Angkor Wat History

Located in the plush beauty of northern Cambodia lies a famous colossal Buddhist temple, the Angkor Wat. It is vast, known as the largest religious monument in the world and it is spread across more than 400 acres. The historical temple is located in the north of modern Cambodia, roughly 5 miles from Siem Reap city, a city containing almost 200,000 people.

Angkor Wat History – A Hindu or Buddhist Temple?

As per the records available with Angkor Wat history, the place of spirituality was initially built as a Hindu temple in the first half of the 12th century, originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. The name Angkor Wat historically translated to ‘capital city temple’ as ‘Angko’ means ‘capital city’ in the Khmer language, while the word ‘Wat’ means ‘temple.’  The name references the fact Emperor Suryavarman II built it. The temple served as the capital of the Khmer Empire and also used as the state temple and political center of Emperor Suryavarman II's empire, who ruled the region from 1113 to 1150.

Read More: When Was Angkor Wat Built?


The Angkor Wat history shows that it was initially a Hindu temple because the king at the time, Suryavarman II, was also a Hindu. However, Angkor Wat was then considered a Buddhist site, around the end of the 12th century.

Around the end of the 12th Century, Angkor Wat and its history were sacked by a rival tribe to the Khmer. This tribe, in turn, moved their capital to Angkor Thom in the direction of the new emperor, Jayavarman VII. They then moved their state temple from Angkor Wat to Bayon. The name then changed its meaning and was then translated to ‘temple city’ in the Khmer language of north Cambodia.

After this invasion, the Buddhist religion of the region amplified Angkor Wat history and significance, which also leads to the rapid increase of the Buddhist population in the region. These increases in the population soon lead to the popularity of the Buddhist legend surrounding the site. Most Buddhists of the region are convinced that the temple was constructed in one night under the order of Lord Indra. The archaeological scholars, however, now are aware that from the design phase of Angkor Wat to the completion, it took several decades to build it.

By the 13th century, even though Angkor Wat was no longer a site of historical, cultural, political, or commercial significance. But it had its own eminence in the Buddhist religion till the 1800s. Although the temple gradually fell into disuse and disrepair, fortunately, Angkor Wat was never truly abandoned, unlike many other historical sites, which is why it was rediscovered.

Read More: Why Was Angkor Wat Abandoned?


Angkor Wat History - Rediscovery of Angkor Wat and its Architecture

Angkor Wat history depicts that it was rediscovered by the French explorer Henri Mouhot in the 1840s who knew the site was an architectural marvel and also described it as ‘grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.’ The temple’s design attributed the compliment as it was meant to represent the home of gods, Mount Meru, mentioned by the tenets of both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. The five towers of Angkor Wat represent the five prominent peaks of magnificent Mount Meru. The surrounding walls and moat represent the gigantic mountain ranges and gushing sea.

The architectural style of Khmer reflects the exquisite usage of Sandstone. While exploring the Angkor Wat temple, it becomes evident that sandstone has been used to carve out this majestic temple. A 15-foot-high, sturdy wall, as well as a moat, is there. Together, they ensured that the temple remained safe from any form of invasion.

Angkor Wat as it Stands Today

Angkor Wat still remained in use until fairly recently that was in the Angkor Wat history - 1800s, but it then stopped being an active temple. Unfortunately, the site nurtured notable damage, from forest luxuriance to earthquakes and even war. Despite the fact that the temple sustained significant damage during the autocratic rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and earlier regional conflicts, it serves as an important tourist attraction in Cambodia. In the early 1900s, the restoration work finally started. Cambodia was under the rule of France during the 20th century. Under their rule, the restoration process started because they found the place to be a profitable one in terms of tourism.

Read More: How to Visit Angkor Wat?     What to See inside Angkor Wat?


Since Angkor Wat history was a magnificent one, the site continues to remain an important source of national pride for Cambodians. UNESCO World Heritage named Angkor Wat as its site in 1992. The place is still believed to be very magical and spiritual and welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.