TA PROHM: THE SECRET OF ANGKOR’S “TOMB RAIDER TEMPLE”

Cambodia is a land of mysterious and fascinating history and culture heavily influenced by Indian culture. If you are a fan of the sequel “Tomb Raider” starring beautiful Angelina Jolie, chances are you will never miss a chance to visit such a irresistibly mysterious temple Ta Prohm. The Ta Prohm is now one of Angkor’s best visited monuments that is known for the huge trees and massive roots growing out of its walls. If you are hesitating weather to put this stop on your bucket list, let’s figure out some useful facts so as to be persuaded now!

Ta Prohm

1. Ta Prohm’s history

Built from 1186 and originally known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King), Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. That’s why it was called also by the name: Queen’s Tomb. It is one of the few temples in the Angkor region where an inscription provides information about the temple’s dependents and inhabitants. The site was home to more than 12,500 people (including 18 high priests and 615 dancers), with an additional 800,000 souls in the surrounding villages working to provide services and supplies. The temple itself contains a maze of courtyards and galleries, and it is well worth spending some time to explore its many dark corridors. Some walls and doorways of the ancient buildings have been left overgrown and gripped by huge trees and other foliage. Flocks of parrots in the trees add to the atmosphere, and give you the feeling of discovering a temple lost in the jungle. With this image in mind, it is not hard to imagine what the French naturalist Henri Mouhot must have felt when he ‘discovered’ the temple in 1860.  After the fall of the Khmer empire in the 15th century, the temple was abandoned and swallowed by the jungle.

Ta Prohm's history
Majestic Ta Prohm over the centuries.

2. Ta Prohm’s trees

This is an excellent example of the monastic complex-style temples and, thanks to a wooden walkway built around the compound, it is quite easily accessed and explored. The trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm, and “have prompted more writers to descriptive excess than any other feature of Angkor.”  Ta Prohm has been left as it was found, showing exactly what the jungle can do when it takes over control. The roots of the trees attach to the porous sandstone, extracting the water from the stones. The roots are firmly placed on the building itself, slowly crushing it but also holding it up at the same time.

ta prohm's trees
Human are so small seeing these big and majestic trees in Ta Prohm.

There is continous renovation going on, mainly repairing to stop further deterioration. But many of the Ta Prohm buildings are conquered by trees, which is now impossible to stop. Fortunately, the trees are not removed and they still provide a truly magical effect. Ta Prohm’s trees are given great comments, such as:  “On every side, in fantastic over-scale, the trunks of the silk-cotton trees soar skywards under a shadowy green canopy, their long spreading skirts trailing the ground and their endless roots coiling more like reptiles than plants.”


3. Facts about Ta Prohm

1. Its first name is Rajavihara (Royal Temple)

The first interesting thing is probably the name of the temple. Just after completion, it was called Rajavihara instead of Ta Prohm now.  Despite being located in the east of Angkor Thom and over 12km from the center of Siem Reap which is a favorable position for travelers to visit, Ta Prohm remains a relatively underrated temple.

2. It was built in the end of the 12th century but discovered in the 20th century

The temple was established by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII in 1189. Unlike most temples of Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm keeps its features like its initial construction. It is covered with the jungles making it one of the most famous temples in the complex of Angkor Wat. Once the capital of the Khmer empire was destroyed by Siamese and Khmer kings left to Phnom Penh in the 15th century, the temple had been forgotten and covered by the jungle until it was rediscovered in 1860 by Herri Mouhot.

3. Ta Prohm was chosen as the scene in the movie “Tomb Raider”

tomb raider
Attractive “Tomb Raider” thanks to Ta Prohm’s background.

Unlike any of the other popular Angkor temples, Ta Prohm really gives you the feeling of discovering something hidden and truly ancient, giving you a real Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones vibe. In fact, this was used as a location during the filming of the 2001 movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”. Ta Prohm’s popularity has soared in recent years along with the rest of the Angkor complex, but especially because of its appearance in this movie.

4. Conservation and Restoration of Ta Prohm Temple is an Indian – Cambodian cooperation project

India has agreed to provide the know-how, technical expertise, materials and funds for conservation and restoration of Ta Prohm Temple in 2002. The job is assigned to ASI (Archeological society of India). The two countries signed an agreement in April, 2002 during the visit of the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to south-east Asia.

conservation of ta prohm

5. Stegosaurus at Ta Prohm?

Finally, there is one mystery yet not to be solved in Ta Prohm Temple: an image of stegosaurus has created lot of curiosity among historians and archaeologists for ages. There have been plenty of questions whether the Hindus of 11th and 12th century knew about the existence of Dinosaurs or if they excavated the remains of it while building the temple. Or are they strangely coincident floral patterns carved around the image of a normal animal? No answer has been provided! Why not take a look to find out your own answer?

ta prohm's design
Do you see those dinosaurs? How amazing!

4. Tips for a travel to Ta Prohm

* Ta Prohm’s map

Located in the east of Angkor Thom and over 12km from the center of Siem Reap, it’s not difficult for tourists who want to explore this cultural and spiritual temple.

map of ta prohm
Belonging to Angkor’s complex, it’s very easy to find the location of Ta Prohm.

* Opening hours and entrance fees

Opening frorn 5am to 5.30pm, it’s highly recommended that you avoid the peak of hot or rainy season. Choose a good day when you have enough health and time to explore as much as you can, and enjoy their beauty to the fullest.beautiful ta prohm

To visit Ta Prohm in the complex of Angkor, you only have to pay about 37$ for a one-day ticket, 62$ for two-day and 72$ for seven-day ones. This ticket is for a discovery of the whole complex.

* Travel tips to Ta Prohm

1. If you choose to buy a one-day ticket of Angkor, make sure this temple is included.

2. A 2-hour tour and tour guide are highly recommended  if you wish to cover all important sights within and their hidden stories.

3. Needless to say, it would be a long day climbing the temples, so wear flat shoes and take water along with you.

4. Don’t take unnecessary risks for photo poses, there are enclosures provided for that.

5. Bright colored clothes give a good picture as they show well against the dark grey backgrounds.

If you are ignited now by the magnificient and mysterious Ta Prohm, book a flight ticket to Cambodia now and don’t hesitate! Or take time to let our tailor help you a little bit to have a great and meaningful cultural trip this summer.

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