Stretching over some 400 sq. km, including forested area, Angkor contains the magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century CE. These include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.
Angkor was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992 - the same year it was also placed on the List of WorldHeritage in Danger. UNESCO has now set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.
The temples of Angkor are highly symbolic structures. The foremost Hindu concept is the temple-mountain,where the temple is built as a representation of the mythical Mount Meru: this is why so many temples, including Angkor Wat itself, are surrounded by moats, built in a mountain-like pyramidal shape and topped by precisely five towers, representing the five peaks of MountMeru. The linga (phallus), representing the god Shiva, was also critical and while the lingas themselves have largely gone, linga stands (carved, table-like blocks of stone) can be found in many if not most rooms in the temples. There was also a political element to it all: most kings wanted to build their own state temples to symbolize their kingdom and their rule.
There are two great complexes of ancient temples in Southeast Asia,one at Bagan in Burma, the other at Angkor in Cambodia. The temples of Angkor, built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD,represent one of human kind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. From Angkor the Khmer kings ruled over avast domain that reached from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal.The structures one sees at Angkor today, more than 100 stone temples in all, are the surviving remains of a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis whose other buildings - palaces, public buildings, and houses - were built of wood and are long since decayed and gone.