Angkor Wat is a Hindu and Buddhist temple complex built by the Khmer kings in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. Angkor Wat comes from Sanskrit word “Nagar” meaning City and Khmer form of the Pali word “Vatthu” which means temple, the word thus meaning Temple City. It is also the best preserved the most famous among the temples of Angkor and the state symbol of Cambodia.
The construction of Angkor Wat complex started in 12th century AD, during the reign of the Khmer king Suryavarman II. The temple was dedicated to Vishnu, the Hindu god who maintains the creation, and was conceived as the state temple of the kingdom. After being sacked by the Chams in 1177 AD, the temple was again restored by King Jayavarman VII.
By 13th century AD, Angkor Wat gradually moved from being a Hindu temple to a centre of Theravada Buddhism. With time, its glory declined but it was never completely abandoned by its people. António da Madalena, a Portuguese monk who visited the temple in 1586 AD, said of it, “(It) is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements, which the human genius can conceive of”. In the 19th century, the temple was visited by French traveller Henri Mouhot, who introduced the site to the West through his travelogues.
The restoration work of Angkor Wat started in the early 20th century and has continued till date, except an interruption during the rule of Khmer Rouge. Today Angkor Wat is a powerful icon of Cambodia and figures prominently in its state symbol.