First a Hindu temple, then subsequently a Buddhist religious settlement, the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia is the largest religious monument in the world. The city of Angkor was built in year 200 during the Fun Kingdom and covers at least 385 square miles. In 1874, the French naturalist Henri Mouhot rediscovered it and the reconstruction and preservation of the temples began. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-east Asia. The Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent ruins of the different capital of the Khmer Empire.
Khmer architecture evolved largely from that of the Indian subcontinent, from which it soon became clearly distinct as it developed its own special characteristics, some independently evolved and others acquired from neighboring cultural traditions. The result was a new artistic horizon in oriental art and architecture.
Not just a temple
From the 9th to the 15th century, these remains include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.
At the beginning of the 9th century the two states that covered the territory of modern Cambodia were united by Jayavarman II, who laid the foundations of the Khmer Empire, the major power in south-east Asia for some five centuries. One of the sites was in central Cambodia, to the north of Tonle Sap (Great Lake), where half a century later Jayavarman’s son, Yashovarman, was to establish Yashodapura (later called Angkor), the permanent capital of the Khmer Empire until the 15th century.
For hundreds of years, Angkor was the center of the Khmer kingdom. The site is a confirmation of the distinctive concentration of features testifying to an exceptional civilization. The architecture and sophisticated layout of the structure bear witness to a high level of societal unanimity within the Khmer empire. It is a heritage site where the natives of Khmer gather to exalt and acknowledge the existence of higher deities. The inhabitants venerate the temple deities and organise ceremonies and rituals in their honor with prayers, music and dance.
Angkor is therefore a major historical site representing cultural, religious and symbolic values as well as exemplifying superior architectural, genuine artistic and archaeological significance.