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Apsara dancers of Angkor

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23 September 2006 (The Star)

The Star, 23 Sep 2006
Apsara dancers of Angkor

I was surrounded by apsara everywhere I turned. They were on walls and pillars, lintels and window frames. An apsara has been variously described as a female divinity, a heavenly dancer and a celestial nymph. An apsara is skilled in dance and music, and said to be irresistible to men. Although they were all carved in stone, I observed that each apsara showed slightly different characteristics, either in facial expression, pose or costume and adornments. I was fascinated by the headdresses and trinkets worn by the dancers and noticed that they had ears stretched by heavy earrings. Elongated ear lobes remind one of Lord Buddha. All the apsaras were presented bare-breasted and they were generously endowed. I think some visitors have not been able to resist rubbing and touching the sculptures because certain parts of the anatomy of a few of these sculptures have been rubbed almost black. Fortunately such vandalism and disrespectful behaviour is not widespread.


Related Books:
Images of the Gods: Khmer Mythology in Cambodia, Laos & Thailand by V. Roveda
Narrative Sculpture and Literary Traditions in South and Southeast Asia (Studies in Asian Art and Archaeology) by J. Fontein and M. J. Klokke (Eds)
Apsarases at Angkor Wat, in Indian context by K. M. Srivastava

Wednesday Rojak #21

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We’ve got a lot of Khmer culture and a spot of political intrigue in Indonesia coming up in this week’s mix of stories:

  • Paul Schmeltzer brings us pictures from the Khmer temple of Phimai in Thailand.
  • Currently based in Phnom Penh, Alison in Cambodia shares a recent article she wrote for Heritage Watch about The Royal Palace.
  • An article in the International Herald Tribune discusses the furore in Solo, Indonesia over who is to succeed to the throne in the Surakarta Sultanate in a convoluted and tragically funny tale of court intrigue.
  • Andy Brouwer writes about his taste of Khmer dance
  • and also about the 10th century Khmer temple Prasat Neang Khmau.

In this series of weekly rojaks (published on Wednesdays) I’ll feature other sites in the blogosphere that are related to Southeast Asia and archaeology in general. Got a recommendation for the next Wednesday rojak? Email me!

Tourism, environment bodies planning to work together

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via Khmer Times, 05 July 2017: Cambodian government agencies are coordinating efforts to create more eco-tourism alternatives around Angkor.

The Ministry of Tourism yesterday agreed to create an inter-ministerial working group to promote eco-tourism.

After approval of a draft national ecotourism policy, Tourism Minister Thong Khon and Environment Minister Say Samal advised creating the group to promote the monitoring ecotourism and working with the private sector to ensure eco-tourism in accordance with the concept of “conservation development to preserve”.

“The trend of eco-tourism is developing along the lines of Eco Lodge, a container hotel, and Top Tree House, with innovative and creative technologies and ultimate technology that maintains and does not affect natural resources in forests and nature reserves,” he said,

Source: Tourism, environment bodies planning to work together | Khmer Times | News Portal Cambodia |

Angkor Wat’s causeway renovation

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Angkor Wat Causeway. Source: Bangkok Post 20160509

Lost month a restoration project for the main causeway leading to Angkor Wat was launched. The project is led by Sophia University in Japan.

Angkor Wat Causeway. Source: Bangkok Post 20160509

Angkor Wat Causeway. Source: Bangkok Post 20160509

Cambodia, Japan restore Angkor Wat causeway
Kyodo News, via Bangkok Post 09 May 2016

Japan Pledges $26m to Restore Angkor Wat Temples
VOA Khmer, 11 May 2016

Cambodia and Japan began Monday a four-year project to restore the ruined western causeway at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple.

Speaking at the launch of the Angkor Wat restoration project, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said “today’s event reflects the robust spirit of international cooperation and solidarity in the protection, safeguarding and conservation of the heritage of humanity in accordance with the motto ‘heritage for all, all for heritage’.”

Sok An said Japan is playing a significant role in the process, providing financial and technical supports to Cambodia, especially for the conservation and restoration of Bayon Temple and causeway at Angkor Wat, which is the main gateway to the site.

Full stories here and here.

Photoshoot featuring topless woman in Angkorian temple raises uproar

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Topless woman at Banteay Kdei. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150126

Photos of a topless woman posing in an Angkorian temple appeared in the internet over the weekend, drawing many protests and comments about propriety in what are essentially religious sites. The creators of the photos are thought to be a group based in China, although the specific parties have not been identified.

Topless woman at Banteay Kdei. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150126

Topless woman at Banteay Kdei. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150126

Nude photos draw Apsara Authority’s ire
Phnom Penh Post, 26 January 2015

Apsara Authority Slams ‘Pornographic’ Photos
Cambodia Daily, 26 January 2015

Hindus Upset At Pornographic Filming At Angkor [Link no longer active]
Updated news, 26 January 2015

Protest against shooting of pornographic pictures near Angkor Wat Temple
Bihar Prabha, 26 January 2015

Racy photos depicting a topless Apsara dancer reclining amid Angkorian ruins have incensed the government agency responsible for Angkor Park.

Shortly after the photos hit Facebook on Saturday, the Apsara Authority launched an investigation, and yesterday released a statement condemning the images as a tasteless affront to Khmer culture.

