Wikijunior:World Heritage Sites/Angkor

Angkor Wat is part of Cambodia and was the capital of the Khmer Empire between the 19th and 15th centuries CE. The area has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992.

The main complex at Angkor Wat

How Angkor Wat was built

Angkor Wat was ordered to be built by King Suryvarman II. It was completed by King Jayavarman VII.

To start making Angkor Wat the Khmer people began by making the foundations for the temple. Even though it is very old the engineering techniques they used were amazing. To stop the temples from sinking the soil under Angkor Wat was removed up to 2 meters. Then they filled it up with layers of sand, a layer of stone, clay and another layer of sand. This distributed the weight evenly and stopped if from sinking. Then they built big moats around the temple to control how the water was moved around the city and temple.

Angkor Wat is actually only one temple in a much larger city complex. The whole city is called Angkor Thom. The complex is near Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Angkor Wat is the largest religious building in the world. Angkor Wat is 213 feet tall (65 meters). The central tower is surrounded by four smaller towers and a series of walls; a layout that recreates the image of Mount Meru, (a legendary mountain from Hindu stories). Angkor Wat was built to face the west, the direction of the Hindu god Vishnu. Other temples in the Angkor complex face east.

It is mostly made out of sandstone blocks but laterite (another type of rock) was used to make some of the outside walls. It was made out of 5 million to 10 million sandstone blocks. Historians believe that the sandstone was brought by boats from the many rivers that were around the Angkor Thom region.

It feels strong and rough and hard. It looks very old. You can tell this because the rocks are dark. There are pieces missing and the trees have grown all over it.

Carved into the walls of Angkor Wat you will find lots of different pictures. The pictures are of different Hindu Gods. The Khmer people believed that this would help them get into heaven. Angkor Wat was first built as a shrine to the Hindu God Vishnu.

What it was used for

After King Suravarman II killed his uncle to become King he needed to prove that he was worthy to by the King of the Khmer Empire. He did this by building Angkor Wat. He needed to complete the building in his lifetime. He believed that this would give him access to heaven. The ashes of the King were placed under the very centre of Angkor Wat to be preserved. The temple was built to honour the Hindu god Vishnu.

Angkor Wat was originally built as a Hindu temple. In the end of the 13th century when Cambodia converted from Hindu to Buddhist faith the temple was also converted to a Buddhist temple.

Angkor Wat was used as a temple until the 1400s when the Siamese from Thailand attacked the Khmer. After this the people who lived around Angkor Wat slowly moved away. The reason they moved away is not completely clear. It could have been because of war or because of a lack on water for people to use.

How Angkor Wat has Changed Over Time

Angkor Wat at first was built long before there were bulldozers, trucks and cranes. Historians think that they needed around 300,000 people to build it, and used around 6000 elephants to help move the sandstone blocks. Life would have been very hard and it took many years to build it. We now have modern technology to build towers and build things more quickly. Now we can build much faster because of better technology.
Angkor Wat was once a very new, modern building surrounded by a city. When it was built, it was an amazing piece of architecture (building). Now Angkor Wat is very old, parts of it are broken and unsafe, and nobody lives within  Angkor Wat anymore.
A long time ago around 1 million people lived there and the city of Angkor was the capital city of Cambodia. In the busy markets people came and traded rice, jewellery, silver, food, fruit and veggies, animal skins, skulls, pigs, and silk. It was a very modern city. It is said to have been the greatest city in the ancient World. Now nobody lives there. Monks live close by. It is not the modern city it once was. Now Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia.
It was invaded by the Siamese in 1400s. Special items were stolen and taken away. The heads of some statues were cut off and sold. After the Siamese came and people moved away, the city of Angkor became forgotten. It was forgotten for over 129 years until it was re-discovered by a French man called Henri Mahout. Angkor Wat is now a world heritage site. It became a World Heritage site in 1992. You can only go there to visit as a tourist. A guide told us they get around 7000 visitors a day (2018).
A long time ago, there was a lot more water around Angkor Wat. The water was kept in  barais (man made lakes) but there used to be a lot more water. People used it for daily jobs like washing, drinking, cleaning and also for religion- for blessings and to wash away bad luck. Some people believe the way the waterways were organised is one of the reasons the city was so successful. Now many of the water channels and barais have dried up. There is still water, but not as much as in the past.
Angkor Wat was built and used as a Hindu temple in the 12th Century. You can see many statues and carvings that show how Hindu religion was important in the past at Angkor Wat. In the late 13th century it was converted (changed) for buddhist use. This tells us that religion in Cambodia has changed over time. Now the biggest religion in Cambodia is buddhism. This is different to when Angkor Wat was built.

References and Resources

This Contribution was Written by Grade 2 Students at the International School of Phnom Penh in 2018.