Angkor Wat (Khmer: អង្គរវត្ត or “Capital Temple”) is a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world, with the site measuring 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 m2; 402 acres). It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century.
# It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman IIin the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura (Khmer: យសោធរបុរៈ, present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu.
# As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia,appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors.
# Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple-mountain and the later galleried temple. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next.
# At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs, and for the numerous devatas adorning its walls.
ANGKOR WAT was listed in World Wonder List
- Angkor Wat, in its beauty and state of preservation, is unrivaled. Its mightiness and magnificence bespeak a pomp and a luxury surpassing that of a Pharaoh or a Shah Jahan, an impressiveness greater than that of the Pyramids, an artistic distinctiveness as fine as that of the Taj Mahal. Angkor Wat is located about six kilometers (four miles) north of Siem Reap, south of Angkor Thom. Entry and exit to Angkor Wat can only be access from its west gate.
- Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century (113-5BC). Estimated construction time of the temple is 30 years by King Suryavarman II, dedicated to Vishnu (Hindu), replica of Angkor Thom style of art.
- The plan of Angkor Wat is difficult to grasp when walking through the monument because of the vastness. Its complexity and beauty both attract and distract one’s attention. From a distance Angkor Wat appears to be a colossal mass of stone on one level with a long causeway leading to the center but close up it is a series of elevated towers, covered galleries, chambers, porches and courtyards on different levels linked by stairways.
- The height of Angkor Wat from the ground to the top of the central tower is greater than it might appear: 213 meters (699 feet), achieved with three rectangular or square levels (1-3) Each one is progressively smaller and higher than the one below starting from the outer limits of the temple.
- Covered galleries with columns define the boundaries of the first and second levels. The third level supports five towers –four in the corners and one in the middle and these is the most prominent architectural feature of Angkor Wat.
- This arrangement is sometimes called a quincunx. Graduated tiers, one rising above the other, give the towers a conical shape and, near the top, rows of lotuses taper to a point.
Apsara Statue at Angkor Wat
# The overall profile imitates a lotus bud, Several architectural lines stand out in the profile of the monument. The eye is drawn left and right to the horizontal aspect of the levels and upward to the soaring height of the towers. The ingenious plan of Angkor Wat only allows a view of all five towers from certain angles. They are not visible, for example, from the entrance.
# Many of the structures and courtyards are in the shape of a cross. The. Visitor should study the plan on page 86 and become familiar with this dominant layout. A curved sloping roof on galleries, chambers and aisles is a hallmark of Angkor Wat.
# From a distance it looks like a series of long narrow ridges but close up from identifies itself. It is a roof made of gracefully arched stone rectangles placed end to end. Each row of tiles is capped with an end tile at right angles the ridge of the roof.
# The scheme culminates in decorated tympanums with elaborate frames. Steps provide access to the various levels. Helen Churchill Candee, who visited Angkor in the 1920s, thought their usefulness surpassed their architectural purpose.
# The steps to Angkor Wat are made to force a halt at beauteous obstruction that the mind may be prepared for the atmosphere of sanctity, she wrote In order to become familiar with the composition of Angkor Wat the visitor should learn to recognize the repetitive elements in the architecture. Galleries with columns, towers, curved roofs, tympanums, steps and the cross-shaped plan occur again and again.
# It was by combining two or more of these aspects that a sense of height was achieved. This arrangement was used to link one part of the monument to another. Roofs were frequently layered to add height, length or dimension. A smaller replica of the central towers was repeated at the limits of two prominent areas-the galleries and the entry pavilions. The long causeway at the entrance reappears on the other side of the entry pavilion.
The People of Angkor
<> Cambodia’s Angkor period is defined by the six-century rule of the Khmer Empire. The dawn of the Khmer civilization is the subject of an ongoing historical debate, but many scholars consider the reign of King Jayavarman II to be the impetus for a unified Khmer people.
