I appreciate the highlighting of the devata reliefs at Angkor Wat ["The mysterious women of Angkor", The Phnom Penh Post, February 12, 2009].
Let me add some facts.
Devata first appear at Prasat Trapaing Phong, south of Prasat Bakong, in the first half of the ninth century. From then, we can find them at all major Angkorian Hindu and Buddhist temples up to the 13th century. At the ancestor temples Prasat Preah Ko (consecrated 879AD) and Prasat Lolei (consecrated 893AD), we can study their essence and function. While the "male" towers are guarded by dvarapala, the "female" towers are guarded by devata. A dvarapala is a god or demon as a guardian. Devata means female divinity or goddess.
Reliefs transform a human construction into a sacred space by conjuring the presence of the gods. Devata reliefs make this presence evident. Can divinity be better-performed?
Apsaras, on the other hand, are nondivine celestial dancers created at the Churning of the Sea of Milk for the pleasure of the gods in heaven.
We can see a cloud of Apsaras on the top of the famous relief in Angkor Wat. Scholars have mixed them up with the devata. This mistake was eagerly copied and has become popular.
I have published these aspects at my website: angkorguide.de/English.
Let us look at the beautiful devata with respect, and let us enjoy their charm!
Johann Reinhart Zieger
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