Angkor Wat – World Heritage Site

Angkor is a name conventionally applied to the region of Cambodia serving as the seat of the Khmer empire that flourished from approximately the ninth century to the fifteenth century A.D. More precisely, the Angkorian period may be defined as the period from 802 A.D., when the Khmer Hindu monarch Jayavarman II declared himself the “universal monarch” and “god-king” of Cambodia, until 1431 A.D., when Thai invaders sacked the Khmer capital, causing its population to migrate south to the area of Phnom Penh. Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture, with key features such as the Jagati. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs, and for the numerous ‘Devatas’ (God) adorning its walls.

Integrated with the architecture of the building, and one of the causes for its fame is Angkor Wat’s extensive decoration, which predominantly takes the form of bas-relief friezes. The inner walls of the outer gallery bear a series of large-scale scenes mainly depicting episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Higham has called these, “the greatest known linear arrangement of stone carving”. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.

Angkor Wat lies 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) north of the modern town of Siem Reap, and a short distance south and slightly east of the previous capital, which was centred at Baphuon. It is in an area of Cambodia where there is an important group of ancient structures. It is the southernmost of Angkor’s main sites.

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