Banteay Kdei – The oldest monastery in Angkor

Banteay Kdei – The oldest monastery in Angkor

The monastery complex of Banteay Kdei is located in Angkor, directly opposite the “royal bath” Srah Srang, southeast of the temple complex of Ta Prohm and east of Angkor Thom and counts as a small but fine structure of the Angkor Archaeological Park

Banteay Kdei Tempel

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries during the reign of Jayavarman VII, it is the oldest of the three monastic complexes at Angkor, dedicated to the teachers of Jayavarman VII, and one of the first temples dedicated to Buddhism from the beginning (in the 12th century Hinduism was replaced by Buddhism as the state religion, though many formerly Hindu monastic complexes continued to be used, of course). After being forgotten in the past, the structure was finally rediscovered by Japanese archaeologists in the 20th century. Like many monasteries and temples, Banteay Kdei was built of sandstone, but due to some construction difficulties, the monastery complex is now very poorly preserved and requires constant renovation. Due to the few preserved inscriptions, it is also hardly possible to locate historical cornerstones and make assignments, which of course makes it difficult not only to classify the monastery complex and the entire complex historically correctly, but also to name the purposes and rites correctly.

Banteay Kdei is completely enclosed by a rectangular monastery wall, with archways on all four sides, of which today mainly the east gate is used for tourist purposes. Directly around the temple there is still a moat, around which there are some carefully decorated statuettes (such as of lions). The total area is only about 700 meters by 500 meters, but the real highlight of the visit is the central sanctuary, which is connected to the four gopuras by the many galleries and halls. It is located in the so-called inner complex. Banteay Kdei can be further divided into the outer complex, the second complex, which is part of the main temple, and the third complex, whose Buddha images have partly fallen victim to vandals. In addition, there is a “Hall of Dancers” which was probably used for ritual dances at the time when the monastery was in use.

Architecturally, the monastery complex can be assigned to the Bayon style, as the roof in the east and west is supported by free-standing columns, which were built on a cruciform ground plan, and connecting struts between the columns can still be found in accordance with the style.

Banteay Kdei is easily accessible for visitors – despite the ongoing restorations, care is taken that the monastery complex never has to be completely closed and thus no major restrictions (except for individual partial closures) are to be expected.