Preah Ko Temple

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Explore Preah Ko Temple: Cambodia’s Hidden Ancient Gem

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Preah Ko Temple is a magnificent ancient ruin located in the Siem Reap province of Cambodia. This beautiful temple is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, Angkor Wat and Bayon Temple, but it is a hidden gem worth discovering.

The temple dates back to the late 9th century and is believed to have been built during the reign of King Indravarman I. Its name, Preah Ko, translates to “sacred bull,” and the temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The temple is considered one of the earliest examples of temple-mountain architecture, which later became a hallmark of Khmer temple building.

Preah Ko Temple is also known for its exquisite sandstone sculptures and carved bas reliefs, showcasing intricate scenes of Hindu mythology. Despite centuries of wear and tear, the temple has managed to retain its architectural and artistic beauty, making it an excellent example of Khmer craftsmanship.

Key Takeaways

  • Preah Ko Temple is an ancient gem in Cambodia, often overlooked by its more famous neighbors.
  • The temple dates back to the late 9th century and is dedicated to Hindu god Shiva.
  • Preah Ko Temple is one of the earliest examples of temple-mountain architecture in Khmer temple buildings.
  • The temple boasts exquisite sandstone sculptures and carved basreliefs, showcasing intricate scenes of Hindu mythology.

History of Preah Ko Temple

The Preah Ko Temple is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Cambodia and was built in the 9th century during the reign of King Indravarman I. The temple was dedicated to his ancestors and is believed to be the first temple constructed in the ancient city of Hariharalaya, which was the capital of the Khmer Empire at the time.

The temple consists of six brick towers, which are arranged in two rows of three. The towers are decorated with intricate carvings of Hindu deities, such as Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu. The temple’s name, “Preah Ko,” means “sacred bull” and refers to the three sandstone statues of bulls that stand in front of the temple.

Preah Ko Temple was later expanded by King Yasovarman I in the early 10th century. During the reign of King Jayavarman V, the temple was converted into a Buddhist temple, and several Buddhist statues were added. However, the temple was abandoned in the 15th century and fell into disrepair until it was restored in the 20th century.

Significant Events

The Preah Ko Temple played an important role in the religious and political history of the Khmer Empire. Inscriptions found at the temple suggest that it was used for religious ceremonies and was also the site of royal processions and other important events.

During the reign of King Jayavarman V, the temple was used as a royal crematorium. The king himself was also cremated at the temple.

In the 19th century, French explorer Henri Mouhot visited the temple and wrote about it in his travelogues, which helped to popularize the temple and raise awareness about Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage.

Architecture and Design of Preah Ko Temple

The Preah Ko Temple boasts a unique architectural design that sets it apart from other ancient temples in Cambodia. Built during the reign of King Indravarman I in the 9th century, the temple is one of the oldest structures in the Angkor Archaeological Park.

The temple is composed of six brick towers arranged in two rows of three. Each tower features intricate carvings and sculptures, depicting Hindu deities such as Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. The towers are also adorned with various animals, including elephants, lions, and monkeys, all of which are carved in exquisite detail.

One of the most notable architectural features of the Preah Ko Temple is its unique layout. Unlike other temples, which were typically oriented east to west, the Preah Ko Temple is oriented north to south. The temple also stands on a platform that is higher than the surrounding area, giving it an imposing presence.

The carvings found within the temple are also exceptional. The lintels over the doorways, for example, feature intricate depictions of Hindu myths and legends. The door guardians, which stand on either side of the entrance, are also intricately carved and are some of the most well-preserved examples of Khmer sculpture.

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Sculptures at Preah Ko Temple

The sculptures at the Preah Ko Temple are some of the most intriguing aspects of its design. The temple is adorned with numerous sculptures, including the aforementioned Hindu deities and animals. The sculptures are carved in exquisite detail, allowing visitors to appreciate the skill of the artisans who created them.

The sculptures are also significant for their role in depicting ancient Khmer beliefs and practices. They offer a glimpse into the religious and cultural beliefs of the Khmer people during the 9th century, providing valuable insight into Cambodia’s ancient history.

Carvings at Preah Ko Temple

The carvings found within the Preah Ko Temple are equally impressive. The temple features numerous carvings of various Hindu myths and legends, including the Churning of the Ocean of Milk and the Battle of Kurukshetra.

One of the most remarkable carvings is found on the central tower. It depicts the god Indra riding his elephant, Airavata, as he battles the demon Vritra. The carving is notable for its size and level of detail, making it one of the most impressive examples of Khmer art.

Overall, the unique layout, intricate carvings, and stunning sculptures found within the Preah Ko Temple make it a must-see attraction for visitors to Cambodia.

