Why Was Angkor Wat Built?

angkor-wat-built Credit: Martin Puddy/Stone/Getty Images

Angkor Wat, located in what today is Cambodia, was built as a temple in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu, the supreme god of the Vaisenavites. The name "Angkor Wat" means "temple city."

Angkor Wat was built around the 12th century. In total, the temple city encompasses about 500 acres, and at its core is a 213-foot structure adorned with a statue of Vishnu, meant to depict the similarities between Vishnu and the king. The design of the city is meant to mirror that of Mount Meru, the mythical home of the Hindu gods. It is estimated that, at one point in time, Angkor Wat was the largest city in the world, with a population of more than 1 million people. The city of Angkor Wat was built by King Suryavarman II, a somewhat violent ruler who gained power by killing his uncle. It is speculated that the king's ashes may have been interred in the central structure of the city. Scholars have also suggested that certain alignments of Angkor Wat to celestial beings may indicate that there is astronomical significance to the city's design. In the 14th century, Angkor Wat was converted to a Buddhist temple. Images of Buddha were added throughout the structure.