Angkor Wat located in northwest Cambodia, is the largest religious structure (temple complex) in the world by land area,measuring 162.6 hectares (1.626 km2; 402 acres).The temple was built at the behest of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura (យសោធរបុរៈ, present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as the state temple for the empire.Originally constructed as a personal mausoleum for Suryaman, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu in the early 12th century, it was converted to a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists in Cambodia and around the world.It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s main tourist attraction.Angkor Wat played a major role in converting Cambodia into a Buddhist nation.
Angkor Wat lies 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) north of the modern town of Siem Reap, and a short distance south and slightly east of the previous capital, which was centred at Baphuon. In an area of Cambodia where there is an essential group of ancient structures, it is the southernmost of Angkor’s main sites.According to a myth, the construction of Angkor Wat was ordered by Indra to serve as a palace for his son Precha Ket Mealea.According to the 13th-century Chinese traveller Zhou Daguan, some believed that the temple was constructed in a single night by a divine architect.The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c. 1150). Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. It was built as the king’s state temple and capital city. As neither the foundation stela nor any contemporary inscriptions referring to the temple have been found, its original name is unknown, but it may have been known as “Varah Vishnu-lok” after the presiding deity. Work seems to have ended shortly after the king’s death, leaving some of the bas-relief decoration unfinished.The term Vrah Viṣṇuloka or Parama Viṣṇuloka literally means “The king who has gone to the supreme world of Vishnu”, which refer to Suryavarman II posthumously and intend to venerate his glory and memory
n 1177, approximately 27 years after the death of Suryavarman II, Angkor was sacked by the Chams, the traditional enemies of the Khmer. Thereafter the empire was restored by a new king, Jayavarman VII, who established a new capital and state temple (Angkor Thom and the Bayon, respectively), a few kilometers north, dedicated to Buddhism, because the king believed that the Hindu gods had failed him. Angkor Wat was therefore also gradually converted into a Buddhist site, and many Hindu sculptures were replaced by Buddhist art.Sketch of Angkor Wat, a drawing by Louis Delaporte, c. 1880.Towards the end of the 12th century, Angkor Wat gradually transformed from a Hindu centre of worship to Buddhism, which continues to the present day.Angkor Wat is unusual among the Angkor temples in that although it was largely neglected after the 16th century, it was never completely abandoned.Fourteen inscriptions dated from the 17th century, discovered in the Angkor area, testify to Japanese Buddhist pilgrims that had established small settlements alongside Khmer locals.At that time, the temple was thought by the Japanese visitors to be the famed Jetavana garden of the Buddha, which was originally located in the kingdom of Magadha, India.The best-known inscription tells of Ukondayu Kazufusa, who celebrated the Khmer New Year at Angkor Wat in 1632.