Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Angkor, Cambodia and is the work of Suryavarman II (1113-1150 AD). It is the best preserved example of Khmer architecture, lying less than a mile to the south of the royal city. The word Angkor is a vernacular form of the word nokor which comes from the Sanskrit word nagara . Wat is the Khmer word for temple. The words Angkor and Wat together mean City Temple. Its beauty and vastness are such that many consider it to be one of the seven wonders of the world.
A moat and three galleries encircle the five central shrines. On the west side of the park a paved causeway, leading over the moat and under a magnificent portico, extends for a distance of a quarter of a mile to the chief entrance of the main building.
The first gallery has square pillars on the outer side and a closed wall on the inner side. The ceiling between the pillars is decorated with lotus rosettes; the closed wall is decorated with dancing figures.The outside of the inner wall is decorated with pillared windows, apsaras (heavenly nymphs), and dancing male figures on prancing animals. Apsaras are found on the walls of all galleries. From the first gallery a long avenue leads to the second gallery. This is reached via a raised platform with lions on both sides of a staircase. The inner walls of the second gallery contain continuous narrative relief. The western wall shows scenes from the Mahabharata epos. The third gallery encloses the five shrines which are built on a raised terrace and are interconnected by galleries. The roofings of the galleries are decorated with the motif of the body of a snake ending in the heads of lions or garudas. Sculptured lintels and frontons decorate the entrances to the galleries and the entrances to the shrines.
The temple was originally devoted to the worship of Brahma, but afterwards to that of Buddha; its construction is assigned by Aymonier to the first half of the 12th century. It consists of three stages, connected by numerous exterior staircases and decreasing in dimensions as they rise, culminating in the sanctuary, a great central tower pyramidal in form. Towers also surmount the angles of the terraces of the two upper stages. Three galleries with vaulting supported on columns lead from the three western portals to the second stage. They are connected by a transverse gallery, thus forming four square basins. Khmer decoration, profuse but harmonious, consists chiefly in the representation of gods, men and animals, which are displayed on every flat surface. Combats and legendary episodes are often depicted; floral decoration is reserved chiefly for borders, mouldings and capitals. Sandstone of various colours was the chief material employed by the Khmers; limonite was also used. The stone was cut into huge blocks which are fitted together with great accuracy without the use of cement.
The western exterior forecourt of the main temple boasts two "libraries", or smaller temple structures: as of 2004, the library on the left was under renovation by a Japanese archeological team.
The surrounding area outside of the exterior moat is a lawned park, incongruous in Cambodia. Buddhist monks are daily visitors to Angkor Wat, and their orange robes are a bright contrast to the stone grey of the temple. The temple appears on the national flag of Cambodia.
The central structure of Angkor Wat (represented by the model shown opposite) measures about 150 by 200 metres. It is approached from the west by a cruciform terrace (shown at the bottom of the photograph). The terrace leads across a grassed esplanade to a rectangular cloister that encloses the entire central temple. On the wall of the cloister is an 800-metre long gallery of bas reliefs, some carved with scenes from Hindu epics, others depicting the history of Angkor. Immediately inside the cloister, in the exact centre of the photograph, is the Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas. To the far left and right of this, in the inner grassed area (the first level), are two scripture libraries.
The Gallery leads to a doorway through another rectangular wall into the second level. This is a narrow paved area, again containing two scripture libraries. It would originally have been flooded, to represent the ocean around Mount Meru, and is crossed by a short causeway raised on pillars and leading to the third level.
The third level is reached by twelve very steep stairways, representing the difficulty of ascending to the kingdom of the gods. At the top of the steps is a square, paved platform divided into four square courtyards by two raised corridors that intersect at right-angles. A further raised corridor runs around the edge of the platform, enclosing the entire level. At each corner of the outer corridor is a tower, and in the middle is the large central tower. These five towers form the famous skyline of Angor Wat. The square base of the central tower has a small shrine in each side, behind which is a central sanctuary. This was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, but the gold statue of Vishnu has been removed and the shrines now contain statues of the Buddha.
- Nick Ray, Lonely Planet: Cambodia, 4th edition 2002, for names of some features of the central structure.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details