Time, Space, and Astronomy in Angkor Wat
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-5901, USA
FAX: 225.388.5200; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
August 6, 2001
Angkor Wat’s great Hindu temple has been called one of mankind’s most
impressive and enduring architectural achievements.
Khmer Emperor S¯ uryavarman II, who reigned during AD 1113-50. One
of the many temples built from AD 879 - 1191, it arose when the Khmer
civilization was at the height of its power. Although Vis.n.u is its main deity,
the temple, through its sculpture, pays homage to all the Vedic gods and
goddesses including´Siva. Figure 1 presents a plan of the temple complex
upto the moat and Figure 2 presents a plan of its inner three galleries.
The astronomy and cosmology underlying the design of this temple was
extensively researched in the 1970s.1An update of this research was recently
presented by Eleanor Mannikka.2Basically, it was found that the temple
served as a practical observatory where the rising sun was aligned on the
equinox and solstice days with the western entrance of the temple, and many
sighting lines for seasonally observing the risings of the sun and the moon
were identified, some of which are shown in Figure 3. Using a survey by
Nafilyan3and converting the figures to the Cambodian cubit or hat (0.43545
m), it was demonstrated that certain measurements of the temple record
calendric and cosmological time cycles.
It was built by the
The most impressive aspect of this representation is that it occurs both at
the level of the part as well as the whole in a recursive fashion, mirroring the
Vedic idea of the microcosm symbolizes the macrocosm at various levels of
expressions. This is done not only in the domain of numbers and directions,
but also using appropriate mythological themes, and historical incidents.
The mythological scenes skillfully use the oppositions and complementarities
between the gods, goddesses, asuras, and humans defined over ordinary and
sacred time and space.
Speaking just of numbers, the various lengths and circumferences of units
representing the motion of the moon may equal 27, 28, 29 (naks.atras or days
of the month), 354 (days of the lunar year), or 360 (tithis of the lunar year).
Other lengths represent the solar year (360, 365, or 366) or larger time cycles.
For example, the west-east axis represents the periods of the yugas. The
width of the moat is 439.78 cubit; the distance from the first step of the
western entrance gateway to balustrade wall at the end of causeway is 867.03
cubit; the distance from the first step of the western entrance gateway to the
first step of the central tower is 1,296.07 cubit; and the distance from the
first step of bridge to the geographic center of the temple is 1,734.41 cubit.
These correspond to the periods of 432,000; 864,000; 1,296,000; 1,728,000
years for the Kali, Dv¯ apara, Tret¯ a, and Kr.ta yuga, respectively. It has been
suggested that the very slight discrepancy in the equations might be due to
human error or erosion or sinking of the structure.
In the central tower, the topmost elevation has external axial dimensions
of 189.00 cubit east-west, and 176.37 cubit north-south, with the sum of
365.37. This division of the almost exact length of the solar year into unequal
halves remained a mystery for some time until it was found to be connected
with the´Satapatha Br¯ ahman.a numbers for the asymmetric motion of the
In this article, we review the main aspects of the cosmology and astron-
omy of the temple. Since the connections of this to the Pur¯ an.ic ideas have
been well described by Mannikka, our focus is on the connections to the
astronomy of the Vedic altars.
The Historical Background of Angkor Wat
The Khmer kings of Kampuchea (Cambodia) trace their ancestry to the
legendary Indian Kaun.d.in.ya and to Som¯ a, a Khmer princess, and this lineage
came to be called somavam .´ sa. In the 7th century, another legendary couple,
Kambu and Mer¯ a, established a different lineage, the s¯ uryavam.´ sa. At first
there were several warring kings. The unification of the state is seen with
King Jayavarman II, who in 802, in a ceremony on Mount Kulen, about 30
km northeast of Angkor, declared himself a “universal ruler” (cakravartin).
The kings of the Khmer empire ruled over a domain that, at its broadest,
reached from what is now southern Vietnam to Yunan, China and from
Vietnam westward to the Bay of Bengal. The structures one sees at Angkor
today, more than 100 temples in all, are the surviving religious remains of a
grand social and administrative metropolis whose other buildings - palaces,
public buildings, and houses - were all built of wood and are long since
decayed and gone. As in most parts of India where wood was plentiful, only
the gods had the right to live in houses of stone or brick; the sovereigns and
the common folk lived in pavilions and houses of wood.
