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Angkor Wat Temple

Angkor Wat Temple Angkor Wat Temple

Since the publicised Angkor Wat temple "discovery" in the mid 19th century, it has been described as the largest religious building in the world, and is rightly spoken of as one of the wonders of the ancient world, along with sites such as Macchu Picchu and the Taj Mahal. The temple is located just over 6km from Siem Reap, is the centrepiece of the Angkor Archaeological Park, and has been UNESCO listed as a world heritage site since 1992.

One of the largest Angkor temples, Angkor Wat was built under King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Originally built as a temple to Vishnu, it has been in continuous use as a Buddhist shrine since the adoption of Theravada Buddhism by the Khmer people, meaning it has remained in excellent condition over the centuries. Because of its symbolic representation of ancient Khmer nationhood, the temple survived the Khmer Rouge years relatively undamaged, and tourist numbers have increased steadily since the political situation stabilised.

Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world, situated at Angkor, Cambodia, built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. 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, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture, with key features such as the Jagati. 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 "City Temple"; Angkor is a vernacular form of the word nokor, which comes from the Sanskrit word nagar. Wat is the Khmer form of the Pali word "vatthu", meaning "temple grounds". Prior to this time the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok (Vara Vishnuloka in Sanskrit), after the posthumous title of its founder.