Sacred Temple of Ta Prohm in Angkor, History, Facts and Pictures

Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor is a proof of how nature recaptures what originally belonged to her once! This is one of the must visit temples of Angkor if you have one day ticket to tour Angkor Temples. And I am sure if you take a 7 days tour ticket you will return to Ta Prohm once more, such is its charm!

Ta Prohm Entrance

History of Ta Prohm

Khmer King Jayavarman VII built Ta Prohm Temple in 1189. It was named Rajaviraha first. There are mentions in historical records that: King Jayavarman VII ordered to create 260 walls, 39 towers, 566 clusters of stone houses, and 286 houses with bricks. Around 79,365 people from 3140 villages served the temple. Treasures of the temple included up to 5 tons of gold dishes, 512 beds, 524 umbrella, 35 pearls and 454 precious stones!

The temple had another name: Queen’s Tomb. It is believed King Jayavarman VII built this temple to worship his mother Jayarajachudanami. Legends say, the tomb was placed in four stone walls full of diamonds. I saw a small enclosure, the walls had several holes. Could it be the tomb mentioned in the legends?

Jewels studded room Ta Prohm

Could this be the tomb of Queen Mother?

Ta Prohm Rediscovered

During 15th century, after the Siamese Cambodian war, Khmer rule ended in Siem Reap. With the exit of Khmer people the temple slipped into a state of oblivion. It was discovered again in 1860 by Herri Mouhot, a French botanist. In these 3 centuries of neglect, a species of Ficus, the Giant Strangler Fig trees took control of the temple. Since the temple is made with no mortar, the loose stones enabled the quick spread of roots. In year 1992 the whole territory of Angkor was taken under the protection of UNESCO.

Today all its glory is gone and only ruins remain!

Ruins of Ta Prohm

Haunting Remains of Ta Prohm

Authorities have left Ta Prohm almost untouched but not unexplored. They have not disturbed the overgrown trees at the same time seen to it they are not dangerous to cause it to crumble. The metal plates holding up the roots are a proof of that. But how long can man resist nature’s might?

A path is etched out through which several tourists round the year keep touring the temple. I found several points inside the temple complex shockingly stunning. Even though I had read and seen pictures of gigantic trees hugging the temple tops and walls a sudden encounter with them left me stunned. You can never guess after which turn you will bump into one such sight. Even panorama mode fails to capture the entire length and width of the trees there. The precarious manner I which those weighty roots are resting on feeble metal supports gives an eerie feeling. It is a matter of time they will cave in unless more concrete measures are taken to strengthen it.

Somehow this merging of trees and stones fascinates. While most of the place is in ruins the entire effect is enhanced by the gripping roots.

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Tour of Ta Prohm

Tourists including me devoured the sights of neglect all around. At many spots I found queues to take photos with trees, probably this is the only place that happens. Authorities there have made special enclosures to take pictures which in my opinion spoil the natural look. Lots of restoration work is on within the premises. Skilled artisans are working hard; they are replacing broken sculptures with similarly carved stones, which is really encouraging.

The entrance does not disappoint with its huge gopura (tower of entrance) with 4 faces of Avalokiteshwara. Central path leading to temple has finely carved lintels and pillars. Most of the details have worn away. Yet what remained of the ornate door frames, walls and windows charmed me to no end. There is no clear path after you enter inside. There are several structures all interconnected by galleries. Some of the shrines have images of Buddha, some have linga, some vacant and some with piles of stones. Exercise some caution as you maneuver through these.

Another temple with strangler trees : Banteay Kdei

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Conservation of Ta Prohm Temple

Another interesting fact is that Conservation and Restoration of Ta Prohm Temple is India Cambodia cooperation project.  For me it was a surprise and a little google search threw up loads of info on it.

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.

Ta Prohm Conservation and Restoration by ASI

Ta Prohm Conservation and Restoration by ASI_indranipics

Tomb Raider at Ta Prohm

Yet another reason Ta Prohm Temple is famous for is that the movie Tomb Raider was filmed here. It is here that Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft picked a jasmine flower before falling through the earth. Tourists throng at this spot for photographs trying to probably recreate the scene or carry back a piece of memory of the famous movie.

Tomb Raider Tree at Ta Prohm

Stegosaurus at Ta Prohm?

Finally there is one mystery yet to be solved in Ta Prohm Temple. An image of stegosaurus has created lot of curiosity among historians and archaeologists. Did the Hindus of 11th and 12th century know about the existence of Dinosaurs? Did they excavate the remains of it while building the temple? Or is it some strange coincidence that they are floral patterns carved around the image of a normal animal. No one knows the answer! Nevertheless it is interesting, do have a look.

Stegosaurus at Ta Prohm

Travel Tips to Ta Prohm

  • If you have taken one day tour tickets of Angkor make sure this temple is included.
  • Visit during later part of the day is okay as it is covered with a canopy of trees and you hardly feel the heat. If you have 3 day or 7 day ticket then try and visit it in the early hours of the day.
  • A 2 hour tour is must if you wish to cover all important sights within.
  • Needless to say, take water along with you.
  • Don’t take unnecessary risks for photo poses, there are enclosures provided for that.
  • Bright colored clothes give a good picture as they show well against the dark grey backgrounds.
  • Flat shoes highly recommended for this and all temples in Angkor.
  • Guides are available. If you are not taking their help do a good study of the place so that you don’t miss out interesting sights.

Ta Prohm Cambodia Series

Banteay Kdei Temple Tour in Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Giant Strangler Trees at Cambodian Temples

38 Responses to “Sacred Temple of Ta Prohm in Angkor, History, Facts and Pictures

  • Beautiful pictures and a very useful source of information for anyone visiting!

  • Nice place to visit. I love very much Historical places. Thank you so much for beautiful photography.

