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Volume 67 Number 2, December 2015-March 2016

Volume 67 Number 2

Art of Cambodia: Interactions with India
Edited by: Swati Chemburkar

Swati Chemburkar

Serpent-enthroned Buddha of Angkor
Peter D. Sharrock

Indic Epics in Khmer Art: Narrative Reliefs of Baphuon
Rachel Loizeau

Indigenous Roots of the Cambodian Dance Drama
Paul Cravath

Khmer Traditional Dress and Textiles: Early Manifestations of Indian Styles and Motifs
Gillian Green

National Heritage, Antiquities and Protecting Angkor
Hab Touch, Director General, MCFA, with Swati Chemburkar

Illustrated Essay
The Bayon: Interpretations Continue
Olivier Cunin

Pala-inspired Vajrayana Buddhist Bronzes from the Khorat Plateau: The Khmer-Pala Link
Emma C. Bunker

Angkor: Diary of a Modern Explorer
Kenson Kwok

Book Reviews
Banteay Chhmar: Garrison Temple of the Khmer Empire by Peter Sharrock
Emma C. Bunker

Before Siam: Essays in Art and Archaeology, edited by Nicolas Revire and Stephen Murphy
Peter D. Sharrock

Thematic advertisement portfolio
Artisans D’Angkor, Cambodia

Thematic Ad-portfolio: Artisans D’Angkor: Legends and Lives
Devidayal, Anjali
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, 3 unnumbered + pp. 1–7

This article showcases an initiative set up by the government of Cambodia and a European body called REPLIC that provides training in arts and crafts to the rural communities living in Siem Reap. Their programmes and boutiques have provided jobs to many and have helped revive the economy while keeping alive the local traditions in the years after the civil war and genocide.

Editorial Note
Ahmed, Monisha
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, p. 8

As India goes through a period of intolerance, it is time to reflect on our past, a past with creative interactions with other cultures at home and in distant lands, and with respect for differences and more open mindedness. This thematