Buddhism in Cambodia

Ta Prohm

Known today as Ta Prohm or "Old Brahma", this monument was initially named "Rajavihara" meaning "royal monastery". Located on the left of the road going from the west entrance to Angkor Wat to the south gate of Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm is a single tower that was one of the 102 hospitals built by Jayavarman VII dedicated to Buddhism. According to Coedes, the monument is associated with the legend of Ponhea Krek. A beggar who was paralyzed and was cured at this site by the God Indra.

<< Ta Prohm has been left in a relatively unrestored state with the undergrowth having been cleared but leaving intact the trees that grow in, around, and through the ruins.


Ta Prohm was the first monument built by Jayavarman VII in Angkor. It was a monastery called "Rajavihara" (monastery of the king). It was once tended by 18 high priests and more than 2,500 lesser priests. It housed more than 12,000 people within its enclosures.

In 1186 AD, Jayavarman VII consecrated several statues here, the most important of which was that of Prajnaparamita, the personification of the Perfection of Wisdom, a figure whom the King identified with his mother.

Reflecting what is probably the hold of Mahayana Buddhism at that time, the King dedicated another temple, Preah Khan, to his father whom he identified with Lokitesvara. On an official level, this is clearly in the religious context of Buddhism of the Great Vehicle and, more specifically, in the context of a Khmer Buddhist context characteristic to Jayavarman VII's reign.

Interestingly, the word "vihara" was applied in its original context. However, it should not be understood with the Theravadin meaning of the modern era. On the other hand, all things considered, the one kilometer by seven hundred meters area delimited by the exterior enclosing wall can perhaps be regarded somewhat as a "Wat" (the modern Buddhist temple or monastery).

Within the walls, many people of diverse capacities made up a cult. Ordinarily, the visitor enters the monument from the west to approach the heart of the complex. However, one must not forget that the ritual entrance was to the east.

Once it was abandoned, the jungle slowly overtook the buildings, cracking and squeezing walls and prising stones apart. The French restorers decided to leave Ta Prohm exactly as they found it, so today the slow encroachment of the jungle continues to take place. Great blocks that fell centuries ago lie on the jungle floor covered in ferns and bushes. 

What To See

The principal image found here is Prajnaparamita, which was consecrated in 1186. The monument has been left to its fate. As a result the buildings are overgrown by trees and creepers.

Ta Prohm is a strange harmony of stone and vegetation which will one day disappear forever into the soil of the jungle. The canopy of trees which overhang the whole site obstruct the sunlight, creating a strange green half-light. Everywhere there are insects, birds, bats, frogs and animals - all living in the ruins.

Some carvings and statues remain as sharply carved as they were nearly 800 years ago.