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Updated by Joanna James on May 03, 2020
Headline for Facts about Angkor Wat - Fascinating Aspects of Angkor Wat
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Facts about Angkor Wat - Fascinating Aspects of Angkor Wat

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Cambodia's most visited tourist attraction, Angkor Wat is no ordinary cultural hotspots. Here are some interesting facts regarding the iconic ancient temple.


It's a Record Breaker

In addition to being a revered UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat is also the world's largest spiritual monument. Spread out over a whopping 400 acres, the venue was declared a protected heritage site back in 1992 in an effort to safeguard the complex for future generations. Its large scale is one of the most impressive aspects about the monument which is visited by millions of visitors annually.


The Temple was shared by Different Faiths

Contrary to popular belief, Angkor Wat is not a strictly Buddhist place of worship. The temple was first built as a Hindu shrine devoted to the worship of the deity Vishnu unlike most temples preceding the structure which were dedicated to Shiva instead. Angkor Wat was later converted to a Buddhist temple in the latter half of the 12th century as Cambodia also converted to Buddhism.


It's Featured on the National Flag

Occupying pride of place in the heart of the national flag, Angkor Wat holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Cambodians. While the structure was not a part of the flag till 1850, it is now an irreplaceable symbol of national pride. Angkor Wat is also featured in many locals Riel coins.


What's in a Name

The Khmer meaning of Angkor Wat literally translates to the "City of Temples" and is easy to see why as the compound is a cluster of temples occupying a single space. The original name of the temple was Parama Vishnuloka or Vrah Vishnuloka which meant the holy dwelling of Lord Vishnu in the Sanskrit language.


Unusual Orientation

Unlike most temples which face the rising sun to the east, Angkor Wat faces the west which further strengthens the notion that it stands for the depiction of death according to Hindu beliefs. This has also lead researchers to conclude that the temple and specifically the Suryavarman was intended to be a funerary place of worship. Those based at Anantara Angkor Resort or similar resorts will find that catching the sunset at the temple is on every Siem Reap things to do list for a very good reason.


Mount Meru on Earth

Angkor Wat was originally conceived to serve as the representation of Mount Meru here on earth. As an integral part of Hindu culture, the sacred mountain is said to have five peaks while three gods( Vishnu Shiva and Brahma) are said to dwell on the mountain presiding over earthly matters.


Reverse Order

Unlike most Khmer temples, the bas reliefs in Angkor Wat must be read counter clockwise if they are to make any sense. This reversal or order is another feature that solidifies the claim that the temple is a funerary institution.


Massive Undertaking

It is said that more than 300,000 workmen built Angkor Wat in a period of 35 years from the beginning of its construction to its end and that six thousand elephants were also part of the mammoth effort. The temple was designed during the era of Suryavarman II and as no machinery was invented during this period, the temple was built without the aid of any mechanical aids.