How We Helped
Phnom Bakheng is one of Angkor’s oldest temples. It was built as a state temple between the late ninth and early tenth centuries, when King Yasovarman constructed it as the centerpiece of his new capital, Yasodharapura, later absorbed into Angkor. The first mountain-style temple built there, Phnom Bakheng represents Mount Meru, home of the Hindu gods. Despite its architectural and historical significance, the temple is popular today mainly for its panoramic view of Angkor Wat, particularly at sunset.
How We Helped
In 2004, international and local experts began surveying, analyzing, and planning for the conservation of the site, funded by a grant of $550,000 from the U.S. State Department. Emergency measures were also taken to protect the site from further damage. Based on the study’s findings, in 2008 the State Department awarded WMF a grant of nearly $1 million to begin long-term conservation work. In the summer of 2011, another $400,000 was granted by the State Department to continue the project.
Why It Matters
Phnom Bakheng is one of the greatest examples of Khmer architecture, but more than many other Khmer temples, its popularity has put it in jeopardy. Though the rapid rise in tourism has brought welcome economic growth to Cambodia, wear from constant foot traffic is threatening the temple’s stability. Other threats include war damage and natural deterioration from rain seepage. With proper advocacy and management, we can make Phnom Bakeng a sustainable tourist destination so that it can continue to be a cultural and economic benefit to the community.