- Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat (or Angkor Vat) ( _km. អង្គរវត្ត), is a
templecomplex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for King Suryavarman IIin the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation—first Hindu, dedicated to Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is the epitome 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 combines two basic plans of Khmer temple
architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple, based on early South Indian architecture, with key features such as the Jagati. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moatand an outer wall 3.6 km (2.2 miles) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunxof 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 (guardian spirits) adorning its walls.
The modern name, Angkor Wat, in use by the 16th century, [Higham, "The Civilization of Angkor" p. 2.] means "City Temple": "Angkor" is a vernacular form of the word "nokor" which comes from the
Sanskritword "nagara" (capital), while " wat" is the Khmer word for temple. Prior to this time the temple was known as "Preah Pisnulok", after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II. [cite web |url=http://www.autoriteapsara.org/en/angkor/temples_sites/temples/angkor_vat.html |title=Angkor Vat |accessdate=2008-04-27 |year=2004 |publisher=APSARA Authority]
Angkor Wat lies 5.5 km north of the modern town of
Siem Reap, and a short distance south and slightly east of the previous capital, which was centred on the Baphuon. It is in an area of Cambodia where there is an important group of ancient structures. It is the southernmost of Angkor's main sites.
The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of
Suryavarman II(ruled 1113 – c. 1150), Dedicated to Vishnu, it was built as the king's state temple and capital city. As neither the foundation stelanor any contemporary inscriptions referring to the temple have been found, its original name is unknown, but it may have been known as "Vrah Vishnulok" after the presiding deity. Work seems to have ended on the king's death, leaving some of the bas-reliefdecoration unfinished.cite web |url= http://huntingtonarchive.osu.edu/seasia/angkor.html|title=Angkor Wat, 1113-1150 |accessdate=2008-04-27 |publisher=College of the Arts, The Ohio State University |work= The Huntington Archive of Buddhist and Related Art] In 1177 Angkor was sacked by the Chams, the traditional enemies of the Khmer. Thereafter the empirewas restored by a new king, Jayavarman VII, who established a new capital and state temple ( Angkor Thomand the Bayonrespectively) a few kilometres to the north.
In the 14th or 15th century the temple was converted to
Theravada Buddhistuse, 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. [Glaize, "The Monuments of the Angkor Group" p. 59.]
One of the first Western visitors to the temple was
Antonio da Magdalena, a Portuguese monk 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". [Higham, "The Civilization of Angkor" pp. 1-2.] However, the temple was popularised in the West only in the mid-19th century on the publication of Henri Mouhot's travel notes. 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 honourable 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." [Quoted in [http://www.cambodianview.com/documents/articles/Brief_Presentation.pdf Brief Presentation by Venerable Vodano Sophan Seng] ]
Mouhot, like other early Western visitors, was unable to believe that the Khmers could have built the temple, and mistakenly dated it to around the same era as Rome. The true history of Angkor Wat was pieced together only from stylistic and epigraphic evidence accumulated during the subsequent clearing and restoration work carried out across the whole Angkor site.
Angkor Wat required considerable restoration in the 20th century, mainly the removal of accumulated earth and vegetation. [Glaize p. 59.] Work was interrupted by the civil war and
Khmer Rougecontrol of the country during the 1970s and 1980s, but relatively little damage was done during this period other than the theft and destruction of mostly post-Angkorian statues. [APSARA authority, [http://www.autoriteapsara.org/en/angkor/history/war.html The Modern Period: The war] ]
The temple has become a symbol of Cambodia, and is a source of great national pride. A depiction of Angkor Wat has been a part of every Cambodian national flag since the introduction of the first version circa 1863. [Flags of the World, [http://flagspot.net/flags/kh_hstry.html Cambodian Flag History] ] In January 2003 riots erupted in
Phnom Penhwhen a false rumour circulated that a Thai soap opera actress had claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand. [The Nation January 31, 2003, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.arcview.php?clid=2&id=73303&usrsess= Editor Didn't Check Rumour] ]
ite and plan
Angkor Wat, located at coord|13|24|45|N|103|52|0|E|type:landmark_region:KH|display=inline,title, is a unique combination of the temple mountain, the standard design for the empire's state temples, the later plan of concentric galleries, and influences from
Orissaand the Cholaof Tamil Nadu, India. The temple is a representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods: the central quincunxof towers symbolises the five peaks of the mountain, and the walls and moat the surrounding mountain ranges and ocean. [Freeman and Jacques p. 48.] Access to the upper areas of the temple was progressively more exclusive, with the laity being admitted only to the lowest level. [Glaize p. 62.]
Unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east. This has led many (including Glaize and
George Coedès) to conclude that Suryavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple. [The diplomatic envoy Zhou Da Guan sent by Emperor Temur Khanto Angkor in 1295 reported that the head of state was buried in tower after death, and he referred to Angkor Wat as a mausoleum] Further evidence for this view is provided by the bas-reliefs, which proceed in a counter-clockwise direction—"prasavya" in Hindu terminology—as this is the reverse of the normal order. Rituals take place in reverse order during Brahminic funeral services. [Glaize p. 59.] The archaeologist Charles Higham also describes a container which may have been a funerary jar which was recovered from the central tower. [Higham, "The Civilization of Angkor" p. 118.] Freeman and Jacques, however, note that several other temples of Angkor depart from the typical eastern orientation, and suggest that Angkor Wat's alignment was due to its dedication to Vishnu, who was associated with the west. [Freeman and Jacques p. 48.]
A further interpretation of Angkor Wat has been proposed by
Eleanor Mannikka. Drawing on the temple's alignment and dimensions, and on the content and arrangement of the bas-reliefs, she argues that these indicate a claimed new era of peace under king Suryavarman II: "as the measurements of solar and lunar time cycles were built into the sacred space of Angkor Wat, this divine mandate to rule was anchored to consecrated chambers and corridors meant to perpetuate the king's power and to honor and placate the deities manifest in the heavens above." [Mannikka, [http://huntingtonarchive.osu.edu/seasia/angkor.html Angkor Wat, 1113-1150] ] Mannikka's suggestions have been received with a mixture of interest and scepticism in academic circles. [Higham, "The Civilization of Angkor" p. 118.] She distances herself from the speculations of others, such as Graham Hancock, that Angkor Wat is part of a representation of the constellation Draco. [Transcript of [http://www.grahamhancock.com/horizon/horizon_script_2.htm Atlantis Reborn] , broadcast BBC2 November 4, 1999.]
Angkor Wat is the prime example of the classical style of
Khmer architecture—the Angkor Wat style—to which it has given its name. By the 12th century Khmer architects had become skilled and confident in the use of sandstone(rather than brickor laterite) as the main building material. Most of the visible areas are of sandstone blocks, while laterite was used for the outer wall and for hidden structural parts. The binding agent used to join the blocks is yet to be identified, although natural resins or slaked limehave been suggested. [ [http://ospiti.thunder.it/gacp German Apsara Conservation Project] Building Techniques, p. 5.]
Angkor Wat has drawn praise above all for the harmony of its design, which has been compared to the architecture of
ancient Greeceor Rome. According to Maurice Glaize, a mid-20th-century conservator of Angkor, the temple "attains a classic perfection by the restrained monumentality of its finely balanced elements and the precise arrangement of its proportions. It is a work of power, unity and style." [Glaize p. 25.]
Architecturally, the elements characteristic of the style include: the ogival, redented towers shaped like lotus buds; half-galleries to broaden passageways; axial galleries connecting enclosures; and the cruciform terraces which appear along the main axis of the temple. Typical decorative elements are devatas (or apsaras),
bas-reliefs, and on pediments extensive garlands and narrative scenes. The statuary of Angkor Wat is considered conservative, being more static and less graceful than earlier work. [APSARA authority, [http://www.autoriteapsara.org/en/angkor/art/styles/angkorian/angkor_vat.html Angkor Vat Style] ] Other elements of the design have been destroyed by looting and the passage of time, including gilded stuccoon the towers, gilding on some figures on the bas-reliefs, and wooden ceiling panels and doors. [Freeman and Jacques p. 29.]
