Celestial dancers, with their legs drawn up to indicate that they are flying in space, enliven this architectural panel from the Bayon, the main state temple of the Khmer empire. The Bayon was conceived like a pantheon, housing all the divinities worshipped in the territories governed by the Khmer kingdom under King Jayavarman VII, who reigned from 1181 to 1218 across territories in present-day Cambodia and parts of Thailand and Vietnam. At various times in its history, the temple was dedicated to either the Buddha or to the Hindu god Shiva--the central icon in the sanctum was changed accordingly. Ambiguity of sectarian affiliation and the merging and changing of deities was a common occurrence in Cambodian religious practice.
Frieze with Apsaras
Cambodia, Angkor, the Bayon, Reign of Jayavarman VII, late 12th-early 13th Century
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