Perhaps the most evocative and mysterious of all the temple structures at Angkor, Ta Prohm, which means Ancestor of Brahma, was a wealthy Buddhist monastery built during King Jayavarman VII’s reign (r.1178–1220). During the Colonial period, the French started their archaeological restoration of the temple, making a deliberate attempt to maintain the structure as they found it by limiting restoration and cutting down little of the sur- rounding dense jungle. As a result, the temple buildings remain smothered by the roots of giant banyan trees, preserving the atmosphere that 19th-century explorers must have experienced.
Named for the cascading appearance of its roots down the wall of the inner gallery, this strangler fig tree has encompassed its host and dominates the temple’s masonry.
The four stone faces on Gopura 5 are believed to represent Jayavarman VII. Seen above the west entrance, they are reminiscent of the huge faces carved into the Bayon.
A narrow stone column in the complex has ornate circles that enclose various animal reliefs. One such carving depicts what seems to be a stegosaurus. No one has been able to explain the presence of this mysterious carving.
On the easternmost gopura of the central enclosure is the strangler fig known as the Crocodile Tree. Every year its roots spread further across the complex.
Tomb Raider Tree
This striking strangler fig enjoyed a moment of screen time as Angelina Jolie appeared from the doorway below it in one of the most dramatic scenes of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
Galleries, many of which are crumbling and not suitable for exploration, are linked by narrow passageways and in turn connect the prasats of the structure.