Angkor Wat Temple
Angkor Wat is located about 7kilometers north of Siem Reap provincial town along Komai or Charles De Gaul Road. The temple was built in the early 12th century during the reign of King Suryavarman II (AD 1113-1150) is unrivaled in its beauty and state of preservation. It is an expression of Khmer art at its highest point of development.
Some believed Angkor Wat was designed by Divakarapandita, the chef adviser and minister of the king dedicating to Vishnu Brahmanism. The Khmers attribute the building of Angkor Wat to the divine architect Visvakarman. There has been considerable debate amongst scholar as to whether Angkor Wat was built as a temple or a tomb.
Angkor Wat, according to Coedes, is a replica of the universe in stone and represents an earthly model of the cosmic world. The central tower rises from the center of the monument symbolizing the mythical Mount Meru, situated at the center of the universe. Its five towers correspond to the peaks of Meur, the outer wall to the mountains at the edge of the world, and the surrounding moat to the oceans beyond.
Originally, the temple was called Prasat Paramavishnuloka. However, the evolution of the name Angkor Wat can be drawn by history. The first proof existed in the 16th century, when the temple became a well-known Buddhist place. According to a 16th century inscription, its name was Preah Mohanokor Indrabrat Preah Vishnuloka. In a 17th century inscription, it was called Indrabratnokor Sreisodhara Visnuloka. Angkor Wat is a simple name to refer to this holy place. Khmer people, especially those living in and around Siem Reap, often refer to Angkor Toch. However, European authors decided on a common name, Angkor Wat. Nevertheless, its original name has not been forgotten and is known by many people.
Angkor Wat covers a rectangular area of about 200hectares defined by a laterite rampart which is surrounded by a moat that is 200meters wide. The perimeter of the rampart measures 5.5kilometers. The moat is crossed by a huge causeway built of sandstone blocks 250meters long and 12meters wide. The temple is 65meters high. With its massive size and splendor, Angkor Wat was believed to have been built by the gods rather than by man.
The temple begins with a sandstone terrace in the shape of a cross. Giant stone lions on each side of the terrace guard the monument. End of the causeway at the gopura with three towers of varying heights, of which much of the upper sections have collapsed. A long, covered gallery with square columns and a vaulted roof extends along the moat to the left and right of the gopura.
The causeway leads to the cruciform gopura or entry tower. The gateways at ground level on each end off the gallery probably served as passages for elephants, horses and carts, whereas the other entrances are accessed by steps and lead onto the central promenade. From the central entrance turn right and walk along the columned gallery coming to the end, where the quality of carving and intricacy of decoration on the false door is of exceptional beauty.
Continue eastward along the raised walkway of equally imposing proportions which is 350meters long and 9meters wide. A low balustrade formed by short columns supporting the scaly body of a naga border each side. Along the causeway, the ceremonial stairs with platform always in pairs to the left and right. The naga balustrade also flames the stairs. There are two building, so called libraries, stand in the courtyard on the left and right, just past the middle of the causeway. In front of the libraries are two ponds, which are 65meters long and 50meters wide, ingeniously placed to capture the reflection of the towers in the water. The oone on the left is filled with water, whereas the other one is usually dry.
The cross-shaped galleries provide the link between the first and second levels. The unique architectural design consists of covered cruciform-shaped galleries with square columns forming four courtyards each with paved basins and steps. Many of the pillars in the galleries of this courtyard of this courtyard have inscriptions written in Sanskrit and Khmer. At both ends of the north and south galleries are two libraries of similar form, but smaller than the one along the entrance causeway. There is a good view of the upper level of Angkor Wat from the northern one. The gallery of 1000 Buddhas, on the right, once contained many images dating from the period when Angkor Wat was Buddhist, but only a few of these figures remain today. The Hall of Echoes, on the left, is so named because of its unusual acoustics. Return to the center of the cruciform-shaped galleries and continue walking eastward toward the central towers. The outer wall of the gallery of the second level, closest, is solid and undecorated, probably to create an environment for meditation by the priests and the king. The starkness of the exterior of the second level gallery is offset by the decoration of the interior. Over 1,500 apsaras line the walls of the gallery, offering endless visual the spiritual enchantment.
Only the king and the high priest were allowed on the upper or third level of Angkor Wat. This level lacks the stately covered galleries of the others two, but as the base of the five central towers, one of which contains the most sacred image of the temple, it has an equally important role in the architectural scheme. Like all of Angkor Wat, the statistics of this level are imposing. The square base is 60meters long, 13meters high, and rises over 40meters above the second level. Twelve sets of stairs with 40 steps each-one in the center of each side and two at the corners-ascend at a 70 degree angle giving access to the topmost level.
The central sanctuary soars 42meters above the upper level. Its height is enhanced by a tiered plinth. This central sanctuary originally had four porches opening to the cardinal directions and sheltered a statue of Vishnu. Today it is possible to make an offering to a modern image of the Buddha and light a candle in this sacred inner sanctum. The central core of the temple was walled up some time after the sacking of Angkor in the middle of the 15tth century. Nearly 500 years later French archaeologists discovered a vertical shaft 27meters deep with a hoard of gold objects at its base.