Angkor Wat has been recognized as one of the wonders of the world by a poll organized by the Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation. This poll aimed at identifying the Official New 7 Wonders of the World Finalists. The winners were announced on July 7, 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal after voting by more than 100 million people. The Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Angkor Wat lies 5.5 km north of the modern town of Siem Reap (13°24'N, 103°51'E). A number of ancient structures exist here. Angkor Wat (or Angor Vat) is one of the two important monument of the south-east Asia. The other one is at Bagan in Burma (now Myanmar). The Angkor Wat, the world’s largest sacred temple was built in the early 12th century by the Hindu king Suryavarman II reflecting the Khmer architecture. The grandeur and harmony of the structure and the various guardian spirits on the walls are admirable. Strangely, the temple is oriented to the west rather than the east. The water moats, concentric wall as well as the temple mountain all symbolize the Hindu cosmos.
Though modern engineers estimate that a massive construction such as the Angkor Wat would normally take about 300 years, this temple was constructed in about 40 years. Enormous amounts of sandstone (over 5 million tons) were used. Carving of the surfaces, columns, and lintels is a prominent feature of this architecture. Scenes from the Indian literature such as warriors following an elephant-mounted leader as well as celestial dancing girls are abundant. The great city and the temple were covered by forest till the 19th century, but French archeologists began restoration work from 1907 to 1970. The Archaeological Survey of India too undertook restoration work between 1986 and 1992.
In the year 1296, the Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan wrote elaborately about the Khmer society in great detail, which is a source of great information on this.
Angkor Wat is now attracting more tourists. Various international agencies are working in close union to preserve this temple. It is now a part of the World Heritage Site. The German Apsara Conservation Project as well as the World Monuments Fund are involved. Several temples at Angkor have been restored and are very popular now. About two million tourists visit this place annually.
This temple figures on the national flag of Cambodia.