Angkor Wat means ‘Capital Temple’ in the Khmer language, and is the proud of Cambodia today. There are endless words praising the grandeur and significance of Angkor Wat as the largest religious monument in the world. If the big names of Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal or The Pyramids sound too luxurious and unrealistic for you to explore, just consider the equally significant Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is included in the Angkor Archaeological Park, around 7km from Siem Reap downtown, Cambodia. Amongst the religious monuments in the Park, Angkor Wat is most remarkable. The construction of Angkor Wat was initiated in the early 12th century in an area of 162.6 hectares. The Wat includes the elaborate complex of one central tower encompassed by the four smaller towers. The Wat was originally erected as the King’s mausoleum temple dedicated to Hinduism (to Vishnu) during the peak of Khmer Empire. The historical builder of Angkor Wat was King Suryavarman II, who intended to use the Wat as his state temple as well as the mausoleum. This magnificent ruin was famous for the breathtaking Khmer architecture, the 2km-long-bas-relief sculptures of the Apsara figures and other holy entities in Hindu mythology, etc. Also, the elaborate carving galleries tell stories of God Vishnu and King Suryavarman II victories on the battlefields. In 1992, Angkor Wat was inscribed as the UNESCO World Heritage.The Wat appears in the Cambodian national flag, and of course, the country’s prime tourist attraction, and the pride of Cambodians.
Brief History of Angkor Wat
At the peak of Khmer Empire, King Suryavarman II ordered to erect Angkor Wat in the style of the grand ‘temple-mountain’ dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu. It took 37 years to complete the Wat, which was served as the King’s state and funerary temple. On the completion of Angkor Wat, there noticed the huge galleries of the bas-reliefs and carvings; approximately 2000 different Apsara carvings on the walls that reflected the Apsara art in the Angkorian time. Besides, the exterior walls displayed the fantastic bas-reliefs portraying the stories from both Hindu mythology and the successes of the King. For instance, there was a bas-relief depicting the mythological Battle of Kuru on the west wall. It was the momentous success of Suryavarman II over the Cham. Though Angkor Wat was originally built as the Hindu temple in the 12th century, then in the 14th century, the Wat was transformed into a Buddhist temple because Buddhism was the state religion under the rule of Srindravarman. The Buddha images in the third level of the central tower were the hard evidence of this transformation.So, it was concluded that Angkor Wat was to worship both the Buddha and Hindu deities. In 1992, the Wat became the UNESCO World Heritage.
Architecture of Angkor Wat
Regarding the traditional Khmer temple architecture in Angkor Wat, it reflects the two fundamentals: the Temple-Mountain and the Galleried Temple. While the central tower refers to the mythical Mount Meru – home of the Gods in Hindu mythology, the outer walls represent the mountains that bordered the world, and the moats embody the oceans. The extensive bas-reliefs and mysterious carvings on the walls make Angkor Wat unique on this earth. In general, the five towers refer to the five peaks of Mount Meru. The whole complex of Angkor Wat is enormous and said to be the best example of the Khmer architecture at that time. The Wat has the temple-mountain style withthe rich galleries of bas-relief carvings that depict the Wars, Hindu mythology, the Khmer life, and the successes of the King Suryavarman II. It is the best-preserved centerpiece of the temples of Angkor for the later generations to know what Khmer architecture of the Angkorian time is.
Structure of Angkor Wat
The Wat is bordered by the 190m-wide moat. The 30m-wide ground separates the moat from the 4.5m-high outer wall that enclose the four sides of the temple. At the first look, the entry to the temple is guarded by the eye-catching Khmer architectural arrangement. The spacious outer structure effectively proves that the inner religious complex is dramatic and worth contemplating.
Inside the walls contains the capital temple that looks impressively with the rising central tower surrounded by the other peaks! As noted, each piece represents the mythological Hindu entities. The temple is made of the sandstones and carved with various Hindu epics. As we all know, Angkor Wat preserves the intricate style of the Khmer time; the towers are in the forms of the lotus buds. Though the Wat has the fundamental Khmer architecture, it faces the west, which is different from the other temples that traditionally face the east. According to experts, the reason why Angkor Wat faces the west isthat the West is the God Vishnu’s direction. Other explanations pointed that it might be the intentional design of the King Suryavarman II who wanted to use the Wat as his private mausoleum – for the funeral purpose.
Best Period to Visit Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the world’s largest temple whose significance is on par with the architecture of Rome and ancient Greece. The Wat is a symbol of pride for the Cambodians. If you intend to visit Angkor Wat, the ideal time to go should be based on the weather and the best time of day.
Cambodia has two major seasons: dry (October – May) and wet (June – September). The dry time includes hot wind and dry condition that asks the tourists to come prepared for the heat. And, the temple exploration takes sweat; so, you’d better bring the umbrella, sunscreen, and any other item that helps protect yourself from the sun. Then, the wet time features the heavy rain and monsoon, and sometimes, the climate is cool and manageable. Even though the rains can cause floods, they don’t influence the visit to Angkor Wat as the local drivers know the roads to the temple clearly whether it is rainy or sunny. The peak season for Angkor Wat Tour is the dry time (from October to May). The most crowded period is after Christmas or holiday time when the massive crowds pour into the temple. Furthermore, during the wet months, Angkor Wat becomes ideal for Mekong River Cruises. The cruise will anchor somewhere to await you to explore the monumental ground filled with the internationally famous Angkor Wat as well as many other critical ruins.
The Best Time of Day
The entire Angkor Wat is best to see in the soft light. So, the ideal lighting conditions to view the Wat are after 14:00 PM. Besides, the early sunrise is when the temple looks most dramatic and spectacular. The Angkor Wat at sunrise can mesmerize everybody, and most of the best pictures about the Angkor are taken during the sunrise. Then, the time after 14:00 PM until the sunset gives the Wat the different color and appearance. For anybody that loves sightseeing and photographing the Wat, it is critical to keep the ideal timeframe for Angkor Wat in the mind. As a result, they can capture the most flattering sides of the ruin.