Sundial, calendar and Khmer temples

Astro-archaeology = archaeo-astronomy = Astroarchaeology = archaeoastronomy

Prasat Sdok Kok Thom

13°50' 37'' N - 102°44' 14'' E

the gate to eastern Thailand
Above: 2004   Above: 2009
Above: 2004   Above: 2009


     Prasat Sdok Kok Thom (also transcribed as Prasat Sdok Kak Thom and Prasat Sdok Kuk Thom) is an ancient Khmer Hindu temple dedicated Shiva. The sanctuary is located some 20 km south of Ta Phaya in Sra Kaew province, Eastern Thailand, close to the Cambodian border.

    Prasat Sdok Kok Thom was according to stone inscription K. 235, stanza 123, when ''the sun and the other planets were (respectively in) Aquarius, Virgin, Scales, Aquarius, Aquarius, Pisces, the horoscope in Sagittarius. Bhava was erected in the year marked by the (9) banner, (7) the mountains and (4) the Vedas.'' (my translation of George Coedès). The numbers stand for Saka Era, year 974 and has together with the horoscope been calculated to be equivalent to 8th of February 1053.

Historic setting    


Ruler in Angkor Art style
1002 – 1050 Suryavarman I Khleang
1050 – 1066 Udayadityavarman II Bapuon




Above: Small door in W-wall.
     Like most other Khmer Hindu temples the orientation is equinoctial = 90° true east.

     Aymonier writes that stuk is often met in Khmer inscriptions and is pronounced sdok (sa-dok in Thai) and has a Sanskrit equivalent hrada, meaning 'deep lake, great water surface'. Kok ''designates, among various other things, a reed that is employed for the production of everyday mats''.
     Achan Bunluang, an expert in ancient Khmer at Rabhabat University, Surin, explains that Sdok can be translated from ancient Khmer to mean ’village’, ’district’ or ’country’; or ’virginal forest’; or ’swamp’ / ’reservoir’. The word kuk he emphasises means ’heron’ – not ’reed’. And thom means ’big’.
     Inspired by the presence of the small white herons at the eastern baray the author translates Prasat Sdok Kok Thom as ''the temple by the large reservoir with herons''.


Above: Central tower, libraries and surrounding corridors.

Right: Plan of Prasat Sdok Kok Thom

Courtesy to FAD for the plans

     The sanctuary consists of a lone central tower made of sand stone standing on a laterite base with a staircase on the eastern side ascending to the only door; the three other doors are 'blind-doors'.
     The courtyard around the tower is paved with laterite. A unique architectonic element at Sdok Kok Thom is the 22 pillars (sao nang riang in Thai) surrounding the tower.
     The courtyard also hosts two bannalais ('libraries') opening towards west and is surrounded by galleries with only one entrance; a kopura towards east.
     The galleries are surrounded by moats with access from east and west. The moats are surrounded by an enclosing wall with a small door towards west and a kopura (entrance room) towards east.
     A processional walk-way flanked with pillars in a slightly different style and size than those surrounding the tower, leads in 3 continuous parts to a large baray, reservoir.

Above: The bannalais and the inner kopura ('libraries')    
Above: Southern inner wall from east   Above: N-E bannalai.
Above: Central sanctuary from east (2004)   Above: Central sanctuary from south (2004)
Above: Central sanctuary from south (2004)   Above: Soma-sutra in southern (!) gallery.

Above: From inside the eastern galleries

Above: Outer bannalai and the processional road.   Above: Outer bannalai

New and old:

     The policy behind the restoration of Prasat Sdok Kok Thom seems to be relocation of artifacts to its supposed former location and use of newly cut stones only decorated to an extend that the visitor can imagine how the missing artifacts would have looked like.
     Unlike Prasat Phanom Rung the visitor is certain about what is new and what is old.

Above: New and old   Above: New and old
Above: New and old   Above: New and old

      Prasat Sdok Kok Thom has been under restoration for decades and is still not completed. Many artifacts are stored on the ground around the temple and can be inspected from a short range.

Above: From the central sanctuary   Above: Reclining Vishnu
Above: Frontal   Above: Frontal
Above: Frontals   Above: Frontal
Above: Nagas   Above: Crowned nagas

Detail from the un-restored laterite wall: Let it be!

The ancient road from Angkor

     Aimonier mentions ''an ancient road formerly built by the Cambodians'', which runs ''more or less straight'' east-west ''entering the province in the vicinity of Soay Chek, an important village of Battambang'' with ''numerous basins for stopovers on it's route, along which one meets with several ruins'' (p. 29). The road passes ''400 m'' north of Prasat Sdok Kok Thom, in late 19th century ''still passable for the greater part by carriages'' and ''directly link Soay Chek with Vattana''.

     The subtitle 'the gate to eastern Thailand' is given by the author as the temple must be located close the ancient Khmer east-west route, which several independent parties have been searching for for a decade or more...

Right: Above: Area map


  A general description of the architecture, by Wasu Posayanan (วสุ โปษยะนันทน์), is on-line in English or Thai
  Prasat Sdok Kok Thom II: Field-notes and methods on astro-archaeology from a visit around spring 2009.

Above: Detail from pedestal (from the nearby Prasat Khao Lon)


20 April 2009 © Asger Mollerup

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