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The peaceful site of Tonle Bati is set on the banks of the Bati River in a well-tended grove of coconut and mango trees, where you can swim and picnic as well as seeing the two temples. You will be met immediately by a gaggle of young girls selling flowers, who will most likely follow you around until you leave, even if you’re adamant about not buying. The first temple you come to on entering the site is the larger of the two, Ta Prohm. Constructed by Jayavarman VII – creator of the magnificent Angkor Thom – on the site of a sixth-century shrine, it’s dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva (though Jayavarman eventually adopted Theravada Buddhism). The main entrance is from the east along a short laterite causeway, edged by flowers and shrubs; piled up to the side at the entrance are broken chunks of masonry, some elaborately carved with scenes from the Churning of the Ocean of Milk or the Ramayana.

At the centre of the inner enclosure are the temple’s five sanctuaries, its antechambers built in a cruciform shape, with shrines to the cardinal directions. Above the entrance, a carved stone image of a reclining Buddha has been colourfully coated in paint. The main sanctuary, of sandstone, contains an upright Buddha image, while the antechambers house damaged stone linga. Another image of Buddha, over the north arm of the cruciform, has been superimposed with a carving of a six-armed Vishnu, a change probably made when the Angkorian kingdom reverted to Hinduism after the death of Jayavarman VII.

Well-preserved carvings decorate the outside of the sanctuary and several tell unusual tales. High up on the northeast corner is a scene of two women and a kneeling man: one woman carries a basket on her head, containing the afterbirth from her recent confinement; the midwife, shown standing, was not given sufficient respect during the birth and has condemned the new mother to carry the basket for the rest of her life; her husband is shown begging for forgiveness. The corresponding spot on the northwest corner shows a king sitting next to his wife, who is said to have been unfaithful; below she is put to death by being trampled by a horse.

The north gopura used to contain a statue of Preah Noreay, a Hindu deity who is said to bestow fertility upon childless women; although the statue is still undergoing restoration at the National Museum, women continue to arrive here to seek his help.

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