In the 12th Century AD, the Khmer Empire ruled most of what is now Southeast Asia. As Europe struggled in the Dark Ages, King Suryavarman II built the massive edifice of Angkor Wat at the height of his empire’s glory.
But within 200 years, the powerful Khmer civilization mysteriously collapsed. Theories about the cause of its downfall abound but nothing is definite. You see, aside from limited temple inscriptions no written records of the great Khmer Empire survived its demise. The “best” written account available is from the Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan, who recorded his journey to Suvannabhum — the legendary Khmer “Land of Gold” — 150 years after Angkor Wat was completed.
Centuries passed. Dense jungle swallowed the magnificent Khmer temples and cities. Western scholars had never even learned that the great Khmer race ever existed.
But in the 19th Century, French explorers rediscovered the ruins, initiating 150 years of intense scholarship that continues today. Yet we believe that they have missed the most important keys to the puzzle, hidden in plain sight…
People worldwide instantly recognize Angkor Wat.
Few, however, realize that this massive temple protects an extraordinary treasure unlike any building on Earth: Inside its walls we find a royal portrait gallery with 1,796 women realistically rendered in stone.
For 150 years, scholars have dismissed the women as ”wives to entertain the king in heaven” or ornaments “to decorate bare sandstone walls”.
Our growing body of research indicates that these women served much more profound roles than mere decoration. And perhaps these women were the driving force behind the civilization itself.
For the first time, our investigation asks:
Who are the women of Angkor Wat?
Why are images of women immortalized in the largest temples the Khmer civilization ever built?
What did these women mean to the Khmer rulers, priests and people?
How does the Cambodian dance tradition relate to the women of Angkor Wat?
Do the women of Angkor Wat embody information important to us in modern times?
Devata.org is seeking answers to these questions in a variety of ways. This website is an information clearinghouse for all who wish to participate in this adventure. Here are some key areas of inquiry:
Recent Posts: Look to the right column to see the 15 newest articles on the website.
Book News & Reviews: Articles about the newest books and authors relating to our investigation and to Cambodian history.
Cambodian Dance: Since the dawn of recorded history, Cambodian royalty has nurtured a sacred female dance tradition passed down from teacher to teacher. Today’s dancers preserve a modern inheritance of discipline, grace and wisdom. This category includes articles about Cambodian dance; ancient and modern.
Devata & Apsara Photos: Meet the women of Angkor Wat (and other Khmer temples) face to face. Our website features the world’s first online photo galleries with sequential, mapped portraits of the women of Angkor Wat. Our digital archive has thousands of technical photos of women portrayed in the major Khmer temples, all of whom will be available to the public here.
Devata Research: Here you’ll find article about our research including: the Devata Database Project, Facial Pattern Recognition work with Michigan State University, “Is Angkor Wat a 12th Century Facebook“, excepts from the upcoming book “Daughters of Angkor Wat“, and more.
Khmer History: Articles and reviews devoted to understanding and illuminating the extraordinary Khmer civilization.
Participate(!): If the importance of women in history resonates with your curiosity and beliefs we invite you to get involved by helping in these vital areas: translation (translators wanted French to English, English to Khmer), promoting online visibility of women in history (reporters and journalists welcome), promoting these stories in conventional media (newspapers, TV, radio) and contributing your own ideas, research and papers (including for potential publication).
Store: Soon we plan to offer beautiful products to promote our philosophy and our discoveries while helping non-profit causes.
In the meantime, please enjoy, question, debate and contribute to the theories and information offered on Devata.org.
Use your eyes, your heart and your mind. Weigh the evidence.
These ancient women have much to teach us about the rich history of Asia. They embody a variety of cultures stretching from India through Southeast Asia and Indonesia to China.
Join us in celebrating the contributions of the Khmer Civilization: past, present and future.
With best regards,
Kent Davis [kentdavis @ gmail.com]