Back in the ancient times the Sun shone so bright on India that the shades of its Hindu culture, architecture, art, tradition and beliefs spread far across the land. With innumerable traces of the existence of Hindu culture in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and some Mandarin regions, it will be right to say that the culture flourished and fared extremely well. 40 meter long Buddha and Vishnu statues in Afghanistan tell us a tale of Indian influence in the west, but the eastern part always seemed like a mystery that only needed time for unfolding.
The east revealed to be Hindu culture’s best kept secret. A massive temple complex dedicated to Lord Vishnu was constructed 8 centuries ago. The complex is so big that it is factually the largest temple in the world- and that’s not even in India! Cambodia, a distant land from the Indian mainland is the place where the massive temple complex- ‘Ankgor Wat’- is situated. In Khmer terminology, Angkor Wat means ‘temple city’. This humongous Vishnu temple complex is equal to 30 football grounds. It is said that standing at the centre of the complex makes you feel that the temple stretches to the horizon.
History and Indian origin
There have been traces of Hindu Kings ruling parts of South-east Asia but, it always puzzled historians on how the Indian reached the distant place. 1200 years before the temple was constructed, that is 2000 years from today a fleet of many trade ships navigating through the Bay of Bengal were forced towards the eastern side by the retreating monsoon winds. The group of people, who belonged to Southern India, crossed Indonesian landmass and reached Cambodia which was then the ‘Khmer dynasty’.
The new members of the land went upstream of the Siem Reap River. On their way they spread their culture, art and beliefs. This fleet never returned and comfortably settled in Cambodia. They soon grew in numbers and the few people of Khmer accepted them. Over the course of time, Hindu culture was dominant and a lot of temples were built and a strong kingdom was in the process of making.
Suryavarman was just 14 years old when he was enthroned as the King of the Khmer dynasty. He had supposedly assassinated his own uncle, who was the King then, to earn his place as the ruler. Temple depictions and legends evidently indicate that King Suryavarman was a tall, strong and handsome ruler. Under his administration, the Khmer dynasty was at its peak. No foreign invasions were ever successful as long as he was the King. He converted a rain flooded plain into a massive metropolis with a sophisticated drainage system that brought an agricultural revolution in the region.
King Suryavarman had a desire to be in the echelons of God’s like Vishnu, Shiva and many others. That status would give him a demi-God status and he was keen on becoming one. He ordered his men to construct a temple for showing respect to Lord Vishnu. His intention was clear, he wanted something massive. He wanted to depict heaven on earth so that his subjects remember him and always consider him to have ascended to the heaven after death.
Facts about Angkor Wat
Suryavarman 2 wanted to be an immortal King, so like other kings who had similar desires, he too wanted to construct something that lasted for long. Khmer architects used wood as the basic material for construction but, that didn’t last for long so Suryavarman 2 decided to build the entire complex with sandstone that were abundantly available in the nearby valley. He wanted the temple complex to look like Mount Meru- a place where the God’s resided.
Mentioned below are some unbelievable facts about the ancient monument-
– Angkor Wat is the biggest religious monument in the world
– It is the largest stone monument in the world
– The number of stones used in building this marvel is equal to the number of rocks used to construct the Pyramid of Khufu.
– The entire complex is floating on a marshy swamp and is located amidst a mud water lake
– The length of the swamp complex is 5.5Km
– The central tower, where a statue of Lord Shiva is placed is 65 meters tall- 2 meters taller than the London tower.
– The entire complex was constructed in 32 years only
– The structure holds the world record of the longest continuous chain of sculpted walls. Angkor Wat walls have sculpted depictions of stories and legends. Such continuous sculpted walls stretch almost up to a mile!
– Angkor Wat is the only temple or monument that has a place on a national flag. Cambodia’s national flag has a rough depiction of the Khmer marvel.