Corner relief with devatas

Khmer empire
late 12th–early 13th century
more object details

General Description

The Khmer kings of the 9th to 12th centuries were Hindus who most often worshipped the god Shiva. Thus the Khmer temples constructed before the reign of Jayavarman VII (r. 1181–c. 1201 CE) are generally Hindu temples dedicated to both the gods and either ancestors of a king or the king himself. At the end of the 12th century, Jayavarman VII's rise to power and conversion to Buddhism resulted in his desire to do good works, and he established numerous temples, hospitals, and roads.

His avid support of Buddhism meant the construction of many temples, so many, in fact, that production was often hurried and frequently sloppy, resulting in the ruined state of many of these temples today. The artists sculpted decoration in situ, décor that remained surprisingly consistent in theme with that of the earlier Hindu temples. Guardians stood at the doorways which were mounted by elaborate lintels, and auspicious females adorned the surface of the temples. The females, devatas (minor goddesses) or asparas (celestial beings), represent a type or class of being, rather than specific deities, and are important for imbuing the temple with auspiciousness. The number of devatas carved on the exterior walls of the temples is often breathtaking—Angkor Wat has more than two thousand.

Throughout these temples, the representation of female figures follows a predictable course. They are frontal and placed within an arched niche of foliate pattern or with foliage above the niche. The devatas wear elaborate headdresses that vary from figure to figure, as well as extensive jewelry and elaborately wrapped skirts that, during the Bayon period, are generally decorated with floral patterns. Most of these auspicious females hold a flower. Although of a type, the carving of the headdresses of these two figures, with the varied floral motifs and facial expressions, the aspara on the left depicted with lowered eyes, illustrate the variety of these auspicious females.

Excerpt from

  • Nancy Tingley, "Corner relief with devatas," in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 224.