Prasat Kravan’s Extraordinary Brick Reliefs

Considering the variety of architectural wonders on offer in the Angkor area, Prasat Kravan is never going to rank as one of the “must see” sights near Siem Reap. For the keen history enthusiast, it has a lot to offer nonetheless. Perhaps its greatest claim to your attention is simply the fact that is so unlike the massive monuments of Angkor Thom. In an area dominated by huge stone pyramids and shrines carved from dark stone, this modest brick sanctuary is a contrast. There are a number of reasons for these differences in scale and style.

Prasat Kravan consists of five, brick towers set on a raised brick platform, and they have a soft, reddish colour which marks them out from all their neighbors too. Only the central tower is intact, featuring an elegant, four-tiered roof that is a stylized representation of a lotus blossom. Three of the five towers have no roof at all, and it is unclear whether they were ever finished. What is really special about this place, however, are the extraordinary bas-reliefs within, carved right out of the brickwork. These feature various scenes from Hindu mythology and remarkable images of Shiva and Lakhsmi can be seen. The one of Lakhsmi holding a lotus blossom and flanked by kneeling attendants is especially lovely. These bas reliefs are unique in the whole Angkor era and this can be explained by the fact that this was not a royal temple. It was commissioned by commoners, which explains the small scale and the unusual design- royal architects were not in charge. Its age also help explains its unique appearance; it was built during the early 10th century when the capital had been shifted away from the Angkor era to Koh Ker. There was not much temple-building going on around Angkor during that period as a result.

The brick shrines of Prasat Kravan