Kbal Spean is an ancient Khmer site in Phnom Kulen National Park, a remote place located at considerable distance from Siem Reap and the main Angkor monuments. The site stretches out over a length of about 150 meters through the jungle along the Stung Kbal Spean river, known as the “river of a thousand lingas”.


There is no temple at Kbal Spean. The river bed is covered with hundreds of lingas, while depictions of Hindu deities have been carved into the rock along and in the river. Most of the lingas and carvings were made in the 11th century during the reign of King Udayadityavarman II.

Inscriptions found on the site revealed that the river carvings were commissioned by Khmer kings. The lingas and other divine carvings were intended to sanctify the water as it made its way downstream to the Angkor temples and settlements.

The site was not discovered until 1968 when a hermit brought it to the attention of a French archeologist who was working in a nearby ruin. Shortly after, the site fell to the hands of the guerillas during the bloody Khmer Rouge rule and was not opened to the public until 1998.

Etched on the riverbed rocks are fields of lingas, the holy phallic symbols representing the supreme essence of the Hindu god Shiva,  giving it a name ” The River of Thousand Lingas.”

In several sections of the river hundreds of lingas and several yonis have been carved out of the sandstone river bed. The linga is the representation of Shiva, while the yoni is the female counterpart of the linga. The river water was sanctified by running over the lingas in the river bed. The water then flowed from the hills of Phnom Kulen to Angkor and the temples.

Some lingas are carved around and inside a yoni, a symbol for female organ.  Lingas and yonis are also believed to fertilize the water that flows over them.

A number of carvings of Hindu deities have been made in rocks along the river, including several carvings of Vishnu reclining on Ananta-Shesha, the King of the Nagas and Lakshmi, his consort massaging his feet. Other carvings show depictions of Brahma, the Hindu God of creation and Shiva and his wife Uma riding Nandi the bull.

Aside from lingas, other astonishing features on the site are the carvings representing Hindu Gods and deities. Depicted in this carving is God Shiva riding on a bull with his consort Uma.

In the South section of the Kbal Spean site is a waterfall best seen during the rainy season. Immediately North of the waterfall is a small pool. Hidden under the water surface are carvings in the rock of a crocodile and Vishnu reclining on Ananta-Shesha, as well as carvings of the Hindu Trimurti Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.