The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

India and Southeast Asia

What is Angkor Wat?

Angkor Wat is an enormous Hindu temple complex in Cambodia featuring a series of walled courtyards leading to a group of central towers. Built over thirty years by the Khmer king Suryavarman II during the first half of the twelfth century, Angkor Wat’s five lotus-shaped towers each symbolize peaks of Mount Meru, a mountain considered sacred in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist traditions. The central tower is approximately two hundred feet tall and the entire complex is aligned with the sun, so that on the summer solstice, the sun rises up directly over the central tower when viewed from the western gate. Suryavarman II’s goal was to associate himself with the god Vishnu and the entire temple complex is covered in miles of relief carvings depicting the king and the many avatars of Vishnu.


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