Banteay Kdei is a modest Buddhist temple in Siem Reap that means “Citadel of Chambers.” Its simple but elegant design is a pleasant sight that’s authentically ancient. It has a framework that strongly reflects the Bayon architecture. Even its entrance gate has the giant smiling faces that can be seen at the Bayon Temple as well.
The beauty of Banteay Kdei’s modesty and simplicity is receiving less appreciation and attention. And the number of visitors coming here clearly reflects that. But this would also equate to a more enjoyable exploration with solitude and serenity. You can have a more delightful journey to the ancient era with greater intimacy and exclusivity in this temple.
History of Banteay Kdei
This was built in the late 12th to the early 13th century under the reign of King Jayavarman VII. It was later expanded by King Indravarman II. According to reports, this was the first temple that was built by King Jayavarman VII in 1181 AD. There’s also a probability that this was built over a site of another temple that was constructed by King Ranjendravarman II in the 10th century.
This Buddhist complex was actively visited by monks since it was first built until the 1960s. It has an ongoing renovation because of the deterioration that was caused by the poor quality sandstone used to it and faulty construction.
Exploring Banteay Kdei
We visited this temple after our quick tour at the Srah Srang reservoir. It was great to see that we were the only visitors who entered the temple. The other tourists may have extended their lunch or may have decided to skip this small temple. My wife initially planned to skip it as well but I was able to convince her to explore it since we were there already.
Getting inside with no other tourists around felt like we have a special pass to exclusively explore the area. The monk inside must be very happy to see us since this temple seems to be less visited. He prayed for me for blessings then I gave a small amount to cheer him up further.
Considering the size of the other temples that we’ve visited, this would look like a small hut. Despite its size, this must have been very meaningful for King Jayavarman VII because it was his first constructed temple. Most of what he has been doing in the past is just renovate or expand existing structures so this makes Banteay Kdei a bit special. What’s nice about exploring a small temple like this is that you’ll get less tired.
It looked like the temple has the size of a regular house from afar but there are actually more ruins behind it. We continued to check out the other ruins and it felt like we’re in a thriller movie because there’s no one else in there. The structures in the complex might already be in a really bad condition considering that there are plenty of support ropes tied to them.
Architecture and Design
Balusters with an elegant style that are surrounded by a leafy pattern wonderfully decorate the different sections of the walls. Creatively carved figures of female performers doing their signature poses are also present here. The pillars which are made out of large blocks that were placed on top of each other can be compared to medieval style pillars of Europe.
Some of these pillars have one or more of its blocks disoriented already. They seem to have a tendency to collapse anytime. Aside from the support ropes, plenty of woods were placed in the different sections of the ruins to keep them from moving or collapsing. The brownish blocks don’t look very sturdy, unlike the gray blocks. They seem to be less compact and solid inside.
We’re hoping for a successful renovation of this site because the preservation of a cultural heritage that’s rich in history and art would benefit many generations to come.