Tucked deep in the Cambodian rainforest, the ancient Angkor Wat temple is considered one of the most valuable architectural sites in Asia. Angkor Wat is the pinnacle of the city of Angkor, capital of the once-powerful Khmer Empire of Southeast Asia. The temple was built by Suryavarman II between 1113 and 1150 AD. Dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat is a representation of Mount Meru, home of the gods and the center of the Hindu universe. In addition to its unique pyramid temple architecture, Angkor Wat is covered with intricate bas-relief carvings of Hindu epics.
Many of the symbolic architectural features are clearly visible in this Ikonos image, acquired on April 12, 2004. The temple complex is surrounded by a 174-meter- (570-foot-) wide moat, visible in the large image, that represents the oceans at the edge of the universe. A stone causeway leads through the Hindu universe to the temple home of the gods from the west, on the left side of the image. The temple complex itself is a series of buildings on rising terraces like the slopes of a mountain.
At the center of Angkor Wat are five towers that represent the five peaks of Mount Meru. The round towers mark out the corners and the center of the innermost square of the complex. Like the mountain peaks they represent, the towers are pointed on top. The pinnacle of each tower is slightly lighter than the surrounding black stone in this image.