“Angkor Wat (/ˌæŋkɔːr ˈwɒt/; Khmer: អង្គរវត្ត “Buddhist Monastery in the city”) is a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world by land area, on a site measuring 162.6 hectares (1.626 km2; 402 acres). Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura (Khmer: យសោធរបុរៈ, present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. But towards the end of 12th century, it was converted into a Buddhist Temple, which continues to present day. 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. Today, it is one of the most important pilgrimage site for the Buddhists in Cambodia and around the world. 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 and Buddhist cosmology within a moat more than 5 kilometres (3 mi) long 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 statues of Buddhas and Devas adorning its walls.” (WP)
“The sprawling temple complex at Angkor, in Cambodia, is originally known as a Hindu site. It was created under the patronage of the king Suryavarman II (ruled 1113–50). Dedicated to the Hindu god Viṣṇu, it was planned as a model of the cosmos, with Mount Meru at its center. Angkor Wat’s rising series of towers and courtyards are vertically dominated by a 213-foot lotus-blossom-shaped central tower. Angkor is probably the largest religious structure in the world.” (EoBDK – JNK)
“One of the most impressive complexes at Angkor is Angkor Thom, literally “the great city,” the last capital of the Khmer empire and, during its peak, a sprawling city of nearly a million inhabitants. Within the city are the remains of dozens of structures, including Suryavarman’s palace and the Phimeanakas, the state temple. At the center of Angkor Thom rises the Golden Tower of the Bayon, a soaring Buddhist temple which is surrounded by more than thirty lesser towers and several hundred stone shrines which originally would have housed (based on inscriptional evidence) a vast array of Buddha and bodhisattva images, as well as images of Prajñāpāramitā, Tārā, and lesser Buddhist deities (most of these images were long ago removed from the temple). A particularly common image type seems to have been a seated Buddha sheltered by the nāga (serpent) Mucalinda. One of most well-known features of the site is the dozens of smiling faces that adorn the smaller towers surrounding the main structure. It is unclear who or what these images represent, although it is generally agreed that they are the compassionate bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, perhaps modeled on the face of Jayavarman VII himself. These massive faces, which are placed on each side of each of the smaller towers, look out to the four cardinal points and seem to signify the omnipresence of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, the one who sees all.” (EoBDK – JNK)
“In part because it is laid out as a massive maṇḍala, the Bayon at Angkor Thom seems to be intended to represent a microcosm of the universe, divided into four parts by the main axes that run through the center of the complex. The temple is situated at the exact center of the axes and stands as the symbolical link between heaven and earth.” (EoBDK – JNK)
“The temple itself, as it now stands, consists of three levels. The lower two are lined with bas-reliefs and the third includes a central sanctuary. It is a massive structure, with various courtyards, image niches (or galleries), towers, and terraces. The massive central tower rises to 130 feet. In addition to the images drawn from the Mahāyāna and Hindu pantheons – reflecting, perhaps, a religious syncretism on the part of the Khmer rulers – many of the bas-reliefs at the Bayon depict mundane scenes – fishing, festivals, the marketplace, and cockfights – as well as scenes of royal processions and large-scale military battles.” (EoBDK – JNK)
See also: Art, Buddhist; Sacred places; Stūpa.