Over the half-millenia of Khmer rule, the city of Angkor became a great
pilgrimage destination because of the notion of Devar¯ aja, that has been ex-
plained by Lokesh Chandra as a coronation icon. Jayavarman II (802-850)
was the first to use this royal icon. According to Lokesh Chandra,
Devar¯ aja means ‘King of the Gods’ and not ‘God-King’. He
is Indra and refers to the highly efficacious aindra mah¯ abhis.eka
of the R.gvedic r¯ ajas¯ uya tradition as elaborated in the Aitareya-
br¯ ahman.a. It was not a simple but a great coronation, a mah¯ abhis.eka.
It was of extraordinary significance that Jayavarman II performed
a R.gvedic rite, which lent him charismatic authority.5
The increasingly larger temples built by the Khmer kings continued to
function as the locus of the devotion to the Devar¯ aja, and were at the same
time earthly and symbolic representations of mythical Mt. Meru, the cos-
mological home of the Hindu gods and the axis of the world-system. The
symbol of the king’s divine authority was the sign (linga) of´Siva within the
temple’s inner sanctuary, which represented both the axes of the physical
and the psychological worlds. The worship of´Siva and Vis.n.u separately, and
together as Harihara, had been popular for considerable time in southeast
Asia; Jayavarman’s chief innovation was to use ancient Vedic mah¯ abhis.eka
to define the symbol of government. To quote Lokesh Chandra further, “The
icon used by Jayavarman II for his aindra mah¯ abhis.eka, his Devar¯ aja = Indra
(icon), became the symbol of the Cambodian state, as the sacred and secu-
lar sovereignty denoted by Praj¯ apat¯ ı´ svara/Brahm¯ a, as the continuity of the
vital flow of the universal (jagat) into the stability of the terrestrial kingdom
(r¯ aja = r¯ ajya). As the founder of the new Kambuja state, he contributed
a national palladium under its Cambodian appellation kamrate˙ n jagat ta
r¯ aja/r¯ ajya. Whenver the capital was transferred by his successors, it was
taken to the new nagara, for it had to be constantly in the capital.”6
Angkor Wat is the supreme masterpiece of Khmer art. The descriptions
of the temple fall far short of communicating the great size, the perfect pro-
portions, and the astoundingly beautiful sculpture that everywhere presents
itself to the viewer. Its architecture is majestic and its representation of form
and movement from Indian mythology has astonishing grace and power. The
inner galleries of the temple have depiction of the battle of Kuruks.etra, pro-
cession of King S¯ uryavarman and his ministers, scenes from heavens and
hells, churning of the sea of milk, the battle of Vis.n.u and the asuras, victory
of Kr.s.n.a over B¯ an.a, battle of the devas and asuras, R¯ avan.a shaking Kail¯ asa
with´Siva and P¯ arvat¯ ı atop, and the battle of La˙ nk¯ a between R¯ ama and
R¯ avan.a. These and other scences are drawn with great artistic beauty. No
wonder, the temple ranks amongst the greatest creations of human imagina-
As an aside, it should be mentioned that some European scholars tended
to date Angkor Wat as being after the 14th century. The principal reason
was that some decorative motifs at Angkor Wat show a striking resemblance
to certain motifs of the Italian Renaissance. This argument, which is similar
to the one used in dating Indian mathematical texts vis-a-vis Greek texts,
has been proven to be wrong. In the words of Cœd` es,7“If there is some
connexion between the twelfth-century art of the Khmers, the direct heirs
to the previous centuries, and the art of the Renaissance, it must have been
due to a reverse process, that is to the importation of oriental objects into
Mannikka proposes8that the royal priest Div¯ akarapan.d.ita was the chief
architect of the temple. He is the priest most praised in inscriptions; an
image of him is to be found at Wat Phu. Div¯ akara is estimated to have lived
Astronomy of Altars and Temples
To understand the astronomical aspects of Angkor Wat it is necessary to be-
gin with the Indian traditions of altar and temple design on which it is based.
And since the Angkor Wat ritual hearkened to the Vedic past, it stands to
reason that its astronomy was also connected to the Vedic astronomical tra-
In a series of publications I have shown that the Vedic altars had an as-
tronomical basis9related to the reconciliation of the lunar and solar years.
