Banteay Srei and Battambang
Banteay Srei is a 10th century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, located in the area of Angkor in Cambodia.
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 in Banteay Srei 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.” Banteay Srei was subject to further expansion and rebuilding work in the eleventh century.
At some point its original dedication changed; an inscription of the early twelfth century records the temple being given to the priest Divarakapandita and being rededicated to Shiva.
It remained in use at least until the fourteenth century.
The temple Banteay Srei was rediscovered only in 1914, in the 1930 Banteay Srei was restored and the joint Cambodian-Swiss Banteay Srei Conservation Project installed a drainage system between 2000 and 2003.
Measures were also taken to prevent damage to the temples walls being caused by nearby trees.
Unfortunately, the temple has been ravaged by pilfering and vandalism. When toward the end of the 20th century authorities removed some original statues and replaced them with concrete replicas, looters took to attacking the replicas.
A statue of Shiva and his shakti Uma, removed to the National Museum in Phnom Penh for safekeeping, was assaulted in the museum itself.
Battambang was founded during the height of the Khmer empire in the 11th century and is Cambodia’s second-largest city. It was always populated by ethnic Cambodians and the Thai finally returned the provinces in 1909 A.D. because of pressure from the French, though the Thai attempted to regain the territory as part of a deal they made with the Japanese during World War II. After the defeat of their Japanese ally, Thailand returned the area to the French, from whom it was formally given to Cambodia in 1953 and until the war years was the leading rice-producing province of the country.
Basically is the main hub of the Northwest connecting the entire region with Phnom Penh and Thailand, and the urban area population is nearly 1 million, actually the city is quite similar to Phnom Penh with a nice riverside and well preserved colonial architecture.
During the Banteay Srei period, the territory of Amogha Boreak was significantly prosperous because the land was so fertile that rice crops, fruit and vegetables grew well and yielded satisfactorily. Many Khmer people settled there as indicated by the existence of so many ancient temples in the area. The following centuries, from the 15th to the 18th, saw the Battambang being invaded by the Siamese army, causing people to be forced into a miserable life because of war.
Who built the Governor’s Residence in a Southern European style was not a French colonial administrator but Apheuyvong Chhum, the last Thai governor of Battambang who in the early 1900’s imported a team of Italian architects and designers to erect a new residence.
French development was put on hold by the Second World War when Japan seized most of Cambodia and in 1941, by the treaty of Tokyo, was given to Thailand large areas of Siem Reap and Battambang Provinces.
The Thais quickly launched an aggressive policy which included forcing ethnic Khmer residents of Battambang to dress in Thai clothing, and forbidding signs to be posted in the Khmer language. They forbade the speaking of Khmer in pagodas, but the monks resisted, and thereby prevented the success of that policy.
In the period from 1941 to 1946 the rice harvest fell to almost zero, beatings, torture and rape were common. A concentration camp was set up at Boueng Chhouk Market, near the present day taxi stand.
At the end of the Second World War, the new French government pressed the Thais to return the occupied territory from Thailand to what remained of Cambodia, therefore, in 1946, Battambang was returned to Prince Sihanouk. In 1975 the Prince was gone from power and Lon Nol was a heading a corrupt government.
Two days after the fall of Phnom Penh, on April 19th 1975, the city’s defenders agreed to surrender to the Khmer Rouge soldiers that killed all of them.
Following, the defeat of the Khmer Rouge in 1979 Battambang began, once again, and slowly at first, reverting to its role as a regional commercial centre but as late as 1986 the town was briefly occupied by Pol Pot forces, the Khmer Rouge rebels continued fighting after the civil war until the end of 1998.
Until recently Battambang was off the map for road travelers but there are a lot of hotel with cable Tv and xxx channels created for the UN troupes that was supposed to stay here and help the country. The UN was totally useless in Cambodia and the results are all over, the spreading of AIDS in the country in the last decades was mainly due to soldiers running free in a country where with few dollars is possible to have sex.
These facilities anyway make a good base for visiting the nearby temples such as Phnom Banon and Wat Ek Phnom as well as villages.
I knew that the roads in Cambodia are terrible and just few of them are paved, so I arrived in Battambang from Siam Reap, with a small boat, but the trouble of a broken engine in the Tonlé Sap lake was nothing compared to the 293 km unpaved road trip (8 hours) to Phnom Phen with 18 Cambodians on the back of the same pickup!
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