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The Cambodian temple: Angkor Wat



By Sonal Butley

Whenever we think about ancient temples, its breath-taking architecture never fails to mesmerise us. But, calling Angkor Wat “one of such magnificent craftworks” would simply be an understatement. The Angkor Wat, supposedly built 900 years ago, is the largest religious monument in the world. This Cambodian architecture is remarkable because it stretches beyond 400 acres, which is more than three times the size of the entire Vatican City! Even if we exclude the walking paths, the sheer area enveloped by the stone blocks, pillars, ceilings, and towers is approximately 10 million square feet. Now, would you call it just some other monument?

The central towers of this grandeur are hitherto the tallest structures in the city of Krong Siem Reap in Cambodia. A testimony to the magnificence of this temple are the primary towers (one of which is 213 feet tall). On it, the flag of Cambodia is imprinted. Imagine the volume of rocks and the amount of time needed to construct a temple of such grandeur! Scholars, over the years, have apprised us about how it had been built in 37 years in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II of the Khmer empire.

A bizarre fact is that there is no rock quarry anywhere near the site. So, where did all these sandstone blocks come from? Archaeologists have located a quarry 50 kilometers away at the mountain of Phnom Kulem which must have been carried down to the Siem Reap River.

Now, let’s ponder on that! The temple covering an area of 10 million square feet must require at least some million tons of rocks for its construction, right? Wonder how much time it must have taken to transport such massive amounts of materials without modern equipment, vehicles and well-built roads.

The ancient builders took rocks from the hilltop, transported, measured, cut, lifted, aligned, polished and carved the engravings on these rocks. All this led to the creation of this structure. This is what I would call a supremely intriguing and jaw-dropping instance from ancient history.

The quote of the famous Canadian-born American architect and designer, Frank Garry sums it up, “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness”.

Poetic गुफ्तगू – With हुमेरा खान @poetsofDelhi