Architectural Features of Angkor Wat
The most notable aspect of the Angkor Wat temple complex is that, unlike other Khmer temples in the region, it is oriented to the west instead of the east. Hindu temples are generally oriented towards the east, but the presiding deity of Angkor Wat is Vishnu, a god that does not have too many temples to his name and who faces towards the west.
The Khmers also considered the west the direction of death and positioning the temple in that direction was supposed to make the King's transition to the afterlife easier. The architects of Angkor Wat took special care to take astronomy into account and saw to it that the Angkor Wat complex was built in alignment to the solar equinoxes and solstices.
Angkor Wat was intended to represent Mount Meru, which, according to Hindu mythology, is the heavenly abode of the Hindu gods. The temple is built almost entirely from sandstone, apart from the outer walls and some structural sections of laterite, and apparently no mortar was used in the construction. Instead, perfect contact joints and interlocking stone blocks were used to hold the structure together. Other building features include keystone arches and corbelling.
The temple complex is made of three successively raised, galleried temples, each set on a sandstone plinth, with five towers, lotus-bud shaped and arranged in a quincunx design, rising from the center of the temple complex. These towers, which represent the five peaks of Mount Meru and can be reached by twelve very steep stairways, were once covered with stucco and gilded gold decorations; the bas-relief carvings too were gold-coated. Only traces of these grand decorations remain now, either as a result of the looting of Angkor Wat in olden times or the civil war in the twentieth century, not to mention due to the ravages of nature and weather over the years.