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Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor
Angkor
Angkor is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara , meaning "city"...

, Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

, built for the king Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II was king of the Khmer Empire from 1113 AD to 1145-1150 AD and the builder of Angkor Wat, which he dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu...

 in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, dedicated to the god Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, then Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

. It is the world's largest religious building. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer
Khmer Empire
The Khmer Empire was one of the most powerful empires in Southeast Asia. The empire, which grew out of the former kingdom of Chenla, at times ruled over and/or vassalized parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, and Malaysia. Its greatest legacy is Angkor, the site of the capital city...

 architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag
Flag of Cambodia
The national flag of Cambodia was readopted in 1993, after elections returned the monarchy to rule.-Brief history:Since around 1850, the Cambodian flag has featured a depiction of Angkor Wat in the center. The current flag, with a blue border and red central was adopted following Cambodia's...

, 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, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture
Dravidian architecture
Dravidian architecture was a style of architecture that emerged thousands of years ago in Southern part of the Indian subcontinent or South India. They consist primarily of pyramid shaped temples called Koils which are dependent on intricate carved stone in order to create a step design consisting...

, with key features such as the Jagati
Jagati (temple)
Jagati is a term used in Indian temple architecture. A Jagati is a raised surface, platform or terrace upon which the temple is placed....

. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the deva
Deva (Hinduism)
' is the Sanskrit word for god or deity, its related feminine term is devi. In modern Hinduism, it can be loosely interpreted as any benevolent supernatural beings. The devs in Hinduism, also called Suras, are often juxtaposed to the Asuras, their half brothers. Devs are also the maintainers of...

s in Hindu mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

: within a moat
Moat
A moat is a deep, broad ditch, either dry or filled with water, that surrounds a castle, other building or town, historically to provide it with a preliminary line of defence. In some places moats evolved into more extensive water defences, including natural or artificial lakes, dams and sluices...

 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
Quincunx
A quincunx is a geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross, that is five coplanar points, four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its center...

 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 (guardian spirits) adorning its walls.

The modern name, Angkor Wat, means "City Temple"; Angkor is a vernacular form of the word nokor , which comes from the Sanskrit word nagar , Thai, Nakon, meaning capital or city. Wat
Wat
A wat is a monastery temple in Cambodia, Thailand, or Laos. The word "wat" means "school".- Introduction :...

is the Khmer
Khmer language
Khmer , or Cambodian, is the language of the Khmer people and the official language of Cambodia. It is the second most widely spoken Austroasiatic language , with speakers in the tens of millions. Khmer has been considerably influenced by Sanskrit and Pali, especially in the royal and religious...

 word which comes from Sanskrit word "Vastu". Prior to this time the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok (Vara Vishnuloka in Sanskrit), after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II was king of the Khmer Empire from 1113 AD to 1145-1150 AD and the builder of Angkor Wat, which he dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu...

.

History


Angkor Wat lies 5.5 km north of the modern town of Siem Reap
Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, and is the gateway to Angkor region.Siem Reap has colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market...

, and a short distance south and slightly east of the previous capital, which was centred at Baphuon
Baphuon
The Baphuon is a temple at Angkor, Cambodia. It is located in Angkor Thom, northwest of the Bayon. Built in the mid-11th century, it is a three-tiered temple mountain built as the state temple of Udayadityavarman II dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. It is the archetype of the Baphuon style...

. It is in an area of Cambodia where there is an important group of ancient structures. It is the southernmost of Angkor's main sites.

The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II was king of the Khmer Empire from 1113 AD to 1145-1150 AD and the builder of Angkor Wat, which he dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu...

 (ruled 1113 – c. 1150). Dedicated to Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, it was built as the king's state temple and capital city. As neither the foundation stela
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

 nor any contemporary inscriptions referring to the temple have been found, its original name is unknown, but it may have been known as Vrah Vishnulok after the presiding deity. Work seems to have ended shortly after the king's death, leaving some of the bas-relief decoration unfinished. In 1177, approximately 27 years after the death of Suryavarman II, Angkor was sacked by the Chams
Champa
The kingdom of Champa was an Indianized kingdom that controlled what is now southern and central Vietnam from approximately the 7th century through to 1832.The Cham people are remnants...

