Ta Nei
Date late 12th century
King Jayavarman VII
(posthumous name: Maha paramasangata pada)
Cult Buddhist

From Takeo, the visitor who has the time will find in a trip to Ta Nei the pretext for a pleasant walk through the forest. A path to the north continues the route Batteur and leads directly in 800 metres - having crossed several mounds and ditches - to the western gopura of the temple, on the western side of the road.

The monument is built 200 metres west of the western dike of the eastern baray, and though it has been left untouched, overall it is relatively well preserved. Its style, from the second half of the twelfth century, is consistent throughout - only the two gopuras (east and west) of the external (or third) enclosure, whose wall has disappeared, would seem to be slightly later than the rest of the monument.

These two small gopuras, in sandstone and partially ruined, are cruciform in plan and covered with a crossing of barrel-formed vaults. Quite crude in construction, with decoration based on foliated scrolls, false windows with blinds and devatas, they relate to the end of the style of the Bayon. A decorative cornice surrounds the interior. On the east side of the eastern gopura - which is joined to the temple by the remains of a terrace and a pavement - one can see a curious fronton in place; - a Lokesvara, standing on a lotus surrounded by apsaras and flying figures, dominates a lower line of other kneeling figures with large bellies who seem to be pleading with him. Are these the sickly who seek healing, or perhaps the damned "rice thieves" who appear on the Hell bas-relief of Angkor Wat? It is difficult to say.

A pavement joined the western gopura to a small sandstone portico which cuts the laterite wall of the second enclosure, most of which has collapsed. Similar porticoes were to be found on the north and south sides, simulating gopuras as the walls themselves simulate galleries. In fact, above one of the doors in the south-east corner (east side) and on the plain wall of the north-west corner (west side) one can still see triangular sandstone frontons which, from the exterior, seemed to abut internal galleries of which there remains no trace. If they ever existed they were probably constructed in light weight materials - the Khmer architects having accustomed us to such tricks. This second enclosure, of 47 metres by 55, was bordered to the north and south by pools.

The temple as such had four gopuras joined by galleries with corner pavilions, a central sanctuary and, in the eastern part of the internal enclosure, a single "library" on the southern side - the whole arrangement forming a rectangle of 26 metres by 35. At some time, the eastern gallery was moved out to the wall of the second enclosure, blocking this side of the surrounding courtyard and transforming the original eastern gopura into a second isolated sanctuary within the enclosure - extending it from 35 metres to 46.

The sandstone gopuras form towers with two upper tiers. They are cruciform in plan and crowned with lotuses. The central sanctuary, also forming a cross but additionally with four small vestibules, had four storeys, was open to each side and joined to the north gopura by a passage. Its sanctuary chamber forms a square of 2m.75 each side.

The surrounding gallery has laterite walls and sandstone vaults with a stone finialed ridge-line. To the east and the west each element forms a secondary passageway, while to the north and south they have simple door openings to the internal courtyard and false doors to the exterior. The sandstone corner pavilions are cruciform in plan with a simple crossing vault, like the extreme eastern gopura which, as an adjustment, has not been treated with a multi-levelled tower like the other gopuras. The laterite and sandstone "library" has mostly crumbled - it opens to the west and is preceded by a vestibule. Generally the false windows have balusters sculpted into them without blinds.

The frontons are for the most part interesting, of reasonable craftsmanship and of Buddhist inspiration. One can see; - on the north side of the southern gopura, - above a line of figures in prayer - a kneeling figure blessing two children in a palace surrounded by apsaras, - on the south side of the northern gopura, an elegant cavalier brandishing a weapon above two lines of figures, - and on the central sanctuary, north side, a person standing in a boat, surrounded by flying figures carrying parasols, making a gesture of benediction.

Some lintels on the ground remain intact; - in the western gopura, one on which two figures present offerings above a head of Kala - an image of the Buddha is sculpted on only one of the branch motifs, which is separated into four quarters, - while in the south-west corner pavilion, there are three Buddhas on a head of Kala, one in the centre and two on the lateral motifs.(18)

Short inscriptions on the door jambs give the names of the idols set up in the temple.