Angkor Wat


Located just north of the modern Cambodian city of Siem Reap lies Angkor Wat. This “City of Temples” (Headly, 1979), in the Cambodian language, is from the twelfth century built at the hand of King Suryavarman II to honor Vishnu, the god of Vaishnavism (Gray, 2012). Vaishnavism one of the three denominations of Hinduism. After over four hundred years as a Hindu temple, it slowly turned from Hindu to a Buddhist temple around the sixteenth century (“Angkor Wat – 7th Wonder of the World”). During the reign of Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat was the capital of the Khmer empire as a religious, cultural, and administrative megacity (“Cambodia”, CIA). Angkor Wat covers five hundred acres (“Angkor Wat – 7th Wonder of the World”)  filled with temples and an ancient village that has since been destroyed over the years due to the fact that it was constructed with perishable materials such as wood (Freeman, 1999). The main temple of Angkor Wat is made up of many parts, the outer enclosure, a moat, and the structure itself. The moat is two football fields wide and surrounds the outer enclosure wall that is thirty meters inland. The wall is 1,024 meters by 802 meters and is four and half meters tall. The tall walls makes it very hard to penetrate the barriers. There is an opening in the enclosure on the west end of the grounds (Freeman, 1999). The site is oriented to the west but it is purposely tilted three quarters of a degree to anticipate spring three days before it falls (“Angkor Wat – 7th Wonder of the World”). There are three levels to the structure. The focal point is on the highest central tower on the third level that reaches seven hundred feet tall. This level has five towers in total with four more at each corner of the rectangular lot. Underneath that are two more tiers that increase in area but decrease in height as the levels descend, much like a rectangular, boxy pyramid that Angkor Wat is commonly compared to.

The wall and temple themselves are made out of huge blocks of sandstone in an attempt to mirror the fictional image of Mount Meru (Ghose, 2012). It took six to ten million blocks, each weighing about one and a half tons, and thirty years to complete the site. These sandstone blocks were not local to the site and originated from a quarry forty kilometers away (“Lost City of Angkor Wat”, NatGeo). The blocks had to be transported almost ninety kilometers along a canal route to reach the site they’ve sat at for centuries. As the building was being completed, the decorations followed. Angkor Wat is known to have beautiful bas-relief friezes of deities and female gods. Bas-relief friezes is a kind of nearly three dimensional artwork that looks as though they are coming out of the walls. It is similar to the engraving we see on American coins. The artwork on the walls range from stories of literature to mythology to great victories and defeats of battles Kings have partaken in to merely tales of daily life (Glaize, 1944).