, the traditional enemies of the Khmer. Thereafter the empire was restored by a new king, Jayavarman VII
Jayavarman VII
Jayavarman VII was a king of the Khmer Empire in present day Siem Reap, Cambodia. He was the son of King Dharanindravarman II and Queen Sri Jayarajacudamani. He married Jayarajadevi and then, after her death, married her sister Indradevi...

, who established a new capital and state temple (Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom , located in present day Cambodia, was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those...

 and the Bayon
Bayon
The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. Built in the late 12th century or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman's capital, Angkor Thom...

 respectively) a few kilometres to the north.
In the late 13th century, Angkor Wat gradually moved from Hindu to Theravada Buddhist
Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

 use, which continues to the present day. Angkor Wat is unusual among the Angkor temples in that although it was somewhat neglected after the 16th century it was never completely abandoned, its preservation being due in part to the fact that its moat also provided some protection from encroachment by the jungle.

One of the first Western visitors to the temple was António da Madalena, a Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 monk who visited in 1586 and said that it "is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of." However, the temple was popularised in the West only in the mid-19th century on the publication of Henri Mouhot
Henri Mouhot
Henri Mouhot was a French naturalist and explorer of the mid-19th century. He was born in Montbéliard, Doubs, France - near the Swiss border, but spent his childhood in Russia and possibly, parts of Asia. He died near Naphan, Laos...

's travel notes. The French explorer wrote of it:
"One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon
Solomon's Temple
Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was the main temple in ancient Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount , before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BCE....

, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

—might take an honourable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 or Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged."


Mouhot, like other early Western visitors, found it difficult to believe that the Khmers could have built the temple, and mistakenly dated it to around the same era as Rome. The true history of Angkor Wat was pieced together only from stylistic and epigraphic
Epigraphy
Epigraphy Epigraphy Epigraphy (from the , literally "on-writing", is the study of inscriptions or epigraphs as writing; that is, the science of identifying the graphemes and of classifying their use as to cultural context and date, elucidating their meaning and assessing what conclusions can be...

 evidence accumulated during the subsequent clearing and restoration work carried out across the whole Angkor site.

There were no ordinary dwellings or houses or other signs of settlement including cooking utensils, weapons, or items of clothing usually found at ancient sites. Instead there is the evidence of the monuments themselves.

Angkor Wat required considerable restoration in the 20th century, mainly the removal of accumulated earth and vegetation. Work was interrupted by the civil war and Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

 control of the country during the 1970s and 1980s, but relatively little damage was done during this period other than the theft and destruction of mostly post-Angkorian statues.

The temple is a powerful symbol of Cambodia, and is a source of great national pride that has factored into Cambodia's diplomatic relations with its neighbour Thailand, France and the United States. A depiction of Angkor Wat has been a part of Cambodian national flag
Flag of Cambodia
The national flag of Cambodia was readopted in 1993, after elections returned the monarchy to rule.-Brief history:Since around 1850, the Cambodian flag has featured a depiction of Angkor Wat in the center. The current flag, with a blue border and red central was adopted following Cambodia's...

s since the introduction of the first version circa 1863.

The splendid artistic legacy of Angkor Wat and other Khmer monuments in the Angkor
Angkor
Angkor is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara , meaning "city"...

 region led directly to France adopting Cambodia as a protectorate
Protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

 on 11 August 1863 and invading Siam to take control of the ruins. This quickly led to Cambodia reclaiming lands in the northwestern corner of the country that had been under Siamese (Thai) control since 1351 AD (Manich Jumsai 2001), or by some accounts, 1431 AD. Cambodia gained independence from France on 9 November 1953 and has controlled Angkor Wat since that time.

During the midst of the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, Chief of State Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk regular script was the King of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 until his semi-retirement and voluntary abdication on 7 October 2004 in favor of his son, the current King Norodom Sihamoni...

 hosted Jacqueline Kennedy
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and served as First Lady of the United States during his presidency from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Five years later she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle...

 in Cambodia to fulfill her "lifelong dream of seeing Angkor Wat."

