Wat Phnom Hill
Located on one of the central locations in Phnom Penh is the Wat Phnom Hill, the location if one of the most important temple areas in all of Buddhism. This temple was originally built in 1373, and has gone through several invasions and governmental changes, as well as renovations and rebuilds, but is still around today. It is a true testament to the faith that the followers of Buddhism have had in keeping this temple in existence.
At over 90-yards high, this is the tallest religious structure in the city of Phnom Penh. The pagoda was called the Wat Preah Chedey Borapaut and was built so that it would be in the central location of the city.
The legend behind the Wat is that a rich widow discovered a koki tree in the river near what is Phnom Penh. Inside she found four different bronze statues of Buddha, which she took as a sign that this was to be the new site of the Khmer Empire’s capital. A small temple was built on a hill that was created where the four Buddhas were placed.
In 1437, the king of the Khmer Empire was looking for a new capital city after the group had been conquered years earlier and the people were scattered. He heard of the legend and opted to move to the location that was later named Phnom Penh after the woman who discovered the four Buddhas. At that time a large temple area was built to commemorate the legend and to be the king’s new site of worship. This became Wat Phnom.
Over the years the temple had been destroyed on several occasions. The fact that many different nations conquered this location often led to it being sacked and the artifacts and statues being taken. The 19th century alone saw the site rebuilt no less than five times.
In 1926, it was restored again. This time with more grandeur than ever before. In the center of the complex is a giant altar that is made out of bronze where the Buddha is seated. Surrounding the statue is a large group of other statues, flowers, candles, and other items meant for devotion and worship. The walls to the temple are covered with many great murals, the greatest of these depict the Jataka stories which speak about the reincarnation of Buddha and his enlightenment.
There are also several murals that depict the stories of Reamker, who is the Khmer version of Ramayana, the Hindu god. This shows that the architects not only had reverence for Buddha, but also wanted to give deference to the Khmer Empire for even founding the city and placing the temple at this site.
On the southwest corner of the temple, you will find a stupa that has a small shrine dedicated to Lady Penh. She is the richest woman that the legend is founded around, and it was clearly fitting that her part in the story would be commemorated as well.
When you visit the site, you will find that the front is the area where most people come to pray and worship. They will bring food offerings to Lady Penh, as they see her as a significant figure in the establishment of the city and the bringing of Buddha to the area. If the myth is true, then her part is of supreme significance.
This has been a location that people have loved to visit for centuries. In fact, the Travel Channel has called this one of the 1,000 places that every person on earth must see before they die. It has also been one of the stops on the show, the Amazing Race.