<> His kingship began sometime in the late 8th or early 9th Century when a Brahman priest named Jayavarman II the chakravartin, or universal monarch over Cambodia. Despite the celebrity of Jayavarman II in Cambodian history, the details of his rule are rooted deeper in the sand of legend and lore than in the firm soil of historical fact.
<> Following the obscure kingship of Jayavarman II, the Great Indravarman usurped the Khmer throne. Indravarman’s rule is characterized by the design and construction of a complex irrigation system, remnants of which still exist today. Under Indravarman’s rule, the young Khmer Empire began conceiving the trademark Angkor architectural style, identified by its strong devotion to Hindu and Buddhist religious concepts.
<> Ingeniously, the Khmer irrigation system was used to embellish the Khmer temples in the form of gargantuan reflection aqueducts and water storage ponds. More than 1,000 years after the rule of Indravarman, we still use water to reflect our buildings, homes, temples, and monuments.
<> Indravarman’s son, Yasovarman, continued the work of his father, constructing some of the most important temple complexes of the Common Era. Yasovarman is identified as the inaugurator of the Phnom Bakheng and the Lolei Temples. Under his rule, the capital of the Khmer Empire was established in Angkor.
Building the Angkor Wat Temple Complex
- From the rule of Yasovarman to the 12th century design and construction of the Angkor Wat temple complex, the Khmer people blossomed into the most significant religious, military, and social civilization in Southeast Asia. Their authority blanketed all of modern-day Cambodia, reaching into Vietnam, China, and across the Bay of Bengal.
- King Suryavarman II is responsible for the construction of the Angkor Wat temple complex. He dedicated the temple to Vishnu, the Supreme God of Vaishnavite Hinduism, which remained its patron deity until the Cambodian people consecrated Angkor Wat to Theravada Buddhism in the 14th or 15th Century. Under Suryavarman II, the temple complex also served as the capital of the Khmer Empire and a strategic military post. Curiously, the original name of the temple remains unknown. Historians have not been able to locate any artifacts or inscriptions that refer to the temple complex by name.
- The enormity of Angkor Wat was conceived and constructed with a level of precision and intention that continues to evade the modern mind. Some scholars believe that the temple complex was built to take advantage of Angkor’s water-rich agricultural potential.
- Other scholars attribute the construction of Angkor Wat to the Khmer belief in earth-star harmonization. The temple’s ground plan replicates the position of the stars in the Draco constellation.
- Large portions of the Angkor Wat temple complex remain unfinished. Historical theory suggests that construction ended when Suryavarman II died. Regardless of why construction ceased, the temple’s unfinished status adds to Angkor Wat’s mysterious appeal.
What is the best way to visit Angkor Wat?
First things first, don’t buy Angkor Wat tickets or tours from unauthorized people. Don’t be a fool, and don’t believe that a taxi driver or a hotel receptionist can sell it for a better price or with a discount. I know you are really anxious to visit the temples and to watch the Angkor Wat sunrise, but trust me, leave the sunrise for your second day in the park. Unless you are visiting the complex in just one day, what is really a pity. There are so many things to do in Angkor Wat, that you should devote to this ancient ruins at least two or three days of your trip.
Also, the temples are open air, in the middle of nature, so be armed with mosquito repellent, sunscreen, hat and bottles of water. Along the way you can find small stalls selling drinks and food, to avoid dehydration carry water with you all the time.
Last, but not least, dress respectfully. Angkor Wat is more than an archeological site, it´s a temple, the symbol of a civilization and people´s belief, so cover your shoulders and avoid miniskirts. Don’t forget to follow the rules like smoking and eating in proper areas, don´t feed the monkeys and don’t go inside the barays [artificial lakes that surround the temples]. Be a sensible tourist! Said that, let’s move on, I´m going share with you the best way to visit Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat Sunrise & Sunset
<> It´s hard to choose each one is the most beautiful. I would say that the Angkor Wat Sunrise is more powerful, especially that you can witness the transformation of the dark night into a brand new day. Watch the sunrise on your second day, so no need to buy tickets on a hurry, you already know the road and how long does it take to arrive there.
