The Angkor Wat temple complex is located in northwest Cambodia. This is one of the biggest religious monuments ever built. The temple was constructed between approximately A.D. 1113 and 1150 and covers an area of approximately 500. Angkor Wat means temple city. This was originally a Hindu temple dedicated to lord Vishnu, it was transformed into a Buddhist temple in the 14th century, and Buddha statues were added to the temple’s comprehensive artwork. It was later converted into an army fortification. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that scientists work hard to preserve. Its 213-foot-tall central tower is enclosed by four smaller towers and a sequence of enclosure walls, resembling Mount Meru, a legendary place in Hindu mythology said to rest beyond the Himalayas which is known as the home of gods.
According to an airborne laser scanning research, Angkor had an urban center that could easily hold 500,000 people and a vast hinterland with many more inhabitants. Researchers have also discovered a “lost” city called Mahendraparvata, about 25 miles north of Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is surrounded by a 650-foot-wide moat that extends for more than 3 miles. This 13-foot-deep moat would have helped stabilize the temple’s foundation by preventing groundwater from rising too high or falling too low.
The main entrance of Angkor Wat was to the west, in which the direction associated with Vishnu, across a stone causeway guarded by lions. Archaeologists recently discovered the remains of eight sandstone and laterite towers near the western gateway. These towers could be the remains of temples that existed once Angkor Wat was completed. A second, more modest entrance could be found to the east of the temple.
Suryavarman II, a king, was the architect of Angkor Wat. He ascended to power as a teen by assassinating his great uncle, Dharanindravarman I, while riding an elephant. According to an inscription, Suryavarman killed the man “as Garuda would kill a serpent on a mountain ledge.” Suryavarman’s bloodlust would last throughout his reign, as he carried out attacks into Vietnam in an attempt to gain control of the territory. He also made diplomatic advances in a peaceful manner, reopening relations with China.
He worshipped the god Vishnu, who is depicted as protector, and built a statue of him in the central tower of Angkor Wat. This devotion can also be seen in one of the most remarkable reliefs at Angkor Wat, which is located in the temple’s southeast corner. The relief depicts a scene from the Hindu creation story known as the “churning of the sea of milk.”
According to archaeologist Michael Coe, the relief depicts how the devas and asuras churned the ocean under Vishnu’s aegis to generate the divine elixir of eternal life. Scholars consider this remedy to be one of the most beautiful works of art at Angkor Wat. Suryavarman’s devotion to Vishnu is also reflected in his posthumous name, Paramavishnuloka, which means “he who is in Vishnu’s supreme abode,” which was mentioned in “Angkor Wat: A Royal Temple,” VDG, 2001.
The construction of Angkor Wat was a massive undertaking that required quarrying, careful artistic work, and a lot of digging. The moat around the temple required the movement of 1.5 million cubic metres of sand and silt, a task that would have needed thousands of people working at once.
The structures at Angkor Wat presented their own set of difficulties. To support them, a tough material known as laterite was used, that was then encased in softer sandstone, which was used to carve the reliefs. These sandstone blocks were mined in the Kulen Hills, about 18 miles to the north. The blocks were transported to Angkor Wat through canals.
Even though Angkor Wat is devoted to Vishnu, the temple’s true purpose is still unknown. One question is whether Suryavarman II’s ashes were entombed in the monument, perhaps in the same chamber where the remains were discovered. If this is the case, the temple would take on a funerary significance.