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Temple Watch: Jayavarman's first wives

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Situated north of the great city of Angkor Thom, Preah Khan, or Temple of the Sacred Sword, is among the largest and most complex of all the Angkor temples.  Dedicated to the father of Jayavarman VII, it was a very important monastic complex, and it has been estimated that more than 70,000 people lived and worked within its walls.  

Most visitors traverse the temple east to west or vice versa, and with many narrow passages and secret chambers, Preah Kahn is a delight to explore. Many parts of the temple are in ruins with spectacular trees to rival those at Ta Prohm.   

The Halls of the Dancers to the east, and the north temple have the best reliefs and door lintels. A two-storey building to the northeast is unique in that it has round columns looking more Greek or Roman than Khmer.

An exciting find is the figure of Jayavarman's first wife with a diamond in her navel (now replaced by a glass replica). A relief of Jayavarman's second wife can be found in an adjoining chamber. Both these escaped the attention of the Khmer Rouge by being hidden in the collapsed chamber, only being discovered during restorations. These figures are unmarked and hard to find, so an experienced tour guide is needed.

The temple is undergoing some restoration work on the West Gopura entrance and the old wooden visitors centre was still under reconstruction as of Friday.

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