Ta Prohm

Angkor, Cambodia
Reign of Jayavarman VII, 1186 and later

This most romantic of Angkor temples is a double-moated royal monastery, dedicated by the Buddhist monarch Jayavarman VII for his mother in the form of Prajnaparamita, the female form of Avalokiteshvara (Prajnaparamita symbolizes Wisdom, as Avalokiteshvara symbolizes Compassion).

Ta Prohm (rhymes with "home") has deliberately been left in its "original" state, except for site maintenance. In practice, this means exhausting and never-ending work to (1) clear away the undergrowth so visitors can access the site, and (2) prevent the temple structure from collapsing any more than it already has. Along with Preah Khan, this is one of the few places at Angkor where the visitor can experience the site somewhat as it appeared in the 19th century, when it was first visited by European explorers.

The encroaching spung tree in this photo is slowly destroying the northwest corner of Gopura IV East, which is the entrance to the temple just before the inner moat. Its roots are pulling apart the temple's building stones, which are now supported mostly by the roots themselves. When the tree eventually dies, both tree and building will come crashing down. But for now, the balance still holds, thanks to the tireless work and dedication of the site's conservators.

Although Ta Prohm is a Buddhist foundation, I can't help seeing this process as a dynamic interplay between preservation (Vishnu) and destruction (Shiva), especially because in Hindu philosophy, as with the very tree in this photo, preserver and destroyer are ultimately one and the same.

The general sequence of photos on these pages is from east to west, along the main axis of the complex.