Apsaras in the Art and Architecture of Cambodia

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Apsarases in Angkor Thom

 

This post is inspired by a blogger friend Michael Lai.  I had been hibernating and tonight I suddenly wanted to post something.  Having seen Michael’s recent post on apsaras in Cambodia, I went back to my earlier post on this topic and found these.  Angkor Wat is still one of my most favorite travel destinations.  I can’t help re-posting a short post to refresh my passion for Cambodian art.  I hope you would enjoy this post as much as I do.

Apsaras or Devatas

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apsara

“Apsaras represent an important motif in the stone bas-reliefs of the Angkorian temples in Cambodia (8th–13th century AD), however all female images are not considered to be apsaras. In harmony with the Indian association of dance with apsaras, Khmer female figures that are dancing or are poised to dance are considered apsaras; female figures, depicted individually or in groups, who are standing still and facing forward in the manner of temple guardians or custodians are called devatas.

Angkor Wat, the largest Angkorian temple built (1116–1150 AD), features both apsaras and devata, however the devata type are the most numerous with more than 1,796 in the present research inventory. Angkor Wat architects employed small apsara images (30–40 cm as seen at left) as decorative motifs on pillars and walls. They incorporated larger devata images (all full-body portraits measuring approximately 95–110 cm) more prominently at every level of the temple from the entry pavilion to the tops of the high towers. In 1927, Sappho Marchal published a study cataloging the remarkable diversity of their hair, headdresses, garments, stance, jewelry and decorative flowers, which Marchal concluded were based on actual practices of the Angkor period. Some devata appear with arms around each other and seem to be greeting the viewer. “The devatas seem to epitomize all the elements of a refined elegance,” wrote Marchal.”

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