The Mysteries and Discoveries Behind Angkor Wat
Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is one of Asia’s best and largest archaeological sites. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this temple complex is a symbolic figure that best represents Cambodia, thanks to its artistic and historic temples, structures, canals, and forested areas that make up the whole of Angkor Wat.
But before it became the heritage site that it is today, let’s go back to when it all began– how Angkor Wat was built. It was built in the early twelfth century to be a Hindu temple. During King Suryavarman II’s reign, it was built in what is now known as Siem Reap, a northern part of Cambodia. This temple was built in honor of Vishnu, a Hindu god of Preservation. Hinduism was the religion of King Suryavarman II; thus, the Angkor Wat was made to be a Hindu temple. But towards the end of the 12th century, it became a Buddhist temple.
Situated in Northern Cambodia, in the province of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is known to be the largest religious monument in the whole world. In the Khmer language, it is translated as City of Temples.
Angkor means the capital city, while wat means temple grounds. The complex comprises hundreds of temples, but Angkor Wat has become the most popular. And even though it is now inactive, it has become the iconic attraction of Cambodia. It was highly regarded, and many studies and research were centered on Angkor Wat. But despite all these, there are still many mysteries that surround Angkor Wat.
The Secrets of Angkor Wat
One of the most intriguing mysteries was the construction of the massive temple complex. It was said to be built between 1110 and 1150, and it took about 30 years to finish. But how were the ancient people able to build a 400-acre temple complex with limited access to technology, and how were they able to move materials to its site when there weren’t that many forms of mechanical transportation around the time it was built? Until now, researchers have been figuring out the exact methods of making the temple complex.
Another mystery that surrounds the temple is the purpose of why Angkor Wat was built. Though it is widely known that it was originally a Hindu temple, some speculate that it could have been made for the king of Khmer as his final resting place. Some people believe it could have been built for astronomical purposes as an observatory.
Unbeknownst to many, there was a time when Angkor Wat was abandoned. The sprawling complex of temples was abandoned by the Khmer people that started in the early 15th century. The demise of the Angkor empire was said to be because of military defeat when the Khmer people abandoned and retreated southeastwards. In the 1840s, French explorer Henri Mouhot rediscovered Angkor Wat. He published writings that led to a pursuit of knowledge about the historic Angkor Wat. He mentioned that it was the most beautiful and best preserved of all the remains.
As you explore Angkor Wat, you’ll find several carvings and symbols, often intricate, on the walls of the temples. Some studies mentioned that these carvings represented significant figures from Khmer mythology. But others say some symbols found in the temple were more practical, such as symbols of water management or agricultural industries. Either way, some of the symbolisms remain unsolved.
Natural phenomena have impacted Angkor Wat, delaying some of the repairs and restorations that are currently ongoing. Although it has always been a good intention to preserve this natural and archaeological site as close to its original structure as possible, some have varying opinions on its restoration. Critics have mentioned that the ongoing restoration might be erasing some important details of the temple and might alter its historical elements.
While mysteries remain about this historical site, archaeologists and researchers have extensively tried to uncover truths behind Angkor Wat. Thanks to modern technology and related literature, some discoveries helped us learn more about Angkor Wat.
One of the solved mysteries of Angkor Wat includes the construction techniques used to build Angkor Wat. More specifically, how the builders transported the giant stone blocks to the site.
Recent research shows that water was the main element in transporting these construction materials. Through canals and reservoirs, they could move the stones to the site more efficiently. The moat surrounding the temple was the source of water that flowed through the canals, which was also used for irrigation.
Another discovery was the collapse of the Khmer Empire. Though the empire collapsed in the 15th century, some scholars have suggested that the failure was due to many factors; this includes climate change, warfare, and political instability.
Lastly, the carvings inscribed on Angkor Wat have recently been learned that these depicted the daily life of the Khmer Empire, as well as some symbolism in Hindu mythology.
Cambodia’s prestigious Angkor Wat is recognized as one of the world’s most important archaeological and historical sites. It is of great interest to many, not only scientists, researchers, and religious organizations, but even the tourism industry. Thankfully, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is now being protected and preserved for future generations to explore where more mysteries can be solved.
Sources: National Geographic, History, The Past.
Follow the Out of Town Travel Blog on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest if you want more travel and food-related updates.
- Top 10 Go-To places in Cambodia
- 10 Breathtakingly Beautiful Places in Asia To Visit Before You Die
- Bye, Elephant rides: Cambodia announced it would ban the rides at Angkor Wat
- Top Ten Hotels in Siem Reap Cambodia
- An Exotic Getaway at Disney Explorer’s Lodge