Etymology and history of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site


Angkor Wat is a group of temples in Cambodia and is the largest religious structure in the world, covering 162.6 hectares. Originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu, the god of the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.


It was built in the early 12th century by the Khmer King Suryavarman II as his achievement and grand mausoleum in Yashodarapura, the capital of the Khmer Empire. Breaking with the Shaiva tradition of the previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple in the ruins, it is the only temple that has remained an important religious center since its founding. The temple is the pinnacle of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become the symbol of Cambodia, displayed on the national flag, and is the country’s main attraction for visitors.


Angkor Wat combines the two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture. It is a temple mountain and later a gallery temple. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, the home of the Divas in Hindu mythology. The moat is over 5 km long and the outer wall 3.6 km long with three rectangular galleries, each of the following heights


In the center of the temple is a pentagonal tower. Unlike most Angkor temples, Angkor Wat faces west. Scholars are divided on the importance of this. The temple is admired for its architectural grandeur and harmony, its vast shallow bas-reliefs, and the many demons that adorn its walls.


Angkor Wat Overview


The modern name Angkor Wat (also known as Nokor Wat) means “city of temples” or “city of temples” in Khmer. Angkor, which means “city” or “capital,” is a slang term for the Sanskrit word “nokol,” which comes from the word “nagara”.


Wat is a Khmer word meaning “temple,” and is also derived from Sanskrit, meaning “enclosure”.The original name of the temple was VrahViṣṇuloka or ParamaViṣṇuloka (Sanskrit), which means the sacred abode of Vishnu.


Location and Map of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, located in northwestern Cambodia, is only six kilometers north of Siem Reap, a town that is famous as a tourist destination and would be a good base for visiting Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat covers an area of 162.684 square meters, about the size of Tokyo Dome (85.98010), and is dotted with ruins from the Khmer Empire (Angkor Dynasty). The site is also overgrown with untouched jungle, and new ruins are discovered in the jungle every year.

【Reference】Where Is Angkor Wat?


History of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is located six kilometers north of the modern town of Siem Reap, to the south and a little east of the former capital, centered on Bapuon. It is the southernmost point of the main ruins of Angkor, in an area that contains some of Cambodia’s most important ancient monuments.


According to legend, the construction of Angkor Wat was ordered by Indra to serve as a palace for his son Preecha Khetmealea. According to Zhou Daquan, a 13th century Chinese traveler, some people believe that the temple was built in one night by a divine architect.


Design and erection

The first 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 ). It was dedicated to Vishnu and built as the temple and capital of the king’s state. Neither the stone monument of the base nor any modern inscription about the temple has been found, so its original name is unknown, but it was known as “Varah Vishnu-lok” after the main deity.


The work seems to have been finished shortly after the king’s death, and some of the decoration in shallow relief remains unfinished. In 1177, about 27 years after the death of Suryavarman II, Angkor was sacked by the traditional Khmer enemy, the Chams. The empire was then restored by a new king, Jayavarman VII. Jayavarman VII established a new capital city and state temples (Angkor Thom and Bayon respectively) a few kilometers to the north.


From Hinduism to Buddhism

Towards the end of the 12th century, Angkor Wat gradually changed from a center of Hindu worship to Buddhism, which continues to this day. Angkor Wat is unique among Angkor temples in that it was largely neglected after the 16th century, but was never completely abandoned.


Fourteen 17th-century inscriptions found in the Angkor area testify to Japanese Buddhist pilgrims who established small settlements with Khmer locals. At the time, Japanese visitors considered this temple to be the famous Jetavana Garden of the Buddha in the kingdom of Magadha in India. The most famous inscription is that of Ukondhavkazhusa who celebrated the Khmer New Year at Angkor Wat in 1632.


At the time of discovery by Westerners

One of the first Western visitors to the temple was António da Maddalena, a Portuguese monk who visited in 1586 and wrote, “It is an extraordinary structure, so different from any other building in the world that it is impossible to describe it in words. It has towers and ornaments with all the refinement that genius can imagine”. He went on to say.


