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Kutisvara – a historically important but little known Angkor temple

As with Ak Yum, Kutisvara temple is another of those minor Angkor temples whose historical importance is equalled by its lack of tourist cachet! The 3 unspectacular and ruined brick towers are never going to get 5* in any temple guide but it is considered by many historians to be the oldest temple in the entire central Angkor area, so as such one of the most significant from an archaeological point of view.

Central tower of Kutisvara
The central tower of Kutisvara

The central of the 3 towers is thought to date to the late 8th or early 9th century and the reign of Jayavarman II making Kutisvara, (sometimes spelt Kutishvara),  contemporary with the oldest sites at Rolous, (e.g. Trapaeng Phong), and the western end of the Western Baray, (Ak Yum etc). but the earliest in the central part of the historical park.  The temple is situated between the southeastern corner of Ta Prom and the north-western angle of Sra Srang – lying just off, but still visible from, the north side of the road running between Ta Prom and Banteay Kdei.)

Kutisvara showing central tower from the south and well preserved lintel on the ground
Kutisvara showing central tower from the south and well-preserved lintel on the ground

The more recent, yet more ruined, north and south towers date from the Rajendravarman II, mid 10th century period. All are sited on a rubble and dirt-covered laterite platform and 3 of the surrounding sides show evidence of a possible moat. The central tower has a lintel in situ which is unfortunately too eroded to make out anything although the adjacent towers have relatively well preserved and intact lintels lying on the ground nearby.

Kutisvara lintel
Kutisvara lintel

Presumably, the northern lintel showing another version of the frequently illustrated ‘churning of the sea of milk’ with, amongst other figures, Brahma, Vishnu and Kurma.

South tower lintel
South tower lintel

Another well-preserved lintel, this time lying in front of the south tower, shows Brahma surrounded by worshippers.

As with the other Rajendravarman site, Kapilapura, we came across recently in the forest between Angkor Wat and Angkor Tom, Kutisvara is also possibly one of the few temples to have actually kept its original name. Not quite as ruined as the latter it is worth a peak if you’re passing – to check out the decent lintels and maybe just to say you’ve visited the oldest temple at Angkor! We visited Kutisvara on our recent Cambodia Overland tour and thanks to Steven and Jordan for their indulgence and thanks to Chet for finding it!