The 1,796 female figures rendered in sandstone on Angkor Wat’s pillars and walls have weathered war, and a harsh tropical environment for more than 800 years. I was first struck by the beauty and individuality of these devatas in 2009, during my first visit to Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious building in the world. During a subsequent visit to Cambodia last month, I was just as intrigued.
How many artisans did it take to carve these bas-relief figures? Are they modeled after real women of centuries past? If they could speak, what stories would they tell?