Angkor Wat - The Temple and Decorations

high-definition creative commons photographs from Angkor Wat, Cambodia, showing the architecture and the relief carvings on the walls of the temple, including the famous asparas, together with further information and maps.

Angkor Wat Temple    Carved Stone Panels


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The Buildings


The Battle at Kurukshetra

Suryavarman’s Procession

Churning the Ocean

The Battle of Visnu and the Asuras

The Battle of Krisna and Bana

Battle of Lanka



Angkor Wat

Map of Angkor Wat Arial View of Angkor Wat Plan of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is a temple complex built for king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as the state temple in his capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation - first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture.

Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers.

Unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east. This has led many (including Glaize and George Coedes) to conclude that Suryavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple. Further evidence for this view is provided by the bas-reliefs, which proceed in a counter-clockwise direction - prasavya in Hindu terminology - as this is the reverse of the normal order. Rituals take place in reverse order during Brahminic funeral services.

The outer wall encloses a space of 820,000 square metres (203 acres), which besides the temple proper was originally occupied by the city and, to the north of the temple, the royal palace. Like all secular buildings of Angkor, these were built of perishable materials rather than of stone, so nothing remains of them except the outlines of some of the streets. Most of the area is now covered by forest. A 350 metre causeway connects the western gopura to the temple proper, with naga balustrades and six sets of steps leading down to the city on either side.

Integrated with the architecture of the building, and one of the causes for its fame is Angkor Wat's extensive decoration, which predominantly takes the form of bas-relief friezes. The inner walls of the outer gallery bear a series of large-scale scenes mainly depicting episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Proceeding from the western entrance and proceeding anti-clockwise (prasavya) the bas reliefs illustrate the Battle of Kurukshetra, King Suryavarman's Victory Procession, the Heavens and Hells, the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, the Battle of Vishnu with the Asuras, the Battle of Krishna with the Demon Bana, the Battle of the Devas and the Asuras, and the Battle of Lanka. There is no doubt looking at the many battle scenes on the reliefs that we are witnessing the art of a military society.

The modern name, Angkor Wat, means "City Temple"; Angkor is a vernacular form of the word nokor which comes from the Sanskrit word nagara meaning town or city. Wat is the Khmer word for temple. Prior to this time the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok, after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II. Angkor Wat has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag since the introduction of the first version of the flag circa 1863.

Cambodian Flag

The Cambodian National Flag

Text adapted from Wikipedia (retrieved, March 5th 2010)


Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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