The fire altars symbolized the universe and there were three types of altars
representing the earth, the space and the sky. The altar for the earth was
drawn as circular whereas the sky (or heaven) altar was drawn as square.
The geometric problems of circulature of a square and that of squaring a
circle are a result of equating the earth and the sky altars.
The fire altars were surrounded by 360 enclosing stones, of these 21 were
around the earth altar, 78 around the space altar and 261 around the sky
altar. In other words, the earth, the space, and the sky are symbolically
assigned the numbers 21, 78, and 261. Considering the earth/cosmos di-
chotomy, the two numbers are 21 and 339 since cosmos includes the space
and the sky.
The main altar was built in five layers. The basic square shape was
modified to several forms, such as falcon and turtle. These altars were built
in five layers, of a thousand bricks of specified shapes. The construction of
these altars required the solution to several geometric and algebraic problems.
Two different kinds of bricks were used: the special and the ordinary.
The total number of the special bricks used was 396, explained as 360 days
of the year and the additional 36 days of the intercalary month. Two kinds
of day counts: the solar day, and tithi, whose mean value is the lunar year
divided into 360 parts. Considering the altar by layers, the first has 98, the
second has 41, the third has 71, the fourth has 47 and the fifth has 138. The
sum of the bricks in the fourth and the fifth layers equals 186 tithis of the
half-year. The number of bricks in the third and the fourth layers equals the
integer nearest to one third the number of days in the lunar year, and the
number of bricks in the third layer equals the integer nearest to one fifth of
the number of days in the lunar year, and so on.
The number of ordinary bricks equals 10,800 which equals the number
of muh¯ urtas in a year (1 day = 30 muh¯ urtas), or equivalently the number
of days in 30 years. Of these 21 go into the g¯ arhapatya, 78 into the eight
dhis.n.ya hearths, and the rest go into the ¯ ahavan¯ ıya altar.
The main altar was an area of 71
equivalent to the nominal year of 360 days. Now, each subsequent year, the
shape was to be reproduced with the area increased by one unit.
Three different years were considered: (1) naks.atra, or a year of 324 days
(sometimes 324 tithis) obtained by considering 12 months of 27 days each,
where this 27 is the ideal number of days in a lunar month; (2) lunar, which
is a fraction more than 354 days (360 tithis); and (3) solar, which is in excess
of 365 days (between 371 and 372 tithis). A well-known altar ritual says that
altars should be constructed in a sequence of 95, with progressively increasing
areas. The increase in the area, by one unit yearly, in building progressively
larger fire altars is 48 tithis which is about equal to the intercalation required
to make the naks.atra year in tithis equal to the solar year in tithis. But there
is a residual excess which in 95 years adds up to 89 tithis; it appears that after
this period such a correction was made. he 95 year cycle corresponds to the
tropical year being equal to 365.24675 days. The cycles needed to harmonize
various motions led to the concept of increasing periods and world ages.
The number of syllables in the R.gveda confirms the textual references
that the book was to represent a symbolic altar. According to various early
texts, the number of syllables in the R.gveda is 432,000, which is the number
of muh¯ urtas in forty years. In reality the syllable count is somewhat less
because certain syllables are supposed to be left unspoken.
The verse count of the R.gveda can be viewed as the number of sky days
in forty years or 261 × 40 = 10,440, and the verse count of all the Vedas is
261 × 78 = 20,358.
The Br¯ ahman.as and the´Sulbas¯ utras tell us about the altar of chandas and
meters, so we would expect that the total R.gvedic hymn count of 1017 and
the group count of 216 have particular significance. Owing to the pervasive
tripartite ideology of the Vedic books we choose to view the hymn number as
339 × 3. The tripartite ideology refers to the consideration of time in three
divisions of past, present, and future and the consideration of space in the
three divisions of the northern celestial hemisphere, the plane that is at right
angle to the earth’s axis, and the southern celestial hemisphere. The number
2units. This area was taken to be
339 is simply the number of disks of the sun or the moon to measure the
path across the sky: π ×108 ≈ 339. The number 216 represents the distance
to the sky, which was twice the distance of 108 to the sun. The R.gvedic code
then expresses a fundamental connection between the numbers 339 and 108.
