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Apsara – Celestial Nymph

Asian Civilisations Museum - Joy of Museums - Apsara

Apsara – Celestial Nymph

This statue depicts an “Apsara”, who is a is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. This “water nymph” figure once adorned the exterior wall of a temple in central India. Her sensuality is believed to attract the gods to hear the prayers of the faithful. The English translations of the word “Apsara” include” “nymph,” “celestial nymph,” and “celestial maiden.”

Asian Civilisations Museum - Joy of Museums - Apsara 2

This masterpiece of Indian art is masterfully carved with her back to the viewer. She turns to one side as the swan eagerly waits for the water drops that she wrings from her hair.

In Indian mythology, Apsaras are beautiful and supernatural female beings. They are young and elegant and expert in the art of dancing. As ethereal beings who inhabit the skies, and are often depicted taking flight and they may be compared to angels.

Other South Asia and Islamic world highlights from the collection include:


  • Title:                  Apsara
  • Dates:                10th Century
  • Period:              Chandella
  • Provenience:   Madhya Pradesh, India
  • Materials:         Sandstone
  • Museum:          Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore


“A beautiful woman belongs to everyone; an ugly one is yours alone.” Indian Proverb



Photo Credit: JOM