Angor Wat is the biggest temple in the world with a land area of about 162.6 hectares. Temple is a monument or structure devoted to worship gods or other items of religious reference. It is a structure or monument built and dedicated for the purpose of religious or spiritual activities, including prayer, meditation, sacrifice, and worship.
In temples, offerings of some sort are made to the deity, and other rituals are carried out in a regular day-to-day manner, and a special group of clergy maintains and operates the temple. Certain buildings or rooms inside a temple are accessible only to the clergy and considered trespassing for the common population.
Even with the new trends of culture and life thoughts, people worldwide still have a strong religious belief base.
From ancient times, people started building temples that represent their religion. These worship houses do not belong to a single religion, as it varies as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Taoism. Different religions have different architectural styles and systems.
Area: over 400 square kilometers
Religion: Initially it was dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, then it was converted to Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century.
Dedicated to: Lord Vishnu
Angkor Wat is the largest temple or religious monument in the world by land area, with a land area of about 162.6 hectares. Angkor Wat temple is situated in Cambodia. Formerly, Angkor Wat was constructed as a Hindu temple, and it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.
In the early 12th century, the Khmer King Suryavarman II built this temple in Yaśodharapura, the Khmer Empire’s capital, as his state temple and mausoleum. This majestic piece of Khmer architecture is the country’s prime attraction for visitors. The temple has become Cambodia’s symbol, appearing on its national flag.
Like most other ancient temples in Cambodia, Angkor Wat has faced extensive structural damage by war, plant overgrowth, and theft over the past few centuries. However, war damage to Angkor Wat’s temple has been very limited, compared to the rest of Cambodia’s temple ruins.
Since the 1990s, Angkor Wat has become a major tourist destination in Cambodia, the main reason tourists flock in their numbers to Cambodia. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, which encouraged an international effort to save the complex and received the most attentive restoration.
APSARA (Authority for the Protection of the Site and Management of the Region of Angkor) was established in 1995 as an effort to manage the research, protection, and conservation of the urban and tourist development of the park. A law to protect Cambodian heritage was passed in 1996.
Angkor Wat History
According to a famous myth, the Angkor Wat was constructed by Indra for his son Precha Ket Mealea. According to many 13th-century Chinese traveller, people believe that the temple was constructed in a single night by a divine architect.
The underlying plan and development of the temple occurred in the first half of the 12th century, during the rule of Suryavarman II. Its original name is unknown, but it may have been known as “Varah Vishnu-lok” after the presiding deity, the Lord Vishnu. The construction seems to be completed shortly after the king’s (Suryavarman II) death.
The term “Vrah Viṣhṇuloka” or “Parama Viṣhṇuloka” actually means” The king who has gone to the supreme world of Vishnu”, which refer to Suryavarman II, intended to enhance his glory and memory.
In 1177, approximately 27 years after the death of Suryavarman II, Angkor was dispersed by the Chams, the enemies of the Khmer. And the empire was restored by a king named Jayavarman VII. Later on by the end of 12th century, the temple slowly changed from a Hindu centre of worship to Buddhism.
Angkor Wat Architecture
The construction of the temple also indicates that there was a celestial significance with other few features of the temple. The design of the temple is a portrayal of Mount Meru, the home of the gods. The central quincunx of towers represents the five peaks of the mountain. Also, the walls and moat symbolizing the surrounding mountains and ocean.
Aerial view and orientation Angkor Wat (West facing temple)
Usually the temples are oriented to the east, but Angkor Wat is oriented to the west. This has led many to come to a conclusion that Suryavarman constructed it to serve as his funerary temple. Further evidence for this view is provided by the bas-reliefs, Prasavya meaning contrary or reverse in order and the rituals take place in reverse order during Brahminic funeral services.
In addition the archaeologist Charles Higham has described a container in the structure which may have been a funerary jar, recovered from the central tower. On other hand, some suggest that Angkor Wat’s alignment is due to its dedication to Vishnu, who was associated with the west.
Angkor Wat’s Design
Angkor Wat is the best example of the classical style of Khmer architecture. Early in the 12th century Khmer architects were skilled and knowledgeable to handle sandstone rather than brick or laterite. Hence most of the visible areas of the temple are of sandstone blocks, while brick and laterite is only used for the outer wall and hidden parts.
The binding agent used in the construction to join the blocks is yet to be identified, although natural resins or slaked lime has been suggested.
The temple has drawn attention for the harmony of its design. According to Maurice Glaize, a mid-20th-century conservator of Angkor, stated that it is a work of power, unity, and style.
The elements in the design include: redented towers shaped like lotus buds, the ogival, half-galleries to broaden passageways, the cruciform terraces, and axial galleries connecting enclosures.
Typical decorative elements used are bas-reliefs, apsaras, narrative scenes. And the other elements of the design such as wooden ceiling panels, gilding on some figures on the bas-reliefs, and gilded stucco on the towers have been destroyed by invaders and with the passage of time.
The monument is considered conservative with more static and less graceful than earlier work.
Angkor Wat Construction techniques
Construction of Angkor Wat involved a lot of difficult processes like quarrying, careful artistic work along with lots of digging. 1.5 million cubic meters (53 million cubic feet) of sand and silt were moved in order to create the moat around the temple, this task alone would have required thousands of people working at the same time.
A tough material called laterite was used in the construction, which in turn was covered with softer sandstone that was used for carving the reliefs. The sandstones used for carving was mined at the Kulen Hills, about 18 miles to the north from the place of construction. Research shows that a series of canals were used to transport the blocks from Kulen Hills to the place of construction.
How to Visit Angkor Wat?
The fast-growing town of Siem Reap with various tourist attractions is the gateway to Angkor Kot. There are many packages waiting for tourists to be filled with lodging, dining, and many other options for various budgets and inclinations.
Tour buses are available for those who wish to visit Angkor’s typical major sites. Those who are interested in exploring more remote structures and places may hire cars or motorbikes with drivers or guides.
A tethered balloon ride (balloon boards passengers then goes to a low altitude while remaining tethered to the ground using straps) offer a unique aerial view to the grand design of the Angkor complex.
When to Visit Angkor Wat?
December and January is the idle time to visit Angkor, during this period rainfall is less likely and the climate is most kind to ensure the comfort of the tourists. Temperatures can rise in spring and mostly at the peak in April. Travel during the monsoon can be uncomfortable and the post-monsoon rainy season continues until October. Rains are occasional and shouldn’t interfere with well-prepared visitors, but there can be some trouble with remote roads in the rainy season.
Most searched questions about Angkor Wat
Angkor wat was built by King Suryavarman II (reigned 1113–c. 1150).
December and January is the idle time to visit Angkor Wat.
Unlike many historical sites, Angkor Wat was never truly abandoned. Rather, it fell gradually into disuse and disrepair.
It would require just one day if you are only visiting the temple. There are so many things to do in Angkor Wat for which you can consider spending two to three days of your trip.