Angkor Wat West Gopura Entrance Devata Goddess Portraits Facing West: Witnesses to the Khmer World.
By Kent Davis
NOTE – No living person knows who the women of Angkor Wat were. No one knows what the ancient Khmers called them; why their images were immortalized in the largest temple the Khmer civilization ever built; or what these women truly represented to the Khmer rulers, priests and people.
Devata.org offers new theories and information to help understand the women of Angkor Wat. Your theories are equally valid. Use your eyes, your heart and your mind. Weigh the evidence. These Khmer women have much to teach us about the past and future glories of the rich land of Cambodia.
The West Gopura – Gateway to Angkor Wat
The importance of the West Gopura structure cannot be understated: this is the gateway to Angkor Wat. Its west facade may have been the only part of the the temple that the vast majority of the public ever saw. But even that statement assumes too much.
Privileged visitors crossing the rainbow bridge approach this building, which offers access to Angkor Wat’s garden paradise within through three porticos (for those pilgrims on foot) and two “elephant gates” at the north and south (for elephants and vehicles).
Whatever Angkor Wat represented was promoted first and foremost by the West Gopura.
Which brings us to the devata, the women of Angkor Wat’s West Gopura. There are 259 women on this entrance structure: 124 on the outside wall, 119 on the inside wall, and 8 in each elephant gate entry chamber at the north and south.
Logically, the women featured on this prominent structure must be quite extraordinary for some reason. For nearly 1,000 years they have seen every visitor to the temple. But why?
Are they protecting the structure and the Temple of Heaven that lies within?
Are they are simply adorning the structure with their beauty?
Or, in fact, is the structure glorifying and honoring these women by exhibiting their images in such an auspicious place?
Allow yourself the freedom to consider this puzzle from all sides.
Meeting these women face to face will help you decide. The following album shows the faces of the women of the outside (West) wall of the West Gopura. The women who have greeted every visitor to Angkor for nearly 1,000 years…