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Phnom Chiso, temple mountain of the south (Phnom Chisor)

Phnom Chiso (often spelled "Phnom Chisor") is a 100 m high solitary hill in Takeo Province, with a temple of the Angkorian era on top of it. Phnom Chiso is situated about 70 kilometers south of Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, close to National Road 2. The ancient monument with its superb view to the surrounding paddy area is a perfect destination for a daytrip from Phnom Penh that can be combined with sightseeing at the lake Tonle Bati and its nearby Angkorian Ta Prohm temple. On the way there is the opportunity to visit the notorious Killing Fields.  
The northern access way is a bumpy road. The southern path, starting at the main car park and restaurant area, is made of a long cement stairway of 412 steps. Before Cambodian pilgrims climb the hill, they usually pray and burn incense in small shrines for Hindu and local deities.
The original name of the Angkorian temple is Sri Suryaparvata or Suryagiri, both Sanskrit names meaning "mountain of the Sun". It was not dedicated to the Sun god Surya but to Shiva in the first place and also to Vishnu. The name "Surya" is an abbreviation of the founder's name, Suryavarman I, who ruled in Angkor during the first half of the 11th century and who is one of the most significant kings in the Khmer history. Though not a too ambitious temple builder inside Angkor he contributed much to the development of important other temple structures in the whole empire, e.g. at Preah Vihear in northern Cambodia, a larger monument than Phnom Chiso, sited on a mountain even more spectacularly. Phnom Chiso's or Suryagiri's main shrine contained a Lingam called "Suryavarmeshvara", combining the name of the king with one name of Shiva (Ishvara) and meaning "Suryavarman, lord of the world".   
The medium-sized Angkorian temple of Suryagiri is picturesquely situated atop the eastern edge of the hill. It is framed on three sides by buildings of a modern pagoda. Wat Phnom Chiso is inhabited by monks. Inside the main temple are Buddhist statues worshipped by the monks and lay pilgrims. The main icon of the modern monastery is a golden statue of the Buddha sheltered by a seven-headed Naga-king Muchalinda.

Phnom Chiso Khmer temple, Cambodia

An enclosure, partially ruined, surrounds the ancient complex. Its 2.5 m wide gallery simply consists of a series of halls, built of laterite and sandstone, vaulted by brick. The principal entrance is from the East, the central one flanked by two more Gopurams. Apart from those three eastern entrances, there are three more to the west, the northern and southern walls are closed. The medieval structures inside the compound are similarly constructed of laterite and brick, lintels are of sandtone, many of them have carvings depicting mythological scenes. Sandstone doorframes carry ancient inscriptions. There are six Prasat towers, a Mandapa hall, and two Vahnigriha fire shrines (they could have been libraries otherwise).
In the plains at the basis of Phnom Chiso are the sanctuaries of Sen Thmol, heavily overgrown, and Sen Ravang, now used as a Buddhist sanctuary, and the sacred pond of Tonle Om, which was the ancient baray of the temple. The two outer gates are located on the way to the foot of the Chiso hill, both are of cruciform ground plan. An ancient monumental stairway of 400 steps climbs up the hill from that eastern side. Starting with 7.5 m width, the steps narrow steadily to 5 m.
In 1973 the area of Phnom Chisor was devasteted by an US bomb attack.


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