Angkor pronunciation

Angkor pronunciation DEFAULT


[ ang-kawr, -kohr ]

/ ˈæŋ kɔr, -koʊr /


a vast assemblage of ruins of the Khmer empire, near the modern city of Siem Reap in NW Cambodia: many elaborately carved and decorated temples, stone statues, gateways, and towers.



We could talk until we're blue in the face about this quiz on words for the color "blue," but we think you should take the quiz and find out if you're a whiz at these colorful terms.

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Words nearby Angkor

angiotonic, angiotribe, angiotripsy, angiotrophic, angiya, Angkor, Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Angl., anglaise, angle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

How to use Angkor in a sentence

  • With lidar maps, archaeologists could at last verify that Angkor had been home to nearly a million people at its height—a claim that had been widely disputed.

    How technology helped archaeologists dig deeper|Annalee Newitz|April 28, 2021|MIT Technology Review

  • For hundreds of years, Angkor’s layout remained hidden beneath the jungle.

    How technology helped archaeologists dig deeper|Annalee Newitz|April 28, 2021|MIT Technology Review

  • Indeed, as Annalee Newitz writes, there is much being discovered in the centuries-old histories of Angkor, Pompeii, New York, and elsewhere that challenges our received wisdom about how great cities rose, and who built them.

    The great urban tech reset|Michael Reilly|April 28, 2021|MIT Technology Review

  • Angkor was a sophisticated city with hundreds of thousands of residents—until its collapse.

    The Pandemic Remade Every Corner of Society. Now It's the Climate's Turn|Justin Worland|April 15, 2021|Time

  • A prime example is the city of Angkor, the capital of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia from the 9th to 15th centuries.

    How Climate Change May Be Contributing to Our Political Instability|Justin Worland|September 15, 2020|Time

  • The Temple of Angkor had 1,532 columns, and the stone for the structure was brought from a quarry thirty-two miles distant.

    Four Young Explorers|Oliver Optic

  • The reliefs in the great corridors of Angkor are purely decorative.

    Hinduism and Buddhism, An Historical Sketch, Vol. 3 (of 3)|Charles Eliot

  • At Angkor there are several such structures built of large blocks of hewn stone.

    The American Egypt|Channing Arnold

  • Ruined city, near which are ruins of Angkor-Vat, a famous Cambodian temple.

    A Literary and Historical Atlas of Asia|J. G. Bartholomew

  • Some of these Guatemala structures show a quite extraordinary resemblance to those at Angkor in Cambodia.

    Ranching, Sport and Travel|Thomas Carson

British Dictionary definitions for Angkor


a large area of ruins in NW Cambodia, containing Angkor Thom (tɔːm), the capital of the former Khmer Empire, and Angkor Wat (wɒt), a three-storey temple, which were overgrown with dense jungle from the 14th to 19th centuries

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012


11 Commonly Mispronounced Places in Cambodia

Angkor Wat is a commonly mispronounced word.

Angkor Wat is a commonly mispronounced word. | © bluebird666 / Pixabay

Khmer words can often be tricky for foreigners to get their tongues around. The sometimes-deceptive spelling can also lead visitors down the wrong path. Here are 11 commonly mispronounced places in Cambodia, and the correct way to say them.

This northwestern province, which is home to the sleepy city of the same name, is the most commonly mispronounced place in Cambodia, and it’s easy to see why. You can’t blame someone for reading it and saying, “Bat-am-bang”, right? I mean that’s how it’s spelt after all. Wrong. It’s pronounced “Bat-am-bong”.

Phnom Sampeau pagoda in Battambang | © Sophie Lenoir / Shutterstock

“Nom pen” can often be heard ringing through the air of the Cambodian capital usually from tourists clutching maps and guidebooks but also from the occasional expat. “Fom pen” is the lesser used mispronunciation, with “P-nom pen” being correct.

Phnom Penh at night | © Marissa Carruthers

No one is going to scold you for getting this one wrong because most foreigners refer to Kep as just that: “Kep”. However, if you want to say it the Khmer way, then this coastal town is in fact pronounced “Kipe”, like “kite” but with a p.

Kep, Cambodia | © James Antrobus / Flickr

This northeastern province, with its riverside capital of the same name, is often wrongly referred to as “Kratee”. However, to get it right, you need to shake it up a little and say, “Kra-chay”.

Sunset in Kratie town | © Marissa Carruthers

This is a tricky one that takes most foreigners a while to get right and causes many confused looks from locals. “Spow”, “Spew”, “Spu”? The correct way is “Kam-pong Sp-uh”.

Kampong Speu in Cambodia | © Marissa Carruthers

The tropical island of Koh Rong Samloem not only has seemingly countless ways of being spelt, it also has varying pronunciations. “Samlom”, “Samlowm”, “Samlon”. The right way to refer to the island is “Koh Rong Sam-lem”.

Beautiful turquoise beach on Koh Rong Samloem island in Cambodia | © Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock

This village that doubles as an eco-tourism project in the heart of the Cardamom Mountains is another place that causes confusion. Actually named “Chee Pat”, it’s often wrongly referred to as “Chee Fat”.

Chi Phat is in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia | © Andrii Lutsyk / Shutterstock

Also called Spiderville because it’s home to the tarantulas Cambodians like to snack on in fried form, Skoun sits midway between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. It’s pronounced as “Sk-un”, not “Skoon”.

Skoun is the centre of Cambodia’s tarantula business. | © Marissa Carruthers

This area of the capital is home to the Russian Market and is locally called Toul Tom Poung. To get it right, you need to say, “Tool Tom Pong”, and if you want to visit the market, then ask for Phsar Toul Tom Poung, with phsar (“market”) pronounced “psarrr”.

