By Kent Davis
A growing body of evidence indicates that:
1. The women depicted at Angkor Wat may be one of the primary reasons for the temple’s existence.
2. One of the temple’s primary functions, perhaps the primary function, was to honor these women and the feminine forces they represent.
3. These women and their importance were probably key aspects of the social-political-religious ideology of the Khmer society.
4. These female portraits, therefore, would represent important, intelligent and powerful women who were a vital force in the expansion and administration of the Khmer Empire.
I, for one, am absolutely certain that they these women are not “decorations for bare limestone walls” or “a harem to serve the king in heaven.”
Bold words, apparently, because no scholar in 150 years has published anything resembling these statements (with the brilliant exception of Trudy Jacobsen in her new book “Lost Goddesses.” I apologize if I’ve missed other papers – please contact me with information about them so I can publish or promote them on this site).
So how is it that the sacred women of Angkor Wat have been ignored and trivialized for so long?
It starts with not saying anything. I think the time has come to say something.
I invite readers to begin promoting the visibility and significance of Khmer women in Khmer history.Posting information on blogs, writing articles and updating Wikipedia entries are all worthwhile endeavors.
The time has come to suggest that the woman at Angkor Wat are important and represent something other than “decorations”. And there are quite a few related Wiki topics that lack this information.
Case in point…our male-centric world is “linga crazy.” (-:
My understanding is that the “linga” is meaningless and powerless without the “yoni.” Our world thrives through balancing male and female forces. Personally, I think this philosophy is what led to the ascendancy of the Khmer civilization.
Isn’t every linga paired with a yoni? So how is it even possible, to write a long, in depth article about the male half of this pair, without mentioning the female counterpart?
The story of the women of Angkor Wat must also out of balance.
Imagine archaeologists 1,000 years in the future discovering the National Portrait Gallery in London…and ignoring the paintings as “decorations to decorate the bare walls.”
Is the situation at Angkor Wat any less absurd? In the very near future, my goal is to make it impossible to write about Angkor Wat without articulating the dominance, and potential significance, of the women honored there.
The “wallpaper days” will be over, with your help.
There are may new ideas in the field of Khmer research that acknowledge women. But if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Please consider spreading the word on Wikipedia, in articles, blogs, comments, etc. I am happy to assist with ideas, citations, references, photos, quotes or whatever I can contribute.