One of the tallest monuments of Angkor, the Ta Keo is a mountain temple build by Jayavarman V, found a little East of Angkor Thom.
Its five sanctuaries are placed on top of a 22 meter high five stepped pyramid, from where there are good views of the surrounding area. The pyramid shaped Ta Keo was build to represent Mount Meru, the mountain that is the center of the world in Hindu mythology.
The massive sandstone monument dedicated to Shiva was left unfinished at the start of the 11th century. Work on the Ta Keo was halted at a time when sculptors began to add decorations to the temple.
The reason why work stopped is not known. An inscription says that lightning struck the temple at one point which was taken as a sign of bad luck upon which work was halted. More likely it was because of the death of King Jayavarman V who commissioned the temple.
Around the Ta Keo was a moat, that represents the oceans surrounding Mount Meru. A paved walkway about 500 meters long towards the East with guardian lions on either side leads to a jetty on the large East baray.
The pyramid’s first tier is surrounded by a sandstone wall with gopura entrance gates on all four sides. On either side of the Eastern gopura is a room over 20 meters long, that was likely used to provide shelter for travelers.
The first circular galleries
The second tier of the pyramid is surrounded by galleries 80 meters long and 75 meters wide. The galleries have no doors and its windows open up to the inside of the temple.
The Ta Keo is the first temple where surrounding galleries were present. Many of the Angkor temples that were build later copied this feature. The circular galleries are a continuation of the long halls of earlier temples, like those of the Pre Rup.
On the Eastern end of the second tier platform are two gallery buildings similar to the circular galleries, but these are much smaller. Next to them are two library buildings, with a statue of Nandi the sacred bull in between.
Upper platform with five prasats
The top three tiers 14 meters in height are steep and narrow. A very steep staircase on all four sides leads towards the upper square platform. On the platform on top of the pyramid are five prasats, the largest one in the center, four smaller ones at the corners of the platform. The prasats have a cruciform floor plan and open to vestibules.
The sanctuaries have four doors, where earlier monuments had only one door usually to the East, and false doors in the other directions. The towers contain sanctuary chambers in which several lingas and statues were found.
A few hundred meters to the South East of the Ta Keo stands a single prasat, which is also unfinished.