Sunday, September 1, 2019

What is the iconography of Angkor Wat?

An iconography is a term used in history that is used describes a branch of history which involves the study, interpretation, identification and description of the contents of images. In simple terms the term iconography is derived from a Greek word which literally means the study of image writings. The iconography of the Angkor Wat is therefore, a description of the history, the images, the architecture and the features of the Angkor wat temple found in Cambodia. The Angkor Wat is a type of a very complex temple found at a place known as Angkor in Cambodia (Latinis, 2003, 367). This temple was initially constructed by the king who reigned those days Sir Suryavarman back in the 12th century. It is one of the best preserved temples in the city and it was merely constructed to be used as the king’s state temple and the capital city. However, it one of its kind and it has remained to be the most significant religious site since its construction. The Angkor Wat temple is located within the midst of other temple structures within the Capital city of Cambodia. The initial features of the temple including the design and construction were first launched during the 12th century at the eve and reign of king Suryavarman Initially the design and construction of the temple was dedicated to the Vishnu and it was actually established to serve the king as his main capital city and state temple (Bernard, 2006, 412). Up to today there has been no architectural inscriptions or foundations associated with the temple that have been found. In addition, the original name of the temple remains unknown to many. The name Vrah Vishnulok might have been an assumption to the original name of the temple that was put forward by a reliable deity. After the fall and death of king Suryavarman II, the construction work of the temple also collapsed leaving the bas-relief unfinished and even undecorated. The Khmer kings there after indulged into a massive construction and building and took the temple up to its toll by engaging populations which were working for the state as virtual slave laborers . In addition, the military conquests highly supported king Khmer thus expanding his empire and power. After a period of 27 years after the death of king Suryavarman the traditional enemies of Khmer known as Cham invaded his territory leading to his collapse (Latinis, 2003, 369). After some time he was succeeded by sir Jayavarman VII who later restored the empire and consequently established the temple as his capital city and state temple. At the eve of the 13th century, the king Sir Javarman VII decided to transform the empire from Hindu to Buddhism. The process of transforming the empire from Hinduism to Buddhism was relatively easy for the king since majority of the civilians were tied of the constant political clashes resulting to the frequent down falls and collapse of the territories. However, these people were hungry for a change and the desire to have a constant faith to rely on that offered tranquility without the urge and desire for power and material gain. As a result of this conflict Angkor Wat was finally transformed from Hindu to Theravada use by the Buddhist (http://www. sacredsites. com/asia/cambodia/angkor_wat. tml). The architectural, design and the plan of the temple is a unique one that can however, not be described on paper using a pen. Its refinements, decorations and towers are beyond the human comprehension. The standard design of the temple plus the unique combination of the temple Mountain and addition, the empire’s state temple were features that were highly influences by the Chola, Orissa and the Tamil Nadu people of India. It was also believed that the temple represented the Mount Meru of Kenya which was highly accorded as the original homeland for the gods. The central quincunx forming the towers is a clear representation of the five peaks forming the mountain, including the moat and the walls which surround the ocean and the mountain ranges. The style of the temple is a classical representation designed by the Khmer architectures. During the 12 century, majority of the architects in the Khmer empire had become skillfully oriented in using and shaping the sandstone for construction purpose as the only available resource for buildings and constructions. The most prominent and most visible features of the Angkor wat temple are made up of sandstone blocks. Laterite was however, used in most cases for making the hidden structural areas and for the outer walls (Bernard, 2006, 415). However, the agent that was used in the process of bidding blocks together has never been identified till today although some experts’ belief in some slaked lime and resins to have been used. The design of the Angkor Wat has drawn much praise for the harmony and organization of its features which can only be matched with the ancient architects of the Roman Empire. Consequently, the precise arrangement of its portions and fine balancing of its elements greatly signifies the works of unity, power and style. The elements forming its structure greatly symbolize the Ogival, which were some sort of redented towers which were shaped like the lotus buds. There were galleries that were half shaped that were used to broaden the pathways consequently with axial galleries which mainly connected the cruciform terraces and the enclosure which also appeared along the axis of the temple. The style also encompassed typical decorative features especially on the pediments and the bas- relief. The Angkor Wat sanctuary is however, believed to be static, conservative and less graceful. The temple has got unique complex features which are beyond human comprehension. The walls are great surrounded by moat and aprons of open grounds. The entrance to the temple is by use of an earth bank entrance that appears to the east and a sandstone causeway directed to the west. At each cardinal point there are gopuras towers. The western region is estimated to be the largest with three ruined towers. Towards the southern end of the temple there exists another tower which forms a statute of Vishnu which is said to be the central most shrine of the temple. Between the towers there exist various galleries forming two other entrances on either sides of the gopura. The galleries take the form of square shaped pillars forming the outer walls. The pillars and the ceilings are carefully decorated with lotus with dancing figures appearing on the face, prancing animals and balustered windows. The outer walls are however, large enclosing a large mass of land which was said to be the space occupied by the city and consequently the king’s royal palace (http://www. sacredsites. com/asia/cambodia/angkor_wat. html). The central structure of the Angkor Wat is built on a terrace that is placed on a higher level than the city. It is however, constructed using three rectangular galleries which are raise towards the central most towers with each level appearing at a higher level than the previous one. It is believed that these galleries were specifically dedicated to the Kings Brahma, Vishnu and the Moon respectively. Majority of these features in the temple are set facing east leaving enough space to be occupied by enclosures. The temple is preciously decorated with predominate features forming the bas – relief and friezes. The inner walls of the gallery form a large scale series of scenes mainly referring to the Hindu episodes and epics. These scenes have been branded as the greatest scenes of linear arrangement of stone carvings. It is also believed that very high profile skills were used in the construction of the temple. Stones which appeared as smooth polished marbles were used. They were skillfully and carefully laid down to form the base without mortar held together by very strong joints that were hard to get. Tenon joints were also used to hold the blocks together with gravity and dovetails (Latinis, 2003, 374). Generally the monument was built of pure sand stone just like pyramids of Egypt. Great transformations have been made today making the site a tourist resource center. Many of the indigenous resources that were hard to find have been robbed out while others decaying gracefully with time. However, the Angkor wat temple remains to be one of its kind till today.

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