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Monument Monday: Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

When it comes to monuments and historical structures, many of us are well versed on the meaning and history behind well known structures such as The Statue of Liberty, The Eiffel Tower, and more. However, we want to point out that these are hardly the only sites worth knowing about.

Situated in Cambodia, specifically the Siem Reap Province – in case you’re interested in going – Angkor Wat is actually the largest religious monument in the world. It was first built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II (say that three times fast) in the early 12th century. Originally it served as a Hindu temple, but later was dedicated to Buddhism.

However, its very first and basic role – according to the King of the time – was to serve as the temple for the Khmer Empire capital. Eventually, the site also became the King’s eventual mausoleum. Hence the modern name, “Angkor Wat,” which means “Temple City” in Khmer. Prior to the modern age, it was referred to as Preah Pisnulok.

Despite centuries upon centuries having gone by, the site is considered to be one of the best preserved. Because of this, the temple has remained a significant religious center, a source of pride, and a place of worship for Cambodians and tourists alike. If you need proof of this monument’s deeply rooted importance to the people of Cambodia, all you need to do is look at their flag which boldly features the structure.

photo credit: wisegie via photopin cc

photo credit: wisegie via photopin cc

Architecturally, Angkor Wat was designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology. No, we did not mean DIVAS – we meant devas, which translates to “deity”. It is a prime example of the classical style of Khmer architecture, which involved the use of sandstone and laterite, a rusty red soil type. In addition, the temple is admired not only for its size, as was stated earlier, but also its extensive bas-reliefs adorning its walls depicting stories of the devas and other religious iconology.

Due to a large influx of tourists, Angkor Wat has seen continued conservation and restoration efforts, specifically  with restoration work on the temple occurring between 1986 -1992 and becoming part of the Angkor World Heritage Site in 1992.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

As with any structure having survived for this long, we think it’s imperative to visit now as opposed to later. This is especially due to APSARA’s (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) growing concern of the tourist effect on this historical site and landscape. In addition, locals of the province have voiced their own concerns over the compromised atmosphere of the region ever since the mass influx of tourism.

We really hope no drastic measures have to be taken here so we’ll try to behave well!

What do you think APSARA should do to preserve Angkor Wat while accommodating both residents and tourists?


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