top of page

Angkor Wat: Microcosms of The Cosmos

The vast Angkor Wat temple complex is situated close to Siem Reap in modern-day Cambodia. It was constructed as the Khmer Empire's main temple and political centre in the early 12th century, under King Suryavarman II's rule. In her book Angkor Wat: Time, Space, and Kingship, Eleanor Mannikka demonstrates that the four ages (Yuga) of classical Hindu thinking are paralleled by the spatial dimensions of Angkor Wat. Therefore, a visitor to Angkor Wat is metaphorically transported back to the earliest era of the universe's creation when they walk the causeway to the main entrance and through the courtyards to the last great tower, which formerly housed a figure of Vishnu.

Early in the fifteenth century, Angkor was deserted. Theravada Buddhist monks continued to care for Angkor Wat, which drew tourists from Europe and remained a significant pilgrimage site. Following the establishment of the French colonial regime in 1863, Angkor Wat was "rediscovered."

Construction:

The sandstone blocks used to build Angkor Wat were mined from a location around fifty kilometres distant. The stones were moved to the temple location by rivers and canals. The mythological home of the Hindu gods, Mount Meru, served as the inspiration for the temple's design. It has a sequence of concentric halls and towers that lead to a centre tower that symbolises Mount Meru's pinnacle. The construction of the temple involved thousands of workers, craftsmen, and artisans, and required a massive labour force. The project took several decades to complete, according to estimates.

Architecture:

Famous for its complex and sophisticated architectural characteristics stands Angkor Wat. The complex is one of the biggest religious structures in the world, spanning more than 162 hectares. A causeway that leads to the main entrance leads around the temple, which is ringed by a moat that represents the cosmic ocean. With a height of more than 65 metres, the central tower, also known as the prasat, is the tallest building in the complex. Four lesser towers, which stand in for Mount Meru's peaks, encircle it. Numerous bas-reliefs and carvings that depict scenes from Hindu mythology, historical events, and everyday life in the Khmer Empire adorn the walls of Angkor Wat. Important insights on Khmer art, culture, and society can be gained from these carvings.

Cultural importance:

After being initially devoted to the Hindu deity Vishnu, Angkor Wat was converted into a Buddhist shrine. Its change over time is indicative of the Khmer Empire's changing theological views. As a representation of Cambodia's rich cultural and religious past, Angkor Wat is still a significant Buddhist and Hindu pilgrimage site. As a monument to the accomplishments of the Khmer culture and a masterwork of architecture, Angkor Wat was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.

The main structure of Angkor Wat has been shown in many creative forms on national flags of Cambodia since the 19th century, during the initial period of the French protectorate over the country. The first flag featured a white temple with a blue border around it. In 1948, the dark blue, red, and dark blue horizontal stripes were adopted, "modernising" the flag and making changes to the temple to make it more in line with the original. The flag was still in use when Cambodia gained its independence. But in October 1970, with the declaration of the Khmer Republic and the fall of the monarchy, a new flag was adopted.

Ancient Sanskrit and Khmer texts state that religious structures, and particularly temples, should be arranged in a way that is harmonious with the universe. This means that the temple should be planned in accordance with the rising sun and moon, as well as representing the days, months, and years that repeat themselves. These temple's central axes ought to line up with the planets as well, linking the building to the universe and making it a centre for cosmology, astronomy, politics, religion, and geophysics. Put another way, they are arranged like mandalas, or cosmic diagrams, and are meant to symbolise microcosms of the cosmos.

66 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page