In Khmer,the Cambodian language,Angkor means “city” or “capital city”, and Wat means “temple grounds”. So Angkor Wat means “Temple City” or “City of Temples”. The original name of Angor Wat was “ Vrah Vishnulok” or “ Param Vishnulok” meaning “The Sacred Dwelling of Lord Vishnu” in Sanskrit.
Angkor Wat is the biggest religious building/temple in the world. It is bigger than any other temple in Asia, the Great Pyramid in Egypt, or St. Peter’s in Rome, and it is only one of a thousand temples in the Angkor region. Its design is so remarkable that some people regard it as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Angkor Wat is located in present-day Cambodia, in Southeast Asia.
Angkor was long covered by dense jungle and was a forgotten place for many centuries. Wandering Buddhist monks sometimes passed by the temples on their way through the jungle. They didn’t know how these magnificent temples had been built, so they made up stories about them. They said the temples had been built by gods in an ancient time. Some people said they had been built by giants. These legends eventually reached other places. Some Asians went in search of this mysterious city of the gods. Eventually some European adventurers heard the stories about the lost city of the jungle, but most people didn’t believe them.
In 1860, Henri Mahout, a Frenchman, became the first European to see Angkor. Mahout was in the Cambodian jungle looking for plant species that were unknown in France. Soon, local people told him about “temples built by giants in the jungle.” Mahout was curious, so he hired local guides and started to look for the temples. Other explorers before him had searched but had never found anything. Mahout was lucky. He found the city and its magnificent temple. He spent three weeks drawing the temple. It is now called Angkor Wat, which means “city temple.” We do not know what its builders called it.
Unfortunately, Mahout died of fever in the jungle at age 35. His diaries and drawings were taken to France where people began to be curious about this place. Soon visitors came to see it. Among them was Anna Leonowens, the British governess to the king of Siam.Other people came to steal artifacts. Historians and archeologists came to find out more about this ancient city and its temples.
Inscriptions on the wallsof Angkor-Wat
The archeologists and historians were lucky because the walls of the temple were covered with inscriptions to tell us the story. These inscriptions were written in Sanskrit, an ancient language that greatly influenced Cambodian. They tell us that the builders of Angkor Wat were the ancestors of today’s Cambodians. One thousand years ago, Angkor was the capital of an empire that covered parts of present-day Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. About a million people lived in the city of Angkor at one time. The city was founded in the ninth century and was abandoned by the fifteenth.
Angkor Wat was build as a symbolic representation of Mount Meru. Mount Meru, in Hindu Mythology, is the sacred five peaked mountain standing in the Center of the Universe. It is said that Mount Meru was the abode of Gods.