In January 2003 riots
2003 Phnom Penh riots
In January 2003, a Cambodian newspaper article falsely alleged that a Thai actress claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand. Other Cambodian print and radio media picked up the report and furthered the nationalistic sentiment which resulted in riots in Phnom Penh on January 29 where the Thai...

 erupted in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonized Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security,...

 when a false rumour circulated that a Thai
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 soap opera actress had claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

Site and plan


Angkor Wat, located at 13°24′45"N 103°52′0"E, is a unique combination of the temple mountain, the standard design for the empire's state temples, the later plan of concentric galleries, and influences from Orissa
Orissa
Orissa , officially Odisha since Nov 2011, is a state of India, located on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It is the modern name of the ancient nation of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Maurya Emperor Ashoka in 261 BC. The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April...

 and the Chola
Chola Dynasty
The Chola dynasty was a Tamil dynasty which was one of the longest-ruling in some parts of southern India. The earliest datable references to this Tamil dynasty are in inscriptions from the 3rd century BC left by Asoka, of Maurya Empire; the dynasty continued to govern over varying territory until...

 of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Pondicherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh...

, India. The temple is a representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods: the central quincunx
Quincunx
A quincunx is a geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross, that is five coplanar points, four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its center...

 of towers symbolises the five peaks of the mountain, and the walls and moat the surrounding mountain ranges and ocean. Access to the upper areas of the temple was progressively more exclusive, with the laity being admitted only to the lowest level.

Unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east. This has led many (including Glaize and George Coedès
George Coedès
Georges Cœdès was a 20th century scholar of southeast Asian archaeology and history. Coedès was born in Paris to a family of supposed Hungarian-Jewish emigres. In fact, the family was known as having settled in the region of Strasbourg before 1740. His ancestors were working for the royal Treasury...

) to conclude that Suryavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple. Further evidence for this view is provided by the bas-reliefs, which proceed in a counter-clockwise direction—prasavya in Hindu terminology—as this is the reverse of the normal order. Rituals take place in reverse order during Brahminic funeral services. The archaeologist Charles Higham
Charles Higham (archaeologist)
Charles Higham is a British archaeologist most noted for his work in Southeast Asia. Among his noted contributions to archaeology are his work about the Angkor civilization in Cambodia, and his current work at Ban Non Wat...

 also describes a container which may have been a funerary jar which was recovered from the central tower. It has been nominated by some as the greatest expenditure of energy on the disposal of a corpse. Freeman and Jacques, however, note that several other temples of Angkor depart from the typical eastern orientation, and suggest that Angkor Wat's alignment was due to its dedication to Vishnu, who was associated with the west.

A further interpretation of Angkor Wat has been proposed by Eleanor Mannikka
Eleanor Mannikka
Eleanor Mannikka, of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is a scholar of Southeast Asian Studies. In her best-known work, Angkor Wat: Time, Space and Kingship, she argues that the dimensions, alignment and bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat encode a message that Suryavarman II was the divinely...

. Drawing on the temple's alignment and dimensions, and on the content and arrangement of the bas-reliefs, she argues that the structure represents a claimed new era of peace under King Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II was king of the Khmer Empire from 1113 AD to 1145-1150 AD and the builder of Angkor Wat, which he dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu...

: "as the measurements of solar and lunar time cycles were built into the sacred space of Angkor Wat, this divine mandate to rule was anchored to consecrated chambers and corridors meant to perpetuate the king's power and to honor and placate the deities manifest in the heavens above." Mannikka's suggestions have been received with a mixture of interest and scepticism in academic circles. She distances herself from the speculations of others, such as Graham Hancock
Graham Hancock
Graham Hancock is a British writer and journalist. Hancock specialises in unconventional theories involving ancient civilizations, stone monuments or megaliths, altered states of consciousness, ancient myths and astronomical/astrological data from the past...

, that Angkor Wat is part of a representation of the constellation Draco
Draco (constellation)
Draco is a constellation in the far northern sky. Its name is Latin for dragon. Draco is circumpolar for many observers in the northern hemisphere...

.

Style


Angkor Wat is the prime example of the classical style of Khmer architecture—the Angkor Wat style—to which it has given its name. By the 12th century Khmer architects had become skilled and confident in the use of sandstone
Sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

 (rather than brick or laterite
Laterite
Laterites are soil types rich in iron and aluminium, formed in hot and wet tropical areas. Nearly all laterites are rusty-red because of iron oxides. They develop by intensive and long-lasting weathering of the underlying parent rock...

) as the main building material. Most of the visible areas are of sandstone blocks, while laterite was used for the outer wall and for hidden structural parts. The binding agent used to join the blocks is yet to be identified, although natural resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

s or slaked lime have been suggested.