Cambodia’s iconic temple complex in Siem Reap is constantly called “Angker”, which is 100 percent incorrect. The ancient city is called “Ang-kor Wat”, with emphasis put on the “or” of Angkor.

Angkor Wat at sunrise | © Engin_Akyurt / Pixabay

Siem Reap is another one that’s tricky on the tongue to get right, so the usual “Se-em Reep” is fine. However, if you want to sound like a local, then it’s more of a “Se-em Ree-ap”, with a slight rolling of Reap’s r.

Monks at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap | © Artigone Pumsirisawas / Shutterstock

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For the temple, see Angkor Wat.

Capital city of the Khmer Empire

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Angkor Wat W-Seite.jpg
LocationSiem Reap Province, Cambodia
IncludesAngkor, Roluos, and Banteay Srei
CriteriaCultural: i, ii, iii, iv
Inscription1992 (16th Session)
Area40,100 ha

Angkor (Khmer: អង្គរpronounced [ʔɑŋ.ˈkɔː], city), also known as Yasodharapura (Khmer: យសោធរបុរៈ; Sanskrit: यशोधरपुर)[1][2] was the capital city of the Khmer Empire. The city and empire flourished from approximately the 9th to the 15th centuries. The city houses the magnificent Angkor Wat, one of Cambodia's most popular tourist attractions.

The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskritnagara (नगर), meaning "city".[3] The Angkorian period began in AD 802, when the KhmerHindu monarch Jayavarman II declared himself a "universal monarch" and "god-king", and lasted until the late 14th century, first falling under Ayutthayan suzerainty in 1351. A Khmer rebellion against Siamese authority resulted in the 1431 sacking of Angkor by Ayutthaya, causing its population to migrate south to Longvek.

The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland north of the Great Lake (Tonlé Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern-day Siem Reap city (13°24′N, 103°51′E), in Siem Reap Province. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the Angkor Wat, said to be the world's largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitors approach two million annually, and the entire expanse, including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom is collectively protected as a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site. The popularity of the site among tourists presents multiple challenges to the preservation of the ruins.

In 2007, an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest pre-industrial city in the world, with an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) to the well-known temples at its core.[4] Angkor is considered to be a "hydraulic city" because it had a complicated water management network, which was used for systematically stabilizing, storing, and dispersing water throughout the area.[4] This network is believed to have been used for irrigation in order to offset the unpredictable monsoon season and to also support the increasing population.[4] Although the size of its population remains a topic of research and debate, newly identified agricultural systems in the Angkor area may have supported between 750,000 and one million people.[5]

Historical overview[edit]

Seat of the Khmer Empire[edit]

The Angkorian period may have begun shortly after 800 AD, when the Khmer King Jayavarman II announced the independence of Kambujadesa (Cambodia) from Java. According to Sdok Kok Thom inscription,[6]: 97 [7]: 353–354  circa 781 Indrapura was the first capital of Jayavarman II, located in Banteay Prei Nokor, near today's Kompong Cham.[8] After he eventually returned to his home, the former kingdom of Chenla, he quickly built up his influence, conquered a series of competing kings, and in 790 became king of a kingdom called Kambuja by the Khmer. He then moved his court northwest to Mahendraparvata, in present day Kulen mountains, far inland north from the great lake of Tonle Sap.[9]

He also established the city of Hariharalaya (now known as Roluos) at the northern end of Tonlé Sap. Through a program of military campaigns, alliances, marriages and land grants, he achieved a unification of the country bordered by China to the north, Champa (now Central Vietnam) to the east, the ocean to the south and a place identified by a stone inscription as "the land of cardamoms and mangoes" to the west. In 802, Jayavarman articulated his new status by declaring himself "universal monarch" (chakravartin) and, in a move that was to be imitated by his successors and that linked him to the cult of Siva, taking on the epithet of "god-king" (devaraja).[10] Before Jayavarman, Cambodia had consisted of a number of politically independent principalities collectively known to the Chinese by the names Funan and Chenla.[11]

In 889, Yasovarman ascended to the throne.[12] A great king and an accomplished builder, he was celebrated by one inscription as "a lion-man; he tore the enemy with the claws of his grandeur; his teeth were his policies; his eyes were the Veda."[13] Near the old capital of Hariharalaya, Yasovarman constructed a new city, called Yasodharapura.[14]: 350  In the tradition of his predecessors, he also constructed a massive reservoir called baray.[15]

The significance of such reservoirs has been debated by modern scholars, some of whom have seen in them a means of irrigating rice fields, and others of whom have regarded them as religiously charged symbols of the great mythological oceans surrounding Mount Meru, the abode of the gods. The mountain, in turn, was represented by an elevated temple, in which the "god-king" was represented by a lingam.[16] In accordance with this cosmic symbolism, Yasovarman built his central temple on a low hill known as Phnom Bakheng, surrounding it with a moat fed from the baray. He also built numerous other Hindu temples and ashrams, or retreats for ascetics.[17]

Over the next 300 years, between 900 and 1200, the Khmer Empire produced some of the world's most magnificent architectural masterpieces in the area known as Angkor. Most are concentrated in an area approximately 15 miles (24 km) east to west and 5 miles (8.0 km) north to south, although the Angkor Archaeological Park, which administers the area, includes sites as far away as Kbal Spean, about 30 miles (48 km) to the north. Some 72 major temples or other buildings are found within this area, and the remains of several hundred additional minor temple sites are scattered throughout the landscape beyond.[4]

