Angkor Wat Temple

The Angkor Wat temple is the most magnificent and largest of all the monuments at Angkor. It name means “City Temple” and it is considered to be the largest religious structure in the world. From the base to the tip of the highest tower it’s 213 meters (669 feet) of breathtaking stone reliefs in the elaborate Khmer style.

Layout

Angkor Wat occupies and enormous site of nearly 200 hectares (494 acres). A huge rectangular reservoir surrounds the temple which rises up through a series of three rectangular terraces to the central shrine and tower. This arrangement reflects the traditional Khmer idea of the temple mountain, in which the temple represent Mount Meru, the home of the gods in Hinduism.

Angkor Wat Temple

Bas-Reliefs

The famous bas-reliefs encircling the temple on the first level depict Hindu epics including the mythical “Churning of the Ocean of Milk”, a legend in which Hindu deities stir vast oceans in order to extract the nectar of immortal life. The reliefs, including thousands of female dancers, are carved into the wall of the third enclosure of the temple. This was as far into the Angkor Wat temple as ordinary citizens were allowed to go, and the scenes depicted were meant to contribute to their religious education and impress them with their king’s knowledge.

Rediscovery

Portuguese explorers already visited Angkor Wat in the 16th century. But it was the account of French naturalist Henri Mouhot, who came to Angkor in 1860, that turned the ruins into an international obsession. The French explorer wrote of it:

“One of these temples, a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo, might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.”