Currently browsing category

Devata Research

The Khmer temple of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia protects one of the world’s most unique treasures: nearly 2000 detailed portrait carvings of 12th century women.

Who were they? Why were they enshrined in this temple at such great expense? What information do their complex accouterments, poses and symbolism convey?

No one knows. Discovering this lost information is the primary function of the research at

Apsara Arts dancer Priyadarsini Govind in her role as Vyjanthi in "Angkor the Untold Story"

Indian Apsaras Reveal the Untold Story of Angkor Wat

In a tale that traces royal love, divine wisdom, treachery and betrayal, “Angkor – The Untold Story” depicts the passion of a woman so pure that the temple she helped build nearly a millennium ago still stands as a testament to her passion. In this production by the Apsaras Arts dance troupe of Singapore, Indian apsaras reveal the untold story of Angkor Wat in a spectacular performance that is a breathtaking homage to the art and heritage of Cambodia and India. The November 2013 Indian Festival of Esplanade showcases their presentation as its opening performance.

"Khmer Costumes & Ornaments: After the Devata of Angkor Wat" by Sappho Marchal. Plate XXX.

Book Review of Costumes of the Devata of Angkor Wat by Sappho Marchal

A mystery. How is it that in 1927, a 23-year-old woman understood more about the diversity of the 1,800 devata goddesses at the Khmer temple of Angkor Wat than mainstream scholars would see for the 80 years?

Equipped with nothing but a pad of paper and a pencil, Sappho Marchal was the first person to begin a quantitative analysis of the symbolism encoded in the royal female portraits immortalized in Angkor Wat. Who are these women? What hierarchy do they represent? Chances are the answers to these questions are portrayed in Sappho’s clear drawings.

Shakti and Bhakti at Angkor Wat: devata on the south library of the second level.

Devata Goddess Temples

The Khmer civilization that grew to unify most of Southeast Asia between the 8th-14th centuries respected women. Today, we still see their temples filled with images of sacred women –termed devata, apsara or Khmer goddesses – who embody the feminine forces of the universe. While women and goddesses appear as icons in many ancient and modern societies, the Khmers gave sanctified women dominance over their state temples more consistently and more visibly than any other group.

Rajarani Temple Indian Devata of Orissa

Rajarani Temple Indian Devata of Orissa

Set like a gem among fertile ricefields, the 11th century Rajarani Temple is a breathtaking example of of Orissan style. It is also an immediate architectural predecessor of the Khmer Empire’s greatest monuments.