Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia was initially constructed as a Hindu temple and holds the record as among the largest religious monument in Cambodia and the world. It is a national symbol of Cambodia and an epitome of Khmer civilization. The temple was later converted to Buddhism in 14th century.
Angkor Wat Temple History:
Ankor Wat Temple history is quite interesting. The temple was constructed during the 12th century under the leadership of Khmer King Suryavarna II, which was then the capital of Khmer Empire. The temple was constructed as his mausoleum as well as his state temple. The temple was a dedication to lord Vishnu. Today, the ancient temple remains one of the best-preserved temples and most significant since its inception. The architecture contained is a representation of the Khmer and today it has become the main symbol when visiting Cambodia.
Angkor Wat is a combination of two architectural designs of the Khmer temple, the mountain and galleries derived from the ancient Dravidian architecture. It is more than a temple, it was a temple city. One of the key features of this temple is the Jagati, which is a representation of the Mount Meru, which the home to lords and devas in Hindu mythology.
The magnificent sanctum sanctorum which houses Lord Vishnu is a tall central structure which can be reached through steep stair case. The temple was converted to a Buddhist temple in the 14th century. The Buddha statues were added to the already rich network to make it unique. The temple is installed with 65 meters central towers and is surrounded by 4 smaller towers and enclosure walls. These walls recreate Mount Meru.
Angkor Wat Temple is surrounded by 200m moat, encompassing perimeter covering 5km. The moat is 4m deep and helps to stabilize the temple foundation. This prevents groundwater rising too high and falling low. Its main entrance is situated to the west in relation to Vishnu. The guardian lions mark their way.
Apsara carvings: Carvings of more than 3000 apsaras ((heavenly nymphs) is one of the main attractions inside the Hindu temple. These carvings represent the female spirits of clouds. The apsara carvings located all over the temple represent the youthful and elegant supernatural females.
The Battle of Kurukshetra: Other famous bas relief includes The Battle of Kurukshetra, from the Hindu epic the Mahabharata. The scene depicts Kaurava and the Pandava, as they meet in battle over the throne of Hastinapura.
Battle of Lanka: This bas relief depicts a scene from Ramayana where, Prince Rama and the monkey General Hanuman lead an army of monkeys into battle against an army of demons led by King Ravana. Another bas-relief depicts the Churning Sea of Milk where god Vishnu is placed in the center.
Best Time to visit Angkor Wat Temple
Angkor Wat Temple can be visited anytime during the year. However, the peak season is in November to around March. The weather remains cool and dry. This is the most crowded seasons as well. But to have a good time, visit the place in June and October when it is quiet. This is the time when it is hotter and potentially wet.
The best time to visit is during the morning when not many people have arrived. Well, visiting the temple just before the sun rise is the most exciting activity while visiting Ankor Wat. You will see the sun casting yellow warm glow, making the whole complex luminous and magical. And when the sun is out, you will see you were not alone! It is quite a mystical experience.
Another way to experience the glory of Angkor Wat Temple is to take an early morning Balloon ride, where you can see the warm glow engulfing the complex from high above, it is truly exhilarating!
Other temples in Cambodia
Cambodia has several Hindu temples, receives hundreds of visitors annually. These temples have become the house of worship and sacrifices for religious people. Apart from the famous Angkor Wat, one can visit other temples such as Angkor Thom, Bayon temple, Banteay Srey , Prea Rup, Ta Prohm, Phimeanakas, each with diverse sculptural decorations and architecture.
Hinduism in Cambodia
Cambodia experienced its first Hinduism revolution during the reign of Funan Kingdom. In fact, this was one of the Khmers empire religions. Though Theravada Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia, the introduction for Hinduism can be documented from the 5th century, and around Eastern Asia. Today, the country hosts two temples dedicated to Brahma.
- One must stock up on bottles of cold water and chocolate bars while visiting in hotter months, as the high temperature and humidity can leave you quite dehydrated and delirious.
- Women and men are supposed to cover their shoulders and knees, so it is best to keep extra cotton scarves in a back pack, they come handy while visiting some holy sites!
- Visit floating villages around Siem Reap and enjoy breathtaking sunset over the vast expanse of Tonle Sap, before heading back to the hotel.