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Angor Wat, City of Temples

“Inconceivable” is the word that came to me when I first set my eyes on Angor Wat (City of Temples) in Cambodia.

Yet not only did these ancient people conceive of something so grand, they built it to last.

And grand it is. Built on a scale to beggar the imagination.

Guardian statues greet visitors onthe causeway over the giant moat.

More than A Symbol 

More, the entire city was built as much as a livable community as a constellation of symbols designed to duplicate their understanding of the heavens and earth.

The temple of Angor Wat were built in harmony with their understanding of the universe, a microcosm of their place in the cosmos, every detail a symbolic reference to order as they understood it.

Each moat is 100 meters wide.

For example, the temples are surrounded by water structures that the people worked hard to built.  The city is completely surrounded by a giant moat.  No doubt the moat had defensive purposes, but they also served as a representation of the primordial ocean their mythology visualized. The god Vishnu the sustainer is conceived of as  floating in the waters of the cosmic sea, reclining on the back of the sea serpent Ananta (world without end).

Creation Myth

The Creation Myth continues: in the fullness of time, Vishnu brings forth a lotus from his naval from the blossoms of which Brahma (the god of creation) is born.

One of the reflecting pools the engineers built to show the temple as an island.

It falls to Brahma, the four-headed god who surveys the cardinal directions, to set down the material world of time and space.

A young monk in contemplation between two pillars.

Angor Wat in its walls, water structures, temples, shrines, and every detail tells this story in symbolic form.  It’s a wonder to behold.

Next blog: Myanmar.

A guardian statue


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