Because of the low-density and dispersed nature of the medieval Khmer settlement pattern, Angkor lacks a formal boundary, and its extent is therefore difficult to determine. However, a specific area of at least 1,000 km2 (390 sq mi) beyond the major temples is defined by a complex system of infrastructure, including roads and canals that indicate a high degree of connectivity and functional integration with the urban core. In terms of spatial extent (although not in terms of population), this makes it the largest urban agglomeration in recorded history prior to the Industrial Revolution, easily surpassing the nearest claim by the Mayan city of Tikal.[4] At its peak, the city occupied an area greater than modern Paris, and its buildings use far more stone than all of the Egyptian structures combined.[18]

Construction of Angkor Wat[edit]

Further information: Angkor Wat

The principal temple of the Angkorian region, Angkor Wat, was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II. Suryavarman ascended to the throne after prevailing in a battle with a rival prince. An inscription says that, in the course of combat, Suryavarman leapt onto his rival's war elephant and killed him, just as the mythical bird-man Garuda slays a serpent.[19]

After consolidating his political position through military campaigns, diplomacy, and a firm domestic administration, Suryavarman launched into the construction of Angkor Wat as his personal temple mausoleum. Breaking with the tradition of the Khmer kings, and influenced perhaps by the concurrent rise of Vaisnavism in India, he dedicated the temple to Vishnu rather than to Siva. With walls nearly half a mile long on each side, Angkor Wat grandly portrays the Hindu cosmology, with the central towers representing Mount Meru, home of the gods; the outer walls, the mountains enclosing the world; and the moat, the oceans beyond.[20]

The traditional theme of identifying the Khmer devaraja with the gods, and his residence with that of the celestials, is very much in evidence. The measurements themselves of the temple and its parts in relation to one another have cosmological significance.[21] Suryavarman had the walls of the temple decorated with bas reliefs depicting not only scenes from mythology, but also from the life of his own imperial court. In one of the scenes, the king himself is portrayed as larger in size than his subjects, sitting cross-legged on an elevated throne and holding court, while a bevy of attendants make him comfortable with the aid of parasols and fans.

Panorama of Angkor Wat
The main temple reflected in the northern reflection pond. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Jayavarman VII[edit]

Main article: Jayavarman VII

A portrait of Jayavarman VII on display at Musee Guimet, Paris

Following the death of Suryavarman around 1150 AD, the kingdom fell into a period of internal strife. Its neighbors to the east, the Cham of what is now southern Vietnam, took advantage of the situation in 1177 to launch a water-borne invasion up the Mekong River and across Tonlé Sap. The Cham forces were successful in sacking the Khmer capital of Yasodharapura and in killing the reigning king. However, a Khmer prince who was to become King Jayavarman VII rallied his people and defeated the Cham in battles on the lake and on the land. In 1181, Jayavarman assumed the throne. He was to be the greatest of the Angkorian kings.[22]

Over the ruins of Yasodharapura, Jayavarman constructed the walled city of Angkor Thom, as well as its geographic and spiritual center, the temple known as the Bayon. Bas-reliefs at the Bayon depict not only the king's battles with the Cham, but also scenes from the life of Khmer villagers and courtiers. Jayavarman oversaw the period of Angkor's most prolific construction, which included building of the well-known temples of Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, dedicating them to his parents.[23]

This massive program of construction coincided with a transition in the state religion from Hinduism to Mahayana Buddhism, since Jayavarman himself had adopted the latter as his personal faith. During Jayavarman's reign, Hindu temples were altered to display images of the Buddha, and Angkor Wat briefly became a Buddhist shrine. Following his death, the revival of Hinduism as the state religion included a large-scale campaign of desecrating Buddhist images, and continued until Theravada Buddhism became established as the land's dominant religion from the 14th century.[24]

Zhou Daguan[edit]

The year 1296 marked the arrival at Angkor of the Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan representing the Yuan dynasty. Zhou's one-year sojourn in the Khmer capital during the reign of King Indravarman III is historically significant, because he penned a still-surviving account, The Customs of Cambodia, of approximately forty pages detailing his observations of Khmer society. Some of the topics he addressed in the account were those of religion, justice, kingship, agriculture, slavery, birds, vegetables, bathing, clothing, tools, draft animals, and commerce.[25]

In one passage, he described a royal procession consisting of soldiers, numerous servant women and concubines, ministers and princes, and finally, "the sovereign, standing on an elephant, holding his sacred sword in his hand." Together with the inscriptions that have been found on Angkorian stelae, temples and other monuments, and with the bas-reliefs at the Bayon and Angkor Wat, Zhou's journal is the most important source of information about everyday life at Angkor. Filled with vivid anecdotes and sometimes incredulous observations of a civilization that struck Zhou as colorful and exotic, it is an entertaining travel memoir as well.[26]

  • Bas-reliefs of Angkor
  • Bas-reliefs du Bayon (Angkor) (6912571567).jpg
  • Bayon Angkor Relief1.jpg
  • Bas-reliefs du Bayon (Angkor) (6912582597).jpg
  • Angkor Wat - 055 Frieze (8581698432).jpg
  • Bas relief in Bayon, Angkor (4).JPG

End of the Angkorian period[edit]

The end of the Angkorian period is generally set as 1431, the year Angkor was sacked and looted by Ayutthaya invaders, though the civilization already had been in decline in the 13th and 14th centuries.[14]: 139–140 [27]: 236–237  During the course of the 15th century, nearly all of Angkor was abandoned, except for Angkor Wat, which remained a Buddhist shrine. Several theories have been advanced to account for the decline and abandonment of Angkor:

War with the Ayutthaya Kingdom[edit]

A map of the Khmer Empire (in red) in 900 AD

It is widely believed that the abandonment of the Khmer capital occurred as a result of Ayutthaya invasions. Ongoing wars with the Siamese were already sapping the strength of Angkor at the time of Zhou Daguan toward the end of the 13th century. In his memoirs, Zhou reported that the country had been completely devastated by such a war, in which the entire population had been obligated to participate.[28]

After the collapse of Angkor in 1431, many statues were taken to the Ayutthaya capital of Ayutthaya in the west.[14]: 139–40  Others departed for the new center of Khmer society at Longvek further south. The official capital later moved, first to Oudong around 45 kilometres (28 mi) from Phnom Penh in Ponhea Leu District, and then to the present site of Phnom Penh.

