There are few places on earth that are as moving as Angkor Wat, a temple complex in Cambodia and one of the largest religious monuments in the world. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple and dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, and over time it was transformed into a Buddhist temple, and has remained as such, since the end of the 12th century.
Angkor Wat is constructed with two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple-mountain and the later galleried temple. What truly sets this Angkorian temple apart is that Angkor Wat is oriented to the west (most are oriented toward the east), something that has perplexed scholars for centuries. There are many reasons that this temple is admired, but mostly it’s for the harmony and magnificence of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs (projected images with shallow depths, similar to those found on coins), and for the numerous devatas (the Hindu term for deity) adorning its walls. According to Cambodia Tourism, Angkor Wat is a miniature replica of the universe in stone and represents an earthly model of the cosmic world – the central tower rises from the center of the monument symbolizing the mythical mountain, Meru, situated at the center of the universe, and its five towers correspond to the peaks of Meru.
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