Phanom Rung Sanctuary or Prasat Phanom Rung is a spectacular Khmer ancient sanctuary situated on Phanom Rung Massif. It is also one of the most significant archeological sites in Thailand due to its location, landscape, and phenomenon of sunsets and sunrises through 15 porches which occurs four times annually. The sanctuary pagodas are on the top of Phanom Rung Massif (an extinct volcano) in Ta Pek Sub-District, Chalerm Prakiat District, Buriram. It was constructed as a religious site in Shiva Hinduism, so Phanom Rung Mountain could be compared as Mount Kailas the heavenly dwelling of God Shiva in this regard. The first thing visitors see when they arrive at the site is the grand stairway from the foot of the hill up to the top. Most of the buildings of the sanctuary were made of laterite and sandstone, all with elaborate designs. The buildings are lined all the way to the main pagoda which faces the east. This layout is according to Hindu belief of the layout of the heaven of the god Shiva. On the right of the stairway is the preparation hall for the king before attending the ceremony or sanctity worship.
After that, the walkway with 34 columns in lotus bud shape called Sao Nang Riang on each side leads to the five-headed Naga Bridge representing the connection between heaven and earth. An interesting thing to be noticed at the middle of the bridge is the eight-petalled lotus carving which might symbolize the Hindu Gods of directions or the talisman for worship or the point where worshippers made wishes.
The Naga Bridge leads to the upper stairway, which is divided into five sets. Each set has terraces on the sides. The last terrace is wide, made with laterite blocks. It has a cruciform shape and four small pools. A couple more steps lead to the second naga bridge. This final terrace leads to the outer gallery. It probably used to be a wooden gallery with a tiled roof, but only a raised floor of laterite remains. After the outer gallery one reaches the inner gallery, which is divided in long and narrow rooms. It served as a wall around the principal pagoda. This last gallery leads to the third and last naga bridge, another small copy of the first one. At the gable of the east gallery is the carving of hermit which represents Shiva in doctor episode and might also include King Narendratit, the contributor of the sanctuary. The bridge leads you directly into the main sanctuary.
Phanom Rung Sanctuary was constructed of pink sandstone in the rectangular layout. In the front is the mondop or antechamber connected to the principle pagoda by Antrala or the annex. Double porches lead out in all directions to the main tower. The middle inner sanctum is called “Kanpakaruha Chamber” where “linga”, the divine symbol of Shiva, is believed to be enshrined. Currently, only the “somasutra” remains which was used to drain water during religious rites.
Two brick pagodas and the minor pagoda compound in the northeast and southwest of the principal pagoda. From architectural and fine arts evidence, these three pagodas were built around the 15th – 16th Buddhist century consecutively. There are also two laterite Bannalais, a repository or library for storing sacred Hindu manuscripts, in the northeast and southwest front of the principal pagoda.
There are carvings depicting about Hinduism at the gables and lintels of the principal pagoda such as the dancing Shiva, Vishnu Anantasayin, the reincarnation of Vishnu as Rama in Ramayana or Krishna, ceremonies, hermit or yogi life, etc.