The Angkor Wat style was followed by that of the
Bayonperiod, in which quality was often sacrificed to quantity. [Freeman and Jacques, "Ancient Angkor" p. 31.] Other temples in the style are Banteay Samré, Thommanon, Chao Say Tevodaand the early temples of Preah Pithuat Angkor; outside Angkor, Beng Mealeaand parts of Phanom Rung and Phimai.
The outer wall, 1024 by 802 m and 4.5 m high, is surrounded by a 30 m apron of open ground and a moat 190 m wide. Access to the temple is by an earth bank to the east and a sandstone causeway to the west; the latter, the main entrance, is a later addition, possibly replacing a wooden bridge. [Freeman and Jacques p. 49.] There are gopuras at each of the
cardinal points; the western is much the largest and has three ruined towers. Glaize notes that this gopura both hides and echoes the form of the temple proper. [Glaize p. 61.] Under the southern tower is a statue of Vishnu, known as "Ta Reach", which may originally have occupied the temple's central shrine. [Freeman and Jacques p. 49.] Galleries run between the towers and as far as two further entrances on either side of the gopura often referred to as "elephant gates", as they are large enough to admit those animals. These galleries have square pillars on the outer (west) side and a closed wall on the inner (east) side. The ceiling between the pillars is decorated with lotus rosettes; the west face of the wall with dancing figures; and the east face of the wall with balustered windows, dancing male figures on prancing animals, and devatas, including (south of the entrance) the only one in the temple to be showing her teeth.
The outer wall encloses a space of 820,000 square metres (203 acres), which besides the temple proper was originally occupied by the city and, to the north of the temple, the royal palace. Like all secular buildings of Angkor, these were built of perishable materials rather than of stone, so nothing remains of them except the outlines of some of the streets. [Freeman and Jacques p. 50.] Most of the area is now covered by forest. A 350 m causeway connects the western gopura to the temple proper, with naga balustrades and six sets of steps leading down to the city on either side. Each side also features a library with entrances at each cardinal point, in front of the third set of stairs from the entrance, and a pond between the library and the temple itself. The ponds are later additions to the design, as is the cruciform terrace guarded by lions connecting the causeway to the central structure. [Freeman and Jacques p. 50.]
The temple stands on a terrace raised higher than the city. It is made of three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower, each level higher than the last. Mannikka interprets these galleries as being dedicated to the king,
Brahma, the moon, and Vishnu. Each gallery has a gopuraat each of the points, and the two inner galleries each have towers at their corners, forming a quincunx with the central tower. Because the temple faces west, the features are all set back towards the east, leaving more space to be filled in each enclosure and gallery on the west side; for the same reason the west-facing steps are shallower than those on the other sides.
The outer gallery measures 187 by 215 m, with pavilions rather than towers at the corners. The gallery is open to the outside of the temple, with columned half-galleries extending and buttressing the structure. Connecting the outer gallery to the second enclosure on the west side is a cruciform cloister called "Preah Poan" (the "Hall of a Thousand Buddhas"). Buddha images were left in the cloister by pilgrims over the centuries, although most have now been removed. This area has many inscriptions relating the good deeds of pilgrims, most written in Khmer but others in Burmese and Japanese. The four small courtyards marked out by the cloister may originally have been filled with water. [Glaize p. 63.] North and south of the cloister are libraries.
Beyond, the second and inner galleries are connected to each other and to two flanking libraries by another cruciform terrace, again a later addition. From the second level upwards, devatas abound on the walls, singly or in groups of up to four. The second-level enclosure is 100 by 115 m, and may originally have been flooded to represent the ocean around
Mount Meru. [Ray, "Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia" p. 195.] Three sets of steps on each side lead up to the corner towers and gopuras of the inner gallery. The very steep stairways represent the difficulty of ascending to the kingdom of the gods. [Ray p. 199.] This inner gallery, called the "Bakan", is a 60 m square with axial galleries connecting each gopura with the central shrine, and subsidiary shrines located below the corner towers. The roofings of the galleries are decorated with the motif of the body of a snake ending in the heads of lions or garudas. Carved lintels and pediments decorate the entrances to the galleries and to the shrines.The tower above the central shrine rises 43 m to a height of 65 m above the ground; unlike those of previous temple mountains, the central tower is raised above the surrounding four. [Briggs p. 199.] The shrine itself, originally occupied by a statue of Vishnu and open on each side, was walled in when the temple was converted to Theravada Buddhism, the new walls featuring standing Buddhas. In 1934, the conservator George Trouvé excavated the pit beneath the central shrine: filled with sand and water it had already been robbed of its treasure, but he did find a sacred foundation deposit of gold leaftwo metres above ground level. [Glaize p. 65.]
