Prasat Kravan

Date first quarter of the 10th century (921)
King Harshavarman I
(posthumous name: Rudraloka)
Cult Brahmanic
Clearing H. Marchal in 1929-1931 and G. Trouvé in 1935
Further restoration by B.P. Groslier from 1962-1966

Returning towards Siem Reap by the Small Circuit, on the left one passes, between the 12th and 13th kilometre marker stones, a line of five crumbling brick towers set at an angle to the road. One should not hesitate to stop here, since within their barren exterior they hide a phenomenon unique in the art of Angkor; - sculpture in the brickwork of the sanctuary interiors. (23)

Surrounded by a moat, which is crossed in its north-western corner by a small access causeway, these towers are set quite close, built on a single terrace and open to the east - though the absence of any access stairway to the very high thresholds is surprising. Their state of ruin has been caused mainly by the presence of several large trees, whose roots have disintegrated the brickwork.

We recommend that the visit starts with the central tower, the only one still retaining any of its upper tiers. These remain perfectly visible, particularly from inside where the brickwork has been constructed with remarkable care; - the mortar-less joints, which have only a thin vegetal binder, remain absolutely tight.

Externally, the eastern side is sculpted with dvarapalas set in shallow niches, while the pilasters show a decoration of chevrons and small framed figures. Only the lintel with its line of small heads set in a frieze above and the octagonal colonnettes with their four ringed bands are in sandstone. All are very well preserved. The jambs of the door openings are inscribed, mentioning the placing of a statue of Vishnou in 921.

The 3m.50 square sanctuary chamber sheltered a linga on a pedestal and must once have contained a hanging velum, the stone suspension hooks for which can still be seen. To the left of the entrance one can see a large figure of Vishnou, whose four arms carry the usual attributes - a disc, a sphere, a conch and a club. One of his feet rests on a pedestal next to a figure in prayer, while the other stands on a lotus blossom being held by a female figure on a background of undulating lines (waves of the Ocean). This is clearly a representation of the "three strides of Vishnou", with which the god won possession of the world. To the right is a Vishnou mounted on the shoulders of Garuda between two seated figures in prayer. In front, another Vishnou with eight arms is framed by six rows of standing figures in prayer which multiply in number from bottom to top and are for the most part masculine, above all of which there is a frieze of other praying figures and an enormous lizard.

The extreme northern tower is also sculpted internally with figures (although unfortunately truncated at the waist) replicating the female aspect of the central sanctuary and perhaps consecrated to Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnou. A pedestal was found there during clearing works, ornate on three sides of its plinth with small figures in prayer.

The three other towers have their walls bare. In places one can see again the remains of their false brick doors, and on the middle northern tower some fragments of sculpted pilasters. The best preserved of the lintels (Vishnou on Garuda) is to be found on the extreme southern tower. Internally, the secondary towers measure only three metres across.