Angkor Wat is a temple compound in Cambodia that is the world’s most prominent religious monument, covering 162 hectares. It was devoted to Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, breaking the Shaiva custom of prior monarchs. Suryavarman II erected it as his state temple and ultimate mausoleum in Yaodharapura, the seat of the Khmer Empire, in the early 12th century. The temple mountain and the subsequent galleried temple are two of the most prominent Khmer temple architectural plans at Angkor Wat.
- Angkor Wat was built for 28 years between 1122 and 1150 CE under the rule of King Suryavarman II.
- The brahmin Divkarapaita was responsible for persuading Suryavarman II to build the temple.
- Interestingly, Angkor Wat’s original religious elements were all taken from Hinduism.
- The Chams, the Khmer’s biggest rivals, ravaged the Angkor Wat complex in 1177, after 27 years of the Suryavarman’s demise.
- After the destruction, a new monarch, Jayavarman VII, reestablished the kingdom by establishing a new capital and state temple a few kilometres north, devoted to Buddhism because the king thought the Hindu deities had deserted him.
- Toward the end of that century, Angkor Wat progressively transitioned from a Hindu to a Buddhist centre of devotion, a process that continues today.
- Angkor Wat’s architecture is a unique blend of the temple mountain (the typical design for the empire’s royal temples) and the later layout of concentric galleries, the majority of which were initially inspired by Hindu religious beliefs.
- The architecture of Angkor Wat also shows that some aspects of the temple had a cosmic significance. It may be seen in the temple’s east-west orientation and planes of sight from terraces within the complex that reveal various towers at the exact place of the dawn on a solstice.
- The great tower of Angkor Wat is synchronized with the morning light during the spring equinox. Angkor Wat faces westward rather than eastward, unlike all other Khmer structures. Consequently, folks assume Suryavarman desired it to serve as his burial monument.
Techniques used in construction
- Approximately five to ten million pieces of sandstone were used in the monument’s construction, weighing about one ton.
- The city of Angkor utilized substantially more stone than all of the Egyptian pyramids and covered an area larger than modern-day Paris.
- Furthermore, unlike the Egyptian pyramids, which were built with limestone mined 0.5 km away, Angkor’s whole city was built with sandstone quarried 40 km distant.
- Its walls, pillars, wooden beams, and even the roofs are all carved.
- Kilometres of reliefs depict scenarios from Indian literature, including unicorns, gryphons, winged dragons dragging chariots, fighters following an elephant-mounted commander, and heavenly dancing ladies with exquisite hairstyles.
Conservation and restoration
- Angkor Wat, like many other ancient temples in Cambodia, has suffered considerable damage and decay due to a mixture of plant overgrowth, fungus, earth movements, battle damage, and looting.
- The present age of Angkor Wat restoration started in 1908, with the founding of the Conservation d’Angkor; before that date, operations at the temple were mainly concentrated on the investigation.
- Until the early 1970s, the Conservation d’Angkor was in charge of the study, conservation, and restoration efforts at Angkor, and a massive restoration of Angkor was done in the 1960s.
- In addition to this, the temple was also restored by the Archaeological Survey of India between 1986 and 1992.
- Eventually, in 1992, following Norodom Sihanouk’s call for assistance, Angkor Wat was placed in UNESCO’s Historical Monuments in Danger and World Heritage Site, along with an appeal by UNESCO to the world community to conserve Angkor.
- Several nations, including France, Japan, and China, are participating in Angkor Wat restoration programmes. The German Apsara Conservation Project (GACP) strives to prevent destruction to the devatas and other bas-reliefs that beautify the temple.