Built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple at Angkor in the Siem Reap Province of Cambodia. Located approximately one km east of Angkor Thom and on the southern edge of the East Baray, it was originally known as Rajavihara and was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII, as a monastery and university for the Mahayana Buddhist.
King Jayavarman VII embarked on a massive program of construction in 1186 and constructed Rajavihara in honour of his family. While the image of the main temple, Prajnaparamita, the personification of wisdom, was molded like the king's mother and was dedicated to her, the northern and southern satellite temples in the third enclosure were dedicated to his spiritual guide or Guru, Jayamangalartha and his elder brother respectively.
It is considered that, in all probability, Ta Prohm formed as a complementary pair of the earlier temple monastery of Preah Khan, which was dedicated in 1191. It is interesting to note that the main image of Preah Khan, representing the Bodhisattva of compassion Lokesvara, was modelled on the king's father. It is also believed that, there was time when more than 12,500 lived in the place, which included 18 high priests and 615 dancers, along with an additional 800,000 people in the surrounding area, who used to work to provide services and supplies
Contrary to the idea of a temple-pyramid or temple-mountain, the inner levels of which are higher than the outer, Ta Prohm is a typical flat Khmer temple. The central sanctuary is surrounded by five rectangular walls. Like most of the Khmer temples, it is oriented to the east, so the temple proper is set back to the west along an elongated east-west axis. The outer wall of 1000 by 650 m covers a huge area of about 650,000 sq m, which was once probably the site of an important town and now largely forested. At each of the cardinal points, there are four entrance building, locally known as Gopura. However, today one can access only from the east and the west. Face Towers, similar to those found in the Bayon style, were added to the Gopuras later, in the 13 th century. Unfortunately, some of those towers have collapsed It speculated that, during its prime time, there were moats inside and outside the fourth enclosure.
The three inner enclosures of the temple proper are galleried and the corner towers of the first enclosure form a pentacle with the tower of the central sanctuary. Large numbers of the other buildings, some of which represent later additions, are partially or totally collapsed. The most important among those other buildings are the libraries, in the southeast corners of the first and third enclosure. The Hall of Dancers can be found between the third and the fourth Gopuras and a House of fire is in the east of the fourth eastern Gopura.
In the 15th century, after the collapse of the Khmer Empire, the temple of Ta Prohm was abandoned and was neglected for centuries. Gradually, it was forgotten and the vast area was lost in the abyss of oblivion. It was unknown to the world till the end of the 19th century, when a French naturalist Henri Mouhot accidentally discovered it. He found the crumbling towers and walls of the buildings were locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast root systems. Bas-reliefs on bulging walls were carpeted with lichen, moss and creeping plants, and shrubs sprouted from the roofs of monumental porches. Sunlight was filtering through the leaves of the ancient trees and casting a greenish pall over the whole scene.
Consequently, the effort to conserve and restore the temples of Angkor began in the early 21st century. However, after much deliberation it was decided that, instead of a full-scale restoration of Ta Prohm, it would be rather left largely as it had been found. The decision was made due to the fact that, the muscular roots of the gigantic Fig, Banyan, Kapok and Silk trees clutched the structures so strongly that they have almost merged with the ancient walls and practically have become a part of the whole.
Ta Prohm has been enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage in 1992. Today, it is one of the most visited complexes in Cambodia. In fact, a visit to Ta Prohm is a unique, other-worldly experience. The most popular of the many strangulating root formations is the one on the inside of the easternmost Gopura of the central enclosure, nicknamed the Crocodile Tree.