Wednesday, January 30, 2008

cambodia: angkor wat

angkor wat is regarded as the masterpiece of khmer architecture, built during the 12th century. it is surrounded by a moat about four miles long. when it was built it was dedicated to the hindu god, vishnu....several centuries later it was converted into a buddhist temple, which it continues to be today.this is the elephants' entrance to angkor wattowards the end of the day, we had seen so many carvings of female figures lining the temple walls. we were told they were apsaras, or heavenly dancers...celestial nymphs. i asked our guide what the PURPOSE of the female figures was. he didn't seem to understand the concept of 'purpose' in relation to these female figures, so i rephrased by saying (with a hint of hopefulness), "are the female figures seen as protectors or guardians of the temple?" he looked at me strangely and said, "no, they are decoration." and behind my squinting eyes and very skeptical half-smile, my feminist self went into massive revulsion. after a little research, i found one interpretation of these particular carvings at angkor wat to be devatas. deva is the hindu term for deity...devatas are more focused devas, for example, guardian spirits of a temple or a river crossing or a cave, etc...and are usually embodied as female....that's a bit more appealing than a celestial siren who dances for the pleasure of men, although unfortunately that has been and continues to be a part of patriarchal cultures - all over the world.part of the incredibly large relief illustrating historical accounts and myths...our guide really focused on the hell realm of the motif...what happens to people when they do "bad" of my favorite photographs...

No comments: