1. It is the biggest temple complex in the world.
Angkor Wat, which translates literally as „temple city”. Built in the late 12th century by the Khmer King Suryavarman II, is actually not just one temple, but a collection of temples, spreading around a vast area of over 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 m2; 402 acres). Originally a Hindu site built to honor the god Vishnu, it then became a Buddhist religious landmark. Today Angkor Wat is the sole reason to visit Cambodia for over 50% of tourists coming here every year. It’s not the only temple built in the typical Khmer architecture style, however continues to be the most famous one.
2. It is so famous that it actually features on the Cambodian flag.
The Angkor Wat, which became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992, is recognizable to nearly anyone in the world who has heard of Cambodia. Therefore, it was made into a symbol appearing on the flag of the country. The official flag of Cambodia is now made of two dark blue stripes, one at the top and one at the bottom of the flag, with a third dark red stripe in the middle, which features a black and white outline of the Angkor Wat complex. The flag was originally adopted in 1948, following Cambodia’s independence.
3. It defies some of the principles of sacral architecture
Some of the temples on site defy the basic rule of directions in construction. For example we often find the buildings facing west, which is very strange, considering that this is the direction which Hinduism associates with death. Other untypical point to consider is the order of the reliefs carved into the stone walls of the building. At some places they seem to be running backwards. However, all the above can be explained by the fact that Angkor Wat is said to have been a temple complex for funeral purposes.
4. It was built entirely without machines
Considering that it is the 12th century in southeast Asia we are talking about, that is probably not a surprising fact. But, it still took an enormous amount of both human and animal power to erect such an enormous site. To be more specific, over 300,000 laborers and 6000 elephants were involved and the total of the construction used up 5 million tons of sandstone over 37 years. That’s pretty impressive, indeed. The only other examples of architecture built without any mechanics that can compare to Angkor Wat are the Pyramids of Egypt and the Inca temples.
5. It has a deep mystical meaning for Hinduism
Angkor Wat has no random element in its overall structure. The whole site is carefully planned to reflect the tenets of Hindu cosmology. The biggest temple in the assembly symbolizes the mythical Mount Meru, where the Hindu gods live, and the five inter-nested walls in the shape of a rectangle are the chains of mountains and cosmic ocean surrounding it. Also, the directions of some temples are diverted a 0.75 degree south of east and north of west, which offers anyone the possibility to observe the spring equinox happening within the exact marked location.