Integrated with the architecture of the building, and one of the causes for its fame is Angkor Wat's extensive decoration, which predominantly takes the form of
bas-relieffriezes. The inner walls of the outer gallery bear a series of large-scale scenes mainly depicting episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayanaand the Mahabharata. Higham has called these, "the greatest known linear arrangement of stone carving". [Higham, "Early Cultures of Mainland Southeast Asia" p. 318.] From the north-west corner anti-clockwise, the western gallery shows the Battle of Lanka (from the Ramayana, in which Ramadefeats Ravana) and the Battle of Kurukshetra (from the Mahabharata, showing the mutual annihilation of the Kauravaand Pandavaclans). On the southern gallery follow the only historical scene, a procession of Suryavarman II, then the 32 hells and 37 heavens of Hindu mythology.Glaize writes of;
"... those unfortunate souls who are to be thrown down to hell to suffer a refined cruelty which, at times, seems to be a little disproportionate to the severity of the crimes committed. So it is that people who have damaged others' property have their bones broken, that the glutton is cleaved in two, that rice thieves are afflicted with enormous bellies of hot iron, that those who picked the flowers in the garden ofOn the eastern gallery is one of the most celebrated scenes, the Churning of the Sea of Milk, showing 92 [Glaize]
Shivahave their heads pierced with nails, and thieves are exposed to cold discomfort." [Glaize p. 68.] asuras and 88 devas using the serpent Vasukito churn the sea under Vishnu's direction (Mannikka counts only 91 asuras, and explains the asymmetrical numbers as representing the number of days from the winter solsticeto the spring equinox, and from the equinox to the summer solstice). [Described in Michael Buckley, [http://www.veloasia.com/library/buckley/churning_milk.html The Churning of the Ocean of Milk] ] It is followed by Vishnu defeating asuras (a 16th-century addition). The northern gallery shows Krishna's victory over Bana (where according to Glaize, "The workmanship is at its worst" [Glaize p. 69.] ) and a battle between the Hindu gods and asuras. The north-west and south-west corner pavilions both feature much smaller-scale scenes, some unidentified but most from the Ramayana or the life of Krishna.
Angkor Wat today
Since the 1990s, Angkor Wat has seen a resumption of conservation efforts and a massive increase in tourism. The temple is part of the Angkor
World Heritage Site, established in 1992, which has provided some funding and has encouraged the Cambodian government to protect the site. [Hing Thoraxy, [http://www.lideekhmer.org.kh/publication_roundtable5.htm Achievement of "APSARA"] ] The German Apsara Conservation Project(GACP) is working to protect the devatas and other bas-reliefs which decorate the temple from damage. The organisation's survey found that around 20% of the devatas were in very poor condition, mainly because of natural erosion and deterioration of the stone but in part also due to earlier restoration efforts. [ [http://ospiti.thunder.it/gacp German Apsara Conservation Project] , Conservation, Risk Map, p. 2.] Other work involves the repair of collapsed sections of the structure, and prevention of further collapse: the west facade of the upper level, for example, has been buttressed by scaffolding since 2002, [cite web |url=http://www.autoriteapsara.org/en/apsara/about_apsara/publication/yashodhara/yashodhara_6.html |title=Infrastructures in Angkor Park
accessdate=2008-04-25 |work=Yashodhara no. 6: January - June 2002 |publisher=APSARA Authority] while a Japanese team completed restoration of the north library of the outer enclosure in 2005. [cite web |url=http://www.autoriteapsara.org/en/apsara/about_apsara/news/angkorvat_ceremony.html |title=The Completion of the Restoration Work of the Northern Library of Angkor Wat |accessdate=2008-04-25 |date=June 3, 2005 |work= |publisher=APSARA Authority]
World Monuments Fundbegan work on the Churning of the Sea of Milk Gallery in 2008.
