In looping with the recent article about Chrey temple, the neighborhood of Beng Mealea temple. In this article, Sam Inspire brings some facts and travel tips about Beng Mealea temple as a clue for further learning. This article will also discuss the common names of Beng Mealea temple, what is the correct and official name, Beng Mealea (បេងមាលា) or Boeng Mealea (បឹងមាលា) or Bang Melea (បាងមេលា). This article will also discuss the status of Beng Mealea on the worst condition in its structure. We almost cannot see any towers left in its original shapes. All left are just piles of stones with carvings on them. The questions of why it was collapsed at this seriousness. We will have a small discussion from the people around in this article as well.
Fact and History of Beng Mealea
Built on a flat land of 0.14 km2 (14 hectares), Beng Mealea located in Beng Mealea village, Beng Mealea Commune, Svay Leu District, Siem Reap province, Kingdom of Cambodia. Beng Mealea is 60+ km East of Siem Reap town center. This temple counted among the least visited temples in Siem Reap. This counting is possible due its location is a bit out from other 200+ Angkor temples and over 1000 temples just in a single Siem Reap province.
Beng Mealea was built in the early 12th century in the reign of King Suryavarman II (1113-1150) who built the most famous Angkor Wat temple, Chau Say Tevoda, Banteay Samre temples, and another one presently located in Thailand called Phnom Rung and could be more.
Beng Mealea temple was built as the Prototype of Angkor Wat temple. This logic could be said, Beng Mealea was built before or during the period of Angkor Wat was being built. Beng Mealea is a Hinduism god temple, same as Angkor Wat, Beng Mealea built to dedicate to Vishnu god.
Official Name of the Temple: Beng Mealea or Boeng Mealea or Bang Melea
It is really common to hear people called this Angkor Wat prototyped temple in two and even more ways, Beng Mealea (បេងមាលា) and Boeng Mealea, Boeung Mealea (បឹងមាលា), and Bang Melea (បាងមេលា) . The official listing temple name is BENG MEALEA ☑ not
BOENG MEALEA and other! To proof this, it is clearly written on the temple sign itself “Beng Mealea not Boeng Mealea”.
The question of “why these two most common names exist” here are some stories behind them.
Neither Beng Mealea nor Boeng Mealea is the original temple name. At the time of this article written, Sam Inspire has not found out the original name from any sources yet. However, the name Beng Mealea was seen in early 20th century on a Khmer poem written by H.E. Prof. Suttantaprījā Ind (សុត្តន្តប្រីជា ឥន្ទ) (1859-1924), called (និរាសនគរវត្ត) should mean “the Downfall of Angkor Wat”. In the poem, there is one sentence quoted “ឱព្រះគុណព្រះកេតុមាលាក្សត្រ ព្រះទ័យកាត់ពុំស្តាយព្រះរាជស្ថាន ថ្វាយជាវត្តសម្រេចស្តេចចេញថ្កាន ទៅតាំងស្ថានព្រៃក្មេងបេងមាលា។” This quote means “Oh, majestic King Ketok Mealea generously donated his home residence to be converted to religious temple and relocated himself to Prei Khmeng Beng Mealea.” Therefore this Beng Mealea temple could be named follow the so-called name (Ketok Mealea) of the main actor in that Khmer legend which could be referred to the founder, King Surryavarnam II, of Beng Mealea temple.
Additionally, according to Beng Mealea inhabitants, they told Sam that there used to be a Buddhist temple located in the temple compound called Mealea Pagoda. None know when this Buddhist temple was built. This pagoda was relocated to the West of Beng Mealea in around 2006 which is now called Watt Brasat Preah Ketok Mealea. This name “Preah Ketok Mealea” has been also named to a local Military Hospital in Phnom Penh as មន្ទីពេទ្យព្រះកេតុមាលា (ពេទ្យយោធា ១៧៩) (Preah Ket Mealea Hospital).
Moreover, literally Mealea (មាលា) means flower or flower garland, and Beng (បេង) is a name of special teakwood also technically known as Afzelia Xylocarpa from the scientists’ view. Whereas Boeng or Boeung (បឹង) means Lake or Pond like Boeng Tonle Sap (Tonle Sab Lake), the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia.
Since most temples named by how it looked, some significant reference things like trees and how it was found or who was taking care of them. Therefore, Beng Mealea could be named once local people found that this temple was overgrown with Beng Trees and full of the beauties of their flowers.
However, in regards to the name, Boeng Mealea was publicly known from the presence of a French Explorer named Louis Delaporte in 1880. He gave the temple name as Boeng Mealea to be meant as “Lotus Pond” which is found hard to accept and it is truly not accepted on the Cambodian national temple listings. Moreover, there is no reference talking about Lotus at all apart from some lotus plants growing in the temple moat now. Giving the definition of Beng Mealea or Boeng Mealea as Lotus Pond is hard to agree with.
In conclusion, let try to follow what is officially written at the temple and whatever you believe as the support to the name is at your own. This article is just what Sam’s personal viewpoint and what he has researched.
