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‘Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Part-I’ by K.J.S.Chatrath


 If one were to ask me about the three most fascinating places that I have visited, then I would list the following- in order of merit (i) Greenland for sheer natural beauty, (ii) Egyptian pyramids and temples as the best man made structures, and next (iii) Angkor Wat and its adjoining temples in Cambodia.

I had the chance of visiting Cambodia and its fabulous temples a few months back. At the beginning of the 9th century AD the two states that covered the territory of modern Cambodia were united by Jayavarman II. who laid the foundations of the Khmer Empire, which was the major power in south-east Asia for nearly five centuries. One of the sites where his court resided for some years was in central Cambodia, to the north of Tonle Sap (The Great Lake), where half a century later Jayavarman’s son, Yashovarman, was to establish Yashodapura, the permanent capital of the Khmer Empire until the 15th century. It was later given the name Angkor (from the Sanskrit “nagara”, meaning city or capital).

The first capital was at latter-day Roluos, itself a pre-Angkorian capital, Hariharalaya. This conformed with the classic form of Khmer capital. This comprised certain fundamental elements: a defensive bank and ditch with a state temple at its centre built in brick or stone, and a wooden palace. Leading dignitaries would also build temples, both inside and outside the enceinte, which were dedicated, like the state temple, to Hindu divinities, notably Shiva. Another essential feature of a Khmer capital, a large reservoir, was added a decade later, with in its centre a third temple. Lolei.

The succeeding rulers left little traces in the form of monumental buildings, and it was not until the accession of Suryavarman II in 1113 that the next great phase of building began. It was he who was responsible for the greatest of all Khmer monuments, Angkor Vat, set within an extensive enclosure and dedicated to Vishnu.

Such was the grandeur of this capital that none of Jayavarman VII’s successors saw fit to replace it. Nor were there any major monumental additions between his death around 1200 and the end of the Khmer Empire in the first half of the 15th century.

It is a massive three-tiered pyramidical structure crowned by five lotus like towers rising 65 metres from the ground level. At the height of the Khmer political and military dominance in the region, Suryavarman II constructed Angkor Wat in the form of a massive ‘temple mountain’ dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu. It served as Suryavarman’s state temple. Other temples of the same style and period include Thommanon, Wat Atwea and Beng Melea, which may have served as a prototype to Angkor Wat.

 Angkor Wat is enclosed by a moat and an exterior wall measuring 1300 metresX 1500 metres. The temple is one square kilometer. It has three levels surmounted by a central tower. The walls of the temple are covered, both inside and outside with bas reliefs and carvings. Nearly 2000 distinctively rendered carvings adorn the walls. The exterior walls of the lower level display amazing bas reliefs depicting stories and characters from the Hindu mythology.











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 (Text with inputs from the internet)

Photos, text & copyright: K.J.S.Chatrath

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2 Responses to “‘Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Part-I’ by K.J.S.Chatrath”

  1. Sukhdev Bedi says:

    I was waiting to learn about this place ever since i knew about your trip. Fascinating place indeed where only a handful Indians
    ever get a chance to visit and confront old Indian culture in a far off land.

    • chat says:

      Thanks Bedi Sahib. Yes unfortunately it is not a popular destination for Indian tourists. I wish more Indians would visit Cambodia. One feels so much at home there and the temples are absolutely breath taking.

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