Prasat Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand

high-definition creative commons photographs from Prasat Phimai, the main Khmer Temple in Isaan, Thailand, together with further information.

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Prasat Phimai

This is one of the main monuments of the Khmer Empire in what is now Thailand, and stood at the end of a 250km road from Angkor to Phimai, which seems to have been a regional capital at the time. What is now marked off as the Phimai Historical Park is only a small section of the true archaeological site, which spreads much further across the modern city of Phimai, and there are other remains around the city. The main portion of the site was built in the 11th-12th centuries, probably by Jayavarman VI, who originated in this area, with some further additions later.

The temple is somewhat unusual in that it although it was built by a Hindu Empire, it is a Buddhist Temple, reflecting the faith of the people in the area, who had been converted to Buddhism some centuries earlier; but though the main focus is Buddhist, in keeping with the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of the period, many elements and stories are still drawn from Hindu mythology, and it seems many of the rituals practiced there were Hindu also.

The main temple inside the compound faces south, not east, as is the normal orientation for Khmer Temples, and it is not known why this is. An inscription found at Phimai indicates the site may have been called Vimaya, in ancient times, indicating that it was an important market town; this word has then developed into Phimai in Thai.

 

The Main Enclosure

After crossing over the nāga bridge (described later) there is a passageway to the main enclosure. This has six now dry lotus ponds, three on each side of the causeway, as we walk up. This area was almost certainly roofed over, as many tiles and roof finials were found in the area during excavations.

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to navigate through the photos below

001 Approach to the Main Buildings

001 Approach to the Main Buildings

002 Buildings with Ponds

002 Buildings with Ponds

003 Pond

003 Pond

004 Eastern Doorway

004 Eastern Doorway

The Main Temple

The main temple inside the enclosure in built in a cruciform pattern, with a large extension to the main tower on the southern side. This is elaborately decorated with carved sandstone.

The principal tower itself is built in the usual Khmer prang style, .and is made out of white sandstone. The tower has deities and nāgas facing the directions to protect the sacred space; and inside the main statue is of the Buddha being protected from the elements by the nāga Mucilinda in the fourth week after the Awakening.

005 Extension to the Tower

005 Extension to the Tower

006 Extension and Main Tower

006 Extension and Main Tower

007 Gallery

007 Gallery

008 Central Tower

008 Central Tower

009 Devas on the Tower

009 Devas on the Tower

010 Buddha protected by Mucilinda

010 Buddha protected by Mucilinda

011 Offerings at the Mucilinda Statue

011 Offerings at the Mucilinda Statue

The Galleries

Enclosing the main sacred space are the galleries which run all round the temple, and are an extensive work in their own right. They are punctuated by the four gateways on each of the cardinal directions, which also had well-carved lintels over them, only some of which remain in place.

012 Gallery

012 Gallery

013 Gallery

013 Gallery

014 Gallery

014 Gallery

015 Lintel with Kala

015 Lintel with Kāla

016 Archway through the Gallery

016 Archway through the Gallery

017 Galleries

017 Galleries

018 Lintel over Gallery

018 Lintel over Gallery

The Towers

Unusually the three main towers in the compound are each built out of different materials. The main tower is built with white sandstone. To the southwest of that is the Red Stone Tower; and to the southeast is the Prang Brahmathat, made out of laterite, and housing a truly impressive statue of Jayavarman VII, one of the great Buddhist kings.

019 The Red Stone Tower

019 The Red Stone Tower

020 Red Stone Tower

020 Red Stone Tower

021 Prang Brahmathat

021 Prang Brahmathat

022 Jayavarman VII inside Brahmathat

022 Jayavarman VII inside Brahmathat

023 Side View of Jayavarman VII

023 Side View of Jayavarman VII

024 Front View of Jayavarman VII

024 Front View of Jayavarman VII

025 Elaborate Pattern on the Clothing

025 Elaborate Pattern on the Clothing

026 Head and Shoulders

026 Head and Shoulders

027 Lintel over False Window

027 Lintel over False Window

028 Decorative Work

028 Decorative Work

029 Decorative Work

029 Decorative Work

030 Decorated Column

030 Decorated Column

031 Opening to the Sky

031 Opening to the Sky

032 Perimetre Corridors

032 Perimetre Corridors

033 Perimetre on North Side

033 Perimetre on North Side

034 Perimetre Gallery

034 Perimetre Gallery

035 Corridor Windows

035 Corridor Windows

036 Perimetre Gallery

036 Perimetre Gallery

037 Windows

037 Windows

038 Lintel over Doorway

038 Lintel over Doorway

The Dressing Room and Nāga Bridge

To the south of the main compound and the first buildings we see when entering the park is the Dressing Room, which is to the west of the Nāga bridge, which marks the passage from the earthly realm to the sacred space.

The former is where ritual participants would prepare for their roles in the ceremonies, before crossing the bridge, and approaching the main enclosure and the main temple area.

039 The Dressing Room

039 The Dressing Room

040 Dressing Room Gallery

040 Dressing Room Gallery

041 Doorway

041 Doorway

042 Dressing Room Plaza

042 Dressing Room Plaza

043 Window

043 Window

044 Window

044 Window

045 Dressing Room Corridor

045 Dressing Room Corridor

046 Dressing Room Corridor

046 Dressing Room Corridor

047 Doorways

047 Doorways

048 Gallery

048 Gallery

049 Dressing Room Lintel

049 Dressing Room Lintel

050 Naga Bridge

050 Nāga Bridge

051 Naga Bridge

051 Nāga Bridge

The Outdoor Museum

To the north of the compound we come across what amounts to an outdoor museum, holding many of the carved lintels from the site, which illustrate stories from Buddhist and Hindu mythology. Many more and some of the best examples are kept at the Phimai National Museum.

052 Sloping Tree

052 Sloping Tree

053 Outside Museum

053 Outside Museum

054 Diety and Kala

054 Diety and Kāla

055 Diety and Kala

055 Diety and Kāla

056 The Proccession

056 The Proccession

057 Dancers

057 Dancers

058 Diety and Kala

058 Diety and Kāla

059 Krisha slaying Kaliya

059 Krisha slaying Kāliya

060 Krishna slaying Kaliya

060 Krishna slaying Kāliya

061 Krishna slaying the Demon

061 Krishna slaying the Demon

062 Krishna slaying the Demon

062 Krishna slaying the Demon

 

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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