The number 108 is actually the average distance that the sun is in terms
of its own diameter from the earth; likewise, it is also the average distance
that the moon is in terms of its own diameter from the earth. It is owing to
this marvelous coincidence that the angular size of the sun and the moon,
viewed from the earth, is about identical. It is easy to compute this number.
The angular measurement of the sun can be obtained quite easily during an
eclipse. The angular measurement of the moon can be made on any clear full
moon night. A easy check on this measurement would be to make a person
hold a pole at a distance that is exactly 108 times its length and confirm that
the angular measurement is the same. Nevertheless, the computation of this
number would require careful observations. Note that 108 is an average and
due to the ellipticity of the orbits of the earth and the moon the distances
vary with the seasons. It is likely, therefore, that observations did not lead
to the precise number 108, but it was chosen as the true value of the distance
since it is equal to 27×4, because of the mapping of the sky into 27 naks.atras.
The temple is considered in the image of the Cosmic Purus.a, on whose body
is displayed all creation in its materiality and movement. Paradoxically, the
space of the Purus.a is (R.gveda 10.90), in the sanctuary only ten fingers wide,
although he pervades the earth.
The temple construction begins with the V¯ astupurus.a man.d.ala, which
is a yantra, mostly divided into 64 (8 × 8) or 81 (9 × 9) squares, which are
the seats of 45 divinities. Brahm¯ a is at the centre, around him 12 squares
represent the¯Adityas, and in the outer circle are 28 squares that represent
the naks.atras (Figure 4). The V¯ astuman.d.ala with its border is the place
where the motions of the sun and the moon and the planets are reconciled.
It is the V¯ astu in which the decrepit, old Cyavana of the R.gveda 1.116.10 asks
his sons to put him down so that he would become young again. Cyavana is
the moon and Sukany¯ a, whom he desires, is the sun.10
In the basic Vedic scheme the circle represents the earth and the square
represents the heavens or the deity. But the altar or the temple, as a represen-
tation of the dynamism of the universe, requires a breaking of the symmetry
of the square. As seen clearly in the agnicayana and other altar construc-
tions, this is done in a variety of ways. Although the main altar might be
square or its derivative, the overall sacred area is taken to be a departure
from this shape. In particular, the temples to the goddess are drawn on a
rectangular plan. In´Siva or Vis.n.u temples, which are square, change is rep-
resented by a play of diagonal lines. These diagonals are essentially kinetic
and are therefore representative of movement and stress. They embody the
time-factor in a composition.11
In the´Silpa Prak¯ a´ sa 1.90-106, a 9th-12th century Orissan temple archi-
tecture text, R¯ amacandra Kaul¯ ac¯ ara describes12the Yogin¯ ı Yantra for the
layout of the goddess temple. Alice Boner writes,13“[the Dev¯ ı temples] rep-
resent the creative expanding forces, and therefore could not be logically be
represented by a square, which is an eminently static form. While the im-
manent supreme principle is represented by the number ONE, the first stir
of creation initiates duality, which is the number TWO, and is the producer
of THREE and FOUR and all subsequent numbers upto the infinite.” The
dynamism is expressed by a doubling of the square to a rectangle or the ratio
1:2, where the garbhagr.ha is now built in the geometrical centre. For a three-
dimensional structure, the basic symmetry-breaking ratio is 1:2:4, which can
be continued further to another doubling.14
The constructions of the Harappan period (2600-1900 BC) appear to be
according to the same principles. The dynamic ratio of 1:2:4 is the most
commonly encountered size of rooms of houses, in the overall plan of houses
and the construction of large public buildings. This ratio is also reflected in
the overall plan of the large walled sector at Mohenjo-Daro called the citadel
mound. It is even the most commonly encountered brick size.15
There is evidence of temple structures in the Harappan period in addition
to iconography that recalls the goddess. Structures dating to 2000 BC, built
in the design of yantras, have been unearthed in northern Afghanistan.16
There is ample evidence for a continuity in the religious and artistic tradi-
tion of India from the Harappan times, if not earlier. These ideas and the
astronomical basis continued in the architecture of the temples of the classi-
cal age. Kramrisch has argued that the number 25,920, the number of years
in the precessional period of the earth, is also reflected in the plan of the
As a representation of the macrocosm, change in the temple is described
in terms of the motions of the heavenly bodies. According to Alice Boner18:
[T]he temple must, in its space-directions, be established in re-
lation to the motion of the heavenly bodies. But in asmuch as
it incorporates in a single synthesis the unequal courses of the
sun, the moon and the planets, it also symbolizes all recurrent
time sequences: the day, the month, the year and the wider cycles
marked by the recurrence of a complete cycle of eclipses, when
the sun and the moon are readjusted in their original positions,
a new cycle of creation begins.
