Temple, the world's largest religious monument
The temple of Angkor
Wat was built at the height of Cambodian political power, during
the reign of King Suryavarman II (c AD 1113-50) The building rises
in three terraces, one above the other, and it is out of the highest
of the three that the great central tower springs up. The whole
structure is meant to symbolise Mount Meru, or the centre of the
The early history of
religion in Cambodia is obscure although, as in Thailand, a mixture
of Mahayana and Hinduism predominated until the 13th century.
After then, Theravada became the main type of Buddhism. Thailand
had an important role to play in this change, but so did missionary
monks from Sri Lanka and Cambodian monks studying in Sri Lanka.
For example, it is known
that the son of the country's greatest king, Jayavarnan (1181-1218)
became a monk in Sri Lanka and studied there for some years.
In 1975 when the communists took control
of Cambodia they tried to completely destroy Buddhism and very
nearly succeeded. By the time of the Vietnamese invasion in 1979
nearly every monk and religious intellectual had been either murdered
or driven into exile, and nearly every temple and Buddhist library
had been destroyed.
Today Buddhism is struggling
to re-establish itself although the lack of Buddhist scholars
and leaders and the continuing political instability is making
the task difficult.
Above is a young Theravada
monk at his ordination. His elderly relative wears the white of
the lay devotee. Meditative concentration and study of the scriptures
will form part of the new monk's training.