Sunset from the top of Bakong Temple Mountain at the Roluos Group

Roluos Group of Temples


Constructed when: late 9th century
Constructed by: King Indravarman I & Yasovarman I - Religion: Hindu - Architectural style: Preah Ko and Bakheng
Location: 20 kilometers east from Siem Reap

Roluos is a Cambodian modern small town and an archeological site about 13 km east of Siem Reap along NH6. Once it was the seat of Hariharalaya, first capital of Khmer Empire north of Tonlé Sap (as the first capital in the strict sense of the term could have been Indrapura, identifiable with Banteay Prey Nokor).

Among "Rolous Group" of temples there are some of the earliest permanent structures built by Khmer. They mark the beginning of classical period of Khmer civilization, dating from the late 9th century A.D. Some were totally built with bricks, others partially with laterite or sandstone (the first large angkorian temple built with sandstone was possibly Ta Keo)

At present it is composed by three major temples: Bakong, Lolei and Preah Ko, and tiny Prasat Prei Monti. At both Bakong and Lolei there are contemporary Theravada buddhist monasteries.



Bakong is the first temple mountain of sandstone constructed by rulers of the Khmer empire at Angkor near modern Siem Reap in Cambodia. In the final decades of the 9th century A.D, it served as the official state temple of King Indravarman I in the ancient city of Hariharalaya, located in an area that today is called Roluos.

In 802 A.D., the first king of Angkor Jayavarman II declared the sovereignty of Cambodia. After ups and downs, he established his capital at Hariharalaya. Few decades later, his successors constructed Bakong in stages as the first temple mountain of sandstone at Angkor. The inscription on its stele (classified K.826) says that in 881 King Indravarman I dedicated the temple to the god Shiva and consecrated its central religious image, a lingam whose name Sri Indresvara was a combination of the king's own and the suffix "-esvara" which stood for Shiva ("Iśvara"). According to George Coedes, the devarāja cult consisted in the idea of divine kingship as a legitimacy of royal power, but later authors stated that it doesn't necessarily involve the cult of physical persona of the ruler himself.

Bakong enjoyed its status as the state temple of Angkor for only a few years, but later additions from the 12th or 13th centuries testify that it was not abandoned. Toward the end of the 9th century, Indravarman's son and successor Yasovarman I moved the capital from Hariharalaya to the area north of Siem Reap now known as Angkor, where he founded the new city of Yasodharapura around a new temple mountain called Bakheng.

The site of Bakong measures 900 meters by 700 meters, and consists of three concentric enclosures separated by two moats, the main axis going from east to west. The outer enclosure has neither a wall nor gopuras and its boundary is the outer moat, today only partially visibile. The current access road from NH6 leads at the edge of the second enclosure. The inner moat delimits a 400 by 300 meters area, with remains of a laterite wall and four cruciform gopuras, and it is crossed by a wide earthen causeway, flanked by seven-headed nāgas, such as a draft of nāga bridge . Between the two moats there are the remains of 22 satellite temples of brick. The innermost enclosure, bounded by a laterite wall, measures 160 meters by 120 meters and contains the central temple pyramid and eight brick temple towers, two on each side. A number of other smaller buildings are also located within the enclosure. Just outside of the eastern gopura there is a modern buddhist temple.

A statue of a lion guards the stairs on the central pyramid. The pyramid itself has five levels and its base is 65 by 67 meters. It was reconstructed by Maurice Glaize at the end of the 1930s according to methods of anastylosis. On the top there is a single tower that is much later in provenance, and the architectural style of which is not that of the 9th century foundations of Hariharalaya, but that of the 12th century temple city Angkor Wat.

Though the pyramid at one time must have been covered with bas relief carvings in stucco, today only fragments remain. A dramatic scene-fragment involving what appear to be asuras in battle gives a sense of the likely high quality of the carvings. Large stone statues of elephants are positioned as guardians at the corners of the three lower levels of the pyramid. Statues of lions guard the stairways.

Lolei is the northernmost temple of the Roluos group of three late 9th century Hindu temples at Angkor, Cambodia, the others members of which are Preah Ko and the Bakong. Lolei was the last of the three temples to be built as part of the city of Hariharalaya that once flourished at Roluos, and in 893 the Khmer king Yasovarman I dedicated it to Shiva and to members of the royal family. The name "Lolei" is thought to be a modern corruption of the ancient name "Hariharalaya," which means "the city of Harihara." Once an island temple, Lolei was located on an island slightly north of centre in the now dry Indratataka baray, construction of which had nearly been completed under Yasovarman's father and predecessor Indravarman I. Scholars believe that placing the temple on an island in the middle of a body of water served to identify it symbolically with Mount Meru, home of the gods, which in Hindu mythology is surrounded by the world oceans.

Lolei consists of four brick temple towers grouped together on a terrace. The king build Lolei for his ancestors. One for his grandfather, one for his grandmother, one for his father, and one for his mother. The front two towers are for the males while the two towers at the back are for the females. The two taller towers are for his grandparents while the two shorter towers are for his parents. Originally, the towers were enclosed by an outer wall access through which was through a gopura, but neither wall nor gopura have survived to the present. Today, the temple is next to a monastery, just as in the 9th century it was next to an ashrama.

The temple towers are known for their decorative elements, including their false doors, their carved lintels, and their carved devatas and dvarapalas who flank both real and false doors. Some of the motifs represented in the lintels and other sandstone carvings are the sky-god Indra mounted on the elephant Airavata, serpent-like monsters called makaras, and multi-headed nagas.

Preah Ko (Khmer, The Sacred Bull) was the first temple to be built in the ancient and now defunct city of Hariharalaya (in the area that today is called Roluos), some 15 kilometers south-east of the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia. The temple was built under the Khmer King Indravarman I in 879 to honor members of the king's family, whom it places in relation with the Hindu deity Shiva.

Preah Ko (Sacred Bull) derives its name from the three statues of sandstone located in the front of and facing the temple's central towers. These statues represent Nandi, the white bull who serves as the mount of Shiva.

After the Khmer king Jayavarman II founded the Khmer empire in 802 A.D., he finally established his capital at Hariharalaya. Indravarman I was the nephew of Jayavarman II. When he ascended to the throne, he ordered the construction first of Preah Ko, which was dedicated in 879, and later of the temple-mountain known as the Bakong. It is likely that this building program was made possible by the king's peaceful reign and his ability to draw income from the expanding empire. A restoration of the towers took place in early 1990s, financed by German government.

Preah Ko consists of six brick towers arranged in two rows of three towers each perched on a sandstone platform. The towers face east, and the front central tower is the tallest. The sanctuaries are dedicated to three divinized forefathers of Indravarman and their respective wives. The front central tower is dedicated to Jayavarman II, the founder of the Khmer empire.[1] The tower to the left is dedicated to Prithivindreshvara, King Indravarman's father; the tower to the right to Rudreshvara, his grandfather. The three rear towers are dedicated to the wives of these three men. The central towers all bear images of the Hindu god Shiva.