Angkor Wat is a temple in Cambodia and the largest religious structure in the world with the site measuring 162.6 hectares. It is about 6 km from the town of Siem Reap. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple and then gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.
Angkor Wat is the reason most travellers visit Cambodia. Angkor means “city” and Wat means “temple”. It is an architectural masterpiece and one of the most spectacular monuments in the world. It is featured on the national flag of Cambodia.
Construction of Angkor Wat took nearly 40 years. It was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II in honour of the Hindu god Vishnu. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, within a 200 meter wide moat and an outer wall of 3.6 kilometres. There are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands 5 towers, shaped like lotus buds, symbolising the 5 peaks of Mount Meru, the walls and moat representing the surrounding mountains and ocean. One of the most prominent features of Angkor Wat is its bas reliefs of feminine figures.
The monument was made out of 5 to 10 million sandstone blocks. The entire city used up far greater amounts of stone than all the Egyptian pyramids combined. Moreover, unlike the Egyptian pyramids which use limestone quarried 0.5 km away, the entire city of Angkor was built with sandstone quarried 40 km away.
A Portuguese monk visited Angkor Wat in the 16th century. He said that it is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it by pen. Global awareness of the temple started in the mid 19th century. The site was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1992 .
I visited the Angkor Wat temple as part of the small circle tour of Angkor Wat Archaeological Park.