Cambodias Ancient Shiva Temple Reopens after 50 Years of Renovation

By Jorge Láscar from Australia (Baphuon) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The fabled 11th-Century Baphuon Shiva temple in the Angkor Thom complex of Cambodia reopened on July 3, 2011,  after half a century of reconstruction work. Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia and is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Described as the world's largest puzzle, renovation work which began in the 1960s but interrupted by Cambodia's civil war, involved dismantling the monument's 300,000 almost unequal sandstone blocks and putting them back together again. All documents to reassemble the Baphuon puzzle were reportedly destroyed by the communist Khmer Rouge regime that came to power in 1975. This great pyramidal, three-tiered intricately carved ancient temple, one of the largest monuments of Cambodia, was said to be on the brink of collapse when reconstruction work was undertaken.

The inauguration ceremony on July 3, 2011, was attended by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Siem Reap province, about 143 miles northwest of capital Phnom Penh. France funded this $14 million undertaking, in which no mortar fills the cracks so each stone has its own place in the monument.

Baphuon, one of Cambodia's biggest temples after Angkor Wat, is believed to have been the state temple of King Udayadityavarman II, built in circa 1060 AD. It has Shiva lingam, scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata, the depiction of Krishna, Shiva, Hanuman, Sita, Vishnu, Rama, Agni, Ravana, Indrajit, Nila-Sugriva, Asoka trees, Lakshmana, Garuda, Pushpaka, Arjuna, and other Hindu Gods and mythological characters.

The Angkor Archaeological Park contains magnificent remains of over 1000 temples going back to ninth century, spread over about 400 square kilometers, and receives about three million visitors annually.