East of Banteay Kdei is the royal bathing pool, Srah Srang; it was probably the work of Kavindramantha, an army general-cum-architect, who was also responsible for the building of the temples of East Mebon and Pre Rup. Excavated for Rajendravarman I, the pool once had simple earth embankments, and rules had to be issued to stop people allowing elephants to clamber over them to be bathed in the waters. Two hundred years later, Jayavarman VII had the banks lined with sandstone and built a regal terrace offering views over the water. The remains of a paved causeway edged with naga balustrades, which once linked the pools with Banteay Kdei to the west, can also be seen here. Seeing the sun rise over its waters from the terrace is a special moment.
South of Banteay Kdei is the often ignored Prasat Kravan, the Cardamom Sanctuary, comprising a row of five brick-and-sandstone towers sitting on a low platform in a field. The structure has a delightful simplicity and a handful of remarkable reliefs, and remains in good condition thanks to restoration which largely made use of the original bricks. The sanctuary is known to have been consecrated around 921, during the reign of Harshavarman I.
The central tower, dedicated to Vishnu, is decorated with male guardians in niches on its exterior, but the main interest is in the brick reliefs of Vishnu inside. Here the god is depicted in several different guises: one shows him mounted on Garuda; another shows his dwarf incarnation – taking three steps to span the universe. A rather worn rendering of Vishnu with eight arms was probably once covered in stucco and painted. The northernmost tower is dedicated to Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu and goddess of good fortune; inside you’ll find a skilfully carved relief of her, bare-breasted and wearing a pleated sampot, flanked by two kneeling worshippers and surrounded by swags of leaves and dangling pendant motifs.Read More