Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey is a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. 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.
Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone, a medium that lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings which are still observable today. The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the standards of Angkorian construction. 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."
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 a courtier named Yajnavaraha, who served as a counsellor to king Rajendravarman II.The foundational stela says that Yajnavaraha, grandson of king Harsavarman I, was a scholar and philanthropist who helped those who suffered from illness, injustice, or poverty. His pupil was the future king Jayavarman V (968 - 1001). Originally, the temple was surrounded by a town called Isvarapura.
When the French came across the site in 1914 it was totally covered by forest and partly buried by earth. It didn’t take them long to realise they’d stumbled upon an outstanding find, so outstanding in fact that French author Andre Lalraux decided to take a chunk of the temple home with him. He cut out over a tonne of the finest apsaras and other carvings and carted them back to Phnom Penh where he planned to surreptitiously freight his plunder back to France. Fortunately he was arrested and sentenced to a couple of years in prison (a term he never served) and the carvings were saved.