Erosion of the state religion[edit]

Some scholars have connected the decline of Angkor with the conversion of the Khmer Empire to Theravada Buddhism following the reign of Jayavarman VII, arguing that this religious transition eroded the Hindu concept of kingship that underpinned the Angkorian civilization.[29] According to Angkor scholar George Coedès, Theravada Buddhism's denial of the ultimate reality of the individual served to sap the vitality of the royal personality cult which had provided the inspiration for the grand monuments of Angkor.[30] The vast expanse of temples required an equally large body of workers to maintain them; at Ta Prohm, a stone carving states that 12,640 people serviced that single temple complex. Not only could the spread of Buddhism have eroded this workforce, but it could have also affected the estimated 300,000 agricultural workers required to feed them all.[31]

Neglect of public works[edit]

According to Coedès, the weakening of Angkor's royal government by ongoing war and the erosion of the cult of the devaraja, undermined the government's ability to carry out important public works, such as the construction and maintenance of the waterways essential for irrigation of the rice fields upon which Angkor's large population depended for its sustenance. As a result, Angkorian civilization suffered from a reduced economic base, and the population was forced to scatter.[32]

Natural disaster[edit]

Other scholars attempting to account for the rapid decline and abandonment of Angkor have hypothesized natural disasters such as disease (Bubonic Plague), earthquakes, inundations, or drastic climate changes as the relevant agents of destruction.[32] A study of tree rings in Vietnam produced a record of early monsoons that passed through this area. From this study, we can tell that during the 14th–15th centuries monsoons were weakened and eventually followed by extreme flooding. Their inability to adapt their flooding infrastructure may have led to its eventual decline.[33]

Recent research by Australian archaeologists suggests that the decline may have been due to a shortage of water caused by the transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age.[34]LDEOdendrochronological research has established tree-ring chronologies indicating severe periods of drought across mainland Southeast Asia in the early 15th century, raising the possibility that Angkor's canals and reservoirs ran dry and ended expansion of available farmland.[35]

Restoration, preservation, and threats[edit]

A 16th century Portuguesefriar, António da Madalena, was the first European visitor to visit Angkor Wat in 1586. By the 17th century, Angkor Wat was not completely abandoned. Fourteen inscriptions from the 17th century testify to Japanese settlements alongside those of the remaining Khmer.[36] The best-known inscription tells of Ukondafu Kazufusa, who celebrated the Khmer New Year there in 1632.[37]

While Angkor was known to the local Khmer and was shown to European visitors; Henri Mouhot in 1860 and Anna Leonowens in 1865,[38] it remained cloaked by the forest until the end of the 19th century. European archeologists such as Louis Delaporte and ethnologists such as Adolf Bastian visited the site and popularized the site in Europe. This eventually led to a long restoration process by French archaeologists.

From 1907 to 1970, work was under the direction of the École française d'Extrême-Orient, which cleared away the forest, repaired foundations, and installed drains to protect the buildings from water damage. In addition, scholars associated with the school including George Coedès, Maurice Glaize, Paul Mus, Philippe Stern and others initiated a program of historical scholarship and interpretation that is fundamental to the current understanding of Angkor.

Work resumed after the end of the Cambodian Civil War and, since 1993, has been jointly co-ordinated by India, Germany, Japan and UNESCO through the International Co-ordinating Committee on the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC), while Cambodian work is carried out by the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA), created in 1995. Some temples have been carefully taken apart stone by stone and reassembled on concrete foundations, in accordance with the method of anastylosis.[39]

The World Monuments Fund has aided Preah Khan, the Churning of the Sea of Milk (a 49-meter-long bas-relief frieze in Angkor Wat), Ta Som, and Phnom Bakheng. International tourism to Angkor has increased significantly in recent years, with visitor numbers reaching around 2 million a year by 2014.[39] This poses additional conservation problems but has also provided financial assistance to the restoration effort.[40]

Water-table dropping[edit]

With the increased growth in tourism at Angkor, new hotels and restaurants are being built to accommodate such growth. Each new construction project drills underground to reach the water table, which has a limited storage capacity. This demand on the water table could undermine the stability of the sandy soils under the monuments at Angkor, leading to cracks, fissures and collapses.[41] Making matters worse, the peak tourist season corresponds with Cambodia's dry season, which leads to excessive pumping of ground water when it is least replenished naturally.[42]


Looting has been an ever-growing threat to the Angkor archaeological landscape. According to APSARA, the official Cambodian agency charged with overseeing the management of Angkor, "vandalism has multiplied at a phenomenal rate, employing local populations to carry out the actual thefts, heavily armed intermediaries transport objects, often in tanks or armored personnel carriers, often for sale across the Cambodian border."[43]

Unsustainable tourism[edit]

The increasing number of tourists, around two million per year,[42] exerts pressure on the archaeological sites at Angkor by walking and climbing on the (mostly) sandstone monuments at Angkor. This direct pressure created by unchecked tourism is expected to cause significant damage to the monuments in the future.[44]

In sites such as Angkor, tourism is inevitable. Therefore, the site management team cannot exclusively manage the site. The team has to manage the flow of people. Millions of people visit Angkor each year, making the management of this flow vital to the quickly decaying structures. Western tourism to Angkor began in the 1970s.[45] The sandstone monuments and Angkor are not made for this type of heightened tourism.

