The Dragon's Mirror: The Magic of Angkor Wat VI

Part 6

Another theory identifies the Vanara as a tribal people who lived in the forests and worshiped monkey-shaped totems. G. Ramdas, basing himself on the fact that Ravana, speaking of the Vanaras, mentions their tail as an ornament (or of their ornaments that resembles a tail), suggests that the "tail" could actually be an appendix in the dress worn by the men of the Savara tribe (in fact the Vanara females are not described as having tails).
Hence, the "monkeys endowed with magical powers" fighting against the giants Rakshasa open up to more than one question about the real nature of these beings. The struggle between these two races is one of the most important legends in the Khmer folklore, as monkeys appear in various parts of the temple as well as in other temple complexes. However, looking more closely at some of the images, we noticed some somatic details that corroborate what we said before: some of the alleged "monkeys" have indeed reptilian traits.

The shape of the arched eyebrows, the sharp teeth, even the profile of the mouth as well as the claws on the hands and feet leave little doubts of what race they belong to. Not only that, but in some points of the temple there are "Apsara", or dancers, depicted in the semi-extended position and surrounded by other ape-beings. Apsaras are divine nymphs or celestial dancers part of Hindu mythology. Their origins are explained in the story of the Churning of the Sea of Milk or Samudra Manthan (found in the Puranas). The Apsaras were often used by the gods as agents to seduce mythological demons, heroes or ascetics.

But the extensive use of these nymphs in architecture and art is typical of Khmer culture alone. In the modern descriptions of the temples of Angkor, the term "Apsara" has been extended to also include static and non-dancing female figures, although these should be more properly defined "Devata".
The highest number of Devatas are found in Angkor Wat (numbered about 2,000) where they appear both individually and in groups.
This generalization of the Apsaras can be confusing, but upon careful observation, differences are noted not only in the stance. The "static" Apsaras appear to be different from those that adorn the other parts of the temple, the latter showing the elongated face of a reptile.