Angkor Wat

Topics: Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Khmer Empire Pages: 8 (1253 words) Published: October 3, 2014
Angkor Wat
by

Asian History: SE Asia
November 16th, 2013



There are thousands of wonders to be seen across this earth. Not many,

however, can compare to the archeological feat of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the

perfect combination of creative aspiration and religious devotion. Built in Cambodia, this

hydraulic city is one of the oldest, heaviest structures ever to survive almost nine-

hundred years. This great temple is the largest religious temple ever to be built. Walls

etched in culture, towers built in alignment with the stars and mountains, this truly is one

of the most fascinating temples ever to be built.

Angkor Wat was built by Suryavarman II, to his Hindu god, Vishnu.

Suryavarman came to the throne as King of Cambodia in 1113 after beheading his great

uncle, Dharanindravarman. It is thought that Suryavarman II built this temple as his own

tomb. Angkor Wat was Suryavarman II’s legacy, the greatest of all his accomplishments.

Sadly, he did not see it finished as he died in a campaign against Champa. His ashes

were eventually buried in the heart of Angkor Wat, as he so wished.1

“On the Road to Angkor”, a memoir written by Margret Hargreaves-Allen, tells of

1

Abdulgaffar Peang-Meth, “Understanding the Khmer: Sociological-Cultural Observations”. Asian Survey Journal 31 (1991): 442-455. JSTOR, www.jstor.org

one woman’s travels along what was once known as the “Royal Way”. This royal way

was a route of Khmer temples from present day Thailand (known as the Khmer Empire

in the 12th century) to Angkor. Although she does not give an exact date of her travels

to Thailand, it would seem that she visited sometime after the Vietnam War, perhaps a

few years after Angkor was open to the public. Margret travels from Bangkok to North

and South Thailand, into Laos and Cambodia, and into India as well.

Arriving at Angkor Wat one crisp December morning, Margret writes, “I am just as

much at a loss for words as Somerset Maugham was in the late 1020’s, when he wrote

The Gentleman in the Parlour and reached Angkor after a tortuous journey, mostly by

boat. . . .To compose a symphony of words to accompany such an architectural

apparition, to reproduce it on a page, is quite beyond my capacity...”.2

Angkor Wat was built by three-hundred Khmer people who used six-thousand

Elephants to erect this five-hundred acre temple. The temple is surrounded by a 656

foot wide moat, the perimeter of which is 3.4 miles. This moat symbolizes the oceans

2

Margret Hargreaves-Allen, On the Road to Angkor (Nebraska: iUniverse, 2007), 91-92

encircling Mount Meru, the mythical home of Hindu gods. The temple rests on tons

of sand, under which is water. The builders used a high level of water management to

allow the temple to make the moat, as well as local reservoirs and canals to let more or

less water into the area to keep the temple ground steady in the monsoon season.

Essentially being one of the most ancient and original hydraulic temples ever to be built.

Sandstone blocks were quarried from the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen, more than

thirty-one miles away, and floated down the Siem Reap River on rafts.3

Entering the temple, Margret and her companions are guided to view the famed

Bas-Reliefs carved in the sandstone that cover the walls. Underneath the sandstone

was a tough material called laterite to support the temple itself. Carved in the walls are

the history of the Khmer. The Bas-Reliefs contain everything from Suryavarman II, his

wives, and Hindu gods, to a depiction of men administering massage abortions to

women. There are also scenes from the Ramayana, and Mahabharata, two great Indian

epics. The most famous Bas-Relief of Angkor is known as “The Churning of the Ocean

3

Robert Stenchel, Fred Gifford and Eleanor Morón. “Astronomy and Cosmology at Angkor Wat,” Science Magazine, New Series Vol 193, No.4250...


Bibliography: Hargreaves-Allen, Margret. On the Road to Angkor. Nebraska: iUniverse, 2007.
Kak, Subhash. "The solar numbers in Angkor Wat." arXiv preprint physics/9811040
(1998).
Roberts, Tyson R. "Fish scenes, symbolism, and kingship in the bas-reliefs of Angkor
Wat and the Bayon." Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 50 (2002):
135-193.
Robert Stencel, Fred Gifford and Eleanor Morón. “Astronomy and Cosmology at Angkor
Wat.” Science , New Series, Vol. 193, No. 4250 (Jul. 23, 1976), pp. 281-287.
Peang-Meth, Abdulgaffar. “Understanding the Khmer: Sociological-Cultural
Observations” Asian Survey Journal 31 (1991): 442-44.
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