The Hindu temple, as a conception of the astronomical frame of the uni-
verse, serves the same purpose as the Vedic altar, which reconciled the mo-
tions of the sun and the moon. The progressive complexity of the classical
temple was inevitable given an attempt to bring in the cycles of the planets
and other ideas of the yugas into the scheme.
Numbers at Angkor Wat
The temple has 1300-m north-south axis and 1500-m west-east axis. The
temple faces toward the west because that situates it to the east with respect
to the worshiper, the appropriate direction for Vis.n.u who is a solar deity. At
the heart of the temple are three rising, concentric galleries. Bordering these
is further space, and a rectangular moat. About 40 m in from the moat is
a laterite wall, 4.5 m high, with large single entrances from the east, north,
and south, and five entrances on the west.
Mannikka has suggested that the V¯ astupurus.a man.d.ala at Angkor Wat
forms a grid of 49, rather than the standard of 64 or 81.
Various numbers from the Vedic astronomy are encountered at Angkor
Wat as simple counts, or measurements in cubits, or phyeam = 4 cubits.
Some of these represent just the basic constants of the system, while others
provide specific information related to the orientation of the temple related
to the naks.atras and the positions of the planets. For an example of the
latter, consider that the length of the north-south axis, door to door, in the
sanctuary is 13.41 cubits, which according to Mannikka represents the fact
that the north celestial pole is 13.43 degrees above the northern horizon at
Angkor. This number is also basic to the second gallery, devoted to Brahm¯ a
who is “situated” at the north celestial pole.
The order in which the planets rose over the eastern horizon at the end
of July 1131 is represented in the bas-relief of the northwest corner pavil-
ion: Saturn (Agni), Jupiter (Indra), Venus (Kubera), Mars (Skanda), and
According to Mannikka19, the design of the temple can be seen in three
1. Central sanctuary: Mount Meru, with 45 gods, the north celestial pole,
the centre of the man.d.ala, the spring equinox, the axis of the earth,
Vis.n.u, Brahm¯ a, and King S¯ uryavarman
2. Circumferences: the ecliptic, the moon and lunar periodicity, the con-
stellations, the planets, the celestial year, the kr.ta yuga, the grid of the
man..ala, the history of King S¯ uryavarman
3. Axes: the building blocks of time (60, 108), the yuga cycles, the so-
lar year, the lunar year, historical dates in S¯ uryavarman’s reign, the
man.d.ala and its transformation of time, and, finally, the solar year and
lunar time cycles from the vantage point of Meount Meru
Some basic numbers that we encounter frequently in the architectural
plan are give below. For more examples see the book by Mannikka which,
however, does not recognize the special place of the altar numbers 78 and
261. Neither does it know the correct significance of the number 108.
21 The earth number shows up as the number of steps to the libraries.
inner axes of the sanctuary.
This count of naks.atras is represented at numerous places; the total
of pillars, windows and various lengths.
This represents the number of devas and it is found as the number
in the total number of steps, main entrance and flanking Central Western
entrances. As 450 cubits, various axial entrances and circumference of gallery.
The number of divinities of the V¯ astupurus.a man.d.ala are shown
moon, 54 cubits or 54 phyeam are encountered several places on the Western
bridge and the outer enclosure.
As half of the distance in sun- or moon-diameters to the sun or the
as 20.08 phyeam, which equals 80.32 cubits. The 20 steps in several of the
stairways to the libraries may also represent the same number divided by
4. Further evidence for that comes from the distance of 19.42 phyeam =
77.68 cubits each library, west-east outer axis. Since books represent the
‘atmosphere’ in reaching the ‘sky’ of knowledge, its use in the context of
library is very appropriate.
The atmosphere number is found in the central cruciform, inner axes
ambulation of the central Vis.n.u image from three axial entrances; inner axes
of all four corner towers without images; full vertical distance above and
below central sanctuary.
