‘Angkor Wat’ which literally means ‘City of Temples ’in Khmer dialect is considered as one of the most splendid piece of architecture ever built in the history of mankind. This architectural marvel is a part of the Angkor temple complex in ‘Cambodia’ & is the best preserved architecture in the lot. This majestic monument is world renowned for its massive size which makes it the largest religious monument not only the in the Asia but also in the entire world!
The ‘Angkor Wat’ is basically a temple built by the ‘Khmer’ King Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century & was dedicated to the Hindu deity ‘Vishnu’. The temple later on became the mausoleum of the King Suryavarman II & ever since then, it has remained one of the most eminent religious monuments in the nation. The temple boasts the finest piece of high class architecture & artwork while its purity of the design & majestic appearance simply conjures the spectators.
HISTORY IN BRIEF:
‘Angkor Wat’ at first, was constructed as the Hindu temple, but subsequently became a Buddhist temple in the late 13th century. Khmer ‘King Suryavarman II’ took the initiatives in founding this magnificent structure, although; the original name cannot be stated due to the absence of significant inscriptions depicting the details related to the temple.
In 1177, Angkor was invaded by the ‘Chasms’ which were the arch rivals of ‘Khmer’. The empire was fought back by the king Jayavarman VII, who then shifted his capital to ‘Angkor Thom’ & declared ‘Bayon’ as the state temple which was located a few kilometers away in the north.
The ‘Angkor Wat’ had acquired the Buddhist importance during the late 13th century & remained in the limelight unlike most of the other Angkor temples which were abandoned after the 16th century. A Portuguese monk named ‘Antonio da Madalena’ was one of the first Western visitors who visited the temple in 1586, whereas, the French explorer ‘Henri Mouhot’ was the first man who explored the aesthetic aspect of this site in the west.
THE ARCHITECTURE: –
The words may fall short to describe the grandeur appearance of this temple & the marvelous carvings of statues & other artwork. The monument has to be seen to be believed as its beauty can be grasped only by observing the vast campus of this temple with kin eyes. The design of the temple was made keeping several aspects of the traditional Hindu beliefs & symbolism in mind.
The Wat is the stunning combination of two plans of Khmer temple architecture, namely- the ‘Temple Mountain’ & the ‘Galleried Temple’, which is highly based upon the traditional ‘Dravidian Architecture’. It was designed to represent ‘Mount Meru’, which is considered as the abode of ‘Devas’ (gods). The quincunx of the towers situated right in the heart of the temple represents the five peaks of the mountain, whereas, the surrounding moat & walls represent the ocean & the mountain ranges respectively.
The entire structure of the temple was built using sandstone while laterite was used for the construction of the outer walls. The most imposing elements of this magnificent temple include the sky-tapering towers shaped like lotus buds, cruciform terraces, half-galleries as well as axial galleries connecting enclosed spaces & the surrounding walls adorned with rich use of ‘bas-reliefs’ representing ‘Devatas’ (gods), ‘Asuras’ (demon) as well as a series of several important scenes as depicted in Hindu mythologies- the ‘Ramayana’ & the ‘Mahabharata’.
The outermost wall of this site encloses around 820,000 Sq. meters (203 acres) of an area which was, excluding the central temple, was once occupied by the city & the royal Palace. Most of the old construction is no longer exists as the thriving tropical forest which has now occupied this area has already devoured those ruins. The city was fortified using a 190 m wide moat & the access to the mainland was possible only through a sandstone causeway to the west & an earth bank to the east.
The colossal mass of the ‘Angkor Wat’ resides over the plane higher than the city. The temple consists of three rectangular galleries one enclosing the other & built atop three rectangular levels, which progressively become smaller in dimensions & higher than the lower one beginning from the outer boundaries of the temple. All the levels are connected using stairways. The galleries are dedicated to the ‘King Suyavarman II’, deities ‘Brahma’ & ‘Vishnu’ & the moon. The pointed towers present at the corners of each of the inner two galleries & a giant tower which is situated right at the center of the entire structure form quincunx. The central tower is the tallest of all & stands 65 meter high above the ground. The magnificent ‘Gopura’ (entrance) situated at the center of each gallery adds to the aesthetics of the temple.
The bas-relief friezes those adorn the walls of the ‘Angkor Wat’ are the most remarkable features of this humongous monument that had earned the instant fame for the monument. All the inner walls of the galleries feature artistically carved scenes from the Hindu mythologies. The western gallery depicts the ‘Battle of Lanka’ (from the Ramayana) & the ‘Battle of Kurukshetra’ (from the Mahabharata), whereas, the southern gallery features the historical scenes of King Suryavarman’s life & other mythological beliefs.
The eastern gallery is adorned with the most breathtaking artwork of all as it boasts a scene of the ‘Samudramanthanam’ (Churning of the Sea of Milk) by 92 asuras (demons) & 88 devas (gods). The northern gallery is endowed with a carving of ‘Krishna’s victory over Bana’. Apart from the stupendous artwork done on the walls of the galleries, every single pilaster & pavilion inside the ‘Angkor Wat’ possess richly decorated & finely carved images of ‘Apsaras’ & ‘Asuras’ which make this entire structure a phenomenal collection of the finest piece of artwork & an exotic exhibition of bas-reliefs. According to the historians, the remarkable detailing shown in the hair styles, clothes, poses, jewelry & other props of the images in bas-reliefs replicates the actual lifestyle of the Angkor era!
The ‘Angkor Wat’ has already achieved the status of UNESCO’s ‘World heritage Site’ & is considered as the most loved tourist destination in the country. This top class architectural marvel has become a symbol of Cambodia & was commemorated by giving the prestigious place on the National Flag of Cambodia. The ‘Angkor Wat’ thus, can be considered as the best way ever chosen by the man to express his gratitude towards the almighty for his own existence & the offerings so far he has received from the owner of the world! It is one of the places in the world one should visit before dying!!