Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
GPS: 13.412639979904, 103.86705958028
Angkor is located in the north of Cambodia, in a fertile valley between the Tonlé Sap Lake and the mountain range of Phnom Kulen. It is composed of approximately 200 temples, sanctuaries and royal palaces erected between the 9th and 15th centuries by several rulers of the Khmer Empire. The self-proclaimed god-king Jayavarman II is the founder of this vast empire after having conquered several territories. The best preserved monument of the old capital of Angkor is the temple of Angkor Wat. It occupies the central position of the capital of a vast kingdom that ruled over the entire peninsula of Southeast Asia in the Middle Ages.
Symbolizing the mythical mountain of Mount Meru, the monumental complex and temple-mountain of Angkor Wat includes a set of five towers carved in the shape of lotus buds. This architectural jewel, embodying the quintessence of Khmer art, was built at the request of King Suryavarman II in 1140 to honour the Hindu god Vishnu and make it his mausoleum after his death. Built in the space of 40 years, Angkor Wat prospered thanks to the implementation of an innovative irrigation and water management system. This system optimizes rice cultivation while controlling the seasonal phenomenon of the monsoon. An extensive network of roads, canals, water basins, dams and dykes has been built around large areas of settlements, monasteries and royal palaces.
Initially devoted to Hinduism, Angkor Wat was transformed into a place of Buddhist worship by decision of King Jayavarman VII at the end of the 12th century. He built new temples, more sophisticated than the previous ones, in the nearby royal city of Angkor Thom. On the death of the sovereign, a long phase of decline begins. It was caused by the ageing of the hydraulic network, combined with deforestation, soil erosion, great periods of drought and a series of floods. The city of Angkor Wat was plundered by the troops of the Kingdom of Champa in 1177 before being occupied in 1352 by the Sukhothai Kingdom then vandalized by the Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1431. These successive attacks marked the fall and end of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century. Bringing together beliefs linked to Hinduism and Buddhism, this high place of pilgrimage is the largest religious monument in the world. It is also the country’s main tourist destination and the national symbol of Cambodia throughout the world.