Temple of the Roluos group, in the old capital Hariharalaya
Lolei is one of the temples of the Roluos group, the other ones being the Bakong, Preah Ko and Prasat Prei Monti. A Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, Prasat Lolei was the last temple built in Hariharalaya, the old Khmer capital pre dating Angkor Thom by several centuries.
King Yasovarman I moved the capital of his empire from Hariharalaya further North West to Yasodharapura near current day Siem Reap, where he first built the Phnom Bakheng. A road from the North side of the Lolei temple led to the Phnom Bakheng temple in the new capital.
Prasat Lolei comprises of four sanctuary towers; no traces of other structures have been discovered. The sanctuary is similar in style to the nearby Preah Ko, which was built 14 years earlier.
Four sanctuary towers
The temple grounds were surrounded by a 90 meter long wall with gopura entrance buildings, of which nothing remains today. Four brick sanctuary towers, of which two are in fairly good state of preservation stand on a rectangular platform, preceded by a guardian lion.
The towers topped with four upper receding tiers were originally covered in stucco, of which nothing is left. The entrance door faces East, while there are false doors on the other three cardinal directions. Colonettes support the lintels over the entrances. Inscriptions on the door jambs give information about the date the temple’s main idols were dedicated.
King Yasovarman I dedicated the East two sanctuaries to his male ancestors. Flanking the doors are niches with sandstone carvings of armed dvarapala guardians. The West sanctuaries are dedicated to the female ancestors. The niches flanking the doors contain sandstone carvings of guardian ladies.
Lintels and pediments contain Hindu motifs, including Indra riding the three headed elephant Airavata, Nagas and makaras, a Kala (a monster usually depicted with large teeth and without upper jaw) with a divinity on its head, Vishnu on his mount Garuda, praying rishis and Ganesha riding his own trunk. In each tower is a sanctuary chamber where statues of the main idol were enshrined.
Active Buddhist temple next to the ancient Khmer sanctuaries
Next to the four sanctuary towers stands an active modern Buddhist temple. A viharn with very colorful murals covering the walls and ceiling enshrines a large seated image of the Buddha. Other temple structures include several pagodas and the kuti, the monks living quarters.
Four brick tower with tiered upper portions, arranged in two rows, on the upper terrace make up the Central Sanctuaries. As the two-north towers are aligned on the east-west axis, it is possible the original plan had six towers, which probably shared a common base like that at Preah Ko.
Tip: The northeast tower is the best preserved. The entrances of the doors to the towers are cut from a single block of stone, as at Bakong. The corners of the towers on the east are decorated with male guardians holding tridents and those of the west with female divinities holding flywhisks. They are sculpted in sandstone with a brick casing. The panels of the false doors have multiple figures. The inscriptions on the doorframes are exceptionally fine.
The workmanship on the lintels is skilled and the composition balanced. Some noteworthy depictions are: Indra on an elephant with figures and Makaras spewing serpents (northeast tower); Visnu riding a Garuda with a branch of serpents (south-east tower).