Ageless beauty at Ta Prohm

The roots of the silk cotton trees which have an ageless sense around them entwine around the ruins, giving them a sense of mystery.

The guide book says that you would need an hour to look around, but I can spend an eternity here. The roots of the silk cotton trees which have an ageless sense around them entwine around the ruins, giving them a sense of mystery. The temple itself may be around 1000 years old, but the trees with their trunks entrenched deep inside the walls take you to a different era. The brown and the green merge with the fallen leaves as the breeze comes calling.

Ta Prohm

You do not just look at the structures or the sculptures carved on the walls. Instead your eyes gaze upon the branches of the ficus trees that curve around the carvings, some of them sturdy enough to hold the entire structure in place, while the others have collapsed, taking in the stony edifices with them.  The leafy branches dangle casually as the birds find a perch. This is Ta Prohm – the 12th century temple in Cambodia, left in its ‘natural state’.

For a lot us, Khmer civilisation and the state of Angkor begins and ends with the Angkor Wat, but there are several temples in the region that catch the tourist’s attention. Be it the Rolous group of monuments, at ancient Hariharalaya where king Jayavarman II built his early capital or the city of Angkor Thom, which became the later capital of Jayavarman VII, the temples here speak of a civilisation that flourished for several centuries. Ta Prohm is one of the monuments that live to tell a tale. 

A temple made famous by the Angelina Jolie film, Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm today is often referred to as the Angelina Jolie Temple and guides take you to the site where the roots and the branches of the trees create a vivid impression of the wild, even as tourists pose for cameras. The temple was called Rajavihara or the royal monastery, also referred to as Old Brahma built with concentric galleries, corner stones, gopuras and courtyards.

Walking around, I see the dwarapalakas and the devtaas carved on the walls, even as the trees frame them. I am told that the temple was built for more than 250 deities and the principal deity, Prajnaparamita, referred to the Perfection of Wisdom was carved in the likeness of the king, Jayavarman VII’s mother. The sun’s rays light the dangled roots that lend an eerie air to the temple.

Deep inside the forests, it is hard to believe that the outer area around Ta Prohm was once an inhabited city with more than 3,000 settlements. It is deliberately left in its natural state although boards say that restoration work is in progress with the help of Indian archaeologists and officials. This however does not seem to have gone down with the locals, as I hear a guide complain to a group of foreign tourists that the Indian consultants have suggested removing the trees and restoring the temple. As you walk along some of the galleries, you do come across certain restored structures that seem to be bereft of trees.

Walking along the east, we make our way along a path lined with trees to a structure built in sandstone across the moat. Some of the bas reliefs in the shrines can be seem amidst all the ruins around. The roofless structure of the hall of the dancers with the tree trunks winding around it beckon you as you watch in awe at nature’s design over man’s art. And then you realize why Ta Prohm leaves you breathless with wonder. It is nature and man’s hand at its best and you wouldn’t like to change it for anything.

A general view of the Bayon temple in Angkor Archeological Park in Siem Reap,Cambodia.
1 / 29
Yahoo Lifestyle | Photo by Ian Walton / Getty Images
Fri 24 Aug, 2012 3:30 PM IST

Test your Travel Quotient!

Question 1

Which of these structures was built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Buenos Aires?

Poll Choice Options
  • Babel Book Tower
  • The Obelisk
  • Plaza San Martin
1
2
3
4
5

Join the Great East Coast Road Drive

  • A detour to Squamish

    A detour to Squamish

    Revered by the First Nations people who take its name, Squamish offers a view of another Canada More »

    Lakshmi Sharath - Mon 16 Mar, 2015 5:46 PM IST
  • 5 things about Vancouver that will make you want to stay

    5 things about Vancouver that will make you want to stay

    Canada’s largest western city is full of unexpected surprises and a wilderness right in its heart More »

    Lakshmi Sharath - Mon 9 Mar, 2015 6:12 PM IST
  • Going cuckoo at Galibore

    Going cuckoo at Galibore

    Celebrating a fledgeling foray into birdwatching More »

    Lakshmi Sharath - Mon 16 Feb, 2015 6:32 PM IST
  • Five essential travel experiences in Kutch

    Five essential travel experiences in Kutch

    Kutch nahin dekha to kuch nahin dekha is not just a marketing tag line. India's largest district has so much to offer that one visit is barely an appetiser More »

    Lakshmi Sharath - Mon 9 Feb, 2015 2:22 PM IST
  • China plans database of bad behaviour to deter its unruly tourists

    China plans database of bad behaviour to deter its unruly tourists

    China has started work on a national database to help rein in some of its unruly sightseers and monitor the behaviour of habitual offenders, state media said, after some instances of graceless conduct brought its tourists unwanted notoriety. Chinese tourists overtook Americans and Germans as the world's top-spending travelers in 2013, the World Tourism Organization says, but questionable behaviour has given offence in some countries, making them unwelcome. A system that tracks bad behaviour by Chinese tourists is in the works, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday, citing Li Jinzao, head of the National Tourism Administration. Once it is in place, habitual offenders may find it tough to board planes or book hotels, with the data being shared with airlines, hotels and travel agencies. More »

    Reuters - Fri 16 Jan, 2015 6:55 PM IST
1 / 60

Follow exclusive coverage of Jay's bike ride to Kashmir

Write for Traveler