What is Banteay Srei?
In Khmer "Banteay Srei" means the "city of women", but this is a contemporary name probably deriving from a phonetic pronuncialtion of Banteay Sri, the "auspicious city", which is not the original name of the monument. Insriptions discovered in the monument give its toriginal Sanskrit name as "Isvarapura", the "city of Shiva". Banteay Srei was a shivaite temple : the main idol located in the central sanctuary-tower was a linga, the phallic representation of Shiva.
Although small in size, Banteay Srei is one of the jewels of Khmer art due to the outstanding quality of its sculpted d'ecor, carved from red sandstone. A single-storey structure, the complex of building making up Banteay Srei is organised on an east-west axis.
A place of worship, it was also a pilgrimage site with the duty to provide hospitality. A representation of the celestial residence of the Gods modelled on Indian ideas, this temple was hierarchicall organised. The central complex of the monument, at prosent accessible to tourists, must have been reserved to al elite, whereas the long walkway and its surrounding buildings to the east of the main complex were open to everyone.
Example of a pediment presenting a narrative tympanum on the temple's "libraries"