The City of the God-Kings is part of the Lost Worlds documentary series. It is about the lost temple city of Angkor Wat. It was discovered by a French naturalist. He was looking bugs but stumbled onto something much better: Angkor Wat. At the time there was little known about Angkor Wat until the discovery of Chinese manuscripts talking about the complex. Slowly, some of the mysteries started to be solved.
Lately, there are discoveries about Angkor Wat. Scientists and historians are coming together to reveal more of its secrets. Images taken from outer space show a large complex. It was a huge city, the size of London. It was one of the greatest structures ever built. Why was this complex built? What was its purpose? Who built the city? What happened to its people?
Angkor Wat contains endless corridors. Some of the longest reliefs are found in the structure. Surveyors using lasers cannot match how precisely this complex was laid out. It was originally constructed for King Suryavarman II. It was to be his mortuary temple.
However, it soon became more. The site itself is surrounded by a square moat and designed to represent Mount Meru. Mount Meru is the home of the Hindu gods. It would become a Buddhist temple. When the French naturalist discovered it he noted that the temple could rival Solomon’s, was built by the genius of Michelangelo. Angkor Wat was grander than what Greece and Rome could come up with. He suspected that it belonged to a grand and sophisticated civilization. However, at the time he had no proof.
At the time of discovery, only a handful of Buddhist monks and nuns lived on the site. They had no idea how it was built. There were stories that it built itself. Soon explorers started flocking to the site, wanting to solve the mysteries. The jungle was slowly taken away from the site. This revealed more and more temples. They also discovered detailed carvings. They discovered that two languages were carved into its walls: Sanskrit, a priestly language, and the ancient Khmer language.
Through this translation, Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Kingdom. Many kings ruled from this seat. Why was this site chosen for the rulers, nobody knew? A Chinese emissary’s documents were then discovered. He wrote about Angkor Wat. He found it to be a grand city. He wrote about a major civilization. He was staying with a family and recorded the daily life of them. There were times where he had flights of fancy and other times when he was biased against his hosts. Scholars thought that the emissary’s diaries were myths. Despite this, scholars used these diaries as a guideline to piece together the puzzle.
The Khmer kingdom was initially made up of small city-states. They were united by a single emperor. It was this Emperor that started building Angkor Wat. Each successive king additional temples in the complex. It soon became a large religious complex dedicated to Hinduism. It could be described as a combination of Notre Dame, Westminister Abbey, St. Basile’s, the Haga Sophia, etc. Eventually, it became a Buddhist temple. It would remain a Buddhist temple for the majority of its history.
This is an awesome documentary. In school, we never studied the Khmer Empire or learned about Angkor Wat. When we started learning about civilizations we focused on the Indus River Valley, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. That carried over in high school too, only with the addition of the Chinese. So this documentary would be a good introduction to an additional civilization.
To continue to learn more about Angkor Wat keep watching the documentary.
You can access the documentary on YouTube here.
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