Angkor Wat History and The History Of Angkor Wat Often Get Confused

"Known Angkor Wat History is Interesting, Mysterious and Likely Inaccurate"

Click Here to Speak

It's silly to attempt a decent article about the history of Angkor Wat in a 1000 words or less. But History is just conjecture and I have been fascinated for 12 years with the Temple at Angkor Wat.

No one really knows the true story but there are some pretty good reasons for that.

  • The Amount of History that Angkor Wat has Already Revealed is Vast and Many Great Historians Have Written Some Very Large Books

  • Angkor Wat History is not the Same Thing as the History of the City of Angkor, Cambodia

  • The Most Treasured Secrets about The History of The Angkor Wat Temple Were Looted Centuries Ago

The thousands of books already written about the rise and fall of Angkor Wat are based on the History Angkor Wat had revealed by that time and the 19th Century mindset that interpreted it.

I read many of these books as part of my fascination with Angkor Wat but abruptly stopped after the last book I read.

A very wise and respected man wrote a book about Angkor history. He concluded that the Romans had actually built Angkor Wat and not the Khmer Civilization.

That is when I realized that many of the books of fact on Angkor history were mere personal theories of men who wanted to sell books.

It killed a lifelong fascination I had with the Temples of Angkor and the City they inhabited.

Then researchers from Australia, Cambodia and France produced a map of the area surrounding the Angkor Wat Temple using the most advanced tools to date.


The map was produced from ground surveys, airborne photography, and ground-sensing radar from NASA's AIRSAR flying laboratory.

This allowed researchers see through the thick canopy of vegetation that hides much of Angkor wat and the City around it.

From the new Data they concluded that the medieval settlement around the Angkor Temple was at the height of its power between the 9th and 14th centuries and was at least three times larger than previously thought.

That means the Ancient city would have covered 3,000 sq km (1,150 sq miles), by far the largest pre-industrial complex of its kind.

Even the BBC News got involved and wrote a short article.

The truth about Angkor Wat and the city around it is so fascinating because the true scale, power and ingenuity of its architecture is limited only by our own technology.

It also suggests that the inhabitants were much more intelligent than we'd ever thought. Angkor Wat and the City around it were an ingenious creation.

Some say it was built using knowledge that we don't even understand today. Angkor Wat is just as much a mystery as the Great Temples of Egypt.

The History Of Angkor Wat

These recent discoveries have shed re-newed light on the city of Angkor and the people who lived there.

The History books will need to be changed but not much change needs to be made to the History of the Temple at the center of the City.

That Angkor Wat place.

The only change that might be made is about the pupose of building Angkor Wat. All the new evidence shows that the Khmer People knew that their Society was collapsing.

And yet they decided to build Angkor Wat during what was called the the Zenith of the Khmer civilization and include in the Temple of Angkor Wat everything that would ensure the survival of their culture.

Might they have begun the construction of a time capsule because they were aware of their eventual demise?

It all began in AD 802 when people calling themselves Angkorians arrived in what is the Northern part of Cambodia.

A man named Jayavarman II became the founder of the Angkor empire, and he proclaimed himself a devaraja or god king who possessed similar powers to the Hindu god named Shiva.

The civilization went through a bunch of kings and each of them built some sort of Temple or major monument to themselves.

The King Who Built Angkor Wat

The History of Angkor Wat begins with King Suryavarman II. He became King of the Khmer Empire in 1113 and remained King until his death somwhere between 1145-1150 AD.

King Suryavarman II

He is credited as the planner and builder of Angkor Wat, which was designed to be the King's State Temple and Capital City.

The true name of Angkor Wat is actually unknown because neither the foundation stela nor any contemporary inscriptions referring to the temple have ever been found.

It may have been known as Vrah Vishnulok after the presiding deity but either way King Suryavarman II dedicated Angkor Wat to the Hindu god Vishnu.

This distinguished himself religiously from former kings through his devotion to the Hindu deity Vishnu. Angkor Wat has its origins based in Hinduism and not Buddhism as most of the Khmer Civilization is today.

King Suryavarman II had a distinctive and prominent Reign that went beyond Angkor Wat History.

He built more monumental structures than any other Khmer King and fought to distinction in numerous military campaigns, extending Khmer influence into Malaya, Burma and Siam (Thailand).

