Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey (Khmer: ប្រាសាទបន្ទាយស្រី) is a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Located in the area of Angkor in Cambodia. It lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 25 km (16 mi) north-east of the main group of temples that once belonged to the medieval capitals of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom.
Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone, a medium that lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings which are still observable today. The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the standards of Angkorian construction. These factors have made the temple extremely popular with tourists, and have led to its being widely praised as a "precious gem", or the "jewel of Khmer art."
Foundation and dedication
Consecrated on 22 April 967 A.D., Bantãy Srĕi was the only major temple at Angkor not built by a monarch; its construction is credited to a courtier named Yajnavaraha / Yajñavarāha (modern Khmer: យជ្ញវរាហៈ), who served as a counsellor to king Rajendravarman II (modern Khmer: ព្រះបាទរាជេន្រ្ទវរ្ម័ន).
The foundational stela says that Yajnavaraha, grandson of king Harsavarman I, was a scholar and philanthropist who helped those who suffered from illness, injustice, or poverty. His pupil was the future king Jayavarman V (r. 968- ca. 1001). Originally, the temple was surrounded by a town called Īśvarapura.
The site consists of three concentric rectangular enclosures constructed on an east-west axis. A causeway situated on the axis leads from an outer gopura, or gate, to the third or outermost of the three enclosures. The inner enclosure contains the sanctuary, consisting of an entrance chamber and three towers, as well as two buildings conventionally referred to as libraries.
The sanctuary is entered from the east by a doorway only 1.08 m in height: inside is an entrance chamber (or maṇḍapa) with a corbelled brick roof, then a short corridor leading to three towers to the west: the central tower is the tallest, at 9.8 m. Glaize notes the impression of delicacy given the towers by the antefixes on each of their tiers. The six stairways leading up to the platform were each guarded by two kneeling statues of human figures with animal heads; most of those now in place are replicas, the originals having been stolen or removed to museums.