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The Apsara dance in Cambodia

03/04/2020 74 Views
The Apsara dance in Cambodia is known as a traditional art, which origins go back to the pomp and legends of the kings of Angkor. Show of the beauty of a complex dance and beautiful Apsara dancers, you will surely be impressed !

The Apsaras

The Apsaras are known as heavenly nymphs of devastating beauty evoked in cosmological myths of Hinduism, sacred hymns or in legendary Hindu stories.  Associated with grace, seduction and beauty, they can be related to the Nymphs of Greco-Roman mythology.

To try to do the simplest concerning their origins, it is necessary first of all to evoke their birth, explained in the myth of the «churning of the sea of milk», at the beginning of the mythological cosmology of Hinduism.

In fact, the word “churning” refers to the act of mixing (with quite a bit of elbow oil) the cream to obtain butter. The translation of what is originally called Kshirasagara manthana will therefore be simpler and we will stick to this term, which, as you will see, is perfectly well adapted.

In the past, the gods (deva) and demons (asura) fought a merciless battle to determine who would dominate the world, except that they were all still mortal and that the war was endless.

The myth of the churning of the sea of milk

The two sides then decided to create the amrita, the nectar of immortality, in order to find a way to separate them.

And for that, they indeed churned together the sea of milk to extract the amrita: they threw magic herbs into the sea of milk, then they installed a mountain on top of the shell of a giant divine turtle, in order to use the great snake Vasuki (king of the nagas) to wrap it around the mountain and pull each side alternately to create the churning movement.

So, a divine turtle and a naga king later (1,000 years to be precise), the sea of milk created a long list of divine objects and deities, including Apsaras and amrita.

To finish the story well, the god Vishnou (god protector of the universe) took the appearance of the most beautiful woman in the world at the appearance of amrita to distract demons. Thus the gods could seize the nectar of immortality and cast the demons into hell. 

From this battle came drops of amrita which created 4 of the 7 sacred cities of Hinduism, places of pilgrimage of prime importance.

The Apsara dance

Dating from about the 7th century, the Apsara dance is quite an art that young girls must learn from an early age !

The Apsara dance is a complex dance, the dancers seem not to touch the ground, to portray the Apsaras, «those who slide on the water».

The dance must indeed be calibrated both on the movements of the hands and feet, which must be precise and airy, while maintaining an arched back.

The costumes are magnificent, decorated with gold and sublime accessories, including the famous golden headdress with 1, 3 or 5 points. Embodiments of grace and beauty, the dancers must then, through their dance, tell the spectators myths and legends of Cambodia.

Norodom Buppha Devi, Princess Ambassador of Apsara Dance

Princess Norodom Buppha Devi was a Thai princess who became a modern ambassador for the Apsara Dance.

The eldest daughter of King Norodom Sinahouk, the king who proclaimed the independence of Cambodia, the princess was chosen from the age of 6 by her grandmother to become a Apsara dancer.

She later became the first dancer and prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia. The beloved Cambodian princess was the central figure to straighten back the Royal Ballet from its ashes, after 20 years of massacre by the Red Khmer. When she returned, she reunited with only 30 of the 400 dancers of the Royal Ballet.

She became Cambodia’s Minister of Culture and Fine Arts in 1999 until 2004. Under her mandate, she worked for the Royal Ballet of Cambodia to be recognized as a world oral and intangible heritage on the UN list for education, science and culture, which became recognized in 2003.

The Apsara dance shows will charm you during your trip to Cambodia, a show not to be missed!

See you soon with Mandarin Road Voyages !

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