Visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park often overlook the Rolous Group of temples and monuments, which are situated just 11kms to the southeast of Siem Reap’s main marketplace. However, this is the earliest group of temples in the area and the buildings here offer an important insight in to the first stages of the ancient Khmer civilization.
Established during the 9th century, the Rolous Group consists of three main temples, namely Bakong, Preah Ko and Lolei. This site covers an area of around three kilometres and can easily be covered on foot.
Visiting the Roluos Group of Angkor
All of the temples here have been built using similar materials and feature similar design characteristics, revealing the beginning of the Classic period in Khmer art.
And all Rolous Group temples have tall, square shaped towers made of brick, which stand on pedestals. The temples are each open to the east, with false doors standing on the other three sides for the sake of symmetry. While the towers are mainly made of brick, sandstone has been used to create the intricately carved columns, decorative niches and lintels.
Bakong is the largest temple in this group – commissioned in 881 by King Indravarman I. Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, it once stood in the heart of Hariharalaya.
Visitors can ascend the four levels of Bakong to reach the Central Sanctuary, and each of these levels corresponds to one of the four worlds of mythical beings, namely Nagas, Garudas, Raksasas and Yaksas. The lintels of the temple’s west towers have managed to withstand the test of time the best and are worth a closer look as they are adorned with a large collection of detailed carvings.
Just to the north of Bakong is the mighty Preah Ko. Known as the Sacred Ox, this pretty temple was built by King Indravarman I in order to enshrine the bodies of King Jayavarman II and his queen as well as other members of the previous royal family.
Despite its age and several centuries of neglect, Preah Ko has aged extremely well and the three stairways that lead along the eastern side of the temple are in particularly good condition.
Visitors will want to pause on the landings here to admire the male and female figures that are the main form of decoration, while large sandstone lions can be found the very end of the stairways, guarding the main entrance to the temple.
Lolei is the other main temple in the Rolous Group and this unassuming structure is certainly worth exploring while in the area. Built in 893, this is the oldest temple in the Rolous Group, although there is little difference in style between Lolei and the other structures that surround it.
Although Lolei once consisted of a few small towers, only one remains to this day and this lone tower originally stood in the centre of a large pond. The reservoir has long since dried up, but it is believed that holy water once poured from specially created channels here and that this was used to irrigate the land.
Visitors will want to explore the north west side of the tower as the carvings can be best seen here and represent female divinities holding fly whisks, while their male counterparts carry tridents.