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History of Angkor Wat

The history of Angkor Wat, a Hindu temple and campus in Angkor, Cambodia, is a rich study in Southeast Asian culture, religion, and architecture. Various religious influences, both Hindu and Buddhist, and symbolism of nationalism and patriotism affect the history of Angkor Wat.

History of Angkor Wat

About the Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is located in Angkor, Cambodia and was built for Cambodian King Suryavarman II at the height of the Khmer Empire. The Khmer Empire was dominant in Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 13th centuries, and was centered in Cambodia. The structure of Angkor Wat was built as Suryavarman’s temple, and as a portion of the capital of his kingdom. Portions of Angkor Wat were never finished, including some incomplete reliefs.

Unlike many other structures in the region, the Angkor Wat has managed to maintain its religious significance to Cambodians. The temple was initially dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, but was later incorporated as part of Buddhist tradition. Today, the Angkor Wat serves as the national symbol of Cambodia. The structure appears on the Cambodian flag and is one of the nation’s premier tourist attractions. The modern term “Angkor Wat,” means “city temple,” and the term what is a Khmer word for “temple.”

History of Angkor Wat

Although Angkor Wat was initially constructed for King Suryavarman II, who was a devout Hindu, it was never completely finished by the time of his death. After the Chams, the enemies of Khmer Empire conquered the region Angkor Wat was abandoned for some time. Later, Angkor Wat was restored to Cambodian King Jayavarman VII, who was also a Hindu and maintained the Hindu functions of the Angkor Wat.

In the late 13th century, Jayvarman VII was replaced by Srindravarman, who had spent years in Sri Lanka and was a devout Buddhist monk. Srindravarman began to convert the Angkor Wat to a Buddhist temple. This was not difficult, since there seemed to be a natural affinity between the two religions, because the Buddha was born and died a Hindu. The Buddhist function of Angkor Wat continues to this day.

Western observers of Angkor Wat have marveled at its majesty and decorative detail. Many did not believe it could have been constructed by the Khmers, and wrongly attempted to date its construction to the days of Rome. Nevertheless, today it is a well-known fact that the Khmers did construct Angkor Wat, and the temple’s structure is considered one of their greatest achievements. Angkor Wat is a testimony of the Khmer Empire’s wealth, influence, and prestige in the 12th and 13th centuries.

In the 20th century, Angkor Wat underwent restoration to remove overgrown vegetation and earth deposits.

Angkor Wat is a source of much national pride for the Cambodians, and is a claim to fame that has factored into diplomatic relations with various other nations, including neighboring Thailand, as well as France and the United States. Angkor Wat is of such importance that riots erupted when a Thai actress suggested the temple belonged to Thailand.

The Architecture of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat fuses two elements of Khmer temple architecture, including the temple’s mount, and the galleried temple, which draws elements from Hindu architecture. Angkor Wat is built primarily of sandstone, and its architecture is marked by its harmony with the landscape and vegetation of the surrounding region. Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat, which makes approaching it through the jungle somewhat difficult.

Angkor Wat’s decorative elements describe various tales out of Hindu religion. The most notable example is the scene known as the Churning of the Sea Milk. This scene depicts asuras (power-hungry deities) and devas (angelic deities) having Vasuki, a serpent, churn the sea under the oversight of the god Vishnu. It is believed elements of this scene correspond to the days of winter solstice and spring equinox, and lend to the mysteries of the history of Angkor Wat.