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The Lost Khmer Empire

Updated on April 19, 2015

Temples of the Ancient Angkor city

The Khmer Empire was once a powerful country in Southeast Asia. According to historical records, it was founded in 802 AD by the king Jayavarman II and at the peak of its power it spread throughout the territory of modern Cambodia and reached out to the territory of Thailand, Laos, and southern Vietnam.

The city of Angkor was the capital of the state and is famous for its temple Ta Prohm. During the rise of the empire, the temple was home to thousands of people. Many religious events took place inside its walls. When the Khmer empire fell, Ta Prohm was also abandoned and forgotten for centuries. As a result, the stone walls of the temple merged with the jungle. However, the trees were never cut - they fit the design of the constructions so well, that it was decided to leave the temple the way it was. Now the ruins of Ta Prohm temple remind a mysterious garden where nature and human artifacts seem to be existing in perfect harmony.


Ta Prohm is a part of the great Angkor Wat complex, obviously the biggest religious complex in the world (see photo below). This means that the Khmer people were great architects and builders. The construction of Angkor Wat temple took place during the reign of Suryavarman II - a powerful king and a famous religious reformer.

Nowadays, millions of tourists visit Angkor region to marvel at the beauty of its divine temples.


Not only genius constructors, the Khmer were also great sea traders with their trade routes expanding up to India. Long term interaction with India left its traces in arts, social life and religion of the Khmer. This was probably the reason why both Hinduism and Buddhism were accepted as important religions of the Khmer people. However, India was not the only country that influence history of the Khmer - there are numerous records in Chinese history that shed light upon the Khmer civilization. Although they never conquered either China or most part of Vietnam, this nevertheless means their trade routes expanded far into the lands of Asia.


The smiling faces of deities are carved on most columns of the temple, depicting the calmness and peace in the state of deep meditation. Ganesha, Vishnu (protector of all creation) and Shiva were main the deities in the Khmer pantheon. Monks still visit the temples to meditate and worship the gods.

The video below reveals some more in depth information about the ancient city Angkor, the capital of the Khmer empire and its marvelous complex of temples.

Cambodia the Kingdom of Wonder

The Rise and the Decline of the Khmer Empire

Angkor's geographical position was good enough to reap harvests several times a year. Mekong river, one of the longest rivers in the world, was an apple of discord for the Khmer and their neighbors, which triggered a number of wars with the Khmer neighbors in the distant past. The Cham and the Vietnamese were the main rivals of the Khmer, according to numerous historical evidences. However, the empire itself was not living without troubles: it is believed that rivalry between the noble families within the state and conspiracies against its kings were one of the reasons for the decline of the civilization. Climate change may also have caused problems and shortened the food supply.

It was mostly during the reign of Suryavarman II (1113—1150) when the Khmer empire reached the peak of its power. The king defeated its rivals, united the region and resumed diplomatic relations with other countries. The period of the king's reign is usually referred to as the Golden Age of the Khmer civilization.

Another powerful figure of the Khmer civilization was Jayavarman VII (1181 - 1215). He cleared Angkor from the Cham and resumed the construction of temples, hospitals and roads in the city. The construction of the great Angkor Thom complex is accredited to Jayavarman VII.

Ancient Tempel Angkor Wat

The documentary above describes the process of construction of Angkor Wat temple. It features architects and engineers who explain how the Khmer managed to build such a great work of art in the middle of the jungle.


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    • profile image

      Vintervarg 2 years ago

      Definitely. I have not been there yet, but I gathered some info and wrote the hub hoping that I'll finally travel there in the nearest future :-)

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      a beautiful country with amazibg stones