Moving forward, UNESCO and local authorities at the site are in the process of creating a sustainable plan for the future of the site. Since 1992, UNESCO has moved towards conserving Angkor. Thousands of new archaeological sites have been discovered by UNESCO, and the organization has moved towards protected cultural zones. Two decades later, over 1000 people are employed full-time at the site for cultural sensitivity reasons. Part of this movement to limit the impacts of tourism has been to only open certain areas of the site.

However, much of the 1992 precautionary measures and calls for future enforcement have fallen through. Both globally and locally the policy-making has been successful, but the implementation has failed for several reasons. First, there are conflicts of interest in Cambodia. While the site is culturally important to them, Cambodia is a poor country. Its GDP is marginally larger than Afghanistan's.

Tourism is a vital part to the Cambodian economy, and shutting down parts of Angkor, the largest tourist destination in the country, is not an option. A second reason stems from the government's inability to organize around the site. The Cambodian government has failed in organizing a robust team of cultural specialists and archaeologists to service the site.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, there being few visitors resulted in 10,000 in Cambodian tourist trade out of work.[46]

Religious history[edit]

Historical Angkor was more than a site for religious art and architecture. It was the site of vast cities that served all the needs of the Khmer people. Aside from a few old bridges, however, all of the remaining monuments are religious edifices. In Angkorian times, all non-religious buildings, including the residence of the king himself, were constructed of perishable materials, such as wood, "because only the gods had a right to residences made of stone."[47] Similarly, the vast majority of the surviving stone inscriptions are about the religious foundations of kings and other potentates.[48] As a result, it is easier to write the history of Angkorian state religion than it is to write that of just about any other aspect of Angkorian society.

Several religious movements contributed to the historical development of religion at Angkor:

  • Indigenous religious cults mixed with Shaivism, including those centered on worship of the ancestors and of the lingam;
  • A royal cult of personality, identifying the king with the deity, characteristic not only of Angkor, but of other Hindu civilizations in southeast Asia, such as Champa and Java;
  • Hinduism, especially Shaivism, the form of Hinduism focused on the worship of Shiva and the lingam as the symbol of Shiva, but also Vaishnavism, the form of Hinduism focussed on the worship of Vishnu;
  • Buddhism, in both its Mahayana and Theravada varieties.

Pre-Angkorian religion[edit]

The religion of pre-Angkorian Cambodia, known to the Chinese as Funan (1st century AD to ca. 550) and Chenla (ca. 550 – ca. 800 AD), included elements of Hinduism, Buddhism and indigenous ancestor cults.[49]

Temples from the period of Chenla bear stone inscriptions, in both Sanskrit and Khmer, naming both Hindu and local ancestral deities, with Shiva supreme among the former.[50] The cult of Harihara was prominent; Buddhism was not, because, as reported by the Chinese pilgrim Yi Jing, a "wicked king" had destroyed it.[51] Characteristic of the religion of Chenla also was the cult of the lingam, or stone phallus that patronized and guaranteed fertility to the community in which it was located.[52]

Shiva and the lingam[edit]

The Khmer king Jayavarman II, whose assumption of power around 800 AD marks the beginning of the Angkorian period, established his capital at a place called Hariharalaya (today known as Roluos), at the northern end of the great lake, Tonlé Sap.[53]Harihara is the name of a deity that combines the essence of Vishnu (Hari) with that of Shiva (Hara) and that was much favored by the Khmer kings.[52] Jayavarman II's adoption of the epithet "devaraja" (god-king) signified the monarch's special connection with Shiva.[54]

The beginning of the Angkorian period was also marked by changes in religious architecture. During the reign of Jayavarman II, the single-chambered sanctuaries typical of Chenla gave way to temples constructed as a series of raised platforms bearing multiple towers.[53] Increasingly impressive temple pyramids came to represent Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods, with the moats surrounding the temples representing the mythological oceans.[55]

An 11th- or 12th-century Cambodian bronze statue of Vishnu

Typically, a lingam served as the central religious image of the Angkorian temple-mountain. The temple-mountain was the center of the city, and the lingam in the main sanctuary was the focus of the temple.[56] The name of the central lingam was the name of the king himself, combined with the suffix -esvara, which designated Shiva.[57] Through the worship of the lingam, the king was identified with Shiva, and Shaivism became the state religion.[58]

Thus, an inscription dated 881 AD indicates that king Indravarman I erected a lingam named Indresvara.[59] Another inscription tells us that Indravarman erected eight lingams in his courts and that they were named for the "eight elements of Shiva".[59] Similarly, Rajendravarman, whose reign began in 944 AD, constructed the temple of Pre Rup, the central tower of which housed the royal lingam called Rajendrabhadresvara.[60]


In the early days of Angkor, the worship of Vishnu was secondary to that of Shiva. The relationship seems to have changed with the construction of Angkor Wat by King Suryavarman II as his personal mausoleum at the beginning of the 12th century. The central religious image of Angkor Wat was an image of Vishnu, and an inscription identifies Suryavarman as "Paramavishnuloka," or "he who enters the heavenly world of Vishnu."[61] Religious syncretism, however, remained thoroughgoing in Khmer society: the state religion of Shaivism was not necessarily abrogated by Suryavarman's turn to Vishnu, and the temple may well have housed a royal lingam.[58]

Furthermore, the turn to Vaishnavism did not abrogate the royal personality cult of Angkor. by which the reigning king was identified with the deity. According to Angkor scholar Georges Coedès, "Angkor Wat is, if you like, a vaishnavite sanctuary, but the Vishnu venerated there was not the ancient Hindu deity nor even one of the deity's traditional incarnations, but the king Suryavarman II posthumously identified with Vishnu, consubstantial with him, residing in a mausoleum decorated with the graceful figures of apsaras just like Vishnu in his celestial palace."[62] Suryavarman proclaimed his identity with Vishnu, just as his predecessors had claimed consubstantiation with Shiva.

