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Preah Palilay Temple

Preah Palilay Temple

Updated: 2017-05-28 05:37:29

Preah Palilay (Khmer: ប្រាសាទព្រះប៉ាលីឡៃ) is a temple at Angkor, Cambodia. It is located in Angkor Thom, 400 m north-west of Phimeanakas.

History of Preah Palilay Temple

The coexistence of Hindu and Buddhist elements and lacking of foundation stele or inscriptions make somewhat difficult dating this temple. It is generally ascribed to Jayavarman VIII reign, but it seems difficult to explain how the Buddhist imagery could have survived from the iconoclast fury of that epoch. Maybe it was built in different periods: the sanctuary in the first half of 12th century, while the gopura in the late 13th or early 14th century. Chinese art historian William Willetts (1918-1995) believed that it dated from the time of Suryavarman II (1113-1149). The temple was cleaned by Henri Marchal in 1918-19, while the gopura was restored by anastylosis by Maurice Glaize in 1937-38.

Description of Preah Palilay Temple

The temple has a cross-shaped terrace, 8.5 m by 30 m long, with seven-headed nāga balaustrades in good conditions, on the east, guarded by two decapitated dvarapalas and a lion (of an original two). A 33 m-long causeway connects it to the single sandstone gopura. Before the laterite enclosure 50 m square there is a shrine with a 3 m tall statue of Buddha, sitting on a lotus, of a later period.

The gopura has three entrances, the east-facing pediment of the northern one shows "the offering of the animals in the forest of Parilyyaka", where the Buddha retreated after leaving Kosambi. It seems that the origin of Pralilay could have been the alteration of the name Parilyyaka. Other pediments show other scenes from the life of the Buddha including Sujata's offering of rice-milk to the Buddha-to-be, and the subjugation of the elephant Nalagiri.

Monks from the nearby monastery in front of the temple
The sandstone sanctuary stands on a three-tiered basement, 6 m high in overall. It has a 5 m square central chamber that opens to the four cardinal points with as many vestibules. Their classical ornamentations, unfortunately ruined, suggest that the sanctuary belongs to the first half of the 12th century and is older than the gopura. Even the characteristic "chimney-like" tower that stands above seems to be a later addition (Willetts identifying it as belonging to Jayavarman VII's period), maybe a frame for a covering.

Some parts of the pediments have been taken away for safe-keeping, others are lying on the ground. The visible parts show Indra on his mount, the elephant Airavata, and the assault of the demoniac army of Mara.

At the present time there is a little Buddhist monastery near the temple and the presence of the monks in its area is not uncommon.


The presence of Buddhist monks and nuns at this temple give it a feeling of an active place of worship. Lintels and pediments lying on the ground at the sides and back of the temple afford a rare opportunity to see relief at eye level. Many depict Buddhist scenes with Hindu divinities.


A large seated Buddha in front of the temple of Prah Palilay is of a recent date. A terrace in the shape of a cross precedes the temple and stands as an elegant example of the 'classic 'period of Khmer art. Serpent balustrades terminating with a crest of seven heads frame the terrace. A causeway joins the terrace to the entry tower at the east set in the enclosing laterite wall, of which only parts remain.

The entry tower is in the shape of a cross and has three passages and a cylindrical vault with a bouble pediment. The pediments of the pediments of the entry towers are modeled with Buddhist scenes. The lintel on the east side of the entry tower depicts a reclining Buddha and the pediment on the south side has a finely carved seated Buddha; the pediment on the north has an uncommon depiction of a standing Buddha with his hand resting on an elephant.

There are remains of two guardians (decapitated) on the east and two lions on the ground between the terrace and the Central Sanctuary.


Only the Central Sanctuary of Prah Palilay remains intact. The sandstone tower opens on four sides, each one of which has a porch. The tower stands on a base with three tiers and has a stairway on each side. On the upper portion there is a truncated pyramid that forms a sort of chimney, which is filled with reused stones.

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