“Angkor is a religious, sacred site for Cambodian people. This kind of behaviour is very insulting not just to our religion but also to Khmer identity,” said Kerya Chau Sun, the spokesperson for Apsara Authority.

The controversial photos bear a watermark for “WANIMAL,” which Apsara Authority officials said they believe to be a Chinese company.

Full story here.

Categories: Angkor Cambodia

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Wednesday Rojak #24

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What do Dungeons & Dragons have in common with ancient Indonesian ruins, Malay dances and explosion of the Toba volcano? Why, they’re all in this week’s edition of rojak – and more!


photo credit: basibanget
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The Ramayana thru' Southeast Asia

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06 October 2007 (Newindpress) – If there’s such a thing as universal appeal in Southeast Asia, it’s gotta be the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Drs M. and S. Krishnasamy write about how the influence of epic of Rama manifests itself in the countries of Southeast Asia.

Newindpress, 06 Oct 2007

A Sea view of Rama
Dr S Krishnaswamy and Dr Mohana Krishnaswamy

We are at the tail end of a fascinating journey through history, in a time machine that took us back 2500 years, and often brought us back and forth to the 21st Century. We made several trips in 2006 — first, for research and then for filming a television documentary serial titled Indian Imprints to be telecast on Doordarshan’s national network. It deals with the impact of ancient Indian culture on Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. This “episode” is devoted to Rama as perceived in SEA (‘South East Asia’, not the Sea at Palk Straight, which is making waves).

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Apsara head returns home

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09 August 2007 (CCTV International) – A follow-up from the return of the stolen apsara head reported last week, this story also has a video clip attached to it, although I haven’t been able to access it using firefox myself.

Cambodian artifact returns home

The U.S. government has returned a stolen sculpted head that belongs to Cambodia’s cultural heritage. The Angkor-era sculpture, is one of many artifacts that is stolen and smuggled out of the country every year.

The 2-kilogram artifact, is the sandstone head of an apsara, or a celestial dancer from the 12th century. It was smuggled out of Cambodia in violation of a 2003 bilateral agreement to protect Cambodia’s cultural heritage. The artifact was seized by U.S. law enforcement agents earlier this year.

Joseph A. Mussomeli, U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, said, “People talk a lot about the need for Khmer culture to be preserved but not enough is done so we’re very grateful and happy that our police and other law-enforcement agencies are focussed on this issue. We cannot really expect Cambodia to move ahead into the future if it doesn’t have enough understanding of its past

Read – and view – the story about the stolen apsara head.

For more books about the scultpure of Angkoran, look up:
Images of the Gods: Khmer Mythology in Cambodia, Laos & Thailand by V. Roveda
Temple Art Icons and Culture of India and South East Asia by K. V. Raman
Arts of Southeast Asia (World of Art) by F. Kerlogue
Art & Architecture of Cambodia (World of Art) by H. I. Jessup
Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art by E. C. Bunker and D. Latchford
Narrative Sculpture and Literary Traditions in South and Southeast Asia (Studies in Asian Art and Archaeology) by J. Fontein and M. J. Klokke (Eds)
Khmer Mythology: Secrets Of Angkor Wat by V. Roveda
Apsarases at Angkor Wat, in Indian context by K. M. Srivastava

Categories: Angkor Cambodia Sculpture

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Stolen apsara head returned to Cambodia

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30 July 2007 (The Associate Press, by way of the Gainsville Sun and featured on many other American newspapers) – A stolen Apsara (celestial nymph) head is recovered in the US and returned to Cambodia. Because of their weight, the heads of Cambodian sculptures are often taken in lieu of the entire sculpture. As in the case of many of these artefacts, the heads have often gone into the hands of private collectors and this head is unlikely to be matched to its original location. Check out the podcast featuring the interview with Dr. Dougald O’Reilly of Heritage Watch to find out more about the illicit trade in Cambodian artefacts.

U.S. Returns Stolen Artifact to Cambodia

The U.S. government returned to Cambodia the head of an Angkor-era sculpture that had been stolen and smuggled out of the Southeast Asian country.

The artifact, weighing about 4.4 pounds, is a sandstone head of a celestial dancer, or apsara, from the 12th century, the U.S. Embassy said Monday in a statement.

It said the object was smuggled out of Cambodia into the United States in violation of a 2003 agreement between the two countries that aims to protect Cambodia’s cultural heritage. The statement did not say when the item was stolen, and was not immediately known who held the sculpture in the United States.

Read more about the recovery of the stolen Apsara head.

Interested in reading up on Angkoran sculpture? Read up:
Images of the Gods: Khmer Mythology in Cambodia, Laos & Thailand by V. Roveda
Temple Art Icons and Culture of India and South East Asia by K. V. Raman
Arts of Southeast Asia (World of Art) by F. Kerlogue
Art & Architecture of Cambodia (World of Art) by H. I. Jessup
Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art by E. C. Bunker and D. Latchford
Narrative Sculpture and Literary Traditions in South and Southeast Asia (Studies in Asian Art and Archaeology) by J. Fontein and M. J. Klokke (Eds)
Khmer Mythology: Secrets Of Angkor Wat by V. Roveda
Apsarases at Angkor Wat, in Indian context by K. M. Srivastava

Categories: Angkor Cambodia Sculpture

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