Face towers of the Bayonrepresent the king as the Bodhisattva Lokesvara.

Mahayana Buddhism[edit]

In the last quarter of the 12th century, King Jayavarman VII departed radically from the tradition of his predecessors when he adopted Mahayana Buddhism as his personal faith. Jayavarman also made Buddhism the state religion of his kingdom when he constructed the Buddhist temple known as the Bayon at the heart of his new capital city of Angkor Thom. In the famous face towers of the Bayon, the king represented himself as the bodhisattvaAvalokiteshvara moved by compassion for his subjects.[63] Thus, Jayavarman was able to perpetuate the royal personality cult of Angkor, while identifying the divine component of the cult with the bodhisattva rather than with Shiva.[64]

Hindu restoration[edit]

The Hindu restoration began around 1243 AD, with the death of Jayavarman VII's successor, Indravarman II. The next king, Jayavarman VIII, was a Shaivite iconoclast who specialized in destroying Buddhist images and in reestablishing the Hindu shrines that his illustrious predecessor had converted to Buddhism. During the restoration, the Bayon was made a temple to Shiva, and its central 3.6 meter tall statue of the Buddha was cast to the bottom of a nearby well. Everywhere, cultist statues of the Buddha were replaced by lingams.[65]

Religious pluralism[edit]

A statue of the Buddha, shielded by the Naga Mucalinda; 12th century

When Chinese traveller Zhou Daguan came to Angkor in AD 1296, he found what he took to be three separate religious groups. The dominant religion was that of Theravada Buddhism. Zhou observed that the monks had shaven heads and wore yellow robes.[66] The Buddhist temples impressed Zhou with their simplicity. He noted that the images of Buddha were made of gilded plaster.[67]

The other two groups identified by Zhou appear to have been those of the Brahmans and of the Shaivites. About the Brahmans, Zhou had little to say, except that they were often employed as high officials.[67] Of the Shaivites, whom he called "Taoists", Zhou wrote, "the only image which they revere is a block of stone analogous to the stone found in shrines of the god of the soil in China."[67]

Theravada Buddhism[edit]

During the course of the 13th century, Theravada Buddhism transmitted through the Mon kingdoms of Dvaravati and Haripunchai made its appearance at Angkor. Gradually, it became the dominant religion of Cambodia, displacing both Mahayana Buddhism and Shaivism.[68] The practice of Theravada Buddhism at Angkor continues until this day.

Archaeological sites[edit]

A satellite image and a map of Angkor.

The area of Angkor has many significant archaeological sites, including the following: Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Baksei Chamkrong, Banteay Kdei, Banteay Samré, Banteay Srei, Baphuon, the Bayon, Chau Say Tevoda, East Baray, East Mebon, Kbal Spean, the Khleangs, Krol Ko, Lolei, Neak Pean, Phimeanakas, Phnom Bakheng, Phnom Krom, Prasat Ak Yum, Prasat Kravan, Preah Khan, Preah Ko, Preah Palilay, Preah Pithu, Pre Rup, Spean Thma, Srah Srang, Ta Nei, Ta Prohm, Ta Som, Ta Keo, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, Thommanon, West Baray, West Mebon. Another city at Mahendraparvata was discovered in 2013.[69]

Terms and phrases[edit]