What Made Beng Mealea Temple Structure so Ruined
Beng Mealea is a huge temple compound among Angkor temples that visitors can’t even walk through due to the serious collapsing of the temple structure. Visitors have to use the later Apsara Authority built 215 meters long wooden elevators to walk across the temple and visit the site.
Commenting to the question of what made Beng Mealea temple so destructed, Mr. You Khemarak, the Cambodian national trilingual Touguide told Sam in his K Coffee Siem Reap that Cambodia was living under the destruction force for over 500 years’ time from the early 15th century (1431 A.D. dates on Angkorian Chronology) by nature and human. When the Angkor was abandoned. And it even more up to 700+ years if we look back further from early 13 century after the absence of King Jayavaraman VII. “Beng Mealea temple was destroyed by the people in the leadership’ time of those who had the different believes against the founder of Beng Mealea temple. They use elephants and Ropes to drag the temple towers down. Just to destroy it” Khemarak added. If that was really true, Sam Inspire still has a question of why they did not destroy Angkor Wat and most other temples in Angkor areas? This concern would lead to the next coffee time.
Corresponding to the same temple destruction topic. Mr. Khlok Sakhoeun, an Angkor German Speaking tourguide told Sam that it is not always true that the Charm kingdom or the Khmer people who hated the production of the earlier kings’. “The massive US bombs dropping around the compound from 1969 could be the lead” Sakhoeun stressed. But he himself too has the questions of why there weren’t any photos from the French explorer who came earlier than this Bombing disaster of the full temple shapes.
By the way, Sam has also a small comment over this massive destruction to the temple especially those at the North-eastern part of Siem Reap. Back in 2008 when Samnang made his first visit to Preah Khan Kompong Svay temple group located Preah Vihear province Triangle bordering spot with Siem Reap and Kompong Thom provinces. At that time there was almost no accesses to the temples. To reach there with a distance of just less than 200 km from Siem Reap, it took them close to five hours in a 4×4 drive vehicle. When Sam asked the local people of why these massive temples were almost completely collapsed especially Prasat Thom or Bakan temple. The man told him that before and up to the 1970s. Every night they could hear the sound of people pulling the temple towers down using metal ropes. Once it collapsed, they could chop the carvings out from the stones. The nights sounded just like sunder storm. The looters only focused on taking their best quality of their choppings for trading. They did not care of other parts and if that piece was broken then they just left away and even continue melting without a reason. That is why we can see now there are so many small pieces littering or piling around.
From this pictures, why the same scenarios could not be applied to Beng Mealea, because Beng Mealea is just located on the same ancient Beng Road to Preah Khan Kompong Svay temple.
Before going to the next section, Sam Inspire Angkor YouTube Channel would like to bring some Virtual Visit of Beng Mealea with Video. Please enjoy:
What you Should Know Before Visiting Beng Mealea Temple
Beng Mealea from the travel and tour planners’ perspectives are specialized and second must-visit temple after the Angkor temples complex. This temple is mostly to be combined with Koh Ker temples Group built early 10th Century. Koh Ker temples are located around 120 km from Siem Reap and 60 km from Beng Mealea. The admission fees of Beng Mealea used to cost only 5$ per person for several years till end of 2019.
From January 1, 2020, just before the Coronavirus outbreak, Beng Mealea has been priced same as other temples in Angkor temple group. Because in late 2019, this temple has been included to the Angkor group temples covering small and grand circle tours, Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean temple, Roluos group temples. And now Beng Mealea counted as the latest Angkor temple group member. This merging means that visitors do not have to buy separate ticket (5$) to visit Beng Mealea anymore but they have to have a valid Angkor temple group pass at USD 37 per person for one day visit. This 37$ cover all the listed Angkor groups of temples above and also newly added Beng Mealea temple. In this sense, planning to visit Beng Mealea temple has to be well thought. It will not worth paying just 37$ to just visit only one temple unless you are expected to do so.
As of 2021, the entrance fees to sites in Siem Reap and popular other neighboring attractions are as following:
|Complex / Site Names||Price||No of Day||Remark|
|Angkor Temple Group |
+ Beng Mealea
|USD 37||1 Day||Multiple Entries|
|Angkor Temple Group|
+ Beng Mealea
|USD 62||2-3 Days||Multiple Entries|
|Angkor Temple Group|
+ Beng Mealea
|USD 72||4-7 Days||Multiple Entries|
|Kulen National Park||USD 20||1 Day||Last entry 12:00|
|Koh Ker temples||USD 15||1 Day||Updated 2020|
|Preah Khan Kompong Svay||USD 5||1 Day||To be Updated!|
At least but not last, please don’t forget to visit the Beng Mealea neighboring temple of Chrey temple as well. Read article about Chrey temple and Watch how it is like with Sam Inspire Angkor YouTube Channel.
Note: This article is for information purpose only, no liability will be taken for legal or official reference. Revisions could be done at the author’s discretion.
SAM INSPIRE family hopes you find this information useful to your research. This article is the reflection of Mr. Sam’s findings. If you need further support, please feel free to contact Sam, he will be so happy to do more steps to help you out.
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