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Travel to Cambodia :Temple of Preah Vihear – Sacred place in the border area

Posted By : Threeland Travel / Cambodia Travel Guide

Located about 420km south of Phnom Penh, Preah Vihear Cambodia Temple is known as the "temple of temples", and this architectural complex is also one of the peak temple architectures of the old Khmer empire that still exists today.

About Preah Vihear Cambodia Temple

Preah Vihear Cambodia Temple worships the god Shiva, located on the top of a mountain in the Dangrek range, Champasak province, right next to the border between Thailand and Vietnam. It includes a series of ancient shrines and temples.

Located in a rather sensitive location, Preah Vihear Temple is not only a world cultural heritage, a unique tourist attraction but also a hotly disputed area for many times between Cambodia and Thailand.

Architecture of Preah Vihear Temple Cambodia

Preah Vihear Temple was built in the 9th century, worshiping Shiva - the god of destruction and creation in Hindu legends along with the mountain gods Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara. After that, the temple was continuously completed and built new for many centuries, through about 7 kings of the old Khmer empire.

This temple has an architectural layout stretching to 800m, extending from the foot of the mountain to the top along the North - South axis. Hindus often believe that the higher the temple buildings are built, the more evidence of the supreme power of the kings who reigned at that time. Therefore, the kings of the Khmer empire built Preah Vihear temple located on a flat surface at the top of Dangrek mountain with an altitude of 625m above sea level. Unlike other temple architectures built in the Angkor period, Preah Vihear temple was built along the North - South axis instead of turning to the East according to the traditional construction of the temple on the mountain.

The layout at Preah Vihear Cambodia temple is divided into 3 distinct floors with the height increasing from north to south, a total of 120m high. The first floor is where the main gate of the temple is located, and the second floor is an architectural cluster built in the Banteay Srei style. Finally, the third floor, located on the top of the mountain, is the center of the complex.

On the first floor, there is a series of steps 7m wide, quite steep, about 150m long. This is also the way to the temple. Right on the stairs, there are two statues of 7-headed Naga snakes standing guard on both sides. Next is a yard area about 50m wide leading to the 2nd floor.

Following the steps on a slope will lead you to the gate on the 2nd floor. This is a fairly intact architectural cluster built from sandstone and pink stone with many delicate details carved on the electric roofs, frames.

Especially, the roof top with the image of the Naga snake's tail is built in a symmetrical fashion, curving up to the sky, decorated meticulously and elaborately. That architecture is the prototype that has been rebuilt at Koh Ker temple and Banteay Srey temple.

The main building on the 2nd floor is also the inspiration to build the famous temple Wat Phou located on Elephant Mountain. The last floor is located at the high point of the top of Dangrek mountain. The architecture here is in Kok Ker style.

Currently, the main hall area has been renovated to become a Buddhist shrine with a monk who is always on duty to bless the visitors or devotees. The area around the temple has many libraries and towers, but over thousands of years, those works have been severely damaged.

Preah Vihear Temple - hot spot of dispute

Although it has undergone more than 1000 years of history, the temple of Preah Vihear Cambodia is still preserved quite intact. According to observers, the reason the temple is so well preserved is because of its remote and difficult-to-access location. From Cambodia, there is only one way to reach the temple and must climb a very steep slope. From the Thai side it is somewhat easier but the government did not promote the temple before. It is that fact that has helped Preah Vihear to be destroyed by few people. On the other hand, residents living near the temple from Cambodians to Thais have respect and want to protect this sacred place of worship. Thanks to being well preserved, Preah Vihear Temple has become a very precious treasure.

In 1904, Thailand and the French colonialists established a committee to implement the demarcation of the boundary. In 1907, after going through the process of investigation and research, the French published a map, which clearly showed the location of Preah Vihear temple and surrounding areas. According to that map, Preah Vihear temple is located in the territory of Cambodia.

In 1954, after the French troops withdrew from Cambodia, Thailand occupied the temple. However, the Cambodian side protested and asked the World Court to arbitrate. The Court then proceeded to consider the case using professional and technical measures on demarcation. On June 15, 1962, the World Court ruled that Cambodia won and ordered Thailand to withdraw its troops from the temple and return the relics, including worshiping statues, which were brought to the temple to restore peace for this thousand-year-old sacred architecture.

Preah Vihear Temple was opened to the public for a short time but was later occupied by the Khmer Rouge. In 1988, the temple was reopened and the Cambodian government built it in 2003. In 2007, Cambodia proposed to UNESCO to recognize Preah Vihear Temple as a Cultural Heritage, but it was rejected due to many conflicts with Thailand and Thailand also objected to that proposal.

Preah Vihear Cambodia Temple does not have poetic corners like in Ta Phrohm, meticulous paintings like Banteay Srey temple, nor endless corridors like in Angkor Wat, etc. Visitors love to discover many new things in their journey to find and have great cultural and historical values. If you have the opportunity to or you are preparing Cambodia Tours, please visit this sacred temple!

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