Bat Chum is located about 500 m south of Srah Srang, there is a footpath from the reservoir to the temple. At the mainroad (Small Circuit and Grand Circuit alike) is a signboard. But the small temple Bat Chum is usually not visited by tourists.
Its appearance is pretty common, three brick towers in a north-south row are aligned on the same platform and open to the east, they are surrounded by an enclosure and a moat. But its history is exceptional, Bat Chum is considered to be the first Buddhist sanctuary in Angkor, dedicated in 960.
Bat Chum is a private temple (not a king's temple) of the only historical Khmer architect known by name, Kavindrarimathana. He was a learned Buddhist court official of King Rajendravarman II (944-68). It is the same minister who was the architect of Rajendravarman's state temples East Mebon and Pre Rup and of the tank Srah Srang, all of them located in the very same eastern area of Angkor.
The three Prasats of Bat Chum were dedicated to a kind of trinity of Mahayana Buddhism, namely the Buddha in the central, Avalokiteshvara as Vajrapani in the southern and Prajnaparamita in the northern tower.
But Bat Chum may originally have been a Hindu temple, as there were flagstones with yantras found in the northern and central tower during excavations in 1952. However, Yantras were used in the tantric form of Mahayana-Buddhism, too. But furthermore the temple appears to be older than the Pre Rup style of King Rajendravarman's period. There are influences of the earlier Koh Ker style and similarities to the nearby Prasat Kravan which was founded even before the capital was shifted to Koh Ker in 928.
The Bat Chum inscriptions, though difficult to decode, are significant historical sources. Apart from usual information about a king's political achievements and religious dedications, the Bat Chum inscriptions mention the clear water in the lake for the benefit of the people. Reservoir building was one of the major tasks of a king according to Buddhist scriptures. The Bat Chum inscriptions admonish local elephant handlers to keep their beasts off the reservoir dams, calling the elephants "dyke breakers". Those inscriptions are first and foremost poems, praising the temple founder Kavindrarimathana, but signed by different persons.
Because of the dilapidated state of Bat Chum's temple walls there is some restoration work in progress. However, the lion figures at the stairs and the colonettes at the doors are elegant, two sandstone lintels are in a pretty sound condition, too. Lintels are horizontal beam spanning the gap between the two door posts.
The morning is more recommendable for a visit of Bat Chum than the afternoon. The ticket will not be checked here, but it is required at that part of the Small and Grand Circuit road you have to use, before taking the minor road leading to the Bat Chum temple.