Angkor Wat: Apsaras in the uppermost terrace

Apsaras carved on a pillar in the uppermost terrace (Bakan) of the Angkor Wat Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Apsaras carved on a pillar in the Bakan

Apsaras on a beautifully decorated pillar
The ornate pillar shown in the image is part of the gallery on the uppermost terrace of the Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The carvings on the pillar are intricate and detailed. Standing elegantly with the flowers in their hands are two smiling apsaras with perfect bodies.

As you can see, they are wearing exquisite jewelry on their necks, hands, legs, ears, and around the waists. The dangling earrings reach up to their shoulders, and they look like the flowers of the Kror Sang tree. Adorning their heads are intricately carved three-tipped mukutas (headdresses). Both the apsaras are wearing different but elegant dresses decorated with beautiful flowery patterns. The jewelry and costumes in the carvings showcase the richness of the Khmer culture and reflective of how people used to live in the Khmer era.

Inspired by the beauty and elegance of the apsara carvings in the Khmer temples, especially in the Angkor Wat, dancing apsaras make up a significant part of cultural dances (ballets) in Cambodia. They use similar types of jewelry and costumes, including the majestic headdress’, that appear in the bas-reliefs.

There is no equivalent English translation for the Sanskrit word apsara. The closest translation is celestial maiden or nymph. In Indian mythology, apsaras are youthful eternal beauties.

According to one myth, apsaras are accomplices of gandharvas (who are celestial musicians), and through their singing and dancing, they entertain the gods. In another myth, apsaras are one of the by-products of Samudra Manthana, and the devas (demigods) took with them the court of Indra, the king of the devas and heaven. For more details on the Samudra Manthana, check: Angkor Wat Bas-Reliefs

Related Images
A pillar with two apsaras in the middle terrace
A wall with five apsaras in the middle terrace

Related Pages
Angkor Wat, Angkor Wat Bas-Reliefs, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei
Phnom Kulen, Tonlé Sap, Cambodia
Bali, Prambanan, Borobudur, Indonesia

Copyright © 2020 by Lawrence Rodrigues. All rights reserved.

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