Angkor Wat temple guide

Angkor Wat is the most breathtaking and balanced temple in the world. With its five towers, it's one of the most perfect contruction works ever seen. It is the most important temple of the Angkor Archaeological Park and presents the art and architecture of the Khmer Empire the best. 

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Angkor Wat History 

Angkor Wat has a total surface of 80ha and it's one of the biggest religious buildings in the world. The temple is well preserved and was constructed as a reproduction of the universe. The pyramid in the middle is the symbol for the holy mountain Meru, the residence of the gods. The towers symbolize the peaks of the mountains. The inner courts are the continents and the outer walls the mountains at the edge of the world. The moat around the temple presents the ocean. 

The Angkor Wat temple was founded by Suryavarman II (1113-1150). It took almost 30 years to build. Special about this temple is that the entrance is pointed to the west. This raised some questions about the function of the temple. Was it used for religieus ceremonies or as a grave tomb? The West is asscociated with the sunset and the death but also with the Hindu god Vishnu. Probably during King Suryavarman II life, the temple was used for ceremonies and after his death as his mausoleum. 

Architecture design

The 200 m wide moat has an outline of 5 km and runs around the temple complex. The water is supplied by the river in Siem Reap. To enter the temple a paved pad out of massive sand blocks was made. The sand blocks come of the quarry at Kulen Mountain, around 50 km away from Siem Reap. With rafts they carried these blocks down the river to Siem Reap. This operation consumed the labour of thousands people. No modern utilities were available in that time. 

First you cross the outer wall. It has three access ports which lead you to the galleries. The outer wall is 1025 m by 800 m. An avenue of 475 m long and 9.5 m wide with naga balustrades go from the main entrance to the central temple. On the way you will pass two libraries and two pools. Only the left pool is filled and is the most popular place to watch the sunrise and to take pictures. If you are lucky you will have an amazing reflection of Angkor Wat in the pool. 

The central part of the temple consists out of three levels. Each level encloses a square surrounded by linked galleries.

Level 1

On the first level you can found the Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas. It used to display hundreds of Buddha statues but most of them were destroyed or stolen. A few are still left to admire.

Level 2

The second level is surrounded by towers on the corners. On this level you find on the inner wall more than thousand graceful Apsaras, goddess with exotic hairstyle and jewelry. 

Level 3

The third level was only accessible for the king and the high priest. Here you have the 42 m high majestic central temple with on top the sanctum of God Vishnu. You can climb up the towers but be carefull for the steep stairs. Wooden staircases are built now to make climbing up to the kingdom of the god an easier task. 

Galleries

Angkor Wat is surrounded by many galleries with astonishing bas-reliefs. They present a brief description of the epics events of that time. Most of them were established in the 12th century, some were added in the 16th. Take your time to admire them. 

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The battle of Kurukshetra

This panel symbolize the battle of the Hindu Mahabharata. The Kauravas (coming from the left) and the Pandavas (coming from the right) meet eah other in a serious battle. At the bottom you find infantry and musicians. Obove you find the officiers in their chariots or on elephants directing their troups. On this panel you will find some interesting details like a dead chief lying on a pile of arrows or a worrior putting down his wapen as a symbol of defeat.

The Grand Army

These two panels presents the army of Suryavarman II. On the first one you see the battlemarch of soldiers on foot and their officers on horses. Above them you find their commanders. You find Suryavarman II on a elephant. He is protected by 15 parasols and surrounded by servants. The army at the end of the panel with long headdresses and ragged marching allied with the Khmer against the Chams.

Heaven & Hell

This gallery displays the 37 heavens and 32 hells. On the left you find nice and respectful gentlemen and ladies. The god Yama is sitting on a buffel giving the last judgement to the death. The elected ones go to heaven and will enjoy a luxurious life. The others will follow the path to hell where they will be tortured.

Churning of the Ocean of Milk

This is the best know bas-relief of Angkor Wat. On the left side you have 92 asuras (demons) the head of the snake Vasuki. On the right you have 88 devas (gods) holding the tail of the reptile. You can recognise the demons on their helmets, spherical eyes and their harsh expression. The gods are wearing cylindrical hats and have almond-shape eyes. The gods and the demons pull the snake so that the Mountain Mandala moves and pulls milk into the ocean. The elixir of eternal life is released and the demons and gods experience eternal life.

Victory of Vishnu

This shows the encounter between Vishnu and several devils. This panel was most likely made in the 16th century.

Victory of Krishna

Krishna is the reincarnation of Vishnu. He has eight arms and many heads. He asks the release of the demon King Bana. 

Battle of Gods & Demons

This gallery symbolizes the mythological battle between the gods and demons. You can recognize the gods by their tradtional attributes. 

Battle of Lanka

This is one of the most beautiful bas-reliefs you can find in Angkor Wat. It shows the battle of Lanka, Rama who fights with his army of monkeys against Ravana who abducted the wife of Rama. Ravana rides a chariot commanding an army of giants.

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