Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Female essence lost

The only part of this devata at Banteay Chhmar that hasn't been stolen is her mid-section and her feet
If you have heard of Banteay Chhmar, a massive temple complex in northwest Cambodia, you'll probably be aware that the temple was badly looted in the 1990s and before, because of its remote location and away from prying eyes. Some of the stolen artifacts that have been recovered can be seen in the national museum in Phnom Penh. It would be nice to think that the sections of wall that are in the museum will one day be returned to the temple itself. Probably a fanciful idea but one can always hope. Elsewhere, throughout a visit to the temple you will see evidence of looting of the wall carvings and none moreso than with the heavenly maidens that adorn the walls, the devata (often mistakenly called Apsaras). I've highlighted two examples of here of devata that are in a bad way and a couple that are still intact. It is a feature of the more remote temples throughout Cambodia that few of the wonderful carvings that adorn the walls and doorways are still in their original condition. In the case of Banteay Chhmar, the collapse of large sections of the temple has wrought its own destruction of the bas-reliefs and carvings, since it was built in the 12th century.
An intact devata on a section of wall at the eastern entrance to the temple
This devata at Banteay Chhmar lost her head many years ago
Another intact devata at Banteay Chhmar, inside the central sanctuary
Two present-day devata who accompanied me on my visit, Jasmine (left) and Linda

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