Banteay Srei was a very small temple ~25km from Angkor Thom. Yet, it ranked #2 on my top 5 temples.
This temple was built by local land owner and not by the king. The main construction material was red sandstone. So the best time to visit is during sunset. If you visit during noon time, the stones appeared bluish colour.
This temple was dedicated to Hindu deity Shiva. The pediments and lintels were carved with very intricate.
The carvings were made on 9th century but the level of artistic skills was mind blowing. With such shallow depth of carving, the artisans could achieve the field of depth and 3D effects. The ocean of milk (waves) was curving inside out, just incredible.
The carving was very small (because I zoomed in using my camera) and so many of them. I never seen such level of skills in ancient artefacts from South East Asia. Could you see the teeth on the fighting monkeys (‘Kala’)? The wall carving was only few centimetres in depth.
Visitors could not see similar level of details in other temples (in Angkor). The most of famous would be the sophisticated carvings of the devatas. Look at the ear loops and earrings. This gave a modern name to the temple “Citadel of Beauties”.
The intricate carvings were beyond comprehension (note: the temple was not commissioned by monarch and it was built more than 1,300 years ago). The carvings were on every inch of the temple.
The pediment below shown a good example of the story embedded with such a small piece of surface. There was forest fire, fleeing animals and birds, dancing apsaras above the cloud, and the shower of rains etc. This was not drawing but 3D carving on stones, many centuries ago.
If not due to the darkness, I would want to spend longer time immersed into the awesome ‘open air art gallery’.
Everywhere I turn was arts and scripture. The small surface on a pillar was carved with Sanskrit (梵文).
If you are visiting Siem Reap, make sure Banteay Srei is on your itinerary.