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  • Writer's pictureRick

Cambodia See: Bewitched by Devatas & Apsaras of Ancient Angkor

In ancient mythologies, devatas and apsaras were beautiful supernatural female beings or deities. In some Angkor literature, motifs of dancers are referred to as "apsaras" and those standing individually or in groups, like guardians of the temple, are "devatas". It can be confusing as most online articles referred to them simply as "apsaras" — just like every temple or ruins in the Angkor Kingdom is called "Angkor Wat".

It was said that devatas and asparas seduced both gods and men in the ancient myth. But they bewitched me too. There were just too many of these beautiful spirits in Angkor that I could not resist not being "seduced" by them too.

Both devatas and apsaras could be seen on walls and corridors in Angkor Wat and other temples. It was said that there were about 2,000 motifs of these celestial spirits in Angkor Wat alone — or more as restoration work progresses.

The devatas were very photogenic.

Each of the devatas was created differently with elaborate headdress, different facial expressions, hand postures, etc.

Bas-reliefs on outer walls suffered the most damages from weathering, including those that were restored.

This two devatas were different from others, especially the hairdo. Some said that these were Chinese devatas.

And there were more devatas standing guard inside the temple.

If you are wondering why their red and shiny breasts stand out from the motifs, these were the results of being groped by countless of visitors. Apsaras were believed to rule over fortunes of gambling, so visitors believed that by touching them, they would have more gambling luck. Female visitors would usually touch the apsaras' foreheads but male visitors had the tendency to go for their breasts.

The red colored appearance were evidence that most walls in Angkor Wat were built with red sandstone, which were easier for carving. However, this means that the walls can also be easily eroded. Avoid touching the bas-reliefs or the entry tickets to Angkor will keep going up in order to raise more funds to repair damaged artifacts.

Notice that in the last 3 photos, at least one devata has her hand on another devata? Below is a close up shot and you can see the second devata's hand on the shoulder of the first.

Here's another pair holding one another.

Apart from standing devatas as shown above, there were dancing apsaras too.

This single dancing apsara was one of the more exquisite artwork on solid stone wall.

This bas-relief of three apsaras dancing in a single bas-relief was seen in Bayon Temple. Notice that the headdresses are different from those in Angkor Wat. These could be the Bayon-style as compared to the Angkorian-style.

See also:

The "Churning of the Ocean of Milk" is a Hindu mythology that depicts long struggles between the gods and the demons. In the bas-reliefs of the "Churning of the Ocean of Milk" along a corridor in the East Gallery of Angkor Wat, hundreds of apsaras were dancing as gods and demons were involved in a tug-of-war with a giant serpent.

And I was lucky to see "real asparas". Two young and beautiful Cambodian girls posing as apsaras. It seemed like they practiced apsara dancing in school.

Regardless whether you are a male of female traveller, visit the Angkor Kingdom and indulge in the company of these beautiful maidens.

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