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Temple Watch: Sunrise over Angkor

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March 21 marked the spring equinox when the sun is aligned with the equator and virtually all points on Earth have the same length of daylight. What has this to do with temples? Well, many major religious sites around the world were positioned symbolically or used as ancient calendars. Stonehenge, the pyramids in Egypt, and almost all Hindu and Buddhist temples are aligned east to west. The Angkor sites were no exception, with all the major temples aligned with the entrances facing east towards the rising sun. But Angkor Wat is a rare exception with the entrance facing west, although Suryavarman II had his funerary temple built in the reverse direction. This means that one can see the sun rise over the central tower, which is perfectly aligned with the sun on March 21 and September 21 every year. Sunrise can be a busy time, with hundreds waiting in anticipation. It is best to arrive early, as sunrise is at about 5:15am at this time of year. The northern pool is among the finest viewpoints; and if visitors are lucky, they will get a lovely pre-dawn glow reflected in the pool before the sun appears.

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