Ta Som Temple
Ta Som was built during the late 12th century by the great King Javayarman VII. Little is known about the purpose of this temple, but it may have been dedicated to the King’s father or one of his teachers. Ta Som was swallowed up by the jungle until the 1930’s, when it was cleared out enough for visitors to access the site, but left in its mostly unrestored state. This Bayon-style temple is surrounded by a moat and three separate enclosures constructed of laterite, which is a rusty-red colored rock common to tropical climates. The first or inner enclosure features four corner towers and four gopuras, and face-towers with four faces looking out in each of the cardinal directions. The second and third enclosures are separated by the moat. These outer enclosures mirror each other as they both feature two gopuras, on the east and west side.
The face towers are King Javayarman VII’s signature, and are featured in many of the temples built during his reign. Most historians believe that the faces are meant to represent both the king and Lokesvara, the bodhisattva (enlightened being) of compassion. Like many temples throughout the Angkor Archeological Park, Ta Som depicts both Hindu and Buddhist icons, as the official Angkor religion switched back and forth over the centuries. Sadly, some of the depictions of the Buddha were damaged in the 13th century when Hinduism overtook Buddhism for a time. However, considering its great age and the depredations of the jungle, many of the bas-relief carvings are in surprisingly good condition.
If you have the time, try to visit this small but lovely temple. You won’t be disappointed.