Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Angkor, Cambodia, a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is considered to be the largest religious monument in the world. Besides being one of the magnificent religious monuments ever constructed, Angkor Wat (meaning temple city) is one of Cambodia’s popular tourist attractions. It is also listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built between roughly A.D. 1113 and 1150, the temple complex site encompasses an area of 162.6 hectares. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, a powerful Hindu-Buddhist empire in Southeast Asia. It gradually evolved into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century. Angkor, which houses the majestic monument, was the capital city of the Khmer Empire. Considered to be the best-preserved temple at the site, the splendid structure stands as a testimony of Khmer Empire’s power and wealth. It also displays the empire’s striking art and culture, artistic achievements and belief systems that it patronized over time.
This iconic temple complex features the temple-mountain and galleried temple. The temple mountain is designed as the earthly representation of Mt Meru – the sacred mountain with five peaks. It is believed to be the abode of ancient gods. The centre of the temple features a213-foot-tall tower.
Legend of the Temple
According to legend, the construction of Angkor Wat was ordered by Indra – the leader of the gods and the lord of Heaven in Hinduism. According to the 13th century Chinese traveller Daguan Zhou, the temple was believed to be constructed in a single night by a celestial engineer. The initial design and construction of the temple was believed to take place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II. He was an ardent believer of lord Vishnu, the protector god. Originally built as a Vishnu temple, the work was believed to have ended shortly after the king’s death. Toward the end of the 12th century, Angkor Wat gradually transformed from a Hindu centre of worship to Buddhism which continues to the present day.
The significant aspect about the Angor Wat temple complex is that it was never abandoned to the elements and has been in continuous use since it was built.