In-and-out circumambulation of four corner towers together; circum-
lation path to north end chamber, each end gateway. The number is 32.74
phyeam which equals 130.96 cubits.
As half of the sky number 261, we find it in the circumambu-
balustrade and first step at end of walkway to upper elevation.
The length of the lunar year in days, it is the distance between n¯ aga
360In phyeam, the circumambulation path around the Cruciform Terrace.
366 Solar axes of gallery from walkway on west to bases on each side.
ambulation of all four courner towers.
This is the solar year in tithis, and it is found in an in-and-out circum-
Solar and lunar measurements
The solar and lunar numbers that show up in the design of the Angkor Wat
temple are the number of naks.atras, the number of months in the year, the
days in the lunar month, the days of the solar month, and so on.20Lunar
observations appear to have been made from the causeway.
The division of the year into the two halves of 189 and 176.37 was recently
explained by the author as being derived from the´Satapatha Br¯ ahman.a. In
layer 5 of the altar described in the´Satapatha, a division of the year into
the two halves in the proportion 15:14 is given (Figure 5).21This proportion
corresponds to the numbers 189 and 176.4 which are just the numbers used
at Angkor Wat.
Figure 6 explains the physics behind the asymmetry in the sun’s orbit. As
one can see, the period from the autumnal equinox to the vernal equinox is
smaller than the opposite circuit. The interval between successive perihelia,
the anomalistic year, is 365.25964 days which is 0.01845 days longer than the
tropical year on which our calendar is based. In 1000 calendar years, the date
of the perihelion advances about 18 days. Considering Figure 6 again, the
perihelion was roughly on December 18 during the time of the construction
of Angkor Wat; and it was on October 27 during early 2nd millennium BC,
the most likely period of the composition of the´Satapatha Br¯ ahman.a. In all
these cases the perihelion occurs during the autumn/winter period, and so
by Kepler’s 2nd law we know that the speed of the sun in its orbit around
the earth is greater during the months autumn and winter than in spring
During the time of the´Satapatha Br¯ ahman.a, the apogee was about mid-
way through the spring season, which was then somewhat more than 94 days.
The extra brick in the spring quadrant (Figure 5) may symbolically reflect
the discovery that this quarter had more days in it, a discovery made at a
time when a satisfactory formula had not yet been developed for the progress
of the sun on the ecliptic.
It is possible that the period from the spring equinox to the fall equinox
was taken to be about 189 days by doubling the period of the spring season;
176 days became the period of the reverse circuit.
Why not assume that there was no more to these numbers than a division
into the proportions 15:14 derived from some numerological considerations?
First, we have the evidence from the´Satapatha Br¯ ahman.a that expressly
informs us that the count of days from the winter to the summer solstice
was different, and shorter, than the count in the reverse order. Second, the
altar design is explicitly about the sun’s circuit around the earth and so the
proportion of 15:14 must be converted into the appropriate count with respect
to the length of the year. Furthermore, the many astronomical alignments
of the Angkor Wat impress on us the fairly elaborate system of naked-eye
observations that were the basis of the temple astronomy.
But since precisely the same numbers were used in Angkor Wat as were
mentioned much earlier in the´Satapatha Br¯ ahman.a, one would presume that
these numbers were used as a part of ancient sacred lore. Looking at Figure
6, we see the count between the solstices has been changing much faster than
the count between the equinoxes because the perigee has been, in the past
two thousand years somewhere between the autumn and the winter months.
Because of its relative constancy, the count between the equinoxes became
one of the primary ‘constants’ of Vedic/Pur¯ an.ic astronomy.
The equinoctial half-years are currently about 186 and 179, respectively;
and were not much different when Angkor Wat temple was constructed.
Given that the length of the year was known to considerable precision there
is no reason to assume that these counts were not known. But it appears
that a ‘normative’ division according to the ancient proportion was used.
As it was known that the solar year was about 365.25 days, the old
proportion of 15:14 would give the distribution 188.92 and 176.33, and that
is very much the Angkor Wat numbers of 189 and 176.37 within human error.
In other words, the choice of these ‘constants’ may have been determined by
the use of the ancient proportion of 15:14.
