Everything You Wanted To Know About Angkor Wat But Didn’t Know To Ask


Everyone knows about the standard online or old-fashioned guidebooks for Angkor Wat be it from Lonely Planet, Travelfish or whatever. And these are quite handy to take along (by the way, the two I have referenced here are very cheap, comprehensive and can be downloaded via the links). But here are some other freely available and downloadable guide books if you want to delve much deeper into the temples, their backgrounds and their stories or are interested in seeing Angkor Wat from a totally different and cosmic perspective…

Angkor Wat in more depth than you could ever imagine

Perhaps the world’s first modern traveler’s guidebook for Angkor Wat and certainly the most extensive still today is “A Guide to the Angkor Monuments” from Maurice Glaize. From the guidebook’s introduction:

“Published in 1944 in Saigon, republished in 1948 and again in Paris in 1963, “The Monuments of the Angkor Group” by Maurice Glaize remains the most comprehensive of the guidebooks and the most easily accessible to a wide public, dedicated to one of the most fabled architectural ensembles in the world. In his preface to the first edition, Georges Coedes (1886-1969), the unchallenged master of Khmer studies and the then director of the École Française d’Extrême-Orient, wrote: “Maurice Glaize’s guide, more than a quarter of which is devoted to fundamental ideas concerning the history of the country, its religions, the meaning and evolution of the monuments, their architecture and their decoration, the sculpture, and finally to the work of the Conservation d’Angkor, gives an initiation to Angkor that until now has been lacking. The guide recommends itself on these qualities alone. By means of taking apart and rebuilding the monuments during the process of anastylosis Mr. Glaize has learnt to know their secrets and, like a professor of anatomy, reveals to his readers all the details of their structure. But further, in daily contact with the ruins since 1936, he has learnt to love them, and one can easily perceive the emotion of the artist as he faces the corner of a gallery lit by the morning sun, or views the light playing on the waters of an ancient pool at sunset…”

A Cosmic Perspective

If you want to see Angkor Wat from a cosmic perspective then you should really check out “Time, Space and Astronomy in Angkor Wat“:

“Angkor Wat’s great Hindu temple has been called one of mankind’s most impressive and enduring architectural achievements. It was built by the Khmer Emperor Suryavarman II, who reigned during AD 1113-50. One of the many temples built from AD 879 – 1191, it arose when the Khmer civilization was at the height of its power. Although Visnu is its main deity, the temple, through its sculpture, pays homage to all the Vedic gods and goddesses including Shiva. The astronomy and cosmology underlying the design of this temple was extensively researched in the 1970s. Basically, it was found that the temple served as a practical observatory where the rising sun was aligned on the equinox and solstice days with the western entrance of the temple, and many sighting lines for seasonally observing the risings of the sun and the moon were identified. Using a survey by Nalyan and converting the figures to the Cambodian cubit or hat (0.43545m), it was demonstrated that certain measurements of the temple record calendric and cosmological time cycles.”

If you are intrigued by this cosmic and astronomical perspective of Angkor Wat, you should also check out “In Pursuit of Sacred Science” which looks at Angkor Wat along similar lines:

“Astronomically, it (Angkor Wat) has built-in positions for lunar and solar observation. The sun itself was so important to the builders of the temple that solar movement regulates the position of the bas-reliefs. It is not surprising that Angkor Wat integrates astronomy, the calendar, and religion since the priest-architects who constructed the temple conceived of all three as a unity. To the ancient Khmers, astronomy was known as the sacred science.”

(If you are planning a trip to Angkor Wat please check out Savuth’s tuk tuk transportation services at Angkortuktuk.net)

~ by Leonard on December 11, 2008.

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