ANGKOR WAT

Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and is the largest religious monument in the world, on a site measuring 162.6 hectares, 402 acres. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.

The Angkor civilization was booming in the early 1100s when construction began on the Angkor Wat temple site. Built as a re-creation of the Hindu universe, its most striking features are the five sandstone towers that rise above the four temple enclosures, representing the peaks of Mount Meru, the center of the Universe.

The temple is surrounded by a large moat symbolizing the Sea of Milk from which "amrita," an elixir of immortality, was created.

But by the end of the 13th century, numerous changes were taking place. The last major stone temple at Angkor was constructed in 1295, and the latest Sanskrit inscription dates to the same year. The last inscription in Khmer, the language of Cambodia, appears a few decades later in 1327.

Constructing stone temples and writing inscriptions are elite activities – these last instances at the Angkorian capital happened during the region-wide adoption of Theravada Buddhism that replaced Hinduism.

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© 2019 Anita Ruthling Klaussen