Banteay Srei (or Banteay Srey), is a Citadel of Women in Cambodia, was built in 10th century dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Located in the area of Angkor, it lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 25 km north-east of the main group of temples that once belonged to the medieval capitals of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom.
Consecrated on 22 April 967 A.D., Banteay Srei was the only major temple at Angkor not built by a monarch; its construction is credited to the courtiers named Vishnukumara and Yajnavaraha, who served as a counsellor to king Rajendravarman II.
The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the standards of Angkor Wat’s construction. The difference is while Angkor Wat was built of hard sanstone, Banteay Srei was built largely of red sandstone and laterite, a medium that lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings which are still observable today. The largest temple was built of laterite and hard red sandstone in Indochina.
Banteay Srei Temple is the masterpiece of Indian Balamon religious art. The temple consists of three enclosures, through the stone bridge to the temple gate is the outer enclosure, to the second stone bridge through the moat (now no longer) is the gateway to the middle enclosure and finally the inner enclosure of temples and two libraries. Before the image (mandapa) connected to the center of the temple is the guardian statue. On the small courtyard in the middle of the temple there are three small temples: the northern temple architecture to dedicate Vishnu, the central temple and the southern temple to dedicate Shiva.
Banteay Srei is built largely of a hard red sandstone that can be carved like wood. Brick and laterite were used for the enclosure walls and some structural elements. The temple is known for the beauty of its sandstone lintels and pediments of Khmer architecture (a lintel is a horizontal beam spanning the gap between two posts. Some lintels serve a structural purpose, serving to support the weight of the superstructure, while others are purely decorative in purpose. A pediment is the roughly triangular space above a rectangular doorway or openings). At Banteay Srei, pediments are relatively large in comparison to the openings below, and take a sweeping gabled shape. For the first time in the history of Khmer architecture, whole scenes of mythological subject-matter are depicted on the pediments. The lintels at Banteay Srei are beautifully carved. Indeed, decorative carvings seem to cover almost every available surface. Noteworthy decorative motifs include, the guardian dvarapala (an armed protector of the temple) and devata (demi-goddess), the false door, and the colonette, the kala (a toothy monster symbolic of time), etc.
These factors have made the temple extremely popular with tourists, and have led to its being widely praised as a "precious gem", or the "jewel of Khmer art".