Monday, February 13, 2012

Angkor Wat - Arrival

Finally we reached Angkor Wat. Arguably the most famous of structures in Cambodia, it is the pinnacle for many tourists. The largest within Angkor, it may even be the largest religious structure in the world. Never completely abandoned, Angkor Wat is the best preserved temple in Angkor. Built by King Suryavarman II from around 1113-1150, Angkor Wat was actually dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. In the 16th century, it was converted into a Buddhist Monastery and temple, which still functions to this day.

Symbolism abounds at Angkor Wat. The moat (still containing water) symbolizes the seven oceans. The bridge represented a link from the kings to the gods. Its inner wall and towers represent the seven mountains which were home to the gods. The three towers of the Wat represent the three Hindu gods - Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. The central tower is meant to be like the mythical Mount Meru, surrounded by smaller peaks and the continents (courtyards). 
Angkor Wat was built on this location due to its proximity to a sandstone quarry, large lake, and fertile land. Over 500,000 volunteers built the structures, believing that their service would provide them a better life. Around 200,000 elephants transported rocks to the site using rattan rope. Sadly, only around 300 wild elephants remain in Cambodia.

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