Monday, January 26, 2009

THE MAJESTIC ANGKOR WAT: Cambodia's Phenomenon





Hartfried Schmid

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Angkor Wat, is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. It is the only significant religious centre to have remained throughout the centuries. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, the home of the gods. In the 14th or 15th century, the temple was converted to Theravada Buddhist use, which continues to the present day. Henri Mouhot's, a french explorer used the following words to describe the magnificence of the temple:

"One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo—might take an honourable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged."

The outer wall stands 1024 by 802 m and 4.5 m high and is surrounded by a 30 m of open ground and a ditch of 190 m wide. The temple stands on a terrace raised higher than the city; it is made of three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower, each level higher than the last. The building is also decorated with bas relief carvings.

Angkor Wat required considerable restoration in the 20th century, mainly the removal of accumulated earth and vegetation. Today, Angkor Wat continues to be a popular tourist attraction. The temple is part of the Angkor World Heritage Site, established in 1992, which has provided some funding and has encouraged the Cambodian government to protect the site.

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