The temple complex of Banteay Chhmar is one of the great architectural masterpieces of the Angkorian era. Originally commissioned in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, it was built in the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism. The temple is filled with Buddhist and Hindu images, Bayon-style face towers, friezes, halls and almost one kilometer of amazing bas-reliefs depicting life during the Angkorian period. All of these reasons have made it a high-priority for the Cambodian government to have it recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Please watch a video of the temple conservation project.
Unfortunately, over the past 800 years no conservation efforts have been done on the temple. This lack of conservation has led to the temple slowly disintegrating and disappearing under an overgrowth of trees and plants. Along with the overgrowth, structural failure and looting, the temple is in desperate need of conservation, master planning and protection.
Fortunately, Global Heritage Fund (GHF) is spearheading the conservation, master planning and protection of Banteay Chhmar. The overall GHF vision is to conserve the site largely as a ruin, with selective intervention of critically damaged elements such as towers and bas-reliefs. Working under the Cambodian government’s Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts (MCFA), GHF is using a multi-faceted approach, known as Preservation by Design®, GHF has identified five project goals:
- To prepare and implement a site Master Conservation Plan, including expanded site protection
- To preserve the bas-relief galleries and stabilize the central temple complex
- To aid the community in developing tourism for the site and preparing for the increased impact on infrastructure
- To assist the Cambodian government in the UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination and inscription process
- To train a team of professionals and craftsmen and to create a conservation unit for the Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts.
Equally important, is that GHF has been an invaluable partner to the local community. In addition to training and employing more than 40 local villagers on the conservation project, GHF is helping the community-based tourism (CBT) group organize and manage sustainable and responsible tourism activities including homestays, tour guides, cultural and rural activities (traditional music, livelihoods etc).
Finally, as part of the master planning, GHF is working in collaboration with the local commune council and the Cambodian government on village issues such as water security, road alignment, future building construction and how the conservation project can aid in addressing these issues. Please visit the Global Heritage Fund – Banteay Chhmar site page for more information and project updates.