Ta Prohm: The Jungle Temple

It’s late afternoon and the air is still heavy with intense heat and humidity. The shrill whistles of cicadas echo in my ears, and an earthy smell, the combination of damp soil and dense vegetation, fills my nostrils. Overhead, the branches and leaves of banyan, strangler fig and kapok trees interwine, forming a canopy that casts dappled shadows onto the crumbling ruins of Ta Prohm.

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I pass under the watchful eyes of a serene Lokesvara at the western gopura (gate tower), and enter the complex. Remnants of the once majestic temple rise above jumbled piles of rubble.

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But these man-made structures are locked in a strangulating embrace with Nature. Tree trunks twist against stone pillars. Gigantic tree roots snake over the temple roofs and wander over walls, penetrating the gaps between the stones.

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Intricately carved spirit doors (false doors), varapalas (temple guardians), apsaras (temple dancers) and devatas (goddesses) are covered with lichens, moss and creeping plants.

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I make my way through endless doorways, courtyards and corridors, some impassable from the collapsed stones, and into the central sanctuary.

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In front of me, the iconic ‘Tomb Raider Tree’, where Lara Croft picked a jasmine flower before falling through the earth into…Pinewood Studios.

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Mysterious. Magical. Romantic. Otherworldly. Ta Prohm is a photographer’s dream location and ranks highly on my List of Most Amazing Places on Earth.

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A Brief History of Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm (“ancestor Brahma”) was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of King Jayavarman VII. Originally known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King), construction of Ta Prohm commenced in 1186 AD, at the height of the Khymer Empire. Expansions and additions to the complex continued as late as the rule of Srindravarman at the end of the 15th century before it was abandoned and neglected for centuries. Sanskript inscriptions reveal that the site was home to more than 12,500 people (including 18 high priests and 615 dancers), with an additional 800,000 people in the surrounding villages working to provide services and supplies.

When Angkor was rediscovered in the early 20th century by French archaeologists, all of the temples were overgrown, but none as spectacularly as Ta Prohm. It was decided that Ta Prohm would be left largely as it had been found, as a “concession to the general taste for the picturesque”. Ta Prohm may look like it has been left to the clutches of the jungle, but much work has been done to stabilise the site and make it safe and accessible to the millions of visitors that come to marvel at its staggering beauty.

Ta Prohm’s popularity has soared in recent years along with the rest of the Angkor complex, in particular after its appearance in “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider“. Ta Prohm was also used in ‘Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom‘.

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Travel Tips

  • Ta Prohm is best explored in the early morning or late afternoon, when the crowds (and heat!) are slightly less intense.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for hard and uneven surfaces and steps.
  • Mind your head! There are low doorways and overhanging branches in places.
  • As always when visiting a religious site, dress modestly (legs to be covered below the knee, shoulders covered).
  • Bring plenty of water to drink and keep in mind, there are no public toilets (rest rooms) at the site.

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Read about my exploration of Angkor Wat over here.

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Ta Prohm: The Jungle Temple

  1. Nat, it just blows me away about how many amazing places you’re traveled! I bet you could write a book that would fill the pages.

    This post was AWESOME! And these photographs….OMG….they are FAB-U-LOUS! They almost look like drawings or paintings; a work of art. These images make me want to walk inside them. I love how you captured the light.

    What truly fascinates me are the intertwining trees within ancient ruins. They’re gorgeous!

    I bet it felt sacred to actually walk amongst them.

    Thanks so much for sharing, my friend. Really enjoying your blog!

    Like

    1. Thanks so much Ron! And thanks for always reading and commenting on my posts – really appreciate that 🙂
      I’ve been very privileged to visit so many amazing places already – I have hardly touched on them yet! And I look forward to much more travelling in the future. I hope to keep this blog going and post about them all in time…
      All the best
      Nat

      Like

  2. I agree with Ron above .. totally awesome shots. Oh my heavens what an incredible sight, you would have had a hard time dragging yourself and camera away from here I guess Nat 🙂 I can see how they would have to ensure it was fairly safe for the many visitors, it could be tricky. I am always in awe of the age of some of the old temples, incredible to think of the history here. Merci beaucoup, I loved visiting Ta Prohm with you.
    P.s. I’m a tiger also 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks Grace (fellow Tiger :-)) and thanks for always stopping by and commenting!
      Cambodia is such an incredible place to visit. I felt like I was in a dream when I was at Ta Prohm…such a magical, mysterious place.
      Best
      Nat

      Like

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