The eighth wonder next door!
Angkor Wat, covering about 500 acres near Siem Reap, Cambodia, is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world. Constructed between AD 1113 and 1152 to honor the Hindu God Vishnu, it has become a national symbol of Cambodia, and a major tourist attraction.
We have our own Angkor Wat right here in Rhode Island. It covers about 260 square feet in the front yard of the Wat Dhamagosnaram Buddhist Temple in Cranston, and was built between 2004 and 2005. The first such replica at a Buddhist temple in the United States, it stands as a monument to Cambodian heritage and history.
The replica's miniature marble and jade statues, buildings, and monuments were hand-carved in Cambodia by skilled craftsmen, then shipped to Rhode Island for assembly. The foundation was built by a Cambodian tradesman brought to the States for that purpose. According to Wikipedia, "The temple is a representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods: the central quincunx of towers symbolizes the five peaks of the mountain, and the walls and moat the surrounding mountain ranges and ocean." The replica's moat is home to goldfish.
At the unveiling of the three-and-a-half-foot tall model on July 30, 2005, Wat Dhamagosnaram president Sarin Rath said: "For the first time in Cambodian history, Angkor Wat, through its miniature, complex model, has now officially arrived abroad and can be awed, enjoyed, and visited by overseas Cambodians, Americans of Cambodian descent, and the public. Rhode Island has become the second home for Angkor Wat."
Although the original began as a Hindu temple, by the end of the thirteenth century it had become more identified with Buddhism, and has continued so since, which is why a Buddhist temple in Cranston would choose it as a symbol of national and spiritual pride.
This replica of Angkor Wat may be unique in Cranston and Rhode Island, but such replicas are not unique in the world. Various models of various sizes may be found in Cambodia, Thailand, India, China, Japan, and the United States. They are made of stone, wood, paper, even Legos. There's even a group in India that has vowed to build a plus-sized replica in Bihar, India, drawing protests from the Cambodian government that their heritage is being unfairly expropriated.
You may well wonder what goes on at Wat Dhamagosnaram, which, aside from all the statuary in the yard and the flags flying at the roadside, looks like a typical suburban home. Well, without getting into the nuts and bolts of Buddhism, the temple serves as a place of worship and a community center for Rhode Island's Cambodian-American/Buddhist community. It's also a residence for Buddhist monks. Periodic festivals (most notably the Cambodian New Year) take place there throughout the year, as well.
One of the aims of the temple is to educate the public about the genocide that occurred in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when 1.7 to 2.3 million people were slaughtered by the communist Khmer Rouge, a horror that is still fresh in the minds of many Cambodian-Americans today.
Respectful visitors are welcome to view the Angkor Wat replica in the front yard of Wat Dhamagosnaram during daylight hours. While there, don't neglect the colorful statue of Buddha or the statues of other deities that overlook the miniature temple.
This video walks us around the Angkor Wat replica and gives a glimpse of other parts of the property: