Banteay Srei temple is located in Banteay Srei village, Banteay Srei commune, Banteay Srei district, about 32 kilometers from Siem Reap provincial town. The temple was built in the second half of the 10th century during the reign of King Rajendravarman and King Jayavarman V, dedicating to Brahmanism.
Banteay Srei was built under the reign of two Angkorian Kings in the late 10th century. Although Banteay Srei was funded privately, King Rajendravarman (944-968 AD) and his successor Jayavarman V (968-1000) are both mentioned in inscriptions found in the temple. Yajnavaraha, one of the founders of the temple, was a high-ranking office during the reign of Rajendravarman.
The King awarded him land where three shaivite temples were erected by him, including Batereay Srei, in association with his younger brother. Consecrated in 967 AD, the temple was not completed when Rajendravarman died in 968 AD. The construction continued during the reign of Jayavarman V, with Yajnavaraha being as his tutor. In Khmer “Banteay Srei” means the “City of women”, but this is a modern name perhaps deriving from a phonetic pronunciation of Banteay Srei, the “auspicious city”, which is not the original name of the monument. Inscriptions discovered in the monument give its original Sanskrit name as “Isvarapura”, the “city of Shiva”.
Banteay Srei was a shivaite temple: the main idol located in the central sanctuary-tower was a linga, the phallic representation of Shiva. Although small in size, Banteay Srei is one of the jewels of Khmer art due to the outstanding quality of its sculpted décor, carved from red sandstone. A single-story structure, the complex of buildings making up Banteay Srei is organized on an east-west axis.
A place of worship, it was also a pilgrimage site with the duty to provide hospitality. A representation of the celestial residence of the Gods modeled on Indain strategies, this temple was hierarchically prepared. The central complex of the monument, at recent accessible to tourists, must have been reserved to an elite, whereas the long walkway and its surrounding buildings to the east of the main complex were open to everyone.
How was Banteay Srei Restored?
Discovered in 1914, it was only after the looting of several bas-reliefs in 1923 that the French School of Asian Studies (Ecole Francaise d’Exteme-Orient, EFEO) began clearing the site on year later. The Angkor Conservation under the aegis of the French School of Asian Studies implemented the first restorations in Banteay Srei between 1931 and 1936.
Additional renewal efforts were implemented in 1952. Due to the political situation from 1972 until 1992, no restoration work was carried out at that time. After the inscription of Angkor on the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage List in 1992, the Banteay Srei iste remained isolated until 1998, as visiting the monument was forbidden by the authorities on security grounds. In 2001 the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) began maintenance work on site and closed the central part of the temple to the public in order to protect the base-reliefs.
From 2002-2005 the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) and the Swiss government together implemented a conservation programme, the cooperation was continued in 2007-2008 with the new development of the Banteay Srei forecourt, better protecting the temple and facilitating the management of tourism-flow.