Ankor Wat is a spectacular temple complex situated in Cambodia, 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) north of Siem Reap. The name, Angkor Wat, means “Temple City” or “City of Temples”. It is the largest religious monument in the world stretching for an area of 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 m2; 402 acres). The construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the rule of Khmer King Suryavarman II who ruled between 1113 and 1150. It was built to serve as the king’s state temple and capital city of Khmer Empire. The temple is a representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods (in Hindu mythology). Initially Angkor Wat was built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the lord Vishnu. In 14th century, it was converted into a Buddhist temple by adding statues of Buddha. It continues to be a Buddhist temple till present day. Angkor Wat is a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and is the country’s major tourist attraction.
Angkor Wat was built of sandstone blocks and laterite. The sandstone blocks were quarried from the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen which is more than 50km away. These were floated down the Siem Reap River on rafts. According to inscriptions, the laborious task of construction of Angkor Wat involved 300,000 workers and 6000 elephants. Angkor Wat is an ultimate example of the ancient style of Khmer architecture with rich art work and magnificent religious masterpieces. It is surrounded by a 650-foot-wide (200 m) moat with a perimeter of more than 3 miles (5 km) and 13 feet deep (4 m). The rectangular outer wall is 1025m by 800m with a gate on each side. The main entrance lies on the western side of the wall. It is 235m-wide and highly decorated with carvings and sculptures.
The temple stands on a raised terrace. The total height of Angkor Wat, from the ground to the top of the central tower is 213 meters (699 feet). It is made of three rectangular levels, each higher and smaller than the one below. The central tower is surrounded by four smaller towers and enclosure walls. These towers are conical shaped and resemble a lotus bud. The temple is admired for the splendid architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs, and for the vast number of depictions of apsaras and devatas decorating the walls.
In contrast to most of the Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east which is explained by two different theories. The first theory states that king Suryavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple. This view is proposed by the bas-reliefs, which proceed in a anticlockwise direction (Rituals take place in reverse order during Brahminic funeral services). Other theory suggests that it was due to its dedication to Vishnu, who was associated with the west.
Angkor is a typical example of cultural and religious values with high architectural significance. UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage site in 1992. The popularity of the Angkor Wat drew over two million foreign tourists in 2013 to Siem Reap province, Cambodia.