Cambodian Hindu Temple: Angkor Wat

-By Aakash Sinha

Lost in the woods for over 400 years, the discovery of Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu monument shocked the world. Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s famous temple is a place full of rumours, myth and legend. Cambodia’s unwrapped mystery of civilisation that for centuries looked like it never existed. The hidden temple was a stuff of legend until 1860 when a French naturalist, Henri Mohout accidently came to that place during his expedition. He saw the ruins of Angkor Wat where civilization existed over 800 years ago. But why did the civilization collapsed? How did they make this sophisticated temple with no modern technologies? What must have happened?  It’s the high time to uncover these hidden secrets.
Angkor, the capital of last Cambodian empire was the home of millions of people over 800 years ago. The powerful empire covered South East Asia including Vietnam, Bay of Bengal and North West China.
Build in 12th century Angkor Wat is among the wonders of the world. The world largest religious monument has a huge complex stretched in about 200 hectares of land. We can just imagine while approaching the main temple a vast gate would be bluffing that you reached the temple rather the main temple would be another 400 yards. That grabs the attention but to see it is to believe it.
Also known as the city temple as it was surrounded by urban areas (long back before disappearing) it was dedicated to represent Hindu religion god, “Lord Vishnu”. A 213 feet high central tower(temple) encircled by 4 small towers representing Mount Meru, a celestial home of god based on Hindu mythology. It took 50000 workers to build extra ordinary temple, completed in the year 1145. This huge temple can be compared to Egyptian pyramids in context of the strength. Compared to construction of modern European temples which require almost 300 to 400 years, Angkor Wat was completed in only 32 years. How did they do? The answer to this question lies inside the temple. There is a carving in the main temple which gives clues to unfold the mystery of building this huge temple without any modern technology. The story carved in the stones speaks, a lever used to push big stone blocks one over another to assemble it perfectly. This shows Angkor Wat was planned, assembled and then carved.
The surface of this master-piece is covered with carvings that display the Hindu mythological stories originated in India. But how did the stories from India arrive to Cambodia? The answer is “Indian Traders”. The Indian traders travelling towards south east Asia who passed their religion, art and architecture to the local people of Cambodia. This way the traders were an important part of spreading Hindu culture in Cambodian Empire.
Archaeologists also used sophisticated aerial imaging techniques to look into the past of Cambodia. In 1994, NASA took first image which shows Angkor Wat was huge and another recent satellite images shows collection of temples. It also discovered the extensive water management system of the Cambodian empire which doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. This shows the Engineering ethics of Cambodians. They constructed rectangular reservoirs and water systems in such a way that the water from Kulen Mountain irrigates the farms resulting in good harvest. It can only be the work of advanced and skilled people.
How did the civilization collapsed? Hard evidence point towards the failure of Water management system. But debate is still going on. Surprisingly the temple was never abandoned, a group of Buddhist monks stayed there and aggressively worked to save the religious place for 4 centuries. This resulted in the transformation of a Hindu Temple into a Buddhist temple.
In 1992, Angkor Wat was listed as World Heritage site in danger but removed from that list in 2004.France, Japan and China were main contenders of this temple conservation projects aiming in the restoration of temple. The German Apsara Conservation project is working to save the sculptures carved on the stones. Due to the continuous efforts of UNESCO and other nations Angkor Wat has become a major tourist spot with over 2 million people visiting this place every year.
This article was also published in

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