  • Angkor (អង្គរ) is a Khmer word meaning "city". It is a corrupted form of nokor which derives from the Sanskrit nagara.
  • Banteay (បន្ទាយ) is a Khmer term meaning "citadel" or "fortress" that is also applied to walled temples.
  • Baray (បារាយណ៍) literally means "open space" or "wide plain" but in Khmer architecture refers to an artificial reservoir.
  • Esvara, or Isvara, (ឦស្វរៈ ~ ឥស្សរៈ) is a suffix referring to the god Shiva, especially its omnipotence, freedom and independence.
  • Gopura is a Sanskrit term (गोपुर) meaning "entrance pavilion" or "gateway".
  • Jaya (ជយ ~ ជ័យ) is a prefix derived from Sanskrit meaning "victory".
  • Phnom (ភ្នំ) is a Khmer word meaning "mountain".
  • Prasat (ប្រាសាទ) is a Khmer term derived from Sanskrit prāsāda and usually meaning "monument" or "palace" and, by extension, "ancient temple".
  • Preah (ព្រះ) is a Khmer term meaning "God", "King" or "exalted". It can also be a prefix meaning "sacred" or "holy". Derived from Sanskrit vara. (Preah Khan means "sacred sword".)
  • Srei (ស្រី) is a Khmer term with two possible meanings. Derived from Sanskrit strī (ស្រ្តី) it means "woman", derived from Sanskrit sirī (សិរី) it means "beauty", "splendor" or "glory".
  • Ta (តា) is a Khmer word meaning "grandfather," or under some circumstances "ancestor." (Ta Prohm means "Ancestor Brahma". Neak ta means "ancestors" or "ancestral spirits".)
  • Thom (ធំ) is a Khmer word meaning "large". (Angkor Thom means "large city".)
  • Varman (វរ្ម័ន) is a suffix, from Sanskrit varman, meaning "shield" or "protector". (Suryavarman means "protected by Surya, the sun-god".)
  • Wat (វត្ត) is a Khmer word, derived from the Pali वत्त, vatta,[1] meaning (Buddhist) "temple". (Angkor Wat means "temple city".)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abHeadly, Robert K.; Chhor, Kylin; Lim, Lam Kheng; Kheang, Lim Hak; Chun, Chen. 1977. Cambodian-English Dictionary. Bureau of Special Research in Modern Languages. The Catholic University of America Press. Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-8132-0509-3
  2. ^Chuon Nath Khmer Dictionary (1966, Buddhist Institute, Phnom Penh).
  3. ^Benfey, Theodor (1866). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: With References to the Best Edition of Sanskrit Author and Etymologies and Camparisons of Cognate Words Chiefly in Greek, Latin, Gothic, and Anglo-Saxon (reprint ed.). Asian Educational Services. pp. 453, 464. ISBN .
  4. ^ abcdeEvans, D.; et al. (2007). "A comprehensive archaeological map of the world's largest pre-industrial settlement complex at Angkor, Cambodia". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104 (36): 14277–14282. doi:10.1073/pnas.0702525104. PMC 1964867. PMID 17717084.
  5. ^Metropolis: Angkor, the world's first mega-city, The Independent, August 15, 2007.
  6. ^Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella (ed.). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN .
  7. ^Higham, C. (2014). Early Mainland Southeast Asia. Bangkok: River Books Co., Ltd., ISBN 978-6167339443.
  8. ^Higham 1989, pp. 324 ff.
  9. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp. 53 ff.; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, pp. 34 ff.
  10. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp. 53 ff.; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, pp. 34 ff.
  11. ^Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 26; Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 4.
  12. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp. 63 ff.
  13. ^Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 40.
  14. ^ abcHigham, C., 2001, The Civilization of Angkor, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 9781842125847
  15. ^Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 10.
  16. ^Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 10.
  17. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 60; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 38 f.
  18. ^"Lost City of Angkor Wat". National geographic. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  19. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 112 ff.; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 49.
  20. ^Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 50 f.
  21. ^Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 50 f.
  22. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 120 ff.
  23. ^Tom St John Gray, Angkor Wat: Temple of BoomArchived March 17, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, World Archeology, 7 November 2011.
  24. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 116.
  25. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 134 ff.; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 71 ff.
  26. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 134 ff.; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 71 ff.
  27. ^Cœdès, George (1968). The Indianized states of Southeast Asia. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN .
  28. ^Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 32.
  29. ^Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 78 ff.
  30. ^Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, pp. 64–65.
  31. ^Richard Stone, Divining Angkor, National Geographic, July 2009.
  32. ^ abCoedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 30.
  33. ^Buckley, B. M., Anchukaitis, K. J., Penny, D., Fletcher, R., Cook, E. R., Sano, M. & Hong, T. M. (2010). Climate as a contributing factor in the demise of Angkor, Cambodia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(15), 6748–52.
  34. ^"Climate change killed ancient city". Australian Associated Press. 14 March 2007. Archived from the original on 16 January 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2009 – via News AU.
  35. ^Nelson, Andy (10 November 2009). "The secret life of ancient trees". Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on 12 November 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2009.
  36. ^Masako Fukawa, Stan Fukawa (6 Nov 2014). "Japanese Diaspora – Cambodia". Discover Nikkei. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  37. ^"History of Cambodia, Post-Angkor Era (1431 – present day)". Cambodia Travel. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  38. ^Leonowens, Anna, An Englishwoman in the Siamese Court, 1870.
  39. ^ abLawrie, Ben (2014-09-23). "Beyond Angkor: How lasers revealed a lost city". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
  40. ^"Tourist invasion threatens to ruin glories of Angkor," The Observer.
  41. ^Sharp, Rob (14 March 2008). "Heritage Site in Peril: Angkor Wat is Falling Down". The Independent.
  42. ^ abBen Doherty, Private water raiding threatens Angkor's temples built on sand, The Guardian, 27 September 2010.
  43. ^Perlez, Jane (March 21, 2005). "Siem Reap Journal; A Cruel Race to Loot the Splendor That Was Angkor". The New York Times.
  44. ^Watson, Paul (July 19, 2008). "Too Much Adoration at Cambodia's Angkor Temples". Los Angeles Times.
  45. ^Wagner, Jonathan C. (1995). "Environmental planning for a world heritage site: Case study of Angkor, Cambodia.". Journal of Environmental Planning & Management Vol. 38(3).
  46. ^Cambodians revel now tourist free Angkor wat, VoA.
  47. ^Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 18.
  48. ^Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 2.
  49. ^Chandler, A History of Cambodia, pp. 19–20.
  50. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 46.
  51. ^Coedès, The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, p. 73f.
  52. ^ abChandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 20.
  53. ^ abHigham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 57.
  54. ^Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 34.
  55. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp. 9, 60.
  56. ^Stern, "Le temple-montagne khmèr," p. 615.
  57. ^Stern, "Le temple-montagne khmèr," p. 612.
  58. ^ abStern, "Le temple-montagne khmèr," p. 616.
  59. ^ abHigham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 63.
  60. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 73 ff.
  61. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 118.
  62. ^Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 63.
  63. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 121.
  64. ^Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 62.
  65. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 133.
  66. ^Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p. 137.
  67. ^ abcChandler, A History of Cambodia, p. 72.
  68. ^Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p. 19.
  69. ^Murdoch, Lindsay (2013-06-14). "The lost city". The Age.