In the mid-19th century, the temple was virtually rediscovered by the French naturalist and explorer Henri Mouaud. He popularized the site in the West through the publication of his travel notes.

One of these temples, comparable to Solomon’s rival, was built by Michelangelo in ancient times and may take its place of honor next to our most beautiful building. It is more grandiose than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and stands in sad contrast to the wildbar state into which the nation is now plummeting.


Angkor Wat may relate to the architecture of the Greek and Roman records, which were explored in terms of the eastward rather than westward orientation of the temple. Some architects have written that it is “right” that the construction faces west. In the orientation of temples in Greek and Etruscan contexts, the west is associated with the “right” and the “underworld” to suggest the religious connection of the building.


Henri Muo, like other early western visitors, found it difficult to believe that the Khmers had built the temple and incorrectly dated it to roughly the same time as Rome. His report influenced the already established French government in Indochina to initiate a systematic study of the site. The true history of Angkor Wat has been compiled from stylistic and narrative evidence accumulated during subsequent pioneering and restoration work.


There were no ordinary dwellings, houses, or other signs of settlement, such as cooking utensils, weapons, and clothing normally found in ancient places. Instead, there is only evidence of the monuments themselves. The exploration committee has begun to compile a list of major monuments. In subsequent missions, inscriptions on Angkor buildings were copied so scholars could translate them and learn about Angkor’s history.


By 1885, they had created a chronology of rulers and developed an outline of descriptions of the civilizations that gave rise to the temple complexes. In 1898, the French decided to invest a large amount of money in the preservation of Angkor. After centuries of neglect, the jungle has been able to reclaim many of its more important structures, which will soon be destroyed unless efforts are made to free the buildings from the giant banyan trees and silk cottonwoods.


Restoration of Angkor Wat

In the 20th century, Angkor Wat was considerably restored. Teams of workers and archaeologists gradually cleared the jungle, exposing expanses of stone and allowing the sun to once again illuminate the dark corners of the temple. During the 1970s and 1980s, work was interrupted by the Cambodian Civil War and Khmer Rouge control of the country, but during this period only relatively minor damage was done.


Camp Khmer Rouge troops used the remaining wood in the building structure for firewood, and a firefight between Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese troops punched several bullet holes in the shallow relief. Far more damage was done after the war, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, by thieves who claimed that almost any head, including reconstruction, could be stripped from the structure.


This temple is a powerful symbol of Cambodia and a source of great national pride considering Cambodia’s diplomatic relations with France, the United States and its neighbor Thailand. The depiction of Angkor Wat has been part of the Cambodian national flag since the introduction of the first version around 1863.


However, from a larger historical and even cultural perspective, the temples of Angkor Wat were not symbols of national pride, but were inscribed in a larger political and cultural process of French colonial production that presented the location of the original temples at the French Colonial Universal Exposition held in Paris and Marseille between 1889 and 1937. From around 1880 to the mid-1920s, Louis de la Porte’s museum, called the Musée Indochinois, existed in the Trocadero Palace in Paris.


The wonderful artistic heritage of Angkor Wat and other Khmer monuments in the Angkor area led directly to the French invading Siam on August 11, 1863 to adopt Cambodia as a protectorate and control the ruins. This allowed Cambodia to cultivate land in the northwest corner of the country that had been under Siamese (Thai) rule since 1351 AD (Manik Jum Sai 2001), or in some accounts 1431 AD.


Inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Cambodia gained independence from France on November 9, 1953, and has managed Angkor Wat ever since. From the colonial period until its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, it is no exaggeration to say that this particular temple in Angkor Wat contributed to the formation of the modern and gradually globalized concept of cultural heritage.


In December 2015, it was announced that a team of researchers from the University of Sydney had discovered a previously invisible ensemble of buried towers constructed and demolished during the construction of Angkor Wat. The findings include evidence of low-density residential settlements in the area, with road networks, ponds, and mounds.


These indicate that the moated and walled precincts of the temple were not used only by the priestly elite, as previously thought. The team used LiDAR, ground-penetrating radar, and targeted drilling to map Angkor Wat.

【Reference】Angkor Wat From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia