Angkor Vat and
Manfred's Travel Pictures
|What is an Apsara, anyway?
Each culture has a legend of the origin of the species.
The Hindu creation
myth "Churning the Sea of Milk" is shown in the bas-relief panels of Angkor Wat,
Cambodia. According to the myth, the elixir of immortality was lost in the cosmic sea. Finding it
again required the combined effort of the gods and demons. Central to this endeavor was the giant
serpent Vasuki, who offered himself as a rope to enable twirling of a "churning stick." The serpent
was yanked back and forth, spinning the stick, in a giant tug-of-war that lasted for a thousand
This caused the sea to churn into foam - a giant cosmic blender - releasing,
finally, the divine ambrosia, "amrita", the essence of life and immortality. Other
treasures were also created, notably Apsaras, (A Sanskrit word meaning "from the
water") commonly referred to as celestial dancers or water nymphs. Apsaras were goddesses
whose beauty was beyond human inscription and had the duty of dancing on the waters and in the
heavens to entertain higher gods. The seductive apsaras promise a joyful existence for those who
attain the ultimate incarnation.
Apsaras appear in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. At Angkor Wat over 1700
apsaras were carved in the sandstone bas-reliefs.
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