Angkor Wat has drawn praise above all for the harmony of its design, which has been compared to the architecture of ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 and Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

. According to Maurice Glaize
Maurice Glaize
Maurice Glaize was a French architect and archeologist, Conservator of Angkor from 1937 to 1945.-Early years: education, wedding, war and professional experiences:...

, a mid-20th-century conservator of Angkor, the temple "attains a classic perfection by the restrained monumentality of its finely balanced elements and the precise arrangement of its proportions. It is a work of power, unity and style."

Architecturally, the elements characteristic of the style include: the ogival
Ogive
An ogive is the roundly tapered end of a two-dimensional or three-dimensional object.-Applied physical science and engineering:In ballistics or aerodynamics, an ogive is a pointed, curved surface mainly used to form the approximately streamlined nose of a bullet or other projectile.The traditional...

, redented towers shaped like lotus
Nelumbo nucifera
Nelumbo nucifera, known by a number of names including Indian Lotus, Sacred Lotus, Bean of India, or simply Lotus, is a plant in the monogeneric family Nelumbonaceae...

 buds; half-galleries to broaden passageways; axial galleries connecting enclosures; and the cruciform terraces which appear along the main axis of the temple. Typical decorative elements are devatas (or apsaras), bas-reliefs, and on pediment
Pediment
A pediment is a classical architectural element consisting of the triangular section found above the horizontal structure , typically supported by columns. The gable end of the pediment is surrounded by the cornice moulding...

s extensive garlands and narrative scenes. The statuary of Angkor Wat is considered conservative, being more static and less graceful than earlier work. Other elements of the design have been destroyed by looting and the passage of time, including gilded
Gilding
The term gilding covers a number of decorative techniques for applying fine gold leaf or powder to solid surfaces such as wood, stone, or metal to give a thin coating of gold. A gilded object is described as "gilt"...

 stucco
Stucco
Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as decorative coating for walls and ceilings and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture...

 on the towers, gilding on some figures on the bas-reliefs, and wooden ceiling panels and doors.

The Angkor Wat style was followed by that of the Bayon
Bayon
The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. Built in the late 12th century or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman's capital, Angkor Thom...

 period, in which quality was often sacrificed to quantity. Other temples in the style are Banteay Samré
Banteay Samré
Banteay Samré is a temple at Angkor, Cambodia located east of the East Baray. Built under Suryavarman II and Yasovarman II in the early 12th century, it is a Hindu temple in the Angkor Wat style....

, Thommanon
Thommanon
Thommanon is one of a pair of Hindu temples built during the reign of Suryavarman II at Angkor, Cambodia. This small and elegant temple is located east of the Gate of Victory of Angkor Thom and north of Chau Say Tevoda. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed by UNESCO in 1992...

, Chao Say Tevoda and the early temples of Preah Pithu
Preah Pithu
Preah Pithu , or Prah Pithu, is a group of five temples at Angkor, Cambodia.-The site:They're located in Angkor Thom, north-east of the Bayon, in front of Tep Pranam. The temples are near but they weren't built in the same period, except for two of them, so there is no apparent order. They're...

 at Angkor
Angkor
Angkor is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara , meaning "city"...

; outside Angkor, Beng Mealea
Beng Mealea
Beng Mealea is a temple in the Angkor Wat style located 40 km east of the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia, on the ancient royal highway to Preah Khan Kompong Svay.-The temple:...

 and parts of Phanom Rung
Phanom Rung historical park
Phanom Rung , or, with its full name, Prasat Hin Phanom Rung , or Prasat Phnom Rong in Khmer, is a Khmer temple complex set on the rim of an extinct volcano at 1,320 feet above sea level, in Buriram province in the Isan region of Thailand. It was built in sandstone and laterite in the 10th to 13th...

 and Phimai
Phimai historical park
The Phimai historical park protects one of the most important Khmer temples of Thailand. It is located in the town of Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima province....

.

