Angkor Wat was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, the preserver of the world. A gigantic three‐step pyramid is adorned by nine slender towers of enormous height. The steps of the pyramid are capped by galleries. Framed by an enclosure wall and a majestic moat, the temple covers 2.5 square kilometres. King Suryavarman II (1118‐1148/50) built his state temple in the southeast quarter of Yasodharapura. This is why Angkor Wat is orientated to the West.ii The biggest temple in the world and the summit of Khmer architecture, Angkor Wat has incredible dimensions, incredible spaces of reliefs; reliefs are literally everywhere. In Angkor Wat there are more than two thousand Devata (Goddesses or Deities, commonly mixed up with the Apsara).
Though it is called 'Angkor Wat' ('City of the Buddhist Monastery'), it has never been a town or capital, but it is a genuine temple, in the 16th century its name was 'Brah Bisnulok' ('Holy Place of Vishnu'). Later on Buddhist Monks erected a monastery inside of the temple's compound. And: Angkor Wat is not a mausoleum; Angkor Wat is a straight pyramid temple.Coming from the West we stand in front of a wide moat. It covers nearly the same space as the temple complex within it.
A sandstone causeway spans the moat, leading to a large building, the West Gopura. Three towers are marking entrance gates. Two more entrances are at the far away ends of the lateral galleries. The West
Gopura is a few meters wider than the west face of the temple. We get familiar with the huge horizontal dimensions of this temple plant. The horizontal structure is similar to the west face of the pyramid, where we will find again three towers, and the large outer gallery with corner pavilions.
After crossing the moat by the sandstone causeway, we pass by the central gate and have a view of the whole temple, from a distance almost twice as far as the temple's breadth. We are prepared for its width by the entrance building; we are surprised by the great height. Don't miss the Devata reliefs at the east face of the main entrance!
Leisurely proceeding along the splendid causeway, we see the temple getting bigger and bigger. Two halls are flanking, and two basins are preceding the west face, which is crowned by five towers. At last, in front of the outer walls, we must crane our neck to have a view of the top. A moment later the towers are hidden.
We cross the gallery of the bas‐reliefs and enter a wide cruciform gallery, opened by basins in four courts, adorned by reliefs, and the play of light and shadow between the pillars. Here the transition happens from the secular to the sacred space.
Almost imperceptible, stairways, ingenious constructions, bring us to the courtyard of the second gallery. Topped by towers and a high gallery, a bulky but well sectionalized structure rises in front of us. Again we have to crane our necks. Steep stairways run up.
At the uppermost platform we are again in a cruciform gallery, now you have an open view to the four cardinal points. Pillars open to four courts with basins again, giving views to the towers at their intersections. Above these galleries, the towers look like gigantic buds, floating and opening to the sky.
The pyramid is raised on a vast terrace, 2 m high, and surrounded by naga balustrades. It opens to the cardinal points by entrance pavilions and stairways. The steps are each roughly half as large and double as high as the step below it. Each step is crowned by surrounding galleries. The first step, containing the gallery of the basreliefs, is 203 m large and 3 m high. Pavilions mark the corners. At the corners of the second tier are four towers, their superstructure is partly missing. The top tier is marked by five towers in a quincunx.
The Lower Cruciform Gallery
A cruciform gallery links the lower and the second storeys of the pyramid. High galleries, flanked by half galleries, are crossing, making four courtyards which are covered by water basins. Three stairways, 7 m high, climb up to the gallery of the second tier. The graduated staircases are topped with graduated roofs and pediments. In front of the southern entrance of the lower cruciform gallery is a huge statue of the standing Buddha who obstructs the view to the southern hall in the courtyard of the outer enclosure. But we can have a beautiful view to the northern hall.