Angkor Wat is a temple and popular tourist attraction located in Angkor, Cambodia. The temple was built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. This temple began as the king’s state temple within the capital city. The main temple is only part of an entire complex of temples and ancient ruins. The entire Angkor Wat complex is actually made up of several different temples. The largest, and the most preserved temple, the main Angkor Wat, is the only one that has undergone a degree of changes in its religious significance during its lifetime. It is also the only one of the older temples that is currently in use as well as being open for visitors.
It began as a Hindu temple, which was dedicated to Vishnu, and then became a Buddhist temple. To look at the architecture of the temple, one would be able to see the perfect example of the high classical style - Khmer Architecture. During its history, Angkor Wat has become a symbol of Cambodia. It appears on the national flag of the country, and is the main attraction that Cambodia has for its many tourists. In fact it has been listed many times over as one of the most important sites to visit while in Cambodia and the surrounding region. Over the last few years, it has also become an increasingly loved and important part of the lives of the people who live in Cambodia. Just in the last several years, riots have erupted that are due, in part, to other countries, like Thailand, laying claim to the historic temple.
Angkor Wat is one of the temples of Angkor, and is located in the southernmost area of the group. The main construction on the temple took place during the first half of the twelfth century. The temple was dedicated to Vishru, but there is no information that can be found on the temple itself, either on the foundation or anywhere else, to give historians an idea of what the original name of the temple might have been. The best guess is that it was called Vrah Vishnulok, which would have been the title given to it after the deity that presided there. Today is it referred to as Angkor Wat, which means “temple of the city.”
Angkor Wat is located 5.5 Kilometers north of Siem Reap. The temple is a short distance south as well as east from the previous capital of Cambodia. The temple, meant to be a state temple, was constructed close to the capital of Cambodia at the time of construction. When the king for whom it was constructed, King Suryavarman II, died, work seems to have stopped on the temple, which you can see today in its unfinished state in several different places. The temple also suffered in 1177, when it was attacked by the Chams, who were the traditional enemies of the group of people who built the temple. The entire civilization was changed at that time, and a new king, Jayavarman VII came to power. He built his new capital and state temple a few kilometers to the north of Angkor Wat, which has remained in its present state ever since.
Today, the temple is Theravada Buddhist, and although it was neglected after the new state temple was built, it was never truly abandoned. This is unusual for temples of the area and the day, and it remains in almost the same state it was before the change of power and death of the king it was built for. The other thing that allows the temple to remain mostly intact is that it has a moat, which protects it from being approached and damaged by the jungle or anything in it. Most of the temples of the same day are either partially or completely in ruins, and none of them are being used presently, but Angkor Wat is not only completely functional, it is actually in use.
The temple was first visited by a Western delegation when Antonio da Magdalena, who was a Portuguese monk, visited in 1586. He believed that nothing like it had ever been seen in the world. He also believed that it had been constructed by geniuses, and that no one alive would be able to believe the wonders that the temple held. Although his esteemed opinion of the temple was slight popular, the temple did not become popularized in Western culture until the mid 19th century. It was then that Henri Mouhot, a French traveler, published his travel notes, and raved about the beauty that he had found - which he called a temple to rival that of Solomon.
Angkor Wat required significant restoration in the 20th century, most importantly the removal of accumulated dirt and vegetation. In recent times, the temple has seen a few adjustments. Since the 1990s, there has been a huge influx in the number of tourists that have been visiting Angkor Wat. The temple is now considered part of the Angkor World Heritage Site, since 1992. This has meant an increase in the amount of money that has been given to Angkor Wat, as well as an increase in the protection that it has been given by the governments.
The temple itself has become a major tourist destination. Although the figures as to who is actualy visiting Angkor Wat are not actually published, there are reports that are done by the Cambodian government that say that around 57 percent of its yearly visitors planned to see the temple. So far, according to the government, there has been little damage done to the temple itself by the many visitors who want to see it. There has been a small amount of graffiti that has been found on the temple due to the amount of visitors, but the government has installed wooden steps as well as rope railings to prevent any more damage from occurring. The government is also able to charge tourists for seeing the temple, and this money in part is able to go to the temple itself and to help with any maintenance and other needs that the temple has.