In the 12th Century AD, the Khmer Empire reached its peak, ruling most of what is now Southeast Asia. At the height of his empire’s glory, King Suryavarman II built this massive edifice between 1,116-1,150AD while Europe struggled in the Dark Ages.
But less than 200 years later, the powerful Khmer civilization mysteriously collapsed. Theories abound about why this happened but nothing is definite. You see, aside from limited temple inscriptions no written records of the great Khmer Empire survived its demise. The “best” written account available is from a Chinese diplomat who recorded his journey to Suvannabhum, the legendary Khmer “Land of Gold”, 150 years after Angkor Wat was completed.
Over the following centuries dense jungle swallowed the magnificent Khmer temples and cities. Western scholars had never learned that this great race of Khmers ever existed. But in the 18th Century, French explorers rediscovered the ruins, initiating 150 years of intense scholarship that continues today. Yet we believe that they have missed one of the most important keys to the puzzle, hidden in plain sight.
People worldwide instantly recognize Angkor Wat.
Few, however, realize that this massive temple has protected the world’s most extraordinary royal portrait collection for nearly 1,000 years: 1,780 sacred women are realistically rendered on its fine stone walls.
Scholars, however, have simply dismissed the women for 150 years as “decorations” who “are there to entertain the king in heaven” or “decorate the bare limestone walls.”
Our growing body of research indicates that these women served much more profound roles than mere decoration. To begin the investigation we ask:
Who are the women of Angkor Wat?
Why are their images immortalized in the largest temple the Khmer civilization ever built?
What did these women mean to the Khmer rulers, priests and people?
How does the Cambodian dance tradition relate to the women of Angkor Wat?
Do the women of Angkor Wat embody information important to us in modern times?
Devata.org is seeking answers to these questions in a variety of ways.This website is an information clearinghouse for all who wish to participate in this adventure. Here are some key areas of inquiry:
Books & Reviews: You won’t find bad reviews here. We only feature reviews of the most fascinating books related to this investigation and Cambodian history.
Breaking News: Press releases and feature articles from newspapers around the world.
Cambodian Dance: Since the dawn of recorded history, Cambodian royalty has nurtured a sacred female dance tradition passed down from teacher to teacher. Today’s dancers preserve a modern inheritance of discipline and grace. This category includes books and articles relating to Cambodian dance; ancient and modern.
Devata & Apsara Photos: Meet the women of Angkor Wat (and other Khmer temples) face to face. On February 14, 2009 we have begun posting the world’s first online photo galleries with sequential, mapped portraits of the women of Angkor Wat. Our archive has thousands of technical photos, many of which will soon be available to the public here.
Devata Research: This topic will ultimately dominate this website. Here you’ll find details of our Devata Database Project, our Computer Facial Recognition work with Michigan State University, the upcoming publication “Daughters of Angkor Wat“, and much more.
Khmer History: A collection of all our articles and reviews devoted to understanding and illuminating the extraordinary Khmer civilization.
Participate(!): Does the information on this site about the importance of women in history resonate with your beliefs? Then consider getting involved by helping in some vital areas including: translation (French to English, English to Khmer), promoting online visibility of theories that recognize women in history (Wikipedia, blogs, etc.), getting these stories out to the regular press (newspapers, TV, radio) and contributing your own ideas, research and papers (potentially for publication in book form).
Store: Soon we’ll offer beautiful products to promote our philosophy and our discoveries while helping non-profit causes.
In the meantime, please enjoy the new theories and information offered on Devata.org.
Use your eyes, your heart and your mind. Weigh the evidence.
These Khmer women have much to teach us about the past and future glories of the rich land of Cambodia. Join us in celebrating the glory and contributions of the Khmer Civilization: past, present and future.
With best regards,