Angkor Site and Angkor Wat temple

Angkor is one of the few archeological sites that can be seen from outer space. It is the largest historic site of over 400 sites that are listed in the UNESCO World heritage list (UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Angkor means city or capital; it was a glorious period of the Khmer empire for 6 century from 802 to 1431. Many famous kings like Jayavarman VII, Suryavarman II, Rajendravarman II, Yasovarman I and Jayavarman II are listed in the Angkor history. Angkor was inaugurated from 802 during the reign of king Jayavarman II who re-conquered the country from the invasion of Java (Indonesia) and reunited the nation by using the power of the God King ritual. The peak of the Khmer empire was the 12th century during the reign of king Suryavarman II (1113-1150) who built Angkor Wat, the largest monument in the site. And, it was ended by King Ponha Yat who moved the capital from Angkor to Phnom Penh in 1431; because the border was too close to Siam and their ransacking.

Angkor Wat had been occupied by Buddhist monks since the 14th century and it was well preserved. According to Mr. Michael D. Coe, The imperial city's best-known monument, the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex, has been continuously occupied by an active community of monks ever since the introduction to Angkor of Theravada Buddhism as a state religion at the beginning of the fourteenth century.

French naturalist and explorer Henri Mouhot entered Angkor for three weeks in 1860 and also declared his discovery of the sites to Europe. Mouhot worked in England's Royal Geographical Society and the Zoological Society of London; he had a commission to explore Siam, Cambodia and Laos. Mouhot began his journey in 1858, by January 1860, he had reached Angkor. Mouhot, who died of fever in Luang Prabang, Laos, in 1861 at the age of 35, admitted that he was not its actual 'discoverer'. His documents of the discovery were published in 1864.

In 1898, the Ecole Fran'aise d'Extreme Orient (EFEO), which was founded to study the history, language and archaeology of Indo-china in an effort to protect the ancient sites, was established in Cambodia. In 1908, Angkor conservation was built in Siem Reap with responsibility for research and restoration; and conducted by the French archeologist, art historian and epigraphers of the EFEO.

There were so many art thieves during the war's time. Statues, carvings and many other masterpieces were destroyed and sold. Thus, UNESCO listed the Angkor Archeological Site as a World Heritage Sites in December 1992. Now, the Angkor complex covers an area of 401 square kilometers which is protected.


Angkor Wat: 'the city which is a temple'

If you drive to the North of Siem Reap town about 7 kilometers, you will see a huge monument which is surrounded by a large moat, known as Angkor Wat temple. This is the largest one in the site, which was built in the first half of the 12th century during the reign of king Suryavarman II (1113-circa 1150). Hindu's god Vishnu and king himself were the purposes of the mountain temple building. Its size, architecture, proportion, balance, relief and sculpture are perfect to make it one of the finest monuments in the world.

The building of Angkor Wat was not constructed by change, actually, every part like its wall, moat, central sanctuary, pyramidal temple, entrances and its bridge with Naga balustrade represent in stone of Hindu cosmology. Mount Meru, home of gods which was surrounded by 7 circular and concentric chains of mountains, separated by many oceans, beyond them is the great ocean, each cardinal point contain four continents. Thus, the symbolism of the mountain temple of Angkor Wat is Mount Meru. The 5 towers of Angkor Wat correspond to the 5 peaks of The Mount Meru. The outside moat and wall is symbolized as the 7 chains of mountain and oceans that surround Mount Meru. The causeway is the rain-bow bridge that link earth to heaven (Coed's 1963).
Cambodia has put a figure of Angkor Wat on national flag. The temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people, and the lasting grandeur of their past. Since December 1992, Angkor Wat and other Angkorian temples have been listed as UNESCO "World Heritage".

It took around 30 years to build this huge monument. Name Angkor Wat has been called since the 16th century. At that time, Khmer and many people from Southeast Asia came to Angkor Wat for his religious purpose, especially for Buddhist pilgrims. The local people call Angkor Wat as little Angkor and regard it as a national symbolism.

This temple covers an area of about 200 hectares and was built as a pyramid with 3 tiers surrounded by a moat (1500m from west to east and 1300m from north to south), walls (1025m by 800) and galleries. The famous gallery is decorated by bas-reliefs, which is 2 meters in height with a total area of more than 1,000 square meters by excluding the corner pavilions (APSARA Authority 2004).

The bas-reliefs illustrate the mythologies of Hindu, especially revealing incarnations of Vishnu in Mahabharata and Ramayana. There is also an historic scene of the king who was the founder of this temple, the march of soldiers and the audience of the king.
Among the rich arts of Angkor Wat, the famous Devatas, Apsaras illuminate her soft smile on the wall. Everywhere on the sandstone are carving with different splendid motives.

George Coed's (1886-1969), was a 20th century scholar of southeast Asian archaeology and history. He became director of the National Library of Thailand in 1918, and in 1929 became director of L'Ecole francaise d'Extreme Orient, where he remained until 1946. Thereafter he lived in Paris until he died in 1969. He wrote two seminal texts in the field, The Indianized States of Southeast Asia (1968, 1975) and The Making of South East Asia (1966), as well as innumerable articles, in which he developed the concept of the Indianized kingdom. However, the modern consensus is that the Indianization was less complete than Coed's had believed, with many indigenous practices surviving underneath the Indian surface.