<> On the night before, when we were talking to the driver about the pickup time, he told us to ask the hotel to prepare our breakfast to go, so we could eat it after the sunrise. Such a clever idea! On the next day, when we stopped at Angkor Wat I realized that we have forgotten tour flashlight. Thank God our driver had two to borrow us. Those smart moves guarantee him an extra tip and a big thanks for being such lovely and caring driver.
<> The place is crowded, people trying to walk around the ruins in a completely dark night. Hold your torch firmly and cross Angkor Wat main gate then you must find a spot in front of the building, on the left side of the bridge that leads to the temple. There will be a small lake with flowers, that is the place you want to be when the sky turns purple, orange, and light blue.
Previous conservation and restoration works at Angkor between 1907 and 1992, especially by the École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), the Archaeological Survey of India, the Polish conservation body PKZ, and the World Monuments Fund have had no significant impact on the overall authenticity of the monuments that make up the Angkor complex and do not obtrude upon the overall impression gained from individual monuments.
Protection and management requirements
The property is legally protected by the Royal Decree on the Zoning of the Region of Siem Reap/Angkor adopted on 28 May 1994 and the Law on the protection of the natural and cultural heritage promulgated on 25 January 1996, the Royal Decree on the creation of the APSARA National Authority (Authority for the protection of the site and the management of the Angkor Region) adopted on 19 February 1995, the No. 70 SSR government Decision, dated 16 September 2004 providing for land‐use in the Angkor Park: “All lands located in zone 1 and 2 of the Angkor site are State properties”, and the sub-decree No. 50 ANK/BK on the organisation and functioning of the APSARA National Authority adopted on 9 May 2008, specifically provided for the establishment of a Department of Land‐use and Habitat.
Management in the Angkor Park.
# In order to strengthen and to clarify the ownership and building codes in the protected zones 1 and 2, boundary posts have been put in 2004 and 2009 and the action was completed in 2012.
# As off 1993, the ICC-Angkor (International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the historic site of Angkor) created on 13 October 1993, ensures the coordination of the successive scientific, restoration and conservation related projects, executed by the Royal Cambodian Government and its international partners.
# It ensures the consistency of the various projects, and defines, when necessary, technical and financial standards and calls the attention of all the concerned parties when required. It also contributes to the overall management of the property and its sustainable development.
# The successful conservation of the property by the APSARA National Authority, monitored by the ICC-Angkor, was crowned by the removal of the property from the World Heritage List in danger in 2004.
# Angkor is one of the largest archaeological sites in operation in the world. Tourism represents an enormous economic potential but it can also generate irreparable destructions of the tangible as well as intangible cultural heritage. Many research projects have been undertaken, since the international safeguarding program was first launched in 1993.
# The scientific objectives of the research (e.g. anthropological studies on socio-economic conditions) result in a better knowledge and understanding of the history of the site, and its inhabitants that constitute a rich exceptional legacy of the intangible heritage.
# The purpose is to associate the “intangible culture” to the enhancement of the monuments in order to sensitize the local population to the importance and necessity of its protection and preservation and assist in the development of the site as Angkor is a living heritage site where Khmer people in general, but especially the local population, are known to be particularly conservative with respect to ancestral traditions and where they adhere to a great number of archaic cultural practices that have disappeared elsewhere. The inhabitants venerate the temple deities and organize ceremonies and rituals in their honor, involving prayers, traditional music and dance.
# Moreover, the Angkor Archaeological Park is very rich in medicinal plants, used by the local population for treatment of diseases. The plants are prepared and then brought to different temple sites for blessing by the gods. The Preah Khan temple is considered to have been a university of medicine and the NeakPoan an ancient hospital.
# These aspects of intangible heritage are further enriched by the traditional textile and basket weaving practices and palm sugar production, which all result in products that are being sold on local markets and to the tourists, thus contributing to the sustainable development and livelihood of the population living in and around the World Heritage site.
