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Angkor Wat & The Temples of Angkor


Angkor Wat or “Capital Temple” is a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. It was first a Hindu and later a Buddhist temple. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura, present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation. The temple is at the top 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. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of 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 adorning its walls.


The modern name, Angkor Wat, means “Temple City” or “City of Temples” in Khmer; Angkor, meaning “city” or “capital city”, is a vernacular form of the word nokor, which comes from the Sanskrit word nagara (नगर). Wat is the Khmer word for “temple grounds” (Sanskrit: वाट vāṭa “”enclosure”).


Angkor Wat, located at 13°24′45″N 103°52′0″E, is a unique combination of the temple mountain, the standard design for the empire’s state temples and the later plan of concentric galleries. The temple is a representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods: the central quincunx of towers symbolises the five peaks of the mountain, and the walls and moat the surrounding mountain ranges and ocean. Access to the upper areas of the temple was progressively more exclusive, with the laity being admitted only to the lowest level.

Unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east. This has led many (including Maurice Glaize and George Coedès) to conclude that Suryavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple. 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. The archaeologist Charles Higham also describes a container which may have been a funerary jar which was recovered from the central tower. It has been nominated by some as the greatest expenditure of energy on the disposal of a corpse. 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.

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 the structure represents 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’s suggestions have been received with a mixture of interest and scepticism in academic circles. She distances herself from the speculations of others, such as Graham Hancock, that Angkor Wat is part of a representation of the constellation Draco.

However, it is important to know the facts so below you will find compelling information by Graham Hancock through his mathematical and astronomical investigation of Angkor Wat.

According to Graham Hancock, Angkor Wat and all the temples were conceived by its builders as a symbolic diagram of the universe. The notion of a land that is the image of heaven on which are built cosmic temples with halls that resemble the sky was an idea that took root in Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat consists of a series of five inter nested rectangular enclosures. The short dimensions are aligned with high precision to true north-south, showing no deviation whatever according to modern surveys. The long dimensions are oriented, equally precisely, to an axis that has been deliberately diverted 0.75 degrees south of east and north of west.

The first and outermost of the five rectangles that we find ourselves looking down on from the air is the moat. Measured along its outer edge it runs 1300 meters north to south and 1500 meters from east to west.

Its ditch, (moat) 190 meters wide, has walls made from closely fitted blocks of red sandstone set out with such precision that the accumulated surveying error around the entire 5.6 kilometers of the perimeter amounts to barely a centimeter.

Angkor Wats principal entrance is on the west side where a megalithic causeway 347 meters long and 9.4 meters wide bears due east across the moat and then passes under a massive gate let into the walls of the second of the five rectangles. This second enclosure measures 1025 x 800 meters. The causeway continues eastward through it, past lawns and subsidiary structure and a large reflecting pool, until it rises on to a cruciform terrace leading into the lowest gallery of the temple itself. This is the third of the five inter nested rectangles visible from the air and precision engineering and surveying are again in evidence with the northern and southern walls, for example, being of identical lengths, exactly 202.14 meters.

Ascending to the fourth rectangle, the fourth level of Angkor Wats gigantic central pyramid, the same precision can be observed. The northern and southern walls measure respectively 114.24 and 114.22 meters. At the fifth and last enclosure, the top level of the pyramid which reaches a height of 65 meters above the entrance causeway the northern wall is 47.75 meters in length and the southern wall 47.79 meters.

According to a study published in the journal Science, these minute differences, less than 0.01 percent, demonstrates an astounding degree of accuracy on the part of the ancient builders.

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