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Angkor Wat – UNESCO World Heritage Site and Largest Buddhist Temple

The temple of Angkor Wat is one of the many temples that make the Angkor World Heritage Site. Angkor was once a largest city in the World. Ancient Angkor was the capital city of mighty Khmer Empire. When the Empire falls, the temple was lost to the Jungle until it was found again by French Explorer in 1860. Wat is one of the largest Buddhist religious complex in the World by land area measuring 162.6 hectares of land, three times the size of the Vatican City. It was a representation of the Hindu Cosmology.

The temple has been depicted in the center of the National flag of Cambodia since 1850 showing the incredible pride of the country’s monument. This temple was initially built as a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Later on towards the end of the 12th Century, it was turned to Buddhist temple and remains so to this day. We will see some of the most amazing facts about this temple in below section.

Angkor Wat - UNSECO World Heritage Site and Largest Buddhist Temple

Angkor Wat – UNESCO World Heritage Site and Largest Buddhist Temple

Also Read: Colosseum – The World’s Largest Ancient Amphitheatre Ever Built

  • It is a Buddhist Temple also known as “City of Temples” or ‘Temple City’ situated in North-east Cambodia.
  • It was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1992.
  • It is built by Suryavarman II in the earthly representation of Mount Meru, the Mount Olympus of the Hindu faith, and the abode of ancient gods.
  • It was originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, breaking the previous kings’ tradition of worshiping Shaiva. It gradually turned into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century and is still used for worship today.
  • 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 and Buddhist cosmology.
  • The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture.
  • All of the original religious motifs derived from Hinduism, and the temple was dedicated to the gods Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu.
  • The five central towers of Angkor Wat symbolize the peaks of Mount Meru, which according to Hindu mythology is the dwelling place of the gods.
  • A few miles from the Angkor Archaeological Park, the city of Siem Reap was once overflowing with tourists who packed its hotels, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.
  • Unlike the other Angkor monuments, it was never abandoned to the elements and has been in virtually continuous use since it was built.
  • One of the special feature of Angkor Wat temple is its western orientation. Symbolically, west is the direction of death, which once led a large number of scholars to conclude that Angkor Wat must have existed primarily as a tomb. This idea was supported by the fact that the magnificent bas-reliefs of the temple were designed to be viewed in an anticlockwise direction, a practice that has precedents in ancient Hindu funerary rites.
  • Angkor Wat is famous for having more than 3000 beguiling Apsaras (heavenly nymphs) carved into its walls.
  • Like the other temple-mountains of Angkor, Angkor Wat also replicates the spatial universe in miniature.
  • It took some 300,000 workers to about 40 years to build this enormous temple.
  • It is surrounded by a 190m-wide moat, which forms a giant rectangle measuring 1.5 km by 1.3 km. From the west, a sandstone causeway crosses the moat.
  • The bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat read counterclockwise, which is the reverse of the normal order, and is thought to be another indication that the temple is associated with funeral rituals.
  • Five million tons of sandstone were used to build Angkor Wat. The sandstone blocks used were quarried from the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen over 50 kilometers/31 miles away from the site. More on wikipedia.
  • The temple intricate architecture and designing before the Industrial revolution amazed the world for over 500 years.
  • Cambodia has mainly two seasons – dry and wet. Archaeologists found the ruins of a complex Canal structure around the temple site which was build to control the flow of water in dry season.
  • This Canal was plugged in to a massive reservoir the size of which was around 8 km long and 2 km wide. The ruins of the reservoir can be seen even today.
  • The reservoir was so huge that it should have taken 6000 workers around 6 years to dig that by hand.
  • This massive reservoir supported the irrigation of an area of around 48,000 square metres of rice paddy field which feeded the population of powerful Khmer empire for a long long time.
  • The biggest enemy of temple is the Water and Plant seedlings which grows between the Laterite blocks. Water causes erosion of the laterite blocks and hence results in systematic failure of the temple. Plant grows between the blocks creates stronghold roots over the time and hence causing the destruction of the laterite blocks.
  • The temple walls are decorated with thousands of storytelling bas-reliefs.
  • In 1177, approximately 27 years after the death of Suryavarman II, Angkor was sacked by the Chams, the traditional enemies of the Khmer.
  • Evidence suggests that converting the Angor Wat as a Buddhist site in 13th Century might halted the construction of any further Hindu Temples and the maintenance work along with it.
  • The cause of the Angkor empire’s demise in the early 15th century long remained a mystery. But researchers have now shown that intense monsoon rains that followed a prolonged drought in the religion caused widespread damage to the city’s infrastructure, leading to its collapse.
  • Today even the tourist visiting the temple is causing damage to the structure by touching it and by other means. This continues to be one of the many problems temple authorities are dealing with to save this ancient site.
  • Angkor Wat continues to remain the soul of Cambodia.

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