Angkor wat cambodia temple
Located in Northwestern Cambodia, Angkor, the Capital of the Ancient Khmer Empire was possibly founded around the Ninth Century AD by King Jayavarman II.
However, the city reached its peak glory in the 12th Century under Kings Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII. The most beautiful and most famous monument in the city, Angkor Wat, lies about one kilometer south of the Royal town of Angkor Thom which was founded by Jayavarman VII.
The Temple of Angkor Wat was dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu by King Suryavarman II, who reigned between 1131 and 1150 AD. The Temple was constructed over a period of 30 years, and illustrates some of the most beautiful examples of Khmer and Hindu art.
Covering an area of about 81 hectares, the complex consists of five towers, which are presently shown on the Cambodian national flag. These towers are believed to represent the five peaks of Mount Meru, the Home of Gods and Center of the Hindu Universe.
Angkor Wat features the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which runs along the outer gallery walls, narrating stories from Hindu Mythology.
With the decline of the Ancient Khmer Empire, Angkor Wat was turned into a Buddhist Temple and was continuously maintained, which helped its preservation.
In 1992, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee declared the monument, and the whole city of Angkor, a World Heritage Site.
THE DESIGN, LAYOUT AND SIZE OF ANGKOR WAT - THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN:
Angkor Wat was the ultimate creation of the pyramid temple - the formation in stone of the magic mountain of Hindu mythology surrounded by its universe and oceans. Its builder, Suryavarman II, was the king of a great empire stretching over much of Indo-China. Angkor Wat was his legacy to the future, larger than any temple before it. It was more elaborately decorated, with a complex series of buildings built on rising terraces and linked by causeways. Its central towers were taller than any built before by the Khmers.
A visitor to his city in 1146 would have seen Angkor as the symbol of a great king who had just demolished the Cham Kingdom and annexed it to his already large empire. A visitor familiar with the Khmer religion and theory of kingship would also recognize, from the moment he entered the outer gateway of the western approach to Angkor Wat, that he was entering the cosmic universe of Hindu mythology.
As he crossed the moat from the western terrace, he would recognize the moat (600 feet wide and almost four miles in circumference) as the outer ocean of the universe. As he passed through the great stone gallery further into the temple complex, spiritually he would be passing through the Hindu universe. The towers of the central temple would loom up in front of him, and these he would see as the peaks of Mount Meru. Then he would begin to climb from terrace to terrace, up wide stairways protected by statues of familiar Hindu gods, until he reached the inner sanctuary. Here, far from the outer gateways that he had passed through earlier, the sacred linga - symbolizing the god Siva and the power of Suryavarman II - would be kept.
Angkor Wat is a whole city in itself. It is a meticulously planned complex which leads the visitor from the outside world, through the Hindu universe and up to the home of the gods. From the gallery in the western outer wall of the temple, the towers of the temple rise almost one-third of a mile away. The terrace gives way to another great entrance which leads to a wide causeway lined with stone balustrades. Buildings which were once libraries, and sunken pools, lie on either side. From here, steps rise up to a terrace, and on to another gallery and a final terrace, built in a cruciform. From here, steps begin the long ascent up the mountain to the five towers that form the pinnacle of Angkor Wat.
ARCHITECTURE AND CONSTRUCTION OF ANGKOR WAT:
Angkor was constructed out of sandstone that may have been quarried many miles away - possibly at Phnom Kulen - and transported to the construction site by the river. It is estimated that as much stone was used in building Angkor Wat as was used in the great pyramid of Khafre in Egypt (SEE PYRAMIDS).
A vast army of slaves, builders and craftsmen were used to quarry the stone, transport it, haul it into place and add the numerous statues and carvings which decorated every part of the complex. Angkor expressed the climax of a great empire and it was only able to be built because of the vast resources of money and manpower which were available to Suryavarman II as ruler of that empire.
THE BAS-RELIEF CARVING AND ICONOGRAPHY OF ANGKOR WAT:
The bas-relief carvings at Angkor are both an expression of the genius of the age and the most complete iconographical record of Hindu mythology ever made, just as the stone carvings in Chartres Cathedral are a record of Christian iconography (SEE CHARTRES). On the colonnaded gallery on the first level of the complex, there is over a mile of sculpture six feet high.
The legends of the Mahabharata and the Ramayan] are all brought to life. Asparas dance, light and delicate, around scenes taken from the Mahabharata, which tells the story of the feud between the Pandava and Kaurava families. In the south gallery, we see a grand procession headed by Suryavarman II on an elephant. Another pavilion shows the judgement of the dead, vividly portraying the damnation to hell of the wicked and the ascension to paradise of the virtuous.
One of the most famous of the series of carvings is that depicting `The Churning of the Sea of Milk,' a famous story in Hindu mythology. The gallery in which these superb carvings were executed used to be covered with a roof.
In the early 1970s, the French restorers dismantled the roof to begin work on restoring the temple, but they were interrupted by the civil war in Cambodia. The gallery was exposed to the elements for the next 20 years, resulting in some erosion of the carvings.
The bas-reliefs show the huge snake, Vasuki, winding around the Mountain Mandara. This mountain rests on the back of an enormous turtle in the Sea of Milk which is the Hindu primeval ocean. The gods and demons are illustrated pulling the serpent to turn the mountain around, and thus churn the sea of milk. This, according to the myth, releases the essence of life, amrita. The god Vishnu is the controlling force in this story.
The carving is one of the most unified, detailed and exciting of all the Angkor bas-reliefs and was probably executed by one artist of supreme talent over a period of several years.
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