Photo – Angkor Wat Temple (Khmer Architecture)
Angkor Wat Temple (Khmer Architecture) :
Angkor Wat Temple is a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world, on a site measuring 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 m2 or 402 acres). It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura (present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation. The Angkor Wat Temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors.
Angkor Wat Temple combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple-mountain and the later galleria temple. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometers (2.2 mi) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the center 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 adorning its walls.
Angkor Wat Temple 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. In an area of Cambodia where there is an important group of ancient structures, it is the southernmost of Angkor’s main sites.
According to legend, the construction of Angkor Wat was ordered by Indra to serve as a palace for his son Precha Ket Mealea. According to the 13th-century Chinese traveller Zhou Daguan, some believed that the temple was constructed in a single night by a divine architect.
The initial design and construction of this marvel of Khmer architecture took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of King Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c. 1150). Dedicated to Vishnu, it was built as the king’s state temple and capital city, king Suryavarman II was a devout Hindu king. As neither the foundation stela nor any contemporary inscriptions referring to the temple have been found, its original name is unknown, but it may have been known as “Varah Vishnu-lok” after the presiding deity. Work seems to have ended shortly after the king’s death, leaving some of the bas-relief decoration unfinished. In 1177, approximately 27 years after the death of Suryavarman II, Angkor Empire was sacked by the Chams, the traditional enemies of the Khmer. Thereafter the empire was restored by a new king, Jayavarman VII, who established a new capital and state temple (Angkor Thom and the Bayon respectively) which is another great Khmer architecture a few kilometers to the north.
Towards the end of the 12th century, Angkor Wat gradually transformed from a Hindu centre of worship to Buddhism, which continues to the present day. Angkor Wat is unusual among the Angkor temples in that although it was somewhat neglected after the 16th century it was never completely abandoned, its preservation being due in part to the fact that its moat also provided some protection from encroachment by the jungle.
One of the first Western visitors to the temple in Siem Reap was António da Madalena, a Portuguese friar who visited in 1586 and said that it “is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.”
By the 17th century, Angkor Wat was not completely abandoned and functioned as a Buddhist temple. Fourteen inscriptions dated from the 17th century discovered in Angkor area testify to Japanese Buddhist pilgrims that had established small settlements alongside Khmer locals. At that time, the temple was thought by the Japanese visitors as the famed Jetavana garden of the Buddha, which originally located in the kingdom of Magadha, India. The best-known inscription tells of Ukondafu Kazufusa, who celebrated the Khmer New Year at Angkor Wat in 1632.
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