Prasat Hin Phimai in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Northeastern Thailand
See Video of Prasat Hin Phimai at bottom of this page.
Phimai Historical Park is situated in Phimai, 60 kilometers northeast of Nakhon Ratchasima. Prasat Hin Phimai is a Mahayana Buddhist sanctuary and the largest Khmer temple compound in Thailand. It was likely built during the reign of Suryavarman I (King from 1010 till 1050) of the Khmer empire. Suryavarman I was a Buddhist ruler.
Front view of Prasat Hin Phimai
The sanctuary at Phimai has three main temple structures : the main tower, the Brahmadat tower and the Redstone tower. As other Khmer sanctuaries, Prasat Hin Phimai symbolizes Meru Mountain, the center of the universe, and abode of the Gods.
The entrance (Pratu Chai or Victory Gate) to the city of Phimai is located a few hundred meters south of the entrance to the Phimai Historical Park, within walking distance.
Inside Phimai Historical Park, after passing a building to the left, a Naga Bridge leads to the main sanctuary. Two imposing lions stand guard at the steps. The balustrade of the bridge is carved in the shape of a naga, and the naga bridge itself symbolizes the pathway from the outer world to Mount Meru, abode of the Gods.
Lion at entrance to Naga Bridge, Prasat Hin Phimai
The tower is the principal shrine of Prasat Hin Phimai. It is flanked to the south by the mandapa or antechamber. Interestingly and contrary to other Khmer temples, both the entrance and the mandapa point southwards towards Angkor. Other Khmer temples typically are entered from the east.
The main tower houses the sacred image believed to be the most important in the sanctuary. A replica of a Buddha Image now stands in the garbhagrrha or inner tower. East of the main tower, you can see the somasutra duct, which allowed ceremonial water to drain from the main sanctuary.
Buddha Image in the Main Sanctuary at Prasat Hin Phimai
Since this sanctuary is dedicated to Buddha, there are lintel carvings above the four inner doors to the inner chamber. They are well preserved, but a bit in the dark when you pass the inner doors (not the entrance doors).
Carvings showing Hindu Gods and scenes from the Ramayana are depicted on the pediments and pilasters outside the main tower.
The pediment of the southern porch depicts Shiva Nataraja, or the Dancing Shiva.
Dancing Shiva at Prasat Hin Phimai
The lintel on the west entrance, shows Lakshmana, pierced by an arrow, and surrounded by monkeys.
Lakshmana, pierced by an arrow, and surrounded by monkeys
The pediment of the northern porch shows scenes of battle from the Ramayana epic. On the lintel, Narai holds a cakra (wheel), a conch, a gada (club) and a lotus flower in His four hands.
Lintel at the northern entrance to the main sanctuary
The roof of the main tower is shaped in the form of a lotus bud. There is a garuda, supporting a cornice at the four cardinal directions. The roof of Prasat Hin Phimai predates and anticipates designs later seen at Angkor Wat.
The Brahmadat to the right of the main tower, housed an image of Brahmadat, that is surmised to be an image of the Khmer ruler Jayavarman VII. The image is now at the Phimai National Museum.
Brahmadat at Prasat Hin Phimai