Angkor Wat History

Angkor Wat, or "city temple", lies 6 kilometers from Siem Reap in Cambodia. It was built by King Survayarman II in the late 12th century, at a time when Angkor reached the peak of its influence and power. Dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat is the only temple erected under this monarch's rule and scholars disagree as to whether it was built as his state temple or his funerary tomb. It has a unique orientation, unlike other Angkor Temples it is west facing instead of east facing- coinciding with the symbolism between the setting sun and death. Works at Angkor Wat seem to have ended soon after the King's death.

In the late 13th century King Sindravarman succeeded the throne and changed the empire's religion from Hinduism to Theravada Buddhism. Thanks to continuous occupation of the temple, it was preserved in very good condition and avoided the destuction that other temples suffered after the mysterious abandonment of Angkor as the empire's capital in the 14th century. Angkor Wat History entered a new phase after the Angkor Wat "discovery" in the mid 19th century by Henri Mouhout, becoming one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.

Hindu Symbolism at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu temple dedicated to the God Vishnu. One of the Angkor Wat temple highlights is the perfection in composition, balance and proportions of the monument, which are heavily related to Hindu mythology. It has been described as a microcosm of the Hindu universe, in which the moat that surrounds the monument represents the mythical oceans surrounding the earth and the succession of concentric galleries represent the mountain range that surrounds Mount Meru. The central tower that rises from the center of the upper terrace symbolises the mythical Mount Meru, whilst the five towers correspond to the five peaks of the mountain. Some experts have also pointed out that the proportional measurements between some of the structures reflect numbers related to Hindu cosmology.

  • 802 AD - Founding of the Khmer Empire.
  • 802-850 - Reign of King Jayavarman II, founder of the Khmer empire.
  • 1112-1152 - Reign of King Suryavarman II and construction of Angkor Wat.
  • 1117 - Cham army sacks Angkor.
  • 1181 - King Jayavarman II defeats the Chams.
  • 1181-1219 - Reign of King Jayavarman II. Upon his death the empire starts to decline.
  • 1432 - End of the Khmer Empire. Angkor is abandoned.
  • 16th century - Khmer court return to Angkor and restore Angkor Wat as a Buddhist shrine.
  • 16th century - Portuguese travellers encounter Angkor.
  • 17th century - A Japanese pilgrim draws a detailed plan of Angkor Wat.
  • 1860 - "Rediscovery" of Angkor Wat by Henri Mouhot.
  • 1960s - Restoration of Angkor Wat.
  • 1992 - Angkor is named World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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