Next only to Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm is perhaps the most recognizable Cambodian site, having served as a location for the Angelina Jolie starrer-Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
Ta Prohm ("ancestor Brahma") was built in the 12th century the Khmer King Jayavarman VII. It served as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. The temple's main deity is the Prajnaparamita, an aspect of a bodhisattva's personality.
The Prajnaparamita was modeled after the king's mother. I guess that is how you show your love to your folks 🙂 And before you cry 'Mama's boy!', King Jayavarman VII also built a satellite temple with the boddhistava Lokesvara as the main image and was modeled after the king's father.
The temple complex housed over 12,000 people -including priests and temple dancers and was sustained by more than 80,000 people who worked to provide it with services and supplies.
Ta Prohm was abandoned at the rise of a new kingdom in the 13th century. After suffering from centuries of neglects, archaeologists from the Paris-based École Française d'Extrême-Orient came in the early part of the 20th century to restore and conserve mot only Ta Prohm, but the rest of the Angkor ruins.
One of Ta Prohm's main attractions are the stone reliefs of lovely apsaras (the celestial nymphs) and narrative bas reliefs depicting the "Great Departure" of Siddhartha."
The most distinctive feature of the Ta Promh are the trees growing out of the ruins. You can see silk cotton trees with its roots coiling around the temple like it is trying to engulf it. Oh and yes this where the movie "Tomb Raider" was filmed, so feel free to imagine that you are Lara Croft.
A lot of temples in Cambodia are being restored, but Ta Promh will not be getting any major face lift.
After clearing of a path for visitors and strengthening the structures to preserve them, the conservators who came here decided to keep it in its natural state .
In his popular guide to Angkor temples published in 1944, Maurice Glaze, French architect and archeologist and Conservator of Angkor from 1937 to 1945, explains why it's important to retain Ta Prohm in its "natural state":
"Ta Prohm – one of the most imposing and the one which had best merged with the jungle, but not yet to the point of becoming a part of it – as but one specimen typical of a form of Khmer art of which there were already other models."
If you're in Siem Reap and looking for tourist guides, we gypsygals recommend Vichet Chou who helped us arranged everything (booked our hotel, helped schedule our tour, secured a car and driver for us) . You can email him at [email protected]