The rectangular structure in Phimai historical park in Thailand stretches over 1,000 meters in length and approximately 600 meters in width. This makes it the largest of all the Khmer temples in Thailand. It is home to some of the most impressive specimens of Khmer architecture found anywhere in Thailand.
This temple is one of a kind because it was created in the style of a Buddhist temple, even though the Khmer who constructed it was Hindu.
Ancient highway to Angkor
During the 11th and 12th centuries, when this region was a part of the Khmer empire, the structure known as Phimai (sometimes referred to by its official name, Prasat Hin Phimai) was constructed. It was built at the terminus of the ancient highway that linked it with Angkor (now Siem Reap), with other Khmer temples, such as Muang Tum and Phanom Rung, interspersed in between.
Phimai must have been an important temple in its day because of the complex’s magnitude and the temple’s architectural design, which is quite similar to that of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Phimai is oriented toward the southeast, in the opposite direction that Khmer temples typically face, which is in the order of Angkor in Cambodia.
A small building can be found to the left of the Naga bridge. This building is said to have been constructed as a place for the King to prepare for the festivities inside the inner sanctuary. The Naga bridge’s symbolic passageway represents the transition from the realm of humans to that of the gods.
After crossing the Naga bridge, visitors can enter the temple complex via the gateway, also known as the gopura, located in the southern wall. The expansive prang that serves as the temple complex’s focal point is visible from a distance along the winding path leading to the inner sanctuary.
The old religious texts were stored in two libraries to the left of the inner sanctuary, located outside the building.
The inner sanctuary
Galleries enclose the inner sanctuary, and gopuras serve as the entrances to these galleries. Intricately carved pictures of Shiva may be found on the lintels and pediments that sit atop the gopuras. These carvings also include scenes from the life of Buddha and the Indian epic Ramayana.
There are three prangs located within the inner sanctuary. Mount Meru, the mythical mountain in the center of Hindu cosmology and the largest of the three, is represented by the one in the middle. It housed the sacred linga, which means the god Shiva in Hinduism.
Inscriptions devoted to the Buddha can be seen on the central prang of Phimai, which is evidence that the structure was intended to be a Buddhist temple. This sandstone prang was constructed in the 11th or 12th century. The Prang Hin Daeng and the Prang Bhramadat are the names of the other two towers, both of which were built in the 13th century and are smaller.
The latter prang was home to a statue of Khmer King Jayavarman VII, which can be seen in the Phimai National Museum, located not far from the archaeological site.