The scale of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat can’t quite be described.
A source of great national pride and point of pilgrimage for Cambodians, Angkor Wat represents a mesmerising blend of faith, spirituality, and creative ambition, with the temples constructed during the early 12th century the ultimate expression of King Suryavarman II’s devotion to the Hindu god Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the universe.
The temples of Angkor are the epicentre of the Khmer civilization that once ruled much of Southeast Asia. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple complex, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist site. Occupying 162.6 hectares, it is the largest religious monument in the world, and it serves as the ultimate expression of Khmer technique in both its grand scale and intricate detail.
Among the temples of Angkor, the most popular are Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom, and Angkor Thom. Bayon is the mesmerizing state temple of Jayavarman VII and epitomizes the rather mad status of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Bayon has 54 Gothic towers decorated with 216 smiling Avalokiteśvara faces, and it is adorned with almost a mile (11,000 figures) of bas-reliefs depicting mythological events. Other highlights include the moat, the 1,000-foot terrace of elephants, and the 3,000 heavenly nymphs carved into its walls, each of them unique.
According to inscriptions, the construction of Angkor Wat involved 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants. Angkor is still inhabited by local villagers, some with a lineage dating back to Angkor’s impressive heyday.
Insight into the area
If the ancient temples offer insight into Cambodia’s past, then the rivers, coastline, stilt villages, and terraced paddy fields offer a glimpse into its present. Bustling markets, ox-drawn carts, and colourful Khmer people all add to the loveliness. While Angkor Wat is the most famous and certainly among the most beautiful, there are more than 1,000 temples in Angkor. Angkor Wat is where the sunrise is most captivating.
** This post forms part of my 100x Magical Places series which offers an introduction to my favourite destinations.
** Pics sourced on Pixabay.