Outer enclosure



The outer wall, 1024 by 802 m and 4.5 m high, is surrounded by a 30 m apron of open ground and a moat 190 m wide. Access to the temple is by an earth bank to the east and a sandstone causeway to the west; the latter, the main entrance, is a later addition, possibly replacing a wooden bridge. There are gopuras at each of the cardinal points; the western is by far the largest and has three ruined towers. Glaize notes that this gopura both hides and echoes the form of the temple proper. Under the southern tower is a statue of Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, known as Ta Reach, which may originally have occupied the temple's central shrine. Galleries run between the towers and as far as two further entrances on either side of the gopura often referred to as "elephant gates", as they are large enough to admit those animals. These galleries have square pillars on the outer (west) side and a closed wall on the inner (east) side. The ceiling between the pillars is decorated with lotus rosettes; the west face of the wall with dancing figures; and the east face of the wall with balustered windows, dancing male figures on prancing animals, and devatas, including (south of the entrance) the only one in the temple to be showing her teeth.

The outer wall encloses a space of 820,000 square metres (203 acres), which besides the temple proper was originally occupied by the city and, to the north of the temple, the royal palace. Like all secular buildings of Angkor, these were built of perishable materials rather than of stone, so nothing remains of them except the outlines of some of the streets. Most of the area is now covered by forest. A 350 m causeway connects the western gopura to the temple proper, with naga balustrades and six sets of steps leading down to the city on either side. Each side also features a library with entrances at each cardinal point, in front of the third set of stairs from the entrance, and a pond between the library and the temple itself. The ponds are later additions to the design, as is the cruciform terrace guarded by lions connecting the causeway to the central structure.


Central structure



The temple stands on a terrace raised higher than the city. It is made of three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower, each level higher than the last. Mannikka interprets these galleries as being dedicated to the king, Brahma
Brahma
Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

, the moon, and Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

. Each gallery has a gopura at each of the points, and the two inner galleries each have towers at their corners, forming a quincunx with the central tower. Because the temple faces west, the features are all set back towards the east, leaving more space to be filled in each enclosure and gallery on the west side; for the same reason the west-facing steps are shallower than those on the other sides.

The outer gallery measures 187 by 215 m, with pavilions rather than towers at the corners. The gallery is open to the outside of the temple, with columned half-galleries extending and buttressing the structure. Connecting the outer gallery to the second enclosure on the west side is a cruciform cloister called Preah Poan (the "Hall of a Thousand Gods"). Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

 images were left in the cloister by pilgrims over the centuries, although most have now been removed. This area has many inscriptions relating the good deeds of pilgrims, most written in Khmer
Khmer language
Khmer , or Cambodian, is the language of the Khmer people and the official language of Cambodia. It is the second most widely spoken Austroasiatic language , with speakers in the tens of millions. Khmer has been considerably influenced by Sanskrit and Pali, especially in the royal and religious...

 but others in Burmese
Burmese language
The Burmese language is the official language of Burma. Although the constitution officially recognizes it as the Myanmar language, most English speakers continue to refer to the language as Burmese. Burmese is the native language of the Bamar and related sub-ethnic groups of the Bamar, as well as...

 and Japanese. The four small courtyards marked out by the cloister may originally have been filled with water. North and south of the cloister are libraries.

Beyond, the second and inner galleries are connected to each other and to two flanking libraries by another cruciform terrace, again a later addition. From the second level upwards, devatas abound on the walls, singly or in groups of up to four. The second-level enclosure is 100 by 115 m, and may originally have been flooded to represent the ocean around Mount Meru. Three sets of steps on each side lead up to the corner towers and gopuras of the inner gallery. The very steep stairways represent the difficulty of ascending to the kingdom of the gods. This inner gallery, called the Bakan, is a 60 m square with axial galleries connecting each gopura with the central shrine, and subsidiary shrines located below the corner towers. The roofings of the galleries are decorated with the motif of the body of a snake ending in the heads of lions or garuda
Garuda
The Garuda is a large mythical bird or bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology.From an Indian perspective, Garuda is the Hindu name for the constellation Aquila and...

s. Carved lintels and pediments decorate the entrances to the galleries and to the shrines.
The tower above the central shrine rises 43 m to a height of 65 m above the ground; unlike those of previous temple mountains, the central tower is raised above the surrounding four. The shrine itself, originally occupied by a statue of Vishnu and open on each side, was walled in when the temple was converted to Theravada Buddhism, the new walls featuring standing Buddhas. In 1934, the conservator George Trouvé excavated the pit beneath the central shrine: filled with sand and water it had already been robbed of its treasure, but he did find a sacred foundation deposit of gold leaf
Gold leaf
right|thumb|250px|[[Burnishing]] gold leaf with an [[agate]] stone tool, during the water gilding processGold leaf is gold that has been hammered into extremely thin sheets and is often used for gilding. Gold leaf is available in a wide variety of karats and shades...

 two metres above ground level.

