Sambor Prei Kuk is a Pre-Angkorian temple complex, located just 30 km to the north of the town of Kampong Thom, in Sambor Village, Kampong Cheuteal Commune, Prasat Sambor District, Kampong Thom Provice. It was also known as Isanapura and was the capital of the Chenla Kingdom. The city was constructed by Isanavarman I (r. 616 - 635AD) when Zhendla was at its apex more than 150 years before the rise of Angkor The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list on September 1st, 1992 in the Cultural category.
The site includes an area of nearly 1000 acres enclosed by double walls in varied forms:square, oblong, octagonal, ten meters high on ten meters wide, and over 150 temples and towers.There are three main complexes dedicated to Shiva: Prasat Sambor (North Group), Prasat Tor - Lion Temple (Central Group), Prasat Yeah Puon (South Group) together with a number of smaller ruins. Each group is situated in a square lay out surrounded by a brick wall and were constructed at different time. While the the Southern and North groups was built in 7th century by Isanavarman I, the central goup was not established until a later date.The main temple complexes contain a number of prasats in different states of ruin. Some of the carvings on the prasats’ lintels, columns and pilasters are in very good shape and illustrate detailed examples of pre-Angkorian artistry. Large bas-reliefs rendered in brick on the prasats and compound walls represent some of the earliest use of this art form in Khmer art. Besides, octagon shaped prasats are another comparatively unique architectural feature found atSamborPreiKuk.
It can be clearly seen that ruins in the North Group and several of the structures in the South Group are octagonal and in relatively good condition. The prasats of the North Group are square and rectangular and are in different states of ruin. Although the North Group N7 is not so impressive but it is the oldest structure at SamborPreiKuk and N18 is a picturesque prasat almost completely engulfed in a huge tree. Interestingly, most of the temples face east.There is alarge prasat in the Central Group, called ‘Lion Temple,’ so-named for the lions statues guarding the east door. Inthe South Group, there are several interesting structures in good condition as well as extensive bas-reliefs and carvings.
By observation, there are 52 small and big sanctuaries are in fairly good condition, the other 52 sanctuaries were fallen down and buried into the ground, and then became small hills. The sanctuaries were built of brick and limestone with the decoration of bas-relief on the scenery walls. The foundation of sanctuary was made of laterite, false door, diamond column and the sculptures were made of sandstone.
SamborPreiKuk not only plays an important role to Cambodia but also for the entire area of Southeast Asia on the grounds that they are the only remaining sound architectural constructions that exemplify the architecture and sculpture of the early period in sizable quantity. The over 52 sanctuaries were built of brick and limestone with the decoration of bas-relief on the scenery walls. The foundation of sanctuary was made of laterite, false door, diamond column and the sculptures were made of sandstone.
It is easy to reach SamborPreiKuk; tourists can set off from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh or, if your transportation allows, in a stopover on the road trip between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The ruins are about 35km/50 minutes outside of Kampong Thom town. There is a good dirt road to the ruins from Kampong Thom.