There are also many accounts naming King Suryavarman II as responsible for restoring the Empire to a strong government.

It's not surprising that historians rank Suryavarman II as one of the Empire's greatest kings. He did build Angkor Wat and therfore became the central figure of Angkor Wat History.

But this man survives in The recorded Angkor Wat history in more ways and places than any previous King. He has earned the moniker of the greatest King in the history of Angkor Wat.

I am surprised by this. Great achievements by Kings in any Culture are often erased over time or re-written by successor Kings. History books are filled with men who simply took credit for their predessesor's acheivements.

Maybe that is because only 1 other King (King Jayavarman VII) came after him and before the entire Angkor Civilization disappeared into the Cambodian Jungle.

The Very First Invasion Came from the East

King Suryavarman II died somewhere between 1145-1150 AD. Work on the Angkor Wat Temple ended shortly after the King's death, leaving some of the bas-relief decorations unfinished.

Some say this marked the end of true Angkor Wat History.

King Suryavarman II left the Khmer Empire in weak disarray. The Kingdom was without leadership for 27 years and the Cham Civilization from Vietnam rose up and attacked a weakened Angkor in 1177.

The Dai Viet (Vietnamese Army) succeeded in sacking the City of Angkor. It was the first successful Invasion in Angkor Wat History.

Little is known of Angkor Wat History between 1117-1181 AD. That's 64 years of what some say was Cham Occupation and Rule over the great Khmer Civilization.

The Revival of the Khmer Empire at Angkor

In 1181 King Jayavarman VII rose to power and fought off the Cham Invaders. King Jayavarman VII was subsequently responsible for the rebirth of the Angkorian Empire.

King Jayavarman VII had a big impact on Angkor Wat History. He actually brought Buddhism to another level and changed the tradition of Hinduism by adopting the Buddha of Compassion as his patron and building Buddha structures on his temples.

King Jayavarman VII built Angkor Thom, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm as Buddhist Temples but Angkor Wat was Built to Honor the Hindu God Vishna.

King Jayavarman VII subsequently established a new capital and state temple (Angkor Thom and the Bayon respectively) a few kilometres to the North.

The Decline of Angkor Wat History

King Jayavarman VII died in 1219.

It was upon his death in 1219 that the Angkor Civilization and Angkor History began to decline.

The Khmer Empire reverted back to Hinduism as the State Religion. Buddha figures created by King Jayavarman VII were defaced and destroyed for nearly a century.

It wasn't until 1315 that the Thais finally invaded Angkor Wat. As soon as they conquered Angkor, they went back home again.

Maybe they got lazy and didn't want the responsibility of taking care of the place.

The Thais returned in 1415 to finish the job and finally drove out the last inhabitants, reverting much of the local population back to Buddhism as it remains today.

In the end, the people of the Khmer Civilization had depleted the natural resources of the surrounding area.

There was no water left. Even the newest data shows extreme erosion of water resources. They plundered the area's resources until it could no longer sustain a population.

It seems that every last person left the city and the entire area around it. Over time, the jungle reclaimed the Angkor complex. The palaces and homes of the city surrounding the temple complex were made of wood, so they did not survive the jungle’s reclamation.

Only Temple complexes and important Symbols of Political power were made of stone, including Angkor Wat. Only the stone of this once massive city stands to this day.

The History of Angkor Wat was re-introduced to popular culture is 1868 when French Explorer Henri Mouhot published his travel notes entitled 'Voyage à Siam et dans le Cambodge'.

The publications included drawings and sketches of Angkor Wat that depicted a magical place. The book caused a public sensation, and soon Mouhot is Named as the discoverer of the "lost city of Angkor."

The Thais remained in control of Angkor Wat Until 1907 when they handed it back to Cambodia.

That started a new chapter in Angkor Wat History.


Just have a look at what travellers see and do while visiting Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat Vizzera Virtual Tour

This is an animated video of what Angkor Wat Looked like when it was at the height of it's Power. It is a beautiful and informative video.


Return to the Top of the Page

Leave Angkor Wat History and Return to the Angkor Wat Review

Leave Angkor Wat History and Return to The Budget Travel Homepage

quality health insurance for $30USD

Translate This Page into any Language