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    STONE DEVATA, 12th - 13th century

    Sandstone sculpture in the Bayon style
    86  x 34  x 23  cm

    Date of entry at UNESCO

    Donation made to UNESCO by Cambodia

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    © Photo: UNESCO/N. Burke

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    This high-relief sculpture, found at Prasat Srange (Angkor, Cambodia), represents a “Devatâ”, a female divinity in Buddhism. The sculpture corresponds to the Bayon style, developed under the Buddhist king Jayavarman the 7th (1181-1220) during the 12th and 13th centuries. In the 12th century, Buddhism became a state-religion, as the foundation of the Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple illustrate, for which the Sravasti Legend (Buddha manifesting his powers by multiplying himself into a thousand buddhas) served as inspiration.

    The statue is made from the local pink sandstone and leans against a carved sandstone pillar of shape and dimensions that correspond to the alcoves decorating the walls, entrances or roofing of Khmer temples. When they are sheltered in alcoves, their arrangement is symmetrical with respect to the gopuram (monumental door with multi-leveled roofs, which forms part of a sacred enclosure). Devatâs are often portrayed in a serene attitude with closed eyes; they are hence distinguishable from the dynamic, dancing postures of the Apsarâ (celestial dancers) with which they are often associated on temple walls. Devatâs and Apsarâs always appear on Khmer temples, except in rare cases such as Bantea Samré in northern Angkor Vat, where the absence of these deities suggests that the building was left incomplete. As for the Angkor Vat temple, it shelters approximately one thousand eight hundred Devatâs.

    Devatâs are female divinities, or celestial nymphs, always represented with an enigmatic smile. Judging by the position of the hands, this Devatâ must have been holding lotus stems which framed her silhouette, but which have since disappeared. Arrays are first and foremost attributes, whose number and luxury correspond to a specific iconographic code. This statue is arrayed with a tiara, the mokot, as well as a tall diadem specific to Khmer art. A long skirt, the sampot, in front of which hangs a piece of pleated cloth, covers her lower body. Female incarnations always wear the sampot, held in place by a belt with finely worked volutes. From the 9th century onwards, female accessories became gradually more complex and included more than just bracelets and earrings; the belts were embellished with elaborate and impressive pendants decorated with a continuous frieze of carved leaves. This innovation, the beginnings of which first appeared in the art of bas-relief, extended in the 10th century to sculpture in the round. It is a reflection in stone of the metal belts still in use in present-day Cambodia. The taste for such adornments remains a constant in Khmer art from its origins (6th-7th centuries) until now. Still today, Cambodia’s Royal Khmer ballet (classic Khmer dance) remains attached to its culture of over one thousand years and proves it by the reuse of its attributes; the mokot worn by the contemporary dancers weighs approximately one kilo.

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