Decoration




Integrated with the architecture of the building, and one of the causes for its fame is Angkor Wat's extensive decoration, which predominantly takes the form of bas-relief friezes. The inner walls of the outer gallery bear a series of large-scale scenes mainly depicting episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

 and the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

. Higham has called these, "the greatest known linear arrangement of stone carving". From the north-west corner anti-clockwise, the western gallery shows the Battle of Lanka (from the Ramayana, in which Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

 defeats Ravana
Ravana
' is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister...

) and the Battle of Kurukshetra
Kurukshetra war
According to the Indian epic poem Mahābhārata, a dynastic succession struggle between two groups of cousins of an Indo-Aryan kingdom called Kuru, the Kauravas and Pandavas, for the throne of Hastinapura resulted in the Kurukshetra War in which a number of ancient kingdoms participated as allies of...

 (from the Mahabharata, showing the mutual annihilation of the Kaurava
Kaurava
The term Kaurava is a Sanskrit term, that means the descendants of Kuru, a legendary king who is the ancestor of many of the characters of the Mahābhārata.The term is used in the Mahābhārata with two meanings:...

 and Pandava
Pandava
In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, the Pandava are the five acknowledged sons of Pandu , by his two wives Kunti and Madri. Their names are Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. Although, Karna is told by Lord Krishna that according to the laws and ethics he is the first son of Kunti making...

 clans). On the southern gallery follow the only historical scene, a procession of Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II
Suryavarman II was king of the Khmer Empire from 1113 AD to 1145-1150 AD and the builder of Angkor Wat, which he dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu...

, then the 32 hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

s and 37 heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

s of Hindu mythology.

On the eastern gallery is one of the most celebrated scenes, the Churning of the Sea of Milk
Kurma
In Hinduism, Kurma was the second Avatar of Vishnu. Like the Matsya Avatar also belongs to the Satya yuga.-Samudra manthan :...

, showing 92 asura
Asura
-In Hinduism:In Hinduism, the Asuras constitute a group of power-seeking deities, sometimes considered sinful and materialistic. The Daityas and Danavas were combinedly known as Asuras. The Asura were opposed to the Devas. Both groups are children of Kasyapa...

s and 88 deva
Deva (Hinduism)
' is the Sanskrit word for god or deity, its related feminine term is devi. In modern Hinduism, it can be loosely interpreted as any benevolent supernatural beings. The devs in Hinduism, also called Suras, are often juxtaposed to the Asuras, their half brothers. Devs are also the maintainers of...

s using the serpent Vasuki
Vasuki
Vasuki is a Sanskrit name for a naga, one of the serpents of Buddhist and Hindu mythology. He is a great King of the nagas and has a gem on his head. Manasa, another naga, is his sister...

 to churn the sea under Vishnu's direction (Mannikka counts only 91 asuras, and explains the asymmetrical numbers as representing the number of days from the winter solstice
Winter solstice
Winter solstice may refer to:* Winter solstice, astronomical event* Winter Solstice , former band* Winter Solstice: North , seasonal songs* Winter Solstice , 2005 American film...

 to the spring equinox, and from the equinox to the summer solstice
Solstice
A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year when the Sun's apparent position in the sky, as viewed from Earth, reaches its northernmost or southernmost extremes...

). It is followed by Vishnu defeating asura
Asura
-In Hinduism:In Hinduism, the Asuras constitute a group of power-seeking deities, sometimes considered sinful and materialistic. The Daityas and Danavas were combinedly known as Asuras. The Asura were opposed to the Devas. Both groups are children of Kasyapa...

s (a 16th-century addition). The northern gallery shows Krishna's victory over Bana
Banasura
Bana , in Hindu mythology, was a thousand-armed asura and son of Bali. Banasura was a powerful and terrible asura. All people, even the king of earth and Devas of heaven, were afraid of him. Bana was a follower of Siva. Banasura ruled in present-day central Assam with his capital at Sonitpur ,...

