The Khmer civilization that grew to unify most of Southeast Asia between the 8th-14th centuries respected women.
The Khmer leaders implemented systems of government, religion, education, agriculture and architecture that still color life in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam today. Exactly what roles women played in establishing these systems is still largely unknown, but new research indicates that women were politically, socially, spiritually and economically empowered and that they were important contributors to shaping Khmer society.
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.
This page links to articles and photos specifically relating to Khmer temples featuring devata. Almost all of these are in modern Cambodia, with two important exceptions in Thailand and Laos. For a general photo index of Khmer temples in all three countries, please visit The Best Online Khmer Temple Photo Index.
Many women of Southeast Asia are still blessed with the feminine beauty, power and spiritual harmony that the ancient Khmers honored. We have only to look and continue trying to understand.
Devata.org photo sets and related devata articles appear in red.
Outside links to devata temple pages appear in green (note that devata are not necessarily included in these images).
[Devata counts] with approximate number of devata at each temple appear in brackets. Special thanks to JASA research archeologist Robert McCarthy for sharing his data to augment this list.
Temples Featuring Khmer Devata