Angkor Wat has become a major tourist destination. In 2004 and 2005, government figures suggest that, respectively, 561,000 and 677,000 foreign visitors arrived in Siem Reap province, approximately 50% of all foreign tourists in Cambodia for both years. [cite web |url=http://www.tourismcambodia.com/Statistics/index.asp?Year=2005 |title=Executive Summary from Jan-Dec 2005 |accessdate=2008-04-25 |work=Tourism of Cambodia |publisher= Statistics & Tourism Information Department, Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia] The influx of tourists has so far caused relatively little damage, other than some
graffiti; ropes and wooden steps have been introduced to protect the bas-reliefs and floors, respectively. Tourism has also provided some additional funds for maintenance—as of 2000 approximately 28% of ticket revenues across the whole Angkorsite was spent on the temples—although most work is carried out by foreign government-sponsored teams rather than by the Cambodian authorities. [Tales of Asia, [http://www.talesofasia.com/cambodia-interviews-AC.htm Preserving Angkor: Interview with Ang Choulean (October 13, 2000)] ]
*BBC Horizon (4 November 1999). [http://www.grahamhancock.com/horizon/horizon_script_2.htm Atlantis Reborn (script)] . Broadcast BBC2 November 4, 1999, retrieved 25 July 2005.
*Briggs, Lawrence Robert (1951, reprinted 1999). "The Ancient Khmer Empire". White Lotus. ISBN 974-8434-93-1.
*Buckley, Michael (1998). "Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Handbook". Avalon Travel Publications. Online excerpt [http://www.veloasia.com/library/buckley/churning_milk.html The Churning of the Ocean of Milk] retrieved 25 July 2005.
*Freeman, Michael and Jacques, Claude (1999). "Ancient Angkor". River Books. ISBN 0-8348-0426-3.
*Glaize, Maurice (2003 edition of an English translation of the 1993 French fourth edition). [http://www.theangkorguide.com/text/part-two/angkorwat-to-angkorthom/angkorwat.htm The Monuments of the Angkor Group] . Retrieved 14 July 2005.
*Higham, Charles (2001). "The Civilization of Angkor". Phoenix. ISBN 1-84212-584-2.
*Higham, Charles (2003). "Early Cultures of Mainland Southeast Asia". Art Media Resources. ISBN 1-58886-028-0.
*Hing Thoraxy. [http://www.lideekhmer.org.kh/publication_roundtable5.htm Achievement of "APSARA": Problems and Resolutions in the Management of the Angkor Area] Retrieved 26 July 2005.
*Ray, Nick (2002). "Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia" (4th edition). ISBN 1-74059-111-9.
*University of Applied Sciences Cologne. [http://ospiti.thunder.it/gacp/ German Apsara Conservation Project] Retrieved 21 June 2005.
* [http://eobglossary.gsfc.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NewImages/Images/angkor_wat_IKO_2004103_lrg.jpgHigh-resolution NASA satellite photograph]
* [http://web.mac.com/davidmaccartney Angkor] History, maps & photos
* [http://archive.cyark.org/angkor-info Angkor digital media archive] - Photos, laser scans, panoramas of Angkor Wat and Banteay Kdei from a
CyArk/ Sophia Universitypartnership.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6945574.stm BBC: Map reveals ancient urban sprawl]
* [http://www.threeland.com/cambodia-travel/Angkor-Wat-Thom.htm Angkor highlights]
* [http://www.socher.org/gallery2/v/Cambodia2006/SiemReapandAngkorArea/1AngkorWat/ 94 photos of Angkor Wat and 600 of surrounding temples]
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=98878&pageno=41 Angkor-Vat, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition ]
* [http://www.theangkorguide.com/ Guide to the Angkor Monuments - English translation of Maurice Glaize's 1944 guide ]
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