  • Lovely photos. Nature truly merged with the human endeavour.

  • Haha tomb raider, cool! Can totally imagine the tourists flocking around the place to get a picture like Angelina. I love the pictures with the trees and I just keep wondering always, how did they buil all those amazing structures without modern tools and machinery. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sandy N Vyjay
    3 months ago

    This is yet another invaluable treasure of Angkor Wat. The history of Ta Prohm is so fascinating. I always imagine how life must have been when these temples existed in all their grandeur and people flocked to pray and worship here.

  • it appears that restoration has been done quite satisfactorily

  • Wonderful temple. Thanks for the informative post and Beautiful pics.

  • Ta prohm seems like one of the most ancient temples that I have read about. It’s always interesting to read the story behind the ancient temple and the belief associated with them. This one, apart from the story, also seems to have a stunning architecture . Lovely writeup!

  • What an amazing place! Your shots are gorgeous.

  • Ta Prohm is my favorite in the Angkot Wat complex! I remember being quite amazed by the huge trees that coiled themselves to the temple. It’s just incredible. Happy to read the back story about this temple, admittedly, I wasn’t able to learn this information during my trip.

  • I love temples and this definitely looks like one of those temples that is worth a visit. Thanks for sharing, I will definitely keep your tips in mind 🙂

  • I have lately seen so many posts from Angkor Wat temples that I have really started to dream about seeing them myself one day! Great post 👍

  • This looks incredible! The surroundings are gorgeous. I really like the details on the walls and frames. I really wan to visit these temples.

  • It seems like a good mix of India and Cambodia together .This temple is the symbol of blending of both the cultures.And the stegosaurus looks very fascinating.This temple looked very familiar and I had a feeling that I had seen it somewhere only after you wrote that tomb raider was shot here I realised

  • Lovely pictures. Dinosaur carving is interesting.

  • Yogi Saraswat
    3 months ago

    Treasures of the temple included up to 5 tons of gold dishes, 512 beds, 524 umbrella, 35 pearls and 454 precious stones! Like Indian temples 🙂 . It seems that India and Cambodia are very similar not only in their culture but also in History and architect . Very useful information

  • Ta Prohm was one of my favorite temples in Angkor Archaeological Park. I loved the nature vs man element of the whole place. And of course because of Tomb Raider. Kudos for telling the history of Ta Prohm.

  • Hey how much is the ticket / pass when you went there? I’d really like to know!

  • This is such a fascinating place. Amazing captures 🙂

  • Beautiful pictures Indrani…and very useful tips..will keep in mind when we plan a trip 🙂

  • Looks quite haunting and intriguing… the tips are great! 🙂

  • India has a similar place called Hampi, which are ruins of a great kingdom and civilisation which has a rich place for history. You are right, nature at some point will claim things that are part of it!

  • This is so beautiful! Looks like such an amazing place to explore. Added to my bucket list! ☺

  • Ruins everywhere… I agree, the restoration spoils the original beauty. But we can save something for the next generation. This must be huge temple. First time seeing the carvings of dinosaurs…. very interesting

  • Lovely pics & interesting info especially about the Dinosaurs!
    They really knew so much!
    Angkor Temples are in my must-visit list.

  • I just got back from this place few days ago. Can totally recall it .. over crowded , enlarged roots , magnificent structure , dilapidated but still having its own mystery. Loved reading the detailed thoughts about Ta Prohm ..

  • So many mysteries – I wonder whatever happened to all that treasure, and what the real story behind the stegosaurus is?? It’s amazing how a solid stone structure can be so almost completely reclaimed by the jungle – I’ve seen strangler figs before, but never with roots so big. I’ve always wanted to visit ever since I first saw photos of it as a child – it’s so fascinating!

  • Carolina Colborn
    2 months ago

    Just saw “First They Killed my Father.” Knowing a little bit more about what the country went through makes this post more appreciated, especially how the Cambodians revere sacred temples like Ta Prohm.

  • Even though I’ve been to Ta Prohm I learned a lot from this post. I didn’t know it was the Queen’s Tomb, and I certainly didn’t know there were diamonds in the walls, if that’s true. I like to think it is. That’s wonderful that India is helping with the restoration.

  • Angkor Wat is one of the main reasons why I want to visit Cambodia. It’s one of the grandest ancient temple in the world. I’m amazed at how ancient people built it!

  • Aaaah….beautiful! Cambodia ruins never get old. Just look at all the intricate structures!

  • Love your tip to wear brightly coloured clothes for that perfect picture amongst the ornate door frames, walls and windows . Cambodia is one of my favourite parts of South East Asia for all the history and the ancient temples, I think the diamond in wall thing is true too, especially when you consider that most temples in Asia are filled to the brink with them.

  • Wow, I loved reading this in depth guide to Ta Prohm temple. I have been lucky to visit several times (I live in Cambodia), but I didn’t know many of the things you mentioned here, including that there is a stegosaurus carving inside. What a fascinating mystery! Now I want to go back to find it 😀

  • I was in Ta Prohm and took the “Lara Croft picture” etc etc but I saw so many temples during the same day that I mix data and images. I even bought a (good) book a book to get the full picture and the complete history but I never read it 🙁 Cool to find this separate posts for Angkor temples and read about one temple a day. I did not recognize the dinosaur on your picture, I will check on my book . . .

  • I will be honest with you and tell you that I am keen on this one more than even Angkor wat. It always fascinated me and even more after reading the history you have detailed. A diamond tomb – now that really is something. And those reliefs are so gorgeous. Loved your pics.

  • There’s a lot of history in Cambodia that I loved a lot. The structures are well preserved and it feels like it really gives you a deeper understanding of the culture. I have always loved Cambodia, it was interesting to visit for pictures but even more so cause it is full of history.

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