Angkor Wat is a temple city built by Khmer King Suryavarman II during the early 12th century in Cambodia. The temple is famous for being the largest temple in the world measuring 1626 km2 (close to London).
Twenty-seven years after the death of Suryavarman II, the temple was sacked by the enemies of Khmer. When the new king Jayavarman VII restored the temple, he dedicated it to Buddhism because he felt abandoned by the Hindu gods. Therefore, several Hindu sculptures were replaced by Buddhist sculptures. Since then, Angkor Wat has never been completely abandoned, and it remained as an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
Through the years, Angkor Wat was damaged by plants, fungi, war, and theft. It was almost covered by the forest when it was first found in the late 19th century when Cambodia became a French colony. Its restoration in the modern era was conducted between 1908- early 1970s (when the communist regime, aka Khmer Rouge Era, restricted entrance to the area) by a French research team called Conservation d’Angkor. Since mid-1980s, restoration and conservation works have been conducted by some countries like France, China, and Japan.
Archaeologists think that Angkor Wat was built as a mausoleum for King Suryavarman II. This is because the temple is oriented towards west rather than east like other Khmer temples as Brahminic rituals were practiced in reverse during funerals. There was also an urn-like container discovered in the central tower. Some archaeologists also suggest that the temple is oriented towards west because it was dedicated to Vishnu who was a god associated with the west.
Angkor Wat is a great example of the classical Khmer architecture. Its rectangular architecture symbolizes Mount Meru where the devas (means deity in Sanskrit) lived according to the Hindu mythology. It also carries several the characteristic elements of this style such as the redented towers shaped like lotus buds, devatas (deities), bas-reliefs, axial galleries, and pediments with narrative scenes on them.