Tag Archives: suryavarman II

‘Lesser known Beng Mealea Hindu Temple, Cambodia’ by K.J.S.Chatrath


 Beng Mealea or Bung Mealea  in Khmer language  means “lotus pond”. It is a temple in the Angkor Wat style located 40 km east of the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia, on the ancient royal highway to Preah Khan Kompong Svay. It is 63 kms by good road from Siam Reap. Beng Mealea is only 7 km far from the Angkorian sandstone quarries of Phnom Kulen, as the crow flies.



I was totally taken aback on finding a sprawling jungle spread over a kilometer. The temple itself is almost taken over by vegetation and not many tourists go there. On entering the premises, one gets an adventurous feel as one has to climb up and down big boulders- which were once part of the temple structure. This temple is in the Angkor Wat temple style and it is felt that it was a sort of prototype for the Angkor Wat temple built by the same king. It is believed to have been built during the reign of king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century.



It  was built as a Hindu temple, but there are some carvings depicting buddhist motifs. Its primary material is sandstone  and it is largely unrestored, with trees and thick bushes around its towers and courtyards and many of its stones lying in great heaps.



It  ranks among the Khmer Empire’s larger temples: the gallery which forms the outer enclosure of the temple is 181 m by 152 m.It was the center of a town, surrounded by a moat 1025 m by 875 m large and 45 m wide.

Beng Mealea is oriented toward the east, but has entrance ways from the other three main directions also. The basic layout is of three enclosing galleries around a central sanctuary, which presently lies collapsed. The enclosures are tied with “cruciform cloisters”, like Angkor Wat. Structures known as libraries lie to the right and left of the avenue that leads in from the east. There is extensive carving of scenes from Hindu mythology, including the Churning of the Sea for nectar and Lord Vishnu being borne by the god Garuda. Causeways have long balustrades formed by bodies of the seven-headed Naga (serpent).


Though there are some lintel and doorway carvings, there are no bas-reliefs and there are not very many carvings.



Trees growing from the galleries and the broken towers remind one of the Ta Prohm temple.




I found Angkor Wat to be tourisity where as in this temple one gets the amazing feeling of exploring an old temple which is lying almost in the same condition as it was when found amongst the jungles.



(Text with inputs from the internet)

Photos, text and copyright: K.J.S.Chatrath

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