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.
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.
In 1927, American artist Lucille Douglass wrote the lines below…who would suspect that she would remain at Angkor Wat for all eternity?
“Angkor is one of the really great experiences of my life-a more intellectual than emotional experience — not that it left me cold, quite the contrary — but it was more of an uplift — an inspiration.
“Our stay — longer than most tourists — was all too short — Angkor Wat alone requires years of study — living with understanding — a few days seems but a mockery.
“I have never had a place affect me so peculiarly. . . . I shall go back for a time as long as I can stand it and do further study on the spot.
“You see the ruins are set in the midst of the jungle — which held them in its clutches for so many centuries that it still seems jealous of them.”
Inside the quiet Buddhist pagoda of Wat Bo, visitors witness a royally sanctioned troupe performing ancient rituals of Cambodian dance in Siem Reap..
On the towers above, serene faces gaze out over the jungle. But below, Jayavarman VII followed the example of King Suryavarman II by filling his monument with female energy. The portraits of sacred women, now called devata or apsaras depending on their style, surround the Bayon.
The small, elegant Khmer temple of Thommanon is located just outside the Gate of Victory that gives access to the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom from the east. Directly to its south is the small temple of Chau Say Tevoda, currently under restoration.
These photos reveal a few of the “Devata of Darkness”: images of Cambodia’s sacred women called devata — sometimes inaccurately referred to as apsaras — hidden from the light of day in passages beneath the collapsed structure. Preah Khan temple Khmer devata goddesses of darkness
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. Angkor Wat West Gopura entrance devata goddess portraits facing East
Today acolytes are few, but sacred images of Khmer women still abound, protecting the temple with their auspicious presence.
Who were the six sisters of the Angkor Wat devata at Wat Athvea? South of Siem Reap the small temple enshrines six 12th century goddesses.