Banteay Chhmar: Sacred Symbolic Mandala Plan, Monumental Structures and Infrastructures

Im Sokrithy1, Khieu Chan2, Soum Sophea2, Tho Thon2, Phon Dara2, Chan Vai2, Ky Pahnarith2

1Department of Conservation of Monuments and Archaeology, APSARA National Authority, Cambodia

2Provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts, Conservation of Monuments and Archaeology, APSARA National Authority, Cambodia

Banteay Chhmar was built in AD 1216 and was one of the most complicated architectural construction projects undertaken by Jayavarman VII. The Banteay Chhmar temple complex was built for religious purposes in a politically sensitive region in the final years of his reign. The architecture shows some signs of haste in its construction. Nevertheless, new architectural designs appear to have been developed at the site. His bid to establish Banteay Chhmar at the center of Avalokitesvara devotion and Mahayana Buddhist cosmos is reflected in the distinct sacred urban design and monumental structures, characterised by their scale and innovative techniques of inter-integration using the natural topography and a sacred symbolic mandala plan. The ceremonial centres and settlement were all supplied by a water infrastructural system designed around the Ang Mebon, a huge reservoir (1700m x 800m) constructed from lateritic stone blocks. Banteay Chhmar is also testimony to how urban design, architecture, arts and landscape in 13th century Cambodia was influenced by cultural exchange, Indian religious symbolism, views and cultural values. Together, the planning, design, and symbolism of Banteay Chhmar represents a significant and distinct expression of late Khmer urban planning and architecture with similarities to centres on the Indian subcontinent.