Banteay Srei ("Citadel of the Women") is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, constructed in the latter half of the 10th century CE. Originally called 'Isvarapura', it was commissioned by a Brahmin of royal descent, Yajnavaraha, who served as tutor to the royal prince, Jayavarman V (968-1001). Construction began during the reign of Jayavarman's predecessor, Rajendravarman II (reigned 944-968), but the temple was not dedicated until after his death in 968. The red sandstone used in the construction of Banteay Srei makes it unique among the temples of Angkor. Also unique is the enigmatically small scale on which it was built. The doors in the towers measure less than 5 feet high. However, the carvings on the lintels, pediments, false doors, pilasters, and columns are some of the finest in Angkor. These masterworks depict lively scenes from the Hindu epics and Puranas. They display not only great skill, aesthetics, and artistry but also a deep familiarity with Hindu mythology and literature.
I visited this temple on my first trip to Cambodia in 2014. Our group toured the site in the evening when many other tourists were present. I felt that visit to be rather rushed and so was grateful for the opportunity to visit the temple again on my most recent trip. My two friends and I were the first to enter the temple on a beautiful, if rather warm, Saturday morning (most Angkor temples open at 7:30). The golden light of early day and clouds scattered across the blue sky made for a captivating scene, silent and serene.