Why do female images at Preah Khan dominate this extraordinary ancient temple?
Scholars speculate that as many as 100,000 people once lived, worshiped and learned at this ancient Buddhist university. Today, jungle trees have reclaimed the walls and structures but still, wherever you walk, you see images of women.
Cambodia’s great kings Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII filled entire temples with sanctified images of women; more prominent than mythological creatures, portraits of themselves and their families and even more numerous than images of their gods.
While flying “apsaras” depict heavenly women, most female images in Khmer carvings are termed “devata“: sacred women who seem to wield power here in our earthly realms. But among these beautiful women, some perhaps are divine.
This album focuses on four of these powerful women, enshrined in the heart of Preah Khan temple. Among thousands of Cambodian devata, these artistic masterpieces represent some of the finest examples of Khmer art respecting feminine power in the universe.
As offerings show, they are still worshiped, but now these irreplaceable images are increasingly endangered by vandalism and the slow collapse of the temple around them. Hopefully, Cambodian authorities and foundations dedicated to preserving this priceless heritage will be able to protect them before it is too late.
Evidence presented by independent researcher Phalika Ngin suggests that the primary statues represent the two wives if Jayavarman VII: Queen Indradevi and Queen Jayarajadevi.
Note: These sanctuaries are dim so my photos are hand held time exposures. The blue tint grew as light changed throughout the day.
© 2010 Kent Davis – High resolution images are available to educational and non-profit organizations at no charge.