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The Inner Sanctuary of Angkor Wat lies at the very centre of Angkor Wat. Having made one full circle around Angkor Wat, let us now venture into the Inner Sanctuary. We begin from the Main Entrance again, and climbs the stairs in the semi-darkness to Angkor Wat's second level. This is the "cruciform cloisters", a Khmer architectural invention connecting the galleries of the first and second levels.

From here, we find the "Hall of a Thousand Buddhas", so called because of the many Buddha statues that were placed here by worshippers over the centuries, when Angkor Wat was a Theravada Buddhist pilgrimage site. Many were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, and a good many are now in safekeeping by Angkor conservationists.



The cloisters leading to the Hall of a Thousand Buddhas.




Continue to climb the steps up to the enclosure of the second level, and we emerge at a massive courtyard. In the middle of it is the massif of the central towers of Angkor Wat.



The massif of the central towers.


From here on, the stairs going up to the innermost sanctuary is breakneck steep. If you are not surefooted, head to the stairs on the south side where there is an iron railing by the side to aid your climb. The climb is surely worthwhile, if you can make it, for the view is stupendous. You can see all the way to the outer gates of Angkor Wat, and even to Phnom Bakheng.

The innermost sanctuary consists of a continuous gallery that is 60 meters square. Four towers, called prasats, rise from each corner. The central prasat, towering 42 meters high, is connected to the rest by axial galleries. Within this "holiest of holies" are shrines whose usage has changed since the construction of Angkor Wat. Originally this innermost sanctuary housed a statue of Vishnu, but somewhere in the 14th or 15th Century, it was converted and now consists of four vestibules housing Buddhas.


The central tower, or prasat, of Angkor Wat. Note the erosion of the structure due to the inferior material used to construct it.


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