Angkor Wat Significance: Why Is It Important?
Tourists flow in Cambodia from different parts of the globe throughout the year. However, why are so many tourists visiting Cambodia? While the country has an abundance of natural beauty and rich cultural history, what most tourists want to witness is the wonderful temple complex of Angkor Wat.
Read More: Angkor Wat History
Located around 6km (3.7mi) away from Siem Reap, one of the country’s most prominent cities, Angkor Wat is one of the world’s most historic religious monuments. But what really is Angkor Wat significance? Read on to find out.
The Architecture of the Ancient Angkor Civilization
Angkor Wat is at the center of the ancient kingdom of Angkor, which saw several centuries of power and prosperity under the rule of the Angkor Empire between the 8th and the 12th century.
Finest Sandstone Architecture in the World
While Cambodia is a Buddhist-majority country in today’s times, the religious dynamic was quite different back in the days of the Angkor kingdom. Hinduism was the most widely practiced religion and both the rulers and the common folk took Angkor Wat significance seriously. The Hindu God who was worshipped the most was Lord Shiva, regarded in Hindu mythology as “the Destroyer”.
However, Suryavarman II, the man whose ideas gave the world the gift of Angkor Wat, was a ruler who worshipped Lord Vishnu. To promote the worship of Lord Vishnu and Angkor Wat significance across the Angkor Kingdom, he commissioned the building of an enormous temple city.
Suryavarman II employed 300,000 of the local population known as Khmers and approximately 6,000 elephants to transform his ideas into reality. A three or four-decade-long construction project, during which he passed away, brought his ideas to life, resulting in a city that boasted of the finest sandstone architecture in the world; Angkor Wat.
The city consisted of numerous temples, but the central temple was the biggest and featured five towers, which were constructed to recreate Mount Meru and added to Angkor Wat significance. In Hindu mythology, Mount Meru happens to be the home of several deities. Apart from the towers, there were galleries and halls across multiple floors, with stairways connecting them in a systematic and organized manner.
Even though the temple’s ruins in today’s times don’t reflect the grandeur of the times when the temple complex was a living, breathing city, it is a reminder to the world about the architectural capabilities of the ancient Khmers. Their meticulous work with sandstone is one of the things that highlight Angkor Wat significance.
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Showcase of the Glorious History of a Country Riddled with Conflicts in the Recent Past
From the late 70s to the late-90s, Cambodia was in a state of constant civil war. The war broke out during the controversial rule of the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot.
Attrace Many Tourists from all over the World
The Khmer Rouge’s tactics wiped out millions of Cambodians, in one of the worst genocide cases that the world has ever seen. Peace was restored to the country only after elections were contested in the late-90s. However, the damage that the Khmer Rouge did to the country is still being undone.
However, as dark and depressing the recent past of Cambodia is, Angkor Wat is a reminder of the times when Cambodia was at the forefront of development and prosperity in South-East Asia.
Angkor Wat significance is further enhanced by the fact that the temple complex now is one of the major contributors to the country’s economy. Thanks to huge amounts of money pouring into Cambodian pockets thanks to Angkor Wat tourism, the authorities have had to develop Siem Reap, the gateway to the temple complex, to cater to international tourists.
Today, the Siem Reap International Airport is regarded as one of the best airports in the country and overall, the city of Siem Reap is second only to Phnom Penh, the capital, in terms of development. The innumerable good things that the ruins of an ancient temple are what throws light on Angkor Wat significance.
Read More: Why Was Angkor Wat Built
A Monument that has Inspired ArchaeologistsThe decline of the Angkor civilization pretty much left Angkor Wat as a monument that would be forgotten in time. However, a French trader and explorer, Henry Mouhot, re-discovered the Angkor Wat significance and the ancient city surrounding it in the mid-19th century, bringing it back to relevance.
As the world knew so little about Angkor, it gave archaeologists great encouragement to perform in-depth research and restoration to tell the world about the origins of this once-grand monument. The relentless work of archaeologists from then to now has amplified Angkor Wat significance again.
Even though many things about Angkor are still unknown, archaeologists, through their extensive research, have revealed many things about the ancient kingdom of Angkor and its inhabitants. Work continues to this day as Angkor Wat significance only seems to be growing, with more and more people around the world becoming curious about the monument and its history.
If you feel like exploring the raw and authentic side of South-East Asia, visit Cambodia! It’s going to be an experience that teaches you much about an ancient land inhabited by an ancient race of people along with the world’s greatest stone monument; Angkor Wat.