With an area of 1,626,000 sq meters, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. This temple complex was initially built as a Hindu temple but gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple. It was built in 12th century during the rule of the Khmer King Suryavarman II as a state temple in Yaśodharapura, the erstwhile capital of the Khmer Empire and was dedicated to the Hindu God Lord Vishnu. The temple is still the most significant religious center and depicts the grandeur, harmony and classical style of architecture of the Khmer period. The temple has become a symbol of Cambodia with its picture appearing on the national flag, and it is the prime attraction of Cambodia visited by millions of tourists every year.
History of Angkor Wat
According to a legend the construction of the temple was ordered by Indra and is completed in one night by the divine architects. Angkor is situated 5.5 kilometers north to the present city of Siem Rep and is also in the near proximity of the previous capital Baphuon. Construction of this great temple started in the early 12th century during the regime of the king Suryavarman II, but he could not complete its construction. Around 27 years after his death, Angkor Wat was attacked by the Chams. After many years the temple was restored by king Jayavarman VII who also built Angkor Thom. Starting from the end of the 12th century, Angkor Wat slowly transformed to Buddhist temple. In the 17th century it functioned as a Buddhist temple and still continues the same. Angkor Wat is a powerful symbol of Cambodia and its splendid artistic legacy led France adopting Cambodia as a protectorate and took control of the ruins. After independence the Cambodian government is taking care of this great temple complex and this is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Architectural plan & Style
It is a unique combination of state temple mountain and concentric galleries. Angkor Wat temple is built resembling the Mount Meru, the home of the gods in the Hindu mythology. The temple situated on a higher terrace and is made of three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower. Each of the level is higher than the previous one. The quincunx of temple towers stands for the five peaks of the mountain and the walls and moat of the complex symbolizing the surrounding mountain ranges and the ocean. The temple can be accessed through an earth bank to the east or using the sandstone causeway to the west that seems to be added later. The idea of galleried temple with Gopura establishes the influence of the South Indian Hindu architectural style temple construction. This temple was constructed by sandstone blocks polished to be smooth like marbles and joined without any mortar. The entire surface, columns, lintels and roofs of the temple are carved with various mythological reliefs. Unlike other Khmer temples, the Angkor Wat temple is oriented to the west and for this reason the archeologists think that it could be funeral temple.
Image credit: Sunny Merindo | Photography
Image credit: Vanessa Kade
Image credit: mls