Significance of Preah Ko Temple

The Preah Ko Temple is not just an architectural marvel; it holds significant cultural, religious, and historical importance for Cambodia and its people. The temple served as the first Khmer temple to be constructed entirely of stone and played a crucial role in shaping the architectural landscape of the region.

For the local community, the Preah Ko Temple is a symbol of national pride, representing their rich heritage and history. The temple is often used as a site for traditional ceremonies and rituals, demonstrating its ongoing cultural significance.

From a religious perspective, the temple holds great significance for Buddhists and Hindus alike. The temple’s inscriptions indicate that it was dedicated to Shiva, one of the most revered Hindu gods. At the same time, its unique architectural style and layout indicate that it may have been adopted and repurposed by later Buddhist rulers.

The Preah Ko Temple represents a critical period of Cambodia’s history, showcasing the country’s architectural and creative prowess. Its religious and cultural significance also highlights the depth of Cambodia’s spiritual traditions, making it an essential site for both locals and tourists to visit.

Conservation and Restoration Efforts at Preah Ko Temple

The Preah Ko Temple is a valuable cultural and historical monument that requires conservation and restoration efforts to preserve it for future generations. The Cambodian government, along with various international organizations, has implemented several initiatives to ensure that this ancient gem remains intact.

In 1992, the temple was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the “Angkor” site, which includes several other significant monuments in the Angkor region. This recognition has led to increased awareness and funding for conservation efforts.

Initiatives Description
The Preah Ko Conservation Project A project implemented by the World Monuments Fund, which aimed to restore the temple’s central sanctuary and surrounding areas
The Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENESYS) Program A program that allows young Japanese students to learn about the Preah Ko Temple and assist with restoration efforts
The Sustainable Tourism Project A project that aims to promote sustainable tourism in the Angkor region while preserving its cultural and historical sites, including the Preah Ko Temple

Additionally, the Apsara Authority, which is responsible for managing and protecting the Angkor Archaeological Park, has implemented several measures to maintain the Preah Ko Temple. These include site cleaning and maintenance, the installation of visitor facilities, and the restriction of vehicle access to the temple site.

Thanks to these conservation and restoration efforts, the Preah Ko Temple remains an important cultural and historical monument in Cambodia and the world. It is a testament to the country’s rich heritage and a reminder of the significance of preserving our past for future generations.

How to Visit Preah Ko Temple

Preah Ko Temple is located in the Roluos Group of temples, around 13 kilometers east of Siem Reap. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your visit:

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Opening hours: 7:30am to 5:30pm
Entrance fee: $10 for a one-day ticket to the Angkor Archaeological Park, which includes Preah Ko Temple.
Getting there: You can hire a tuk-tuk, taxi or rent a bike to reach the temple from Siem Reap. The journey takes around 25 minutes by car or tuk-tuk and 45 minutes by bike.
Other attractions: Preah Ko Temple is part of the Roluos Group of temples, which also includes Bakong and Lolei. Both temples are located within a short distance of Preah Ko and are worth a visit.

If you plan to visit other temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park, it may be worthwhile to purchase a multi-day ticket, as this can offer significant savings. Keep in mind that appropriate dress is required to enter the temple grounds – shoulders and knees must be covered.

Visitors are advised to bring plenty of water, sun protection and insect repellent, especially during the hot and humid summer months. While exploring the temple, take care not to touch or deface any carvings or sculptures, as these are delicate and irreplaceable.

Preah Ko Temple: A Photographer’s Paradise

The Preah Ko Temple, with its unique architectural design features and stunning sculptures, offers a photographer’s paradise. The intricate carvings and detailed reliefs carved into the temple walls make it an ideal location for capturing the intricate details of ancient Khmer architecture. The symmetrical layout of the temple and its harmonious design elements provide photographers with numerous opportunities to capture beautiful compositions.

The soft morning light that falls on the temple offers a perfect opportunity for photographers to capture the timeless beauty of the structure. As the sun rises, the temple’s sandstone walls emit a warm yellow glow that provides an ideal backdrop for photography enthusiasts seeking to capture the temple’s ethereal beauty.

The Preah Ko Temple’s intricate carvings depict a variety of stories and religious themes that can provide inspiration for capturing stunning photographs. The Temple’s sculptures depict a range of animals, including lions, elephants, and monkeys, which can add depth to any photograph. The temple’s symmetrical layout, with its long corridors, offers a sense of perspective, providing photographers with an opportunity to capture stunning compositions.

Despite the temple’s popularity, there are plenty of opportunities for photographers to capture unique and stunning images. With patience and creativity, photographers can explore new angles, frame their shots, and capture the beauty of this ancient gem. As such, the Preah Ko Temple is a photographer’s paradise and a must-visit destination for anyone looking to capture artistic photographs that celebrate Cambodia’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Mythology and Legends Associated with Preah Ko Temple

The Preah Ko Temple holds a special place in the hearts of the Cambodian people and is steeped in mythology and legend. According to local folklore, the temple was built by the gods themselves, who descended to earth to create a sacred place of worship for the Khmer people.

