Angkor Wat Cambodia
To whom has never been to Angkor might has thought that Angkor is only one monument, Angkor Wat Temple. Angkor is an ancient capital of Cambodia from the 9th century until the 15th century. Angkor covers an area of 200 square km locates in the north-western of the country. There are more than 1000 monuments in the area despite of their sizes, however, most of the temples have collapsed.
Angkor or Khmer or Kampuchea are refer to Cambodia, a country in Southeast Asia which renowned for its art and architecture. Cambodia has its Sanskrit name as ‘Kambuja’ in which it’s associated with Kambu Svayambhuva, the legendary founder of the Khmer civilization.
Phnom Penh is the modern capital city of Cambodia, locates in the southern of the country, some 320 km north of Angkor.
History of Angkor
The history of Angkor was began when king Jayavarman II declared himself the God King and built his capital, Hariharalaya, in present day Roluos, Siem Reap. And since then Cambodia started to be one of most powerful empires in Southeast Asia.
Descriptive evidence of the Chinese, who began their trading activities with mainland Southeast Asia since the half of the 3rd century, have taken into account for the recording of Khmer history. The name given to Cambodia by Chinese at that time was Funan, a small town-state called Nokor Phnom in Khmer, which controlled the sea routes of the Mekong delta and the Gulf of Thailand. It also controlled the neck of the Malay Peninsula, the connection point between eastern Asia and India. As long as the Indians began their trading in Southeast Asia, the introduction of Hinduism and Buddhism was also started. So the Khmer religious beliefs, art and architecture were having roots from India, and this caused a significant influence on the development of the Khmer Empire.
Until the 6th century, there were first local inscriptions recorded historical events. The Chinese accounts had the kingdom called ‘Chenla’, however, this is a Chinese name. In the second half of the 6th century, there is a record of a king named Bhavavarman I with his capital city called Bhavapura. His successor was his brother, Mahendravarman. The next king was Isanavarman I, Mahendravarman’s son, with his capital city called Isanapura, in present day Sambo Prei Kuk, where more than 140 temples were built in an area of 20 km, established the first pre-Angkorian styles of architecture.
In the reign of Isanavarman’s son, Bhavavarman II, the empire was divided into small states. Until Jayavarman I, Isanavarman’s grandson, took the throne in 654 and he reunited most of the territory. After his death, the empire again was controlled by many kings. His daughter, Jayadevi, controlled only the small kingdom of Aninditapura. In the same time, the empire was invaded by Java and all the kings were under Java’s control. Until the end of 8th century, when Jayavarman II (nephew of Jayavarman I) chased out Javanese and re-conquered the empire. The prosperous period of Angkor has begun since then. Read more about Angkorian Kings.
Khmer Ancient Temples
Khmer ancient temples are religious buildings which are the main evidence of Khmer architecture and Khmer civilization. The temples were built of brick, laterite and sandstone, which are durable materials that many temples have survived until today.
Characteristics of Khmer Ancient Temples
The Khmer ancient temple was not a public place for praying to god like the present day Buddhist temples or pagodas. It’s built to be a palace of a God, who was enshrined in the form of statue in the central sanctuary surrounded by many subsidiary shrines. Some temples were not built for a single god, but they were homes of hundred of divinities such as Preah Khan Temple. It’s believed that the God in the temple will bless the founder and his family members. That’s why every king has his own state temple dedicated to his particular God. The so-call state temple was the residence of God. The site in which the temple was built represented the universe, and the Gods sit on Mount Meru which represented by the central sanctuary. Moreover, the temple was surrounded by moat that being the primordial ocean.
The largest temple among more than one thousand Angkorian temples was Angkor Wat, built in the reign of king Suryavarman II (1113-1150), and it’s now registered as the world’s heritage site as well as world’s largest religious building in stone.
In the early centuries of Christian era, when Indians began their trading with the South East Asia countries, they also brought with them their gods which are Hinduism and Buddhism. The only reason that the people of Southeast Asia adopted the religious was probably the prosperity of Indians under the protection of their divinities. Khmer people had started to respect their gods, particularly Shiva, Vishnu, and Buddha, by building temples and enshrined the gods. Among them, Shiva was the dominant figure both pre-Angkor and Angkor period, because he was considered to be supreme protector of the empire. Thus most of the Angkorian temples were dedicated to Shiva.
There were only two sects of Hinduism in Cambodia, Shivaite and Vishnuite. Meanwhile, Buddhism, which was less known, had only one sect as Mahayana Buddhism, though there were small amount of Theravada followers.
The temples as seen in the present days are just a number of shrines that made of durable materials. Besides, there were more shrines that built by less durable materials which were damaged over time.
Since ancient time, Khmer people also worship their indigenous deities, the masters of the land, human heroes who become sacred spirits. Khmer people also believed that there are evil spirits which can cause sickness and death.
Hinduism dominated the whole empire of Khmer which people worshipped two principal of Gods Vishnu and Shiva. Until the end of the 12th century, in the reign of King Jayavarman VII, the religion had changed to Mahayana Buddhism which worshipped to a number of Bodhisattvas (Buddha-to-be figures). Only during this time that Angkorian Temples were built to dedicated to Buddhism. One of the remarkable temples of Jayavarman VII is Bayon Temple, which was also his state temple, built in the heart of Angkor Thom city.
Although after the reign of Jayavarman VII, the Hinduism has returned, but the Angkor period had began to decline. However, it seems the development of the country was under Hindunism, that most of the ancient temples that exist today are dedicated to Hinduism.
Khmer foods were getting influence from Indians and Chinese since the early time of their trading to South East Asia. One example of Chinese influence is noodle and the best example for Indian influence is curry.
Cambodian staples are fish and rice. The Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake are the abundant sources of fish. The plains nearby the rivers are good soils for growing rice paddy. Most of Khmer soups are contain fish as meat such as Samlor Korko, Samlor Tumpang, Samlor Khtis, ect. Many other products of fish such as dried fish, smoked fish, fish paste or so-call as prohok are special products of Cambodia. Prohok is a true taste of Khmer food. The most well known dishes of prohok are Prohok Khtis and Teuk Kroeung.
The Khmer Kroeung is another important ingredient of Khmer food in which it’s a mixture of some herbs like lemongrass, kaffir lime leave, turmeric, finger root, and garlic or shallot. The Khmer curry, samlor praher Khmer, samlor Namya Khmer, Samlor Korko are having the Kroeung as ingredient.