Angkor Wat, Cambodia's famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, is breathtaking and thrilling to explore. It was first a Hindu religion temple and then later turned into a Buddhist temple. It is located in Cambodia and was built by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Below are the top 14 interesting facts that you need to know about Angkor Wat.
The Angkor ruins stretch over more than 248 square miles
1. Angkor Wat is the symbol of pristine Khmer architecture.
Angkor Wat is a typical example of the classical Khmer-style . Until the 12th century, Khmer architects became mature and confident in the use of sandstone (rather than brick or stone) as the main building material.
Architecturally, the typical elements of this style include oval towers like lotus buds; small corridors to widen the aisle; rooms along the axes to connect the courtyard, and the cross stairs appear along the main axis of the temple.
2. The temple has been built to represent Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu Mythology lord of Brahma.
In Brahmanism, Meru is a mountain range of myths. The supreme Vishnu dwells on top of the highest mountain. Meru is a symbol that originated in Hindu culture and then influenced Indian Buddhism.
3. Unlike other temples in the region that are aligned facing to the east, this temple was aligned to the west, a direction typically associated with death in Hindu culture.
Some researchers believe that the orientation of Angkor Wat was due to the worship of Vishnu, a god associated with the West.
4. It is not until the 16th century that the temple came to be known by its present name.
Before this, it was known as Pisnulok, the official title of the Khmer King Suryavarman II.
5. Angkor Wat – The World Heritage Site by UNESCO
In recognition of the important part it played in both the Hinduism and Buddhism, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1992.
6. The decorations on the walls of the temple have a Hindu story which has pictures of fables and myths telling of the temple's origin in Hindu religion.
In 2010, Noel Hidalgo Tan, a geologist at the Australian National University, discovered hidden pictures on the wall in Angkor Wat. After being digitally enhanced, the paintings show up with elephants, lions, Hindu Hanuman monkeys, boats, and houses - even the images of Angkor Wat.
7. Angkor Wat is the symbol on the flag of Cambodia
The image of Angkor Wat appears in Cambodian flag
8. A wonder has not been fully discovered
Archaeologists have found many settlements of ancient people thousands of years ago thanks to the help of advanced technology.
According to International Business Times, in 2016, scientists found many ancient areas buried for thousands of years, from the network of cities around the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia to the commercial center under the Tanzanian beach and a mysterious city in Honduras.
9. Angkor Wat was built without using mortar
Khmer bricks were bonded together almost invisibly by using a vegetable compound rather than mortar.
10. The sandstone used to construct Cambodia's national monument, at least 5 million tons worth, was carried from a quarry 25 miles away.
The construction of Angkor Wat was not an easy task as it involved lots of detailed artistic work and digging. The moat, which measures 190 meters in width, needed around 1.5 million cubic meters of sand and silt to be moved. This task alone would have involved thousands of people working at one time.
11. Henri Mouhot – who introduced the majestic beauty of Angkor Wat to the world
Henri Mouhot, a French explorer, helped bring Angkor Wat to fame in the West by publishing an account of his visit in the mid-19th century. His book is Travels in Siam, Cambodia, Laos, and Annam. Henrri Mouhut's important goal in this trip was probably to try to find the capital of the ancient kingdom of Cambodia - which was depicted in a book of a Chinese diplomat called Zhou Daguan, written in 1296-1297.
12. Most of the money to restore Angkor Wat comes from foreign aid.
According to the report of the Management Board of the temple, there are 21 organizations from 13 countries including China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, USA, Australia, Hungary, and Korea participating in the restoration projects.
As the temple was originally built without the use of cement, sand, and iron, the masonry was built using only sandstone to ensure the purity of the temple.
13. Ta Prohm – the main set of “Tomb Raider”
The film takes the Cambodian tourism to a new height, attracting millions of tourists all over the world to visit Cambodia. The main scene of the film is orbited around ancient Angkor temples, especially the mysterious Ta Prohm temple. The crumbling and ruined scenery along with live-action of the famous star - Angelina Jolie - have made the film even more successful.
14. It has five towers rather than three like pictures you see in magazines or on photos all over the internet.
Angkor Wat has five towers
Five towers are interconnected by three levels of architecture, including the highest tower (up to 65m) and four additional towers (40m) surrounding. The tallest tower í located in the center and the remaining four towers are put at four corners.
Merely admiring Angkor Wat for its beauty is not enough. You should know a little bit about its history to appreciate the structure a whole better!