One of the most popular legends involves a powerful king who ruled over the region. The king was known for his cruelty and greed, and the people suffered under his rule. In an effort to appease the gods and bring peace to the land, the king commissioned the construction of the Preah Ko Temple.

Legend has it that the gods were pleased with the king’s offering and blessed the temple with divine powers. From that day forward, the temple became a place of healing and spirituality, and people traveled from far and wide to seek its blessings.

Another legend involves a sacred white cow that was said to reside within the temple. The cow was a symbol of purity and was worshipped by the Khmer people. According to the legend, the cow was responsible for protecting the temple and its inhabitants, and it was believed that anyone who harmed the cow would suffer divine retribution.

“The myths and legends associated with the Preah Ko Temple add to its allure and mystique, making it an even more fascinating destination for visitors.”

Preah Ko Temple: A Symbol of Cambodia’s Rich Heritage

The Preah Ko Temple is not just an ancient structure but also a symbol of Cambodia’s rich heritage. Cambodia has a beautiful culture and history that is reflected in the architecture of the Preah Ko Temple. It is a tangible reminder of the country’s past and a tribute to the skill and expertise of the ancient Khmer builders.

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The temple stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Khmer Empire, which dominated much of Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 13th centuries. It is one of the earliest examples of Khmer architecture, showing the influence of Hinduism and its deities on the temple’s design.

The temple’s intricate carvings and sculptures provide glimpses of the Khmer civilization’s religious, cultural, and philosophical beliefs. They depict various deities, scenes from Hindu and Buddhist mythology, and the everyday lives of the people who built and lived in the temple’s vicinity.

The temple offers a window into Cambodia’s past, allowing visitors to explore the country’s history and culture. It remains an essential element of Cambodia’s national identity and a testament to the country’s enduring traditions and beliefs.


In conclusion, the Preah Ko Temple is truly a hidden ancient gem in Cambodia. The temple’s historical and architectural significance makes it a must-visit destination for travelers interested in the country’s rich heritage. The temple’s intriguing design features, sculptures, and carvings are a testament to the ingenuity and skill of the ancient Khmer people.

Through the conservation and restoration efforts underway at the temple, visitors can witness firsthand the dedication of those committed to preserving this important piece of Cambodia’s history. With its photogenic qualities and cultural significance, the Preah Ko Temple is a symbol of the country’s vibrant past and promising future.

Whether for religious, cultural, or architectural interests, a visit to the Preah Ko Temple is a rewarding experience. Travelers can immerse themselves in the temple’s rich history, marvel at its intricate design details, and appreciate the beauty of Khmer architecture. A truly unique and unforgettable destination, the Preah Ko Temple is a testament to Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage.


What is the Preah Ko Temple and why is it considered an ancient gem in Cambodia?

The Preah Ko Temple is a significant historical and architectural site in Cambodia. It holds great cultural and religious importance and showcases the country’s rich heritage.

What is the history of the Preah Ko Temple?

The Preah Ko Temple has a long history that dates back to its construction in the 9th century. It was associated with various rulers and witnessed significant events throughout its existence.

What are the architectural features and design elements of the Preah Ko Temple?

The Preah Ko Temple exhibits unique architectural characteristics, including intricate sculptures, carvings, and a well-planned layout. Its design represents the artistic prowess of its time.

What is the significance of the Preah Ko Temple?

The Preah Ko Temple holds immense cultural, religious, and historical significance. It plays an integral role in the local community and serves as a venue for rituals and ceremonies.

What conservation and restoration efforts are being undertaken at the Preah Ko Temple?

Dedicated efforts are being made to conserve and restore the Preah Ko Temple for future generations. Ongoing projects and initiatives aim to protect and preserve this ancient gem.

How can one visit the Preah Ko Temple?

To visit the Preah Ko Temple, visitors have various transportation options and must pay an entry fee. It is important to be aware of the visiting hours and consider exploring nearby attractions or accommodations.

Why is the Preah Ko Temple considered a photographer’s paradise?

The Preah Ko Temple offers a picturesque setting with unique angles, lighting conditions, and remarkable architectural details, making it an ideal location for photographers.

Are there any myths or legends associated with the Preah Ko Temple?

The Preah Ko Temple has folklore and myths associated with it, which have been passed down through generations. These stories add to the temple’s mystique and allure.

What does the Preah Ko Temple symbolize in terms of Cambodia’s heritage?

The Preah Ko Temple represents Cambodia’s rich heritage by showcasing its history, culture, and architectural achievements. It stands as a symbol of the country’s pride and identity.

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