Angkor Wat is situated in Siem Reap in northwest Cambodia. It is a temple complex and one of the most important religious monuments in the world. It has become the symbol of Cambodia and the pride of its people. The massive temple site is a must-see when visiting the country and it attracts nearly 2.6 million tourists every year. So, if you are planning a trip, or are just curious, here are some of the most interesting facts about Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
7 Interesting Facts about Angkor Wat in Cambodia
1. It is the largest religious monument in the world
Stretching over some 162.6 hectares, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park is the largest religious site in the world. Scattered across the park are the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire. These date from the 9th to the 15th century. This includes 72 major temples and many minor temples. The most famous is the Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.
2. It is one of the largest archaeological sites in operation in the world
UNESCO designated Angkor Wat a World Heritage Site in 1992 in recognition of it as an important cultural site and one of the largest archaeological sites in operation in the world. UNESCO describes it as “a major site exemplifying cultural, religious and symbolic values, as well as containing high architectural, archaeological and artistic significance.”
3. This Buddist temple used to be a Hindu site
King Jayavarman II established the Angkor state in the year 802. Originally, Angkor Wat was a Hindu site. King Jayavarman II built it for the god Vishnu. Vishnu “The Preserver” is the second god in the Hindu triumvirate. He protects the universe from destruction and preserves it. Over the years, it gradually incorporated Buddhist structures and by the end of the 12th-century, it became a Buddhist temple.
4. Mount Meru inspired Angkor Wat
The five central towers of Angkor Wat symbolise the peaks of Mount Meru. In Hindu, Jain and Buddhist cosmology, Mount Meru is a golden mountain in the centre of the universe. It is the axis of the world and the home of the gods. The three chief Hindu gods living in Mount Meru are Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. Also living there are the Devas, the Hindu demi-gods.
5. The clue is in the name
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer. The phrase ‘Angkor Wat’ means ‘City of Temples’ in the Khmer language. Its original name, however, was ‘Vrah VishnuLok’. This means ‘the sacred dwelling of Vishnu’ in Sanskrit, which is the sacred language of Hinduism.
6. Angkor Wat faces west
Most Khmer temples face to the east, but not Angkor Wat. One theory for this is to do with Vishnu, who is associated with facing the west. With Angkor Wat being dedicated to Vishnu, its temples do the same. Another theory put forth is to do with life and death. The sun rises in the east (life-giving) and sets in the west (associated with death). It is thought that the original intention may have been to use Angkor Wat as a funeral ground, much like the pyramids in Giza in Egypt.
7. Angkor Wat is on the flag of Cambodia
The flag of Cambodia has featured Angkor Wat since 1850. It is one of just six flag states to have a building on its flag. The other countries are Afghanistan, Bolivia, Portugal, San Marino and Spain.