Thursday, September 16, 2010

Angkor Wat Temple

From Angkor the Khmer kings ruled over a vast domain that reached from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal. The temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia were built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD, and represents one of humankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. More than 100 stone temples still stands today, and are the surviving remains of a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis.

Angkor Wat was built by Suryavaram II, and honors the Hindu god Vishnu. Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the galleried temple, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology. The temple is situated within a moat and an outer wall. 2.2 miles long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx (geometric pattern consisting of five coplanar points) of towers. The stones, as smooth as polished marble, were laid without mortar with very tight joints which were sometimes hard to find. The blocks were held together by mortise and tenon joints in some cases, while in others they used dovetails and gravity. The blocks were presumably put in place by a combination of elephants, coir ropes, pulleys and bamboo scaffolding.

At the temple of Phnom Bakheng there are 108 surrounding towers. The number 108 is considered sacred in both Hindu and Buddhist cosmologies as it is the sum of 72 plus 36 (36 being ½ of 72). Another mysterious fact about the Angkor complex is its location 72 degrees of longitude east of the Pyramids of Giza. The temples of Bakong, Prah Ko and Prei Monli at Roluos, south of the main Angkor complex, are situated in relation to each other in such a way that they mirror the three stars in the Corona Borealis as they appeared at dawn on the spring equinox in 10,500 BC. It is interesting to note that the Corona Borealis would not have been visible from these temples during the time period in which they were constructed.

Unlike other temples at Angkor, Ta Prohm has been left as it was found. Ta Prohm's walls, roofs, chambers and courtyards have been sufficiently repaired to stop further deterioration, and the inner sanctuary has been cleared of bushes and thick undergrowth. Built in the later part of the 12th century by Jayavarman VII, Ta Prohm is the terrestrial counterpart of the star Eta Draconis the Draco constellation.
In 1177, approximately 27 years after the death of Suryavarman II, Angkor was sacked by the Chams, the traditional enemies of the Khmer. In the late 13th century, King Jayavarman VIII, who was Hindu, was deposed by his son in law, Srindravarman who spent the previous 10 years in Sri Lanka becoming ordained as a Buddhist monk. Hence, the new King decided to convert the official religion of the empire from Hindu to Buddhist. Since Buddha was Hindu from birth to death and divisions between both the faiths appeared seamless, citizens were quick to follow a faith founded on tranquility without a need for material gain and power.
During half-millennia of Khmer occupation, the city of Angkor became a pilgrimage destination of importance throughout Southeastern Asia. Sacked by the Thais in 1431 and abandoned in 1432, Angkor was forgotten for a few centuries. Wandering Buddhist monks, passing through the dense jungles, occasionally came upon the awesome ruins. Recognizing the sacred nature of the temples but ignorant of their origins, they invented fables about the mysterious sanctuaries, saying they had been built by the gods in a far ancient time. Centuries passed, these fables became legends, and pilgrims from the distant reaches of Asia sought out the mystic city of the gods. One of the first Western visitors to the temple was Antonio da Magdalena, a Portuguese monk who visited in 1586 and said that it "is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decorations and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of".
However, most people continued to believe the stories to be nothing more than legend. That is until the French explorer Henri Mouhot brought Angkor to the world's attention in 1860. The French people were enchanted with the ancient city and beginning in 1908 funded and superbly managed an extensive restoration project. Work was interrupted by the civil war and Khmer Rouge control of the country during the 1970s and 1980s, but relatively little damage was done during this period other than the theft and destruction of mostly post-Angkorian statues. Restoration efforts still continue to this day.
Angkor Wat Temple has its place among pop culture as well. During the midst of the Vietnam War, Chief of State Norodom Sihanouk hosted Jacqueline Kennedy in Cambodia to fulfill her "lifelong dream of seeing Angkor Wat". In January 2003 riots erupted in Phnom Penh when a false rumor circulated that a Thai soap opera actress had claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand. Scenes from the Tomb Raider series were also filmed there. Recently, Josh Gates and the Destination Truth crew performed the first paranormal investigation of Angkor Wat.
This beautiful, ornate temple is a place that has long been associated with spirits. It was believed to be a funerary temple. Locals don't enter into it at night very often. Therefore, it’s never been filmed at night before, providing an excellent location for Josh and his crew. People say they see strange lights, hear strange noises, and have encounters with violent apparitions.


Akira said...

Thank you for the comprehensive information. It should not be confused between Angkor city and Angkor Wat temple. I think Angkor city was built by Surya II, but not Angkor Wat, which was built by his successors..

Anonymous said...

Angkor Wat was constructed as what hindus call the shri chakram (geometric representation of mt Meru).

This type of geometrical shape from legend can be charged by prayer to be powerful and serve as a kind of dynamo to give vitality to those around it.

However there is a downside to the Shri Chakram geometry. Once energised it must be kept energised with positive energy, failing which negative energy will be attracted to it. Some of the more destructive forms of hindu female deities are the representation of this negative energy.

Daniel D said...

Sorry but the the article is mistaken. The Buddha was NOT a Hindu from birth until death as stated in the article. In fact the Buddha renounced he ascetic lifestyle of the Hindu Yogas as a path to enlightenment. He realized this was an extreme practice that although one could develop some realizations it would not lead to ultimate enlightenment. The Buddha developed a Middle way approach as a path to enlightenment and developed his own realizations outside of the Hindu world view. In addition the Hindu belief system includes an absolute soul or self referred to as the Atman, whereas the Buddha said there is not absolute self that we can point to in the absolute sense. He developed a view of no self or Anatman. Just wanted to clarify the mistake in this article. Thanks.