# A Public Investigation Unit was created as « measure instrument » for identifying the needs, expectations and behaviors of visitors in order to set policies, monitor its evolution, prepare a flux management policy and promote the unknown sites.
# The management of the Angkor Site, which is inhabited, also takes into consideration the population living in the property by associating them to the tourist economic growth in order to strive for sustainable development and poverty reduction.
# Two major contributions supporting the APSARA National Authority in this matter are:
# The Angkor Management Plan (AMP) and Community Development Participation Project (CDPP), a bilateral cooperation with the Government of New Zealand. The AMP helps the APSARA National Authority to reorganize and strengthen the institutional aspects, and the CDPP prepares the land use map with an experimental participation of the communities and supports small projects related to tourist development in order to improve the income of villagers living in the protected zones;
# The Heritage Management Framework composed of a Tourism Management Plan and a Risk map on monuments and natural resources; a multilateral cooperation with the Government of Australia and UNESCO. Preliminary analytical and planning work for the management strategy will take into account the necessity to preserve the special atmosphere of Angkor. All decisions must guarantee physical, spiritual, and emotional accessibility to the site for the visitors.
- The stones, as smooth as polished marble, were laid without mortar with very tight joints that are sometimes hard to find. The blocks were held together by mortise and tenon joints in some cases, while in others they used dovetails and gravity. The blocks were presumably put in place by a combination of elephants, coir ropes, pulleys and bamboo scaffolding.
- Henri Mouhot noted that most of the blocks had holes 2.5 cm in diameter and 3 cm deep, with more holes on the larger blocks. Some scholars have suggested that these were used to join them together with iron rods, but others claim they were used to hold temporary pegs to help manoeuvre them into place.
- The monument was made out of 5 million to 10 million sandstone blocks with a maximum weight of 1.5 tons each.In fact, the entire city of Angkor used up far greater amounts of stone than all the Egyptian pyramids combined, and occupied an area significantly greater than modern-day Paris.
- Moreover, unlike the Egyptian pyramids which use limestone quarried barely 0.5 km away all the time, the entire city of Angkor was built with sandstone quarried 40 km (or more) away. This sandstone had to be transported from Mount Kulen, a quarry approximately 25 miles to the northeast.
- The route has been suggested to span 35 kilometres along a canal towards Tonlé Sap lake, another 35 kilometres crossing the lake, and finally 15 kilometres against the current along Siem Reap River, making a total journey of 90 kilometres (56 mi).
- However, Etsuo Uchida and Ichita Shimoda of Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan have discovered in 2012 a shorter 35-kilometre canal connecting Mount Kulen and Angkor Wat using satellite imagery. The two believe that the Khmer used this route instead.
- Virtually all of its surfaces, columns, lintels and even roofs are carved. There are miles of reliefs illustrating scenes from Indian literature including unicorns, griffins, winged dragons pulling chariots as well as warriors following an elephant-mounted leader and celestial dancing girls with elaborate hair styles.
- The gallery wall alone is decorated with almost 1,000 square metres of bas reliefs. Holes on some of the Angkor walls indicate that they may have been decorated with bronze sheets. These were highly prized in ancient times and were a prime target for robbers. While excavating Khajuraho, Alex Evans, a stonemason and sculptor, recreated a stone sculpture under 4 feet , this took about 60 days to carve.
- Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehner also conducted experiments to quarry limestone which took 12 quarrymen 22 days to quarry about 400 tons of stone. The labor force to quarry, transport, carve and install so much sandstone must have run into the thousands including many highly skilled artisans. The skills required to carve these sculptures were developed hundreds of years earlier, as demonstrated by some artifacts that have been dated to the seventh century, before the Khmer came to power.
Angkor Wat is a miniature replica of the universe in stone and represents an earthly model of the cosmic world. The central tower rises from the center of the monument symbolizing the mythical mountain, Meru, situated at the center of the universe. Its five towers correspond to the peaks of Meru. The outer wall corresponds to the mountains at the edge of the world, and the surrounding moat the oceans beyond.