Angkor Wat: The worlds biggest temple in Cambodia

Spreading across 402 acres (162.6ha) of area, stands Angkor Wat, the world’s most astonishing and enduring architectural feats. The temple is a 900-year-old remain of Angkor Wat. One of the world’s true enigmas, its size, and purpose baffling. Larger than any cathedral, it is truly one of the greatest structures ever built. Its towers shaped like lotus flowers raised a hundred years before the cathedral of Charters in France. The buildings were laid out on a vast scale, stone shrines ascending one upon the other as if reaching for the heavens.

The temple originally dedicated to the Lord Vishnu and constructed as a Hindu temple. But later by the end of the 12th century, transformed into Buddhist temple. The temple signifies the high classical style of Khmer architecture. Thus, became a symbol of the Cambodia National Flag.

It is still a mystery and a question amongst the archaeologists, who was the actual builder of this massive complex. Some say it was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman I in the early 12th century in the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state capital and eventual mausoleum. But according to a myth, the construction of Angkor Wat was ordered by Lord Indra, to his son Precha Ket Mealea. They say that the entire complex got constructed in a single night by the divine architect.

Further, being said that the complex, is the exact replication of the Indra Lok (main palace of the Lord Indra). Subsequently, the temple somewhere has direct connections with the Hindu roots. Khmer had practiced Hindu style architecture for a greater period of time.


angkor wat sketch


The planning concept highly based on Vaastu Shastra, a traditional Indian system of architecture. Its four directions, dedicating themselves to the Hindu gods, with carvings depicting the faces of god-like Brahma and Sheshnaag. The main temple has five towers, each placed on respective north, south, east and west directions, and a quincunx of towers within the center.




campus of Angkor Wat

vishnu idol inside Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture- the temple mountain and the later galleried temple. Its design represents Mount Meru, home of the devas of the Hindu mythology. The complex has more than a 5 km long moat. The outer wall, 3.6 km long with three rectangular galleries each raised above next.

The temple is an east-west orientation with the line of sight from terraces within the temple that show specific towers to be at the precise location of sunrise. Unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat orients to the west rather than the east, which intends to serve as the funerary temple of Suryavarman. This explains that the Angkor Wat designed to dedicate the Lord Vishnu, who associates with the west direction.


Angkor Wat elevation


Layout of temple


The walls of the vast monuments covered in intricate carvings. These reliefs illustrate legends of an ancient culture and its religion. The sandstone sections carved in place. Inscriptions in Angkor Wat are not only in an ancient Cambodian language but also in Sanskrit (the priestly language of the Hindus). The structure built using sandstone blocks, with laterite used for the outer walls and for hidden structural parts. The binding agent used to join the blocks are natural resins or slacked lime, yet not confirmed.




interiors of temple

view inside campus


The characteristic style includes the ogival, redented towers that shape like lotus buds. Half galleries with intricate carvings to broaden passageways. Axial galleries which connect to the enclosures and cruciform terraces which appear along the main axis of the temple. As the temple faces west, the features are all set back towards the east.  Moreover, the west-facing steps are shallower than those on the other sides.

Its endless corridors, carved with the longest reliefs in the world. The precise construction could be hard to match even with lasers used by modern surveyors. The roofing of the gallery decorated with the motif of the body of the snake ending in the heads of lions or garudas. Carved lintels and pediments decorate the entrances to the galleries and to the shrines.


remains of the campus


Scene from Ramayana


Scientists now know that Angkor Wat was just a small part of one of the largest and most sophisticated cities in the world. It is most likely, that the ruler Suryavarman II was an intelligent ruler. According to the images captured using the NASA radar system, archaeologists believe that the city was almost the size of London and if this fact is true, then this makes Angkor, the largest city in the world of that century. The city which had a grid system, with the temple campus in the center and settlements around it. In addition, the city also served the canal system for the people to use it for the rice fields.

For 400 years, Angkor derelict and forgotten until its rediscovery by or removal in 1860. Today, Angkor recognized as a wonder of the world. In Cambodia’s new area of stability, archaeologists from around the world still now continue to make fresh discoveries.


exterior view



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