Nothing as grand and magnificent as this everlasting architectural marvel should be missed from your list of travel destinations. Should you need the ultimate experience of mankind’s architectural capabilities, The Angkor Wat temple is a place you should go to.
Angkor, situated in the northern province of Siem reap, is one of the most valued site of archaeology in South Eastern Asia. This place is spread over 400 square kilometers and houses many temples. This place holds the extravagant remains of the Khmer empire that ruled this place from the 9th to 15th centuries. The Khmer architecture was highly influenced by that of the Indian subcontinent which later evolved into a unique style characterized by its intricate art.
The most famous of all is the majestic Angkor Wat Temple. It was constructed by the King Suryavarman II between 1113 A.D and 1150 A.D. This is temple is one of the largest religious monuments ever built in the world. Angkor Wat means ” Temple City “. The king was a staunch follower of Hinduism and always worshiped lord Vishnu. His devotion can be seen in the construction methods and styles. There are many idols of Lord Vishnu that are visible across the Temple City. Initially, this temple was built for the Hindu gods which subsequently became an abode for Buddhism in the 14th century. The city where this temple was built, Angkor is now in Cambodia. Until the Industrial Revolution had hit the world, this place was believed to be the largest city in the world. Such was the grandeur of this place.
The temple has a 65 meter tall central tower which is surrounded by four other smaller towers which were enclosed in a wall. This temple is surround by a moat that is 200 meters wide, 5000 meters in perimeter and 4 meters deep. This moat played a pivotal role in providing stabilty to the foundation of the structure. It also acted as a tool that moderated the level of the groudwater. The temple had two entrances, the main entrance being the one on the West which is grand. It is guarded by two lions and was built across a stone causeway. On the other hand the one on the East was humble. The temple’s heart is the Central tower which hoouses the statue of Lord Vishnu. A steep staircase leads to the abode of the Lord. According to researcher Eleanor Mannikka, ” From the Unparalleled Place, Lord Vishnu and the King ruled over the people of Khmer “.
The building of this temple needed a lot of care for the art work , digging and quarrying. It would have required thousands of people to be working at once. The moat itself had almost 53 million cubic feet of sand and silt removed to be constructed. It is believed that the temple was constructed in such a way that Lord Vishnu is placed not just at the latitude of Angkor Wat but also on the axis of the Earth which indicates that Khmer knew that the earth was round. The Angkor Wat is believed to have many Lunar alignments with the towers of Angkor Wat.
In the 19th century a french explorer and naturalist had visited this place and wrote in i=his notes that said, “One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo, might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.” Such is the lavishness of this architectural great.
A lot of considerable restoration had to be done in the 20th century, removal of the vegetation and elements of earth that were accumulated over the years. The Angkor Wat temple is a symbol for Cambodia’s pride and honour. This has been an integral part of Cambodia. It also is part of the Cambodian Flag. This temple is a UNESCO world heritage site. The best time to visit this place is in Novemeber to March when the temperatures are relatively moderate and is the best to explore this place. The only disadvantage is that there are too many people in that time. June to October has lesser people visiting but the place gets too wet and humid. Visiting in April would be risky as the place heats you up!
This temple is located at about 6 kilo meters away from the city of Siem Reap. Tour buses, cars, motorbikes, tuk tuks, bicycles, horse carriages, electric cars, helicopter flights, hot air balloon flights are available. There are many other attractions around the Angkor Wat temple like Angkor Thom, Little Circuit, Big Circuit, Roluos group , Outlying temples. There are many souvenir shops around the area. The ‘Black Garuda’ is one of the best stores which sells original key holders. There are various places to eat, Angkor Cafe, Chez Sophea. There are many excellent hotels in this place that offer great hospitality and comfort for a relaxed stay after an all day long temple tour. One of the most famous hotels in the Temple Region is the La Niche d’Angkor Hotel. It is known for its facilities and its luxury.
This place is one of the top destinations that offer an incomparable treat for architecture and history lovers. The different touches of Hinduism and Buddhism are felt here. This is one place a person must see in his lifetime. The building is a book which is bound by its architecture with the sculptures and art being the text.