  • Audric, John (1972). Angkor and the Khmer Empire. London: R. Hale. ISBN .
  • Chandler, David (1992). A History of Cambodia. Boulder: Westview Press.
  • Coedès, George (1968). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. Honolulu: East West Center Press.
  • Coedès, George (1943). Pour mieux comprendre Angkor. Hanoi: Imprimerie d'Extrême Orient.
  • Forbes, Andrew; Henley, David (2011). Angkor, Eighth Wonder of the World. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN: B0085RYW0O
  • Freeman, Michael; Jacques, Claude (1999). Ancient Angkor. Trumbull, Conn.: Weatherhill. ISBN .
  • Higham, Charles (2001). The Civilization of Angkor. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Petrotchenko, Michel (2014). Focusing on the Angkor Temples: The Guidebook, 383 pages, Amarin Printing and Publishing, 3rd edition, ISBN 978 616 361 118 5
  • Stern, Philippe (1934). "Le temple-montagne khmèr, le culte du linga et le Devaraja", Bulletin de l'École française d’Extrême-Orient 34, pp. 611–616.
  • National Review: In Pol Pot Land: Ruins of varying types Sept 29, 2003.
  • UNESCO: International Programme for the Preservation of Angkor Accessed 17 May 2005.
  • "Climate change killed ancient city". The Australian. 2007-03-14. Archived from the original on March 24, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
  • Smith, Justine (2007-02-25). "Tourist invasion threatens to ruin glories of Angkor". The Observer. London.
  • Dayton, Leigh (2007-08-14). "Angkor engineered own end". The Australian. Archived from the original on 2007-09-10. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
  • "Map reveals ancient urban sprawl". BBC News. 2007-08-14.
  • Pescali, Piergiorgio (2010). Indocina. Bologna: Emil. ISBN .
  • Wagner, Jonathan (1992). "Environmental planning for a world heritage site: Case study of Angkor, Cambodia." Journal of Environmental Planning & Management Vol 38(3) pp. 419.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Angkor.
  • Google Maps Map centered on Angkor Wat, with the Tonle Sap at the bottom
  • Greater Angkor Project International research project investigating the settlement context of the temples at Angkor
  • GreatAngkor Khmer temples, maps and photos
  • Illustrated online guide to Angkor with plans and maps
  • Angkor Wat High-resolution NASA image
  • Bulletin de l'Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, 1901–1936. Now online at, this journal documents cutting-edge early 20th-century French scholarship on Angkor and other topics related to Asian civilizations.
  • The World Monuments Fund in Angkor – background, interactive map, travel tips, panoramas, e-cards
  • Angkor digital media archive – Photos, laser scans, panoramas of Angkor Wat and Banteay Kdei from a CyArk/Sophia University partnership
  • Royal Angkor Foundation – Foundation concerned with the safeguarding and the development of the cultural site of Angkor. In charge of various cultural projects.
  • Images from Angkor – Images from Angkor.
  • Angkor: City of the God Kings – Timeline - World History Documentaries.
How To Pronounce Angkor🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈Pronunciation Of Angkor

When visiting Cambodia, it is useful to know a few words in the native language, Khmer. The pronunciation of Phnom Penh or Siem Reap can be quite tricky at first but you will learn! Not only will you be able to communicate more effectively with locals, but your efforts will also show respect to the friendly locals who are so very hospitable.  Although Khmer has its own characters and written language, you will often see words, place names, or phrases written phonetically in English.

And don't forget to scroll all the way down and watch the video from our team so you can actually hear these words!

How to Pronounce Phnom Penh

A few words will go a long way

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, and also the country’s largest city. It is likely on your travels that you will pass through this hub in the south, and therefore important that you pronounce it correctly when making your way there. Phnom Penh is pronounced pa-NOM pen. In Khmer, the ‘h’ after a P is not pronounced the way it is in English, it softens the ‘P’ as it does to the ‘n’ at the end of “Penh”. Any time you see the word “Phnom,” it means mountain or hill.

How to Pronounce Siem Reap

Go further into your journey thanks to a few words

Siem Reap is Cambodia’s third-largest city and the home of the temples of Angkor Wat. This city lies in the northwest of the country and is a major tourist destination. Therefore, when visiting Cambodia it is important to know how to say Siem Reap. Pronounce Siem Reap SI-em rEEP. Siem refers to Siam, symbolizing the ancient battles between the Thai and Khmer empires.

How to Pronounce Angkor

In Khmer, “Angkor” means city, and “Wat” temple. This is fitting because Angkor was the capital of the ancient Khmer empire, beginning in the 9th century and for 6 centuries to come. The ruins of the great city of Angkor are found scattered around the north of Cambodia. Angkor Wat itself is the main temple in the city complex, originally created for Hindu worship in the 12th century. When visiting Cambodia, you cannot miss the temples in Angkor Archeological Park, as they are a world wonder and a sight to behold! In order to communicate with locals during your visit, it will help to know how to pronounce Angkor Wat: AHNG-kor WOT.

Useful Khmer Words For Visitors

As a visitor in a foreign country, it is respectful to learn and use a few keywords in the native language. Cambodians will greatly appreciate your effort to speak a few words of Khmer. A simple ‘thank you’ in Khmer will surely elicit the huge, genuine smile Cambodians are known for and allow for more in-depth interactions with locals.

Basic greetings:

Chom-REEP-SUE-ah- Hello (formal)

Sue-Sadai- Hello (informal)

Sok sabai - How’s it going

Thank you: Ah-KUN

Yes: For females- Ja For males- Baht

No: oh-TEI

For weekly videos with new Khmer phrases, check out Speak Like Khmer School and practice for your visit to Cambodia!




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Phonetic spelling of Angkor

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