Guardian Lions of Banteay Chhmar

by Angkor Database

February 2020

Five years after the discovery of several giant heads on Banteay Chhmar vast site, four guardian lions have been found in the mud of one of the multiple barays (reservoirs or moats) surrounding what researcher Peter D. Sharrock has called "the garrison-temple". The excavation took place on the western bank of Prasat Mebon reservoir, which has been devoid of water in the recent years.

Two of these sculptures typical of the Khmer stone art are in a remarkably good state, while the two others have been severely damaged. They were part of the network of causeways, ramps and gates surrounding the main temple of Banteay Chmar and its nine (or more) "satellite temples", built from the end of the 12th century under the rule of King Jayavarman VII.

The guardian lion in Khmer temples (សិង្គ in Khmer, from the Sanskrit sinha or simha) is a direct influence of Indian sculptures, since the protective, mythical figure is a staple of Hindu and Tantric structures, and lions abunded in India's natural habitat while the species remained unknown on the lands of what it is known as Cambodia.

It is sometimes represented as the mythical Gajashima, lion with a snout. Nevertheless, stone or metal lions guarding entrance ways and bunds are also common in Chinese architecture. 

The discovery at Banteay Chmar, early February 2019, has been supervised by Ms. Mao Malay, head of the community organization helping in the rehabilitation of Kompong Toek (Water Village), Baray Mebon, Banteay Chhmar district.

Photographs by Sakphearoth Kea for Angkor Database.

For more information, go to the Visit Banteay Chhmar website. 

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