An unconventional celestial maiden

Of the 1,796 bas-relief sculptures at Angkor Wat in Cambodia of apsaras and devatas, the celestial dancers of Hindu mythology, one of them defies convention, and is probably a sculptor’s private joke.

This is the only celestial maiden in any of the Khmer temples – so I was told by my very knowledgeable guide – who is depicted with her mouth open, revealing her teeth.

This is the only apsara out of nearly 2000 at Angkor Wat whose lips are parted, showing her teeth.

This is the only apsara out of 1,796 at Angkor Wat whose lips are parted, showing her teeth.

It's possible that the site construction supervisor never noticed that this apsara's face had been carved in this unconventional way.  The teeth are more noticeable now, from being touched by the greasy fingers of countless visitors to Angkor Wat.

It’s possible that the 12th century site decoration supervisor never noticed that this one apsara’s face had been carved in this unconventional way. Her teeth are more noticeable now, darkened from being touched by the fingers of countless visitors to Angkor Wat.

You might have noticed that her earlobes are elongated from the heavy jewellery they carry.  Curiously, pierced and elongated lobes are also seen on all the Khmer warriors in the many battle scenes depicted on other walls at Angkor Wat, even though the men aren’t shown wearing anything dangling from their ears as they go into battle .  I’m pleased to say that this body modification is no longer a fashion for either the young men or the young women of modern Cambodia.

You can click this picture to enlarge it and see the details.

Khmer warriors charging into battle, trampling the dead bodies of their Cham (Vietnamese) enemies.  Their generals ride on battle elephants behind.

Khmer warriors charging into battle, trampling over the dead bodies of their Cham (Vietnamese) enemies. Their generals ride on battle elephants behind.

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