Prasat Neak Pean, also known as the Coiled Serpents, is a small temple complex located within the Angkor Complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, this temple is dedicated to Buddhism and holds significant historical and architectural value. The complex features a large square man-made pond surrounded by smaller ponds, with a small circular island at its center. The island is adorned with intricate sculptures and a miniature temple. One of the unique features of Neak Pean is its replica of Lake Anavatapta and sculpted gargoyles representing the four cardinal points. In ancient times, this temple was a place where princesses would offer gold and perfumes. Today, Neak Pean remains hidden but well-preserved, attracting visitors who are captivated by its beauty and historical significance.
Khmer architecture, which encompasses the architectural style developed by the Khmers during the Angkor period from the 8th to 15th century CE, played a crucial role in shaping Prasat Neak Pean. The most renowned example of Khmer architecture is the temple of Angkor Wat, designed as a pyramid symbolizing the structure of the universe. The Khmer architectural style was influenced by Indian rock-cut temples but also incorporated distinct local characteristics. While stone temples were primarily used for religious purposes, non-religious buildings were constructed using perishable materials. The materials used in Angkorian architecture included brick, sandstone, laterite, and wood. However, due to decay, many of the wooden elements have been lost over time.
Prasat Neak Pean was built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, a powerful ruler of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia from around 1122-1218. Jayavarman VII devoted himself to Buddhism and constructed the Bayon temple as a monument to this religion. He is credited with introducing a welfare state in Khmer society and undertook extensive construction projects, including hospitals, highways, rest houses, reservoirs, and temples. In addition to Prasat Neak Pean, he built Ta Prohm and Preah Khan in honor of his parents and constructed his own temple-mountain at Bayon. The city of Angkor Thom, with its central temple, the Bayon, stands as a testament to his reign’s grand accomplishments. The outer walls of the Bayon temple feature bas reliefs depicting the daily life of the Khmer army and its followers.
Prasat Neak Pean is a remarkable testament to the architectural ingenuity and cultural richness of ancient Cambodia. Its unique features and historical significance make it a must-visit attraction for those interested in exploring the wonders of Khmer civilization.