Lolei is the northernmost temple of the Roluos group of three late 9th century Hindu temples at Angkor, Cambodia, the others members of which are Preah Ko and the Bakong. Lolei was the last of the three temples to be built as part of the city of Hariharalaya that once flourished at Roluos, and in 893 the Khmer king Yasovarman I dedicated it to Shiva and to members of the royal family. 

The name "Lolei" is thought to be a modern corruption of the ancient name "Hariharalaya, which means "the city of Harihara." Once an island temple, Lolei was located on an island slightly north of centre in the now dry Indratataka baray, construction of which had nearly been completed under Yasovarman's father and predecessor Indravarman I. 

Scholars believe that placing the temple on an island in the middle of a body of water served to identify it symbolically with Mount Meru, home of the gods, which in Hindu mythology is surrounded by the world oceans.

Background

Although Lolei is small it is worth a visit for its carvings and inscription. The temple of Lolei originally formed an island in the middle of a Baray (3,800 by 800 meters, 12,467 by 2,625 feet), now dry.

According to an inscription found at the temple the water in this pond was for use at the capital of Hariralaya and for irrigating the plains in the area.

Lolei Temple History

Lolei temple was built in 893 AD by Yasovarman I. It was built as a Hindu temple and dedicated to Shiva. It was the last of the temples to be built in what as called Hariharalaya. This city was once the capital city of the Angkor empire. In fact, the name Lolei is likely to come from the name Hariharalaya.

It once sat in the middle of an artificial island just north to the centre of Indratataka baray which was a huge reservoir. The reservoir has long since been dry. Historians think that the temple would have been a symbol of the mythical home of the Hindu gods, Mount Meru. Indratataka baray measured 4km by 750m and was dug as a source of drinking water for the capital.

The temple would have continued to be used after the capital city was moved to Yasodharapura, which is today known as Angkor Thom.
It’s thought that it was abandoned some time in the 16th century.

Nowadays, Lolei is quite a popular temple to visit, but nowhere near as popular as the temples in close vicinity to Angkor Wat.

Layout and Design

There are four towers at Lolei, all of which are still visible today. Each tower was built for Yasovarman’s ancestors. One for each of his parents and grandparents. The towers at the front are for his father and grandfather, while the temples at the back are for his mother and grandmother. The two shorter temples were for his parents and the two taller ones were for his grandparents. At the front and back there is one taller and one shorter tower.

The site would have had a wall surrounding the towers with an entrance building (gopura), but they no longer exist today.

Each tower is very decorative and includes carved devatas, lintels, and false doors. There are motifs and carvings of Indra of top his elephant – Airavata. There are also some 7-headed nagas and serpent monsters carved into the lintels too.

What to see at Lolei Temple?

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.

Central Sanctuary

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).

Practical information

Temple Facts

  • Date: 893 AD (9th century)
  • Religion: Hinduism
  • Built By: Yasovarman I
  • Dedicated To: Shiva
  • Style: Preah Ko / Bakheng
  • Best Time to Visit: Anytime
  • Length of Visit: 30 - 60 minutes
  • Temple Pass: Required

Location

Lolei temple is located about 30 minutes from Siem Reap town in Bakong commune. Lolei village is home to the temple, a few small shops, a school and some local homes. It’s not too far away from the main road and the roads are good.

Getting There

To get to Lolei, head out of Siem Reap along National Road 6 towards Phnom Penh. After you pass the turning to Bakong temple and Bakong Commune Hall, there is a turning on the left. Keep heading for about 600 or 700 metres and you will see the temple on the left side.

As the temple is only around 15km or so from town, you have a choice of transport options. Tuk tuks can easily reach the site in around half an hour from the town. Many visitors also decide to cycle to see the three main temples at Roluos.

However, if you’re going to cycle, it’s better to stay away from the main road and take the country route. If you want to avoid road 6, you can head out along Road 60 (the same road as the Angkor Ticket Office) and keep going all the way until you reach Booyoung Country Club. Turn right and then take a left after the country club to reach Lolei temple.

Lolei Tours

Most visitors will visit Lolei in conjunction with the other temples in Roluos – Preah Ko, Bakong, and Prasat Prei Monti. If you stop for something to eat in the area, this small tour might take 3 or 4 hours. Many guests decide to make this a cycling tour as you can explore the Siem Reap countryside along the way.

The Roluos Group is also often combined with a visit to Beng Mealea or a floating village tour of Kampong Phluk or Kampong Khleang.
Accommodation

In Bakong commune, you will find some small local guest houses and homestays. There is also a Buddhist retreat in the area. However, due to the close proximity of Lolei to Siem Reap town, it’s most likely that you’ll stay in a hotel in Siem Reap.

The town has grown into a large tourist hub over the years with hundreds of hotels. There are hotels to suit all tastes and budgets.

Why Visit Lolei?

Although it’s only around 15km or so from Siem Reap, it’s enough for most visitors to give it a miss. You can explore Lolei without the crowds at Angkor Wat and it can be a much more peaceful experience. Without thousands of people in the way, you can take the time to get some great photos, and explore at your own pace.

Lolei Temple Photos

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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

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