Built in the early 1100’s by the Khmer King Suryavarman II, the temples at Angkor represent one of the most advanced architectural achievements in relation to its time. The temple was originally dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu, but later became a site for practitioners of Buddhism. Today, the site is a major tourist location, pulling in upwards of 600,000 foreigners every year. Efforts to preserve and restore the temple have been ongoing since the 1980’s and various countries have made efforts to protect the site including, the U.S., France, Germany, and Japan.
Conflicting theories exist in relation to the temple’s purpose. Unlike most of the other temples in the area, Angkor Wat’s main entrance faces westward. This has led some historians to believe that the temple was actually built as a funerary site for Suryavarman II. However, others reason that the temple faces west because the Hindu god, Veshnu, was affiliated with that direction. Regardless of the site’s purpose, though, it is agreed that Angkor Wat was once one of the largest cities in the world, and that it combined secularism and spiritualism.
Angkor Wat was built early in 1100s by Suryavarman II over an estimated 30 year period. It honors Vishnu, and the ruins are a symbolic structure of Hindu cosmology. The temple is located about 4 miles to the north of Siem Reap and south of Angkor Thom, its only accessible entrance through the gate to the west.
Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious sites in the world, covering around 500 acres of land. Its five walls and moats are a representation of mountainous chains, as well as the cosmic ocean. The vast compound’s short dimensions are aligned precisely along the north-south axis, and the east to west axis was diverted deliberately 0.75° to give its observers an anticipation of the equinox in spring for three days.
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