Spirituality of the Angkor Wat Temples

The Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia is one of the world’s biggest religious monuments ever constructed. Throughout its walls lies decades of history and spiritual values. It is one unmissable destination when visiting Cambodia.

Located close to the modernised town of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is a shrine for Hinduism and Buddhism. It is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, who is the “preserver” and “protector” in the Hindu triad. Even though the temple was dedicated to a Hindu god and most of its images are from Hindu scriptures, today the temple is considered a shrine for Theravada Buddhists.

The temple was built in in the 12th century by its Ruler Suryavarman II. As King of Cambodia, Suryavarman II believed in the idea that there was a connection between a King and a God. Vishnu was a popular choice for many kings during this time.

Visitors to Angkor Wat are amazed by the incredible attention to detail of the monument, with carvings of historical events embedded into the walls. The carvings display eight different Hindu stories.

Did you know that the structure of the Angkor Wat was specifically made to parallel the lengths of the four ages of classical Hindu thought? The construction of the temple has so much meaning. Its main entrance is in the West, representing a direction that is associated with Vishnu as well as death in Southeast Asia. This is notable as typically Cambodian temples will face East towards the rising sun. It suggests that Suryavarman II had intended for the temple to be his tomb.

The entrance has guardian lions marking its path. The lion represents royalty, strength and courage and suggest the ability to ward off evil. Middle Eastern tales show lions as representing great kings. Angkor Wat still plays a significant role in Cambodia, with its flag embellished with the silhouette of the temple.

Our volunteers always enjoy travelling to the Angkor Wot Temple and a full day guided tour is included in the placement fee, along with two nights in Siem Reap where you can visit the markets, go sightseeing and try new foods.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to travel to this historical landmark on our volunteer experiences to Cambodia as a Health (Physio, OT, P+O), Engineering, Environment or Urban Planning volunteer.

 

References:

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2019. “Suryanarman II: King of Khmer Empire.” Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Suryavarman-II

NCpedia. 2019. “Moat, guardian lion statue, and causeway into temple buildings at Angkor Wat.” https://www.ncpedia.org/media/moat-guardian-lion-statue-and

Jarus, Owen, 2018. “Angkor Wat: History of Ancient Temple.” Live Science. April 5, 2018. https://www.livescience.com/23841-angkor-wat.html

 

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