Angkor Wat was designated a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1992 & was conferred the largest religious structure by the Guinness World Records as it sits on a site measuring 162.6 hectares or 1,626,000 sq m. The wide expanse of this temple complex is not fully appreciated until you visit the insides.
This sandstone causeway in the west is the Main entrance to Angkor Wat. A moat 190m wide & over 5 km in perimeter surrounds the temple complex. This is the panoramic view of the West wall of the outer enclosure of Angkor Wat.
Chanced upon a group of monks who were also visiting Angkor Wat placing joss sticks in the incense burner after prayer.
Under the southern tower is the statue of ‘Ta Reach’, an 8 armed statue of the Hindu divinity Vishnu which is the most sacred & divined figure within Angkor Wat. Many come here from different parts of the country to pray for happiness, protection & prosperity & return to pay tributes when their wishes are fulfilled.
This little guy was seen diligently re-arranging & disposing the burnt out joss sticks. Could not help wondering if he was paid to do this or was he just volunteering as he dons a uniform complete with a yellow sash. I reckon, he should be in school instead…
Angkor Wat is the prime example of classical Khmer architecture & by the 12th century, Khmer architects had become skilled & confident in using sandstone instead of bricks or laterite as the main building material.
A little altar set-up in a smallish corner & the worshippers are ready to go.
Peering through the balustered windows facing the eastern wall.
Walking past the corridors along the gallery where bas reliefs tell stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. As the bas reliefs proceed in a counter-clockwise direction it was plausible that Angkor Wat was intended by King Suryavarman II (ruled 1113-c.1150) to be his funerary temple. Brahminic funeral services had rituals taking place in the reverse order.
This 7 headed serpent ‘Naga’ forms a stone balustrade beside a walkway that leads into another building in Angkor Wat.
‘Naga’ which is literally ‘serpent’ in Sanskrit, presides over the earthly Angkor Wat as a symbol of earth and represents power, water and fertility in Hinduism.
Standing in the courtyard of Angkor Wat is the Southern Library, an independent structure situated between the lower level gallery and the middle-level enclosure. This and other similar structures situated in symmetrical form from the east west axis are believed to be repositories of religious manuscripts.
Originally constructed a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu for the Khmer Empire by King Suryavarman II during the 12th century, it gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the century. Reflection Pool in front of Angkor Wat Temple.
Approaching the facade of the main temple complex. The construction of Angkor Wat took over 28 years from 1122 to 1150 during the reign of King Suryavarman II who was greatly influenced by a brahmin named Divakarapandita (1040- c1120). This was supposed to have been the state temple and eventually his mausoleum.
All of the religious motifs at Angkor Wat derived from Hinduism.
Angkor Wat is orientated to the West and it is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs and for the numerous devatas adorning the walls.
Close-up of a horseman warrior.
Apsaras like this one are also found all over the temple complex. They are a member of a class of celestial beings in Hindu and Buddhist culture. A type of female spirit of the clouds and waters and figure prominently in the sculpture, dance, literature and paintings of many Indian and Southeast Asian cultures.
Angkor Wat combines 2 basic plans of Khmer temple architecture; the temple-mountain and later on, galleried temple. Designed to represent Mount Meru home of the devas in Hindu mythology, where within a moat of more than 5km long and an outer wall of 3.6km long are 2 rectangular galleries, each raised above the next.
At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers which is the highlight of this visit. But first we have to ascend these perilous, steep and slightly damaged staircase clinging on for dear life at the wire rope secured on the left side of the steps.
As restoration works are ongoing, some of the bas-reliefs and facade of the building is carefully cleaned and thus the beauty and details of the asparas are brought to the fore.
This is a fine example of how the sandstone balustrades look blackened by soot and mold and its transformation after a good cleaning.
Restoration works of old masonry may include physical methods like brushing, rubbing, washing and steaming, wet and dry abrasives or surface redressing. Chemical methods could be applied as liquids or poultices and it may be the use of alkaline or acidic treatments or organic solvent, singly or in combination. It is nonetheless an arduous task that requires plenty of patience and many man hours!
We climbed up the final steep stairs to get to the apex of the temple complex which has 4 towers all connected by corridors like this one with a central square courtyard where the quincunx is completed by the 5th and tallest tower.
Bas-relief on a pillar with a sculpted devata. Devatas are smaller and more focused Devas ‘Deities’ in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. They are be either male or female and every human activity has its devata, its spiritual counterpart or aspect.
Looking at The Central courtyard where the tallest tower stands.
Characteristic ogival, redented tower shaped like lotus buds is once again seen in the 5th and tallest tower in the temple complex which symbolises Mount Menu. This tower also aligns with the morning sun of the spring equinox.
At the highest point of the Angkor Wat temple complex enjoying the panoramic view of the surrounding plains.
The Angkor Wat Temple complex was made from 5-10 million sandstone blocks with a maximum weight of 1.5 tons each. The entire city of Angkor used a greater amount of stone than all the Egyptian pyramids combined and occupied an area greater than modern day Paris.
The sandstone used in Angkor Wat was transported from Mount Kulen from a quarry about 40km northeast.
In Dec 2015 a research team from University of Sydney found a previously unseen ensemble of towers built and demolished during the construction of Angkor Wat, as well as a massive structure of unknown purpose on its south side and wooden fortifications. Their findings include evidence of low density residential occupation in the region with road grids, ponds and mounds leading to the conclusion that the temple precinct may not have been used only by the priestly elite.
The German Apsara Conservation Project (GACP) is a non-profit organisation based at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, that is dedicated to preserving the devatas (asparas) and other bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat. It is funded by the German Foreign Office.
Angkor Wat is lies 5.5km north of Siem Reap and is generally considered the world’s largest stone monument. Much of the surface of this extraordinary temple is decorated with carvings in bas-relief of battle scenes, triumphant processions and religious scenes of single or groups of female figures. Nearly 1850 Apsaras adorn the surface of Angkor Wat, some of which are in an alarming state of decay and others unfortunately already destroyed.
On the national level the restoration comes under the administration of the APSARA National Authority of Cambodia and the GACP to conserve this unique monument.
Angkor Wat Temple is a symbol of Cambodia and is a source of national pride and it is depicted in their national flag since the first version introduced around 1863. The grand scale of this architecture, the symmetry and harmony of the structure beckons tourists from the world over.
Have you seen the Angkor Wat yet?
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