India Abroad - Part II

Exact Match
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Angkor Vat, Cambodia Angkor Vat - Angkor was an early civilization that flourished in northwestern Cambodia from the early 800's to the 1400's. The most famous capital of this civilization was also called Angkor or Angkor Thom. Ruins of its temple lie near the present-day city of Siem Reap. Cambodian kings built several cities in the vicinity of Siem Reap between 820 and the 1100's. Angkor Thom, the capital, was the most magnificent of these cities.

It covered about 10 square kilometres and may have had a million people, more than any European city at that time. A wall with five gates was built around the city, and many temples were built inside the wall. Angkor Thom and its temples rank as one of the artistic and architectural wonders of the world. Carved scenes of Cambodian life and Buddhist or Hindu mythology decorate the walls of the temples. The central temple, the Bayon, was dedicated to Buddha and the reigning king. More than 200 giant stone faces adorn its towers.

The civilization of Angkor reached its peak during the 1100's and then began to decline. Invasions from neighbouring Thailand, epidemics of malaria, and disputes within the royal Cambodian family may have caused this decline. Thai forces captured Angkor Thom in 1431 but soon abandoned it, and forest growth gradually covered most of the city. In 1860, Henri Mouhot, a French naturalist, discovered the ruins of Angkor Thom.

From the 1860's to the mid-1900's, French and Cambodian archaeologists restored and rebuilt many of its temples. In Cambodia there still exists the great Vishnu temple of Angkor Vat. It is a massive monument. The temple of Angkor Vat, near Angkor Thom, is probably the finest architectural monument in Cambodia. It covers nearly 2.6 square kilometres and has a pyramidal form. This form imitates the mythological home of the Hindu gods.

Angkor Vat was constructed in the 1100's to honour the Hindu god Vishnu. It was used as an astronomical observatory, as well as for religious purposes. Angkor Vat later became the tomb of the Cambodian king who had ordered its construction. The moat surrounding the temple is more than 650 feet wide, and is spanned on the western side by a stone footpath, 36 feet broad. The gallery measures about 800 feet from east to west and 675 feet from north to south. The control tower rises to a height of more than 210 feet above ground level. Its huge form, its proportions, the general symmetry and the decorative sculptures make a great appeal to people who visit these shrines. This temple was built by the Kambuja ruler Surya Varman II in the Dravidian style. Beautiful sculptures on scenes taken from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata adorn the temple.

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