 (where according to Glaize, "The workmanship is at its worst") and a battle between the Hindu gods and asuras. The north-west and south-west corner pavilions both feature much smaller-scale scenes, some unidentified but most from the Ramayana or the life of Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

.

Construction techniques


The stones, as smooth as polished marble, were laid without mortar with very tight joints that were sometimes hard to find. The blocks were held together by mortise and tenon
Mortise and tenon
The mortise and tenon joint has been used for thousands of years by woodworkers around the world to join pieces of wood, mainly when the adjoining pieces connect at an angle of 90°. In its basic form it is both simple and strong. Although there are many joint variations, the basic 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
Coir
Coir is a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut and used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes, mattresses etc. Technically coir is the fibrous material found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut. Other uses of brown coir are in upholstery...

 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 Khmer architects never made the curved arches used by the Romans. They did create a corbelled arch, but this often proved unstable and collapsed.

The monument was made out of enormous amounts of sandstone, as much as Khafre's pyramid in Egypt (over 5 million tons). This sandstone had to be transported from Mount Kulen, a quarry approximately 25 miles (40.2 km) to the northeast. The stone was presumably transported by raft along the Siem Reap river. This would have to have been done with care to avoid overturning the rafts with such a large amount of weight. One modern engineer estimated it would take 300 years to complete Angkor Wat today. Yet the monument was begun soon after Suryavarman came to the throne and was finished shortly after his death, no more than 40 years.

Virtually all of its surfaces, columns, lintels even roofs are carved. There are miles of reliefs illustrating scenes from Indian literature
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

 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 (1.2 m), 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 labour force to quarry, transport, carve and install this much sandstone must have run into the thousands including many highly skilled artisans. The skill required to carve these sculptures was developed hundreds of years earlier, as demonstrated by some artifacts found that were dated to the seventh century before the Khmer came into power....

Angkor Wat today



The Archaeological Survey of India
Archaeological Survey of India
The Archaeological Survey of India is a department of the Government of India, attached to the Ministry of Culture . The ASI is responsible for archaeological studies and the preservation of archaeological heritage of the country in accordance with the various acts of the Indian Parliament...

 carried out restoration work on the temple between 1986 and 1992. Since the 1990s, Angkor Wat has seen continued conservation efforts and a massive increase in tourism. The temple is part of the Angkor World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

, established in 1992, which has provided some funding and has encouraged the Cambodian government to protect the site. The German Apsara Conservation Project
German Apsara Conservation Project
The German Apsara Conservation Project is a non-profit organisation based at the University of Applied Sciences, Cologne dedicated to preserving the devatas and other bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat...

 (GACP) is working to protect the devatas and other bas-reliefs which decorate the temple from damage. The organisation's survey found that around 20% of the devatas were in very poor condition, mainly because of natural erosion and deterioration of the stone but in part also due to earlier restoration efforts. Other work involves the repair of collapsed sections of the structure, and prevention of further collapse: the west facade of the upper level, for example, has been buttressed by scaffolding since 2002, while a Japanese team completed restoration of the north library of the outer enclosure in 2005. World Monuments Fund
World Monuments Fund
World Monuments Fund is a private, international, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage sites around the world through fieldwork, advocacy, grantmaking, education, and training....

 began work on the Churning of the Sea of Milk Gallery in 2008.

Angkor Wat has become a major tourist destination. In 2004 and 2005, government figures suggest that, respectively, 561,000 and 677,000 foreign visitors arrived in Siem Reap province, approximately 50% of all foreign tourists in Cambodia for both years. The site has been managed by the private SOKIMEX
Sokimex
Sokimex is a company of Cambodia. The company is involved in petroleum product import, infrastructure development, hotel management, and an airline.Sokimex was founded in 1990 by Mr Oknha Sok Kong...

 group since 1990, which rented it from the Cambodian government. The influx of tourists has so far caused relatively little damage, other than some graffiti
Graffiti
Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property....

; ropes and wooden steps have been introduced to protect the bas-reliefs and floors, respectively. Tourism has also provided some additional funds for maintenance—as of 2000 approximately 28% of ticket revenues across the whole Angkor
Angkor
Angkor is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara , meaning "city"...

 site was spent on the temples—although most work is carried out by foreign government-sponsored teams rather than by the Cambodian authorities.


External links