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Temples of Cambodia: Temples of Angkor and Less Famous Sanctuaries

Ancient temples of Combojia

In the south-eastern part of Asia is located an unusually beautiful country with a great history — Cambodia. For a long time this kingdom was closed to tourists, but today it has become a very popular tourist destination. This exotic country attracts travelers with a mild climate, warm waters of the Gulf of Siam, snow-white beaches, and, of course, majestic temple buildings.


People come from all over the world to see with their own eyes the mysterious shrines — the ancient temples of Cambodia, built over a thousand years ago.

How and when to build temples

The ancestors of the present Cambodians, the Khmers, who from time immemorial inhabited the territory of the kingdom, were engaged in building shrines. This people happened, according to the legend, from the connection of the daughter of the king of snake-like creatures — the Nagas, and the Indian hermit.

Grand construction began in the IX century, when numerous Khmer princedoms, under the leadership of Emperor Jayavarman II, united in a great state — the Khmer Empire with its capital in the city of Angkor. In it, the founder of the dynasty erected the first temple complex, and his successors subsequently continued this work. Today, all the surviving temples of the ancient capital form the main attraction of the country — the temple complex of Angkor. Its size is amazing — the temples of Angkor in Cambodia are located on an area of ​​more than 200 thousand square meters. km

The construction of religious buildings in the capital continued until the XII century — it was during this period that the most famous temples of Cambodia were built. By that time, a huge city had already been built around them, which was inhabited by more than a million inhabitants. In the X-XIII centuries. the great Khmer Empire became the most developed state in all of Southeast Asia militarily and economically.

[quote font = «arial» font_style = «italic»] However, already in the second half of the 15th century, after a long siege of the Siamese, its capital fell and was destroyed. [/ quote]

Residents were forced to flee and abandon the city. Over the years, Angkor was swallowed up by the jungle, the humid climate did not spare many living quarters and soon nothing was left of them, but the temple buildings managed to survive. For 400 years, people forgot about ancient Angkor, until in 1860 the French traveler and naturalist Henri Muo came across it in impassable thickets.

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Cambodian Angkor Wat, towering a few kilometers from the city of Siem Real, is considered the largest temple in the world. This shrine was erected in the first half of the XII century in honor of the supreme god in Hinduism — Vishnu. The rules of the empire in those days, King Suryavarman II.

According to scientists, the construction of this structure required 5 million tons of stones — as much as was spent on the construction of the second largest Egyptian pyramid of Khafra (Khafre). The ancient builders put a lot of effort into creating a striking architectural creation — all the stone blocks from which this sacral structure was built were artistically crafted — scenes from the history of Khmer, Hindu mythology and ancient Indian epics were carved on all surfaces. But the most surprising thing is that the Khmers did not use any mortar to fix the blocks between each other — the stones were hemmed and fitted to each other so that sometimes the joints between them could not be found.

The main religious complex of Cambodia, the Angkor Wat temple consists of 3 buildings, inside — 5 lotus-shaped towers, the height of the central reaches 65 meters. The complex is surrounded by a moat 190 meters wide, which, due to heavy rains, is always filled with water. According to the builders, this grand project symbolizes the abode of Brahma — the sacred mountain Meru: the central tower is the top, the walls are the rocks, and the huge moat is the world ocean washing the Universe from all sides.

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Undoubtedly, this temple in Cambodia — 8 wonder of the world, after all, this is what historians of the world call it.

Not far from Angkor Vata is located the second largest ancient religious building. This temple Bayon, rebuilt in the XII century, under the ruler Jayavarmane VII.

Temple Bayon in Cambodia has 54 towers, and not by chance — each of them was a symbol of the province, which was ruled by the ruler. On each tower 4 faces are carved — one on each side of the world.

[quote font = «arial» font_style = «italic»] The ancient builders managed to do the impossible — the expressions of all these faces change depending on the lighting and the time of day. [/ quote]

They can be kind, smile, feel sad, and sometimes their gaze and at all bring horrendous horror. It is noteworthy that in whatever part of the temple a person is, he will always be under the watchful gaze of stone eyes. It is believed that the carved faces are the face of the deity of compassion Avalokiteshvara. The prototype of his appearance was King Jayavarman VII.

Initially, the central tower of the temple had a golden coating, but it was ripped off by the Siamese who captured the city. The four-meter figure of the Buddha was located on it, but it was also destroyed. The walls of the temple are covered with beautiful bas-reliefs, which depict scenes from the life of Cambodians — military campaigns, bloody battles, worship of the gods, circus performances, feasts and much more.

Ta Prohm Temple (Ta Prohm, Ta Prohm) is another Buddhist religious building, part of the structure of the city of Angkor. This temple-monastery was built at the end of the XII century in honor of the mother of King Jayavarman VII. That is why, according to scientists, in its design in a bas-reliefs and sculptures apsaras dominate — the semi-goddess of Hindu mythology, the spirits of water and clouds.

The Temple of Ta Prohm in Cambodia acquired great popularity in 2001 after the release of the film “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” — it was through this abandoned building that Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie wandered.

Currently, the complex is an amazing sight in the best traditions of surrealism — all the buildings from the base to the roof are entangled with bizarre dense vegetation. For centuries, the roots and trunks of trees have climbed walls, framed doors and windows, broke stone roofs, making their way to freedom. It seems that this territory was once a merciless battle between the gods and nature, and the latter won, making the unique structure part of the land. Now Ta Prom and the jungle — an indivisible whole.

In the very center of the holy city of Angkor Thom there is another amazing temple with a height of 49 meters — Bapuon. It appeared in the XI century during the reign of Udaadiadarmana II. This structure in form is a five-step pyramid consisting of three tiers.

Special bas-reliefs are distinguished from other sanctuaries of Bapuon — they are made in the form of small squares, in which scenes from the Khmer everyday life are carved. In its young years, the temple struck with splendor. Back in the thirteenth century, Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan admired him, calling him a «truly amazing spectacle.» Until our days Bapuon got in a very poor condition, and the matter is that the sandy foundation on which it was built. It turned out to be unstable, and the grand building began to rapidly collapse.

Less famous temples of Cambodia

In Cambodia, there are several hundreds of ancient places of worship, which fascinate with its beauty and original architecture. Very interesting is the temple complex Koh Ker, located 90 km from Angkor. Tourists visit this place rarely, because getting there is not easy. Most attracts attention in this complex temple-mountain Prasat Prang height of 32 meters.

This temple in Cambodia is also called the «pyramid of death» due to the fact that there is a deep well on its top. According to legend, after the sacrifices to demons, lifeless bodies were thrown into it. It was believed that this well leads to hell.

Another amazingly beautiful temple is Prea Vihea, or, as it is also called, “The Temple in Heaven”. It was erected on a mountain, at an altitude of 600 meters above sea level. It is considered a very significant building for the ancient Khmer, because it was built a very long time — the construction stretched out during the reign of the seven kings.

Originality differs Buddhist temple Neakpean, created in the XII century. It is located in Angkor, near the city of Danang, on a small artificially created island in the middle of a reservoir. If you believe the ancient legend, the water in these places is endowed with healing properties. Actually, this prompted King Javayarman VII to build a temple here.

Another miracle of Khmer architecture is the Banteaysrai Temple, located in the province of Siem Real. It was built in honor of the god Shiva in the X century. The temple has become famous for its decoration — all its walls are covered with jewelry carving, which is practically untouched by time. Another feature of this building is that it contains ancient pink statues of guardian monkeys.

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