Although it has long been known that the Angkor Wat temple astronomy is
derived from Pur¯ an.ic and Siddh¯ antic ideas, the Vedic roots of this astronomy
have only recently been identified. We have found the Vedic altar astronomy
numbers 21, 78, and 261 in the temple design. The division of the solar year
into two unequal halves is explained by the design of the´Satapatha Br¯ ahman.a
altar on the asymmetric circuit of the sun. We need a more thorough exami-
nation of the altar numbers in the design to interpret their significance in the
context of different architectural units so brilliantly decoded by Mannikka.
For example, was there any obvious influence of the Agnicayana ritual on the
phased construction of the Angkor Wat temple?
The decoding of the astronomy of Angkor Wat has opened the way for a
similar examination of medieval and ancient Indian temple complexes, which
were also built with basic astronomical observations in minds.
1. Stencel, R., Gifford, F., Mor´ on, E., “Astronomy and cosmology at
Angkor Wat”, Science, 193, (1976), 281-287.
2. Mannikka, Eleanor, Angkor Wat: Time, Space, and Kingship. Univ
of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1996. Mannikka is the Mor´ on of the paper
3. Nafilyan, G. Angkor Vat, Description, Graphique du Temple. Ecole
Francaise d’Extreme-Orient, Paris. 1969.
4. Kak, S., “The solar equation in Angkor Wat,” Indian Journal of History
of Science, vol. 34, 1999, pp. 117-126.
Millar, F.G. and Kak, S., “A Brahmanic fire altar explains a solar
equation in Angkor Wat,” Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society
of Canada, vol. 93, 1999, pp. 216-220.
5. Lokesh Chandra, “Devar¯ aja in Cambodian history”, In Cultural Hori-
zons of India. Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1995.
6. See above. Also see other essays on Cambodia in the other volumes of
Lokesh Chandra’s, Cultural Horizons of India. Aditya Prakashan, New
7. Cœd` es, G.. Angkor: An Introduction. Oxford University Press, Lon-
don, 1963, page 17.
8. Mannikka, op cit.
9. Kak, S., “Astronomy of the Vedic altars and the Rigveda”, Mankind
Quarterly, 33, (1992), 43-55.
Kak, S., “Astronomy in the´Satapatha Br¯ ahman.a,” Indian Journal of
History of Science, 28 (1993), 15-34.
Kak, S., “Astronomy of the Vedic Altars,” Vistas in Astronomy, 36
Kak, S., The Astronomical Code of the R.gveda. Aditya, New Delhi
Kak, S., “The astronomy of the age of geometric altars,” Quarterly
Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 36 (1995) 385-396.
Kak, S., “Early theories on the distance to the sun,” Indian Journal of
History of Science, 33 (1998), 93-100.
Kak, S., “The sun’s orbit in the Br¯ ahman.as,” Indian Journal of History
of Science, 33 (1998), 175-191.
10. Kramrisch, S., The Hindu Temple. The University of Calcutta, Cal-
cutta, 1946; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1991, page 35-36.
11. Boner, A., Principles of Composition in Hindu Sculpture. E.J. Brill,
Leiden, 1962, page 27.
12. Kaul¯ ac¯ ara, R.,´Silpa Prak¯ a´ sa, Boner, A. and Rath´Sarm¯ a, S. (eds.).
E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1966.
13. Boner, A., “Introduction” In Kaul¯ ac¯ ara (1966) pp. xxxiii.
14. Kramrisch, op cit, page 228.
15. Kenoyer, J.M., Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 1998, page 57.
16. See Kak, The Astronomical Code .., pages 44-46.
17. Kramrisch, S., op cit, page 51. Note that this figure is not the best
modern estimate of the period of precession.
18. Boner, A., “Introduction” In Kaul¯ ac¯ ara, R.,´Silpa Prak¯ a´ sa, Boner, A.
and Rath´Sarm¯ a, S. (eds.). E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1966, pp. xxxiii.
19. Mannikka, op cit, page 259.
20. Mannikka, op cit, page 274-283.
21. Kak, S., “The sun’s orbit in the Br¯ ahman.as,” cited above. This altar
is described in detail.
Figure Captions Download full-text
Figure 1The plan of the temple complex
Figure 2 The plan of the inner three galleries
Astronomical alignments for the observation of the sun and the
Figure 4 The V¯ astupurus.aman.d.ala of 81 squares
Figure 5 The´Satapatha altar describing the circuit of the sun
Figure 6 The asymmetric circuit of the sun