple’s wealth. Amazing to have such history recorded on stone!   I believe the stele sits in F Gallery at the Angkor National Museum. It would be worth a visit to the Museum just to view this ancient stone slab and perhaps the translation?

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Ta Prohm is considered a typical flat Khmer temple (unlike a temple-mountain such as Angkor Wat).  Within the outer city wall lie four concentric enclosures. The main temple lies on one hectare within the inner three concentric galleries which cover about 60 hectares.   Each gallery enclosure has four entrance Gopuras at the cardinal points (N.S.E.W).  Sometimes it is hard to recognize the gallery layout because of the collapsed state of some areas and buildings added later.

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Gallery and lintel decoration

The lintel decoration over the Gopura entrance into each gallery faded and worn, sometimes hard to define and covered in a thick green lichen,almost paint like in appearance. Gallery roof tiles covered in bright green moss, thick and fur like, a living thing, so tempting to touch. Below – Devatas and bas-relief decoration on gallery walls.



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The Strangler Fig – ‘natural state’

The temple of Ta Prohm came to fame with international audiences when used as a  setting in a scene for the movie ‘Tomb Raiders”. When the Temples of Angkor were first discovered, Ta Prohm was recognized immediately for its atmospheric beauty as a jungle temple.A huge effort made from ‘day one’ to  preserve and keep it in its ‘natural state’ (strangler fig and all) to represent how Angkor looked when first discovered by Europeans in the 19th century.

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Among the mystical ruins a strangler fig crawls over the temple like an insidious giant serpent crushing and devouring its prey beneath the enormous weight of its body. Beneath this giant monster you can see efforts made with steel posts to stop the gallery wall from collapsing under the weight of the giant fig . I could spend all day exploring the ruins of Ta Prohm, it is fascinating.

The Strangler fig stand tall and graceful, almost innocuous, but slowly and insidiously it send out tentacles in all directions to enclose and crush the ruins of ancient temples.


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Almost dusk – nearby the ruins of  Pre Rup….

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