Baksei Chamkrong

"The bird that shelters under its wing"

Date 947
King Rajendravarman
Cult Brahmanic
Clearing by H. Marchal in 1919

Situated 150 metres north of the main axial stairway to Phnom Bakheng, this small temple appears in a frame of beautiful trees to the left of the road as a stepped pyramid, fine in proportion and warm in hue - since it is built in laterite and brick as the construction materials typical of the 10th century. The surrounding brick enclosure wall has almost entirely disappeared, though to the east, the remains of an axial gopura with sandstone steps are still visible.

The pyramid measures 27 metres across at the base and 15 at the summit for an overall height of 13 metres. In laterite with four tiers it follows the usual laws of proportional reduction - the first three are simply treated with a plain cladding while the last forms a moulded plinth for the sanctuary tower. Four steep stairs rising in a single flight mark the axes, framed at each change in height with side walls that restrict access to the various levels - which remain quite narrow. The visitor wishing to ascend to the upper platform should climb these stairs with extreme caution, since some of their treads are badly eroded.

The sanctuary tower is in brick - as usual with no use of mortar in the joints, which remain filiform. Measuring 8 metres each side, it stands on a moulded sandstone base leaving a narrow surround. Its mass is considerable with respect to the proportion of the pyramid and continues the ascending lines - though it is rounded at the summit since the upper tiers have lost their sharp profiles to the action of the vegetation.

The sanctuary opens to the east. False doors on the other sides are, with the colonnettes and lintels, the only sandstone elements, which are carefully ornate with an intricate decoration. On the false doors one should note the vertical bands of foliated scrolls, while on the branch end of the eastern lintel, a Ganesha sits astride his trunk in a motif one also finds at the Mebon Oriental. Its centre is marked by the image of Indra on a three headed elephant, while above the whole composition is a frieze of small figures.

The external decoration in lime based mortar has virtually disappeared - though one can still see on the facing brick of the corner piers the outline of the devatas, destined for a coating of plaster and given form to avoid an excess of its thickness. The interior of the tower has its floor level set a metre lower, is well preserved and shows the regular brick corbelling of the vault and the diminishing bands corresponding to the reducing sections of the upper tiers. A more recent reclining Buddha lies against the back wall.

Door jamb inscriptions date from the reign of Rajendravarman and mention the setting in the temple, in the year 947, of a golden statue of Shiva, implying that the building dates from this time.