Prah Pithu
Date early 12th century
Cult Brahmanic except for one Buddhist sanctuary
Clearing by Commaille in 1908 and H. Marchal in 1918-20

One refers, in the name Prah Pithu, to a collection of five small temples and terraces situated at the extreme north of the royal square on the east side, just in front of Tep Pranam. Arranged without any apparent order they are unfortunately badly ruined, but their high base platforms and that which remains of their principal levels - their superstructures having disappeared - reveals the excellent quality of their ornamentation and places them in the best period of classic art, - that of Angkor Wat (the first half of the 12th century).

From the road, one reaches THE FIRST TEMPLE by means of an elegant cruciform terrace on two levels, whose corbelled edges are supported by channelled columns and surmounted by balustrades with particularly fine, sweeping nagas - comparable to those preceding the monument of Prah Palilay.

The sandstone boundary wall, with its coping curiously treated in imitation of gallery vaults, then encloses an area of 45 metres by 40. It is intersected to the east and west by small gopuras with a central core and two wings, remaining rough in form.

The sanctuary, set high on an ornate three-tiered base platform - each with a central band and which reach six metres overall - has four axial stairs with a single landing on the first tier. It encloses a three metre square sanctuary chamber, open on its four sides to as many two windowed vestibules, that contains a large one metre linga on its pedestal.

The walls are truncated at the top of the niches for devatas, which are particularly pleasing - despite their feet being represented in profile - and surrounded by bands of decoration enhanced with dancing figurines. It is notable that their skirts are decorated with small flowers, a motif that became general in the style of the Bayon. The lintel of the western opening shows a highly stylised depiction of the scene from the churning of the Ocean, while the colonnettes are densely ornate and sixteen sided, making them seem almost cylindrical.

THE SECOND TEMPLE is set on the same axis as the first and placed in an enclosure of 35 metres by 28, defined by a sandstone wall constructed on a moulded base. There are no gopuras but only simple doors framed with rough pilasters.

The sanctuary, presenting the same characteristics in plan as the first but reduced in dimension, has but a single sanctuary chamber of two metres. The walls have been entirely sculpted, and the devatas - small in stature and with their feet forwards - are replaced on either side of the entrances with dvarapalas. Small scenes with figures have been sculpted in blind arches at the base of the pilasters - as was customary at the time of Angkor Wat.

The colonnettes remain unfinished, as does the southern lintel showing Krishna standing on a head of Kala. The northern lintel is dedicated to the churning of the Ocean, and the western to the "Trimurti" or Brahmanic Trinity - mounted again on a head of Kala is Shiva with multiple arms dancing between Vishnou and Brahma.

Crossing an ancient moat, one reaches the THIRD TEMPLE, located behind the two others and off axis by thirty metres towards the north. Conceived again according to the same plan, it is set on a terrace of some 40 metres in width by four in height, with moulded retaining walls breached by stairways embellished with lions.

The two storey sanctuary on its moulded base platform is quite plain, with no decoration and blind windows with balusters. Remaining unfinished it seems to be of a later period, and must have been Buddhist. Within the 2m.20 high sanctuary chamber runs a double frieze of Buddhas of a late period - with flaming "ushnisha" - and on its eastern lintel are sculpted three other representations of the Sage surrounded by figures in prayer, all of which are probably later than the architecture. The remains of other more interesting frontons - including a remarkable "Cutting of the Hair", which is now in the Bayon storeroom - have also been found in the vicinity.

Continuing towards the east after having skirted the moulded laterite wall of a Buddhist terrace - surrounded by steles or "semas" defining the sacred area and bordered by some remains of a balustrade with nagas - one comes to an ancient "srah" (pool) into which descends a stairway guarded by two small elephants sculpted in the round.

Retracing one's steps, one finds, to the north of the second temple, a FOURTH TEMPLE, distinguished from the others by the absence of any enclosure and the existence, to the east, of a double vestibule accentuating its orientation. Here, the more imposing square sanctuary chamber (3m.80 each side) was set on a base and a sculpted double plinth, sheltering a large 1m.50 linga whose sixteen-holed sacred deposit stone has also been found. Externally the mural decoration has only been started, but one can recognise the principal characteristics of the Angkor Wat style - also evident in the ornamentation of the pilasters, with elements in the form of a lyre.

Finally, again further to the north and raised on a simple earth mound, is a FIFTH TEMPLE which, differing from the others, appears to be placed in time between Angkor Wat and the Bayon. It is composed of two main buildings linked by a vestibule. The sanctuary, to the west, is closed to the west with a false door. The pilasters are ornate with foliated scrolls finishing in the heads of birds. The 3m.00 by 3m.50 sanctuary chamber is formed as three false aisles and encloses a linga of 0m.95 in height.

The larger chamber has mostly collapsed. Measuring 7 metres by 8, on its western side one can still see the two half frontons that flanked the adjoining vestibule. To the north, the victory of Krishna mounted on Garuda on the asura Bana - to the south, the "Three Strides of Vishnou". The dedication of this temple, which in some ways resembles the buildings for the shelter of pilgrims to be found at the entrance of various other monuments, remains a mystery.

One regains the westwards path by skirting a charming pool to the north - always full of water and reminiscent of some rural French scene - and then a cruciform terrace bordered, like that on arrival, by colonnettes.