In a landmark achievement, Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Wat has officially been recognized as the eighth wonder of the world, eclipsing the renowned ruins of Italy’s Pompeii. The ancient temple complex, located in the province of Siem Reap, stands as a testament to the architectural brilliance and historical significance of the Khmer Empire.
Constructed in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument globally, boasting approximately 1,200 square meters of intricately carved bas reliefs. The unofficial title of the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ is a rare accolade reserved for structures and creations that rival the original Seven Wonders.
Prime Minister Hun Manet celebrated the achievement, expressing his joy and extending congratulations to Angkor Wat. The temple, also known as Yasodharapura, holds a unique historical charm, with its name originating from the Khmer term ‘nokor,’ meaning ‘kingdom.’
Mitre Peak in New Zealand, Deadvlei Clay Pan in Namibia, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia, and Stonehenge in England are among the contenders for the coveted title of the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Originally dedicated to the worship of Vishnu, Angkor Wat underwent a transformation into a Buddhist temple under the reign of Khmer Emperor Jayavarman VII. The site, often referred to as the ‘Tomb Raider temple’ due to its appearance in the film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, is part of the Angkor UNESCO Site, a significant archaeological area spanning 400 square kilometers.
Henri Mouhot, a French explorer in the 1840s, aptly described Angkor Wat as surpassing the grandeur of ancient Greek and Roman structures. Today, the site stands as a UNESCO-protected treasure, showcasing the architectural prowess and cultural legacy of the Khmer Empire.
Angkor Wat’s Wondrous Architecture
The architectural marvel of Angkor Wat is truly breathtaking. Built with sandstone blocks, the temple complex is surrounded by a 15-foot-high wall and a moat, spanning over 200 acres. Adorned with thousands of bas-reliefs depicting Hindu and Buddhist deities, the site encompasses the urban area, religious structure, and the emperor’s residence.
The main religious complex features five towers shaped like lotus flowers, symbolizing Mount Meru in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. To fully appreciate the remarkable architecture, visitors are advised to allocate a minimum of three days or even a week to explore the Angkor Archaeological Park, which spans 1,000 square kilometers.
Siem Reap International Airport, inaugurated in November 2023, serves as a strategic gateway to Angkor Wat, located approximately 40 kilometers east of the complex. With operating hours from 5 am to 6 pm, Angkor Wat is accessible year-round, with the dry season (November to March) being the peak tourist season.
Cambodia, with its rich historical monuments and natural beauty, beckons travelers seeking captivating experiences. The 30-day visa upon arrival for Indian nationals further enhances the appeal of this Southeast Asian gem.