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Cambodia: CITY OF THE GODS (1of6) [EN]

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Uploaded on Feb 29, 2008

SITUATED between India and China, Southeast Asia has been the birthplace of several cultures, some of which rank among the world's greatest civilizations. Among the Indianized kingdoms which sprang up in Southeast Asia before the Common era, the great Khmer civilization and its capital, Angkor, in modern day Cambodia. The advent of Indians in Southeast Asia has hardly a parallel in history. In view of the ethnic affinities between the prehistoric Austro-Asiatic races of India and those of Suvarnabhumi, contact between the two regions may well go back to the remotest antiquity. Most of the countries of Southeast Asia came under the cultural and religious influence of India. This region was broadly referred to by ancient Indians as Suvarnabhumi (the Land of Gold) or Suvarnadvipa (the Island of Gold). Vedic Indians must have charted Java, Yawadvip, thousands of years ago because Yawadvip is mentioned in India's earliest epic, the Ramayana. The Ramayana reveals some knowledge of the eastern regions beyond seas; for instance Sugriva dispatched his men to Yavadvipa, the island of Java, in search of Sita.

Southeast Asia was often called by many British, French and Indian scholars as Farther India, Greater India, L'Inde Exterieure, and the Hinduized or Indianized States. The whole area was so influenced by India, that according to a European scholar who wrote in 1861, that "the Indian countries situated beyond the Ganges hardly deserve the attention of History."The various states established in this region can therefore be called Indianized kingdoms. Invasion nor proselystism was by no means the main factor in the process of Indianization which took place in the Indian Archipelago. International trade was very important. Angkor Wat indeed deserves to play the leading part not only because of its exceptional artistic and architectural achievements but also on account of the hydrological, agricultural and ecological problems solved there.

Angkor Wat is often hailed as one of the most extraordinary architectural creations ever built, with its intricate bas-reliefs, strange acoustics and magnificent soaring towers. Angkor Wat, originally named Vrah Vishnulok - the sacred abode of Lord Vishnu, is the largest temple in the world. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. The Sanskrit Nagara (capital) was modified by the Cambodian tongue to Nokor and then to Angkor. The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit word 'nagara' meaning 'holy city'. Vatika is Sanskrit word for temple. "The city which is a temple," Angkor Wat is a majestic monument, the world's largest religious construction in stone, and an architectural masterpiece. The Khmers adhered to the Indian belief that a temple must be built according to a mathematical system in order for it to function in harmony with the universe. Distances between certain architectural elements of the temple reflect numbers related to Indian mythology and cosmology. The sheer size of the place leaves visitors in awe and the complex designs illustrate the skills of long gone priest architects. Every spare inch has been carved with intricate works of art. The sculptures of Indian icons produced in Cambodia during the 6th to the 8th centuries A D are masterpieces, monumental, subtle, highly sophisticated, mature in style and unrivalled for sheer beauty anywhere in India says Philip Rawson. The scale of Angkor Wat enabled the Khmer to give full expression to religious symbolism. It is, above all else, a microcosm of the Hindu universe.

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