Preah Ko ("The Sacred Bull") was built as a funerary monument to the mother and father of King Indravarman I (reigned 877-889 CE). This ancestral temple also honors the king's maternal grandparents as well as his predecessor, King Jayavarman II, and his wife. Dedicated to Shiva, it was completed in the late 9th century. One of the oldest Khmer temples, it is also one of the best preserved and most beautiful. The carving on the columns, lintels, and false doors is superb. Ornate niches shelter skillfully rendered dvarapalas (male guardians) and devatas (female guardians). Intricate floral and geometric elements abound in the lintels, as do depictions of various mythic monsters including kala, makara, naga, and garuda.*
When I arrived at Preah Ko, on a cloudy morning of intermittent rain, the site was aswarm with tourists, including a large group of Koreans that was being quite loud. However, within minutes of my arrival the rain began to fall again, and the Koreans were compelled to retreat to their tour bus, leaving the temple much less crowded and much quieter. The rain brought out the rich colors of the stone as well as the heady perfumes of the forest. It was lovely and intoxicating. I told one of the guards, in my beginner's Khmer, that I like the rain: "Kñom jool-jet pliang." He flashed a quizzical smile. Speaking Khmer, I tried to explain where I was from and what the weather is like. I do not think he had heard of Oregon.
* Kala - jawless monster resembling a lion's head with two bulging eyes often depicted devouring floral garlands. Makara - a strange hybrid of crocodile, fish, tapir, bird, and elephant depicted in profile and placed at the ends of lintels. Naga - Cobra with odd-numbered heads (usually five, seven, or nine), serpent god of the waters, an important and ubiquitous figure in Khmer sculpture. Garuda - An anthropomorphic eagle creature, enemy of the Naga, revered as the mount of Vishnu, also very common in Angkorean sculpture.