Apsaras of Angkor

A for Apsaras of Angkor
A for Apsaras of Angkor

One of the distinct features of the temples of the Angkor region are the carvings of Apsaras and Devatas. Apsaras were considered to be divine female deities of extraordinary beauty and grace whereas Devatas functioned more as guardian spirits.  One can find hundreds of Apsara carvings scattered through the temples.  But what is most remarkable is that these Apsara carvings were not merely stencilled copies of each other. One can find numerous differences not only between Apsara carvings in the same temple but also between different temples.

Apsara Carvings at Ta Phrom Temple
Apsara Carvings at Ta Phrom Temple

Apsara and Devata carvings were always made in full frontal view and never in profile- because of their divinity. They wear a crown (though the style of the crown differs vastly between the ages). They are shown to wear traditional Khmer Sampot skirts and some are more ornamental than others.

My imaginative mind also conjured up various Apsara story scenarios. This looked like the story of Cinderella and her two jealous step sisters.

Cinderella and Her Sisters at Angkor Wat
Cinderella and Her Sisters at Angkor Wat

This one looked like Cinderella and the jealous female population of the rest of the town. (LOL!)

Cinderella and the Rest of the Town
Cinderella and the Rest of the Town

I also noticed that way some Apsaras were carved were different. If you look at the images above- notice how even within the same temple the crowns are different. Notice also how the feet are placed- sometimes more awkward than others.

This Apsara at Bayon temple was carved deeper into the stone than the other ones I saw at Angkor Wat. Bayon was constructed later than the Angkor Wat and this probably represented a stylistic shift.

Deep Relief Apsara at Bayon
Deep Relief Apsara at Bayon
Lighter Relief
Lighter Relief

Apsaras form one of the most remarkable features of the art of the Angkor era. Long after you’ve forgotten all the other stylistic and architectural details you still tend to remember the graceful and dreamlike Apsaras.



28 thoughts on “Apsaras of Angkor”

  1. Graceful and Dreamlike..i like that very much! Conjures up an ethereal and eternal picture of these beings…
    Bring on the B’s…

  2. You have a very keen sense of observation! Loved how you brought out your passion for travelling with this challenge. Apsaras have always been a source of mystery to me. Curious to know what B would stand for!!

    1. Thank you Priyanka- a lot of my blogs this month are going to be about travel but some will be on other themes as well 🙂 B will be unveiled in about 12 hours lol

      1. Thank you, I do a lot of research before I travel so I can appreciate what I see better

  3. Very interesting and fascinating! I love your eye for detail and your imagination. It made me wish I was there.
    Good luck on the A to Z Challenge.

    1. Thank you! I found a lot of familiarity with Indian mythological themes but the styles are completely different. I’m glad you liked them

  4. Hi! Lovely carvings! Reminded me a lot of the carvings at Halebidu – Belur in Karnataka. I’m assuming you have been there – considering your interest in the subject 🙂 They are mesmerising…. you wouldn’t want to go back home.

  5. Lovely post. I’ve always wanted to visit Angkor Wat. Your photos make me want to go even more. What great attention to details. It would be fun traveling with you!

    1. Thank you, that’s very nice of you to say. I do a lot of research before I travel- so I can observe more and I also understand the context.

  6. Sukanya? Yes, you certainly can! Dropping by from the A-Z. My God! Like…just…very, very, very impressed with your A-Z. I haven’t been to Angkor – I heard about it, and read a travelogue. I share your wish that some day your travels will be paid for, that it’ll be your career, writing and travel. You deserve it.

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