The Steep Stairway to Heaven

While much ink has been spilled these days over the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the land surrounding the mountain temple and its application for world heritage status, relatively little has been written about the temple itself. This refreshing article describes Prasat Khao Phra Viharn or Preah Vihear in greater detail.

Khao Phra Viharn: The Steep Stairway to Heaven
e-Travel Blackboard, 20 June 2008

Prasat Khao Phra Viharn is a huge temple dedicated to the worship of the Hindu god Shiva. Measuring a distance of some 900m long and made up of four lines of structures, each higher level is following the other vertically on a North-South axis in a rise of some 120m.
Being in urgent need of repair, the temple is guarded by stone lions aligned by pairs on the edge of the steep monumental stairway up to the “naga” bridge” leading to the first “gopura” or entrance hall.
Some of the stairs are cut from the virgin rock while others are quarried from nearby rock sites. The seven-headed “naga” balustrades are some 30m long and lead to the dilapidated first gateway, from where a narrow path descends eastward along the escarpment to an ancient stairway carved directly into the bedrock and leading down to the plain.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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