Angkor Wat, the temple complex located in Siem Reap province, Cambodia is the largest religious monument in the world. Its name translates to City of Temples in Khmer language. The word ‘Angkor’, meaning city, was derived from the Bengali word Nokor Wat means temple grounds. An amazing example of the Khmer architecture, the temple complex was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. It was built as a Hindu and later went on to be converted into a Buddhist temple. Suryavarman conceived it as his state temple and the eventual mausoleum.
Angkor Wat is dedicated to god Vishnu, a fact that marks a departure from the tradition of Khmer kings, who used to follow the Shaiva traditions. The edifice is a national symbol of Cambodia, and is featured in the national flag of the country.
Legend has it that Angkor Wat was constructed by Hindu god Indra as a palace for his son Precha Ket Mealea. The construction began during the reign of king Suryavarman II who ruled till his death in 1150. Most of the works had finished by the time of his death. Later, the enemies of the Khmers attacked and sacked the city. Later a new king named Jayavarman VII restored the empire. He built a new capital and state temple a few distance away from the temple. They are called Angkor Thom and Bayon temple.
In the following years, Angkor Wat gradually converted to a Buddhist temple. From 14th century, it was occupied by Buddhist monks. After the 16th century, the temple was more or less abandoned and was overgrown with vegetation. In 19th century, Henri Mouhot, a French naturalist and explorer, was the one who re-discovered the temple and popularized it in the western world. The temple underwent considerable restoration works in the 20th century, often interrupted by the revolts in Cambodia.
The temple compound extends to over more than 500 acres. It is surrounded by a moat with a perimeter of 5.5 kilometers. The temple itself is an example of magnificent architecture and amazing sculpture. The central tower of the temple is 65 meters high and is surrounded by four smaller towers. The architecture is modeled after the mythological peak Mount Meru.
It is covered with countless sculptural decorations. They feature many scenes from Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and a large number of deities. The temple is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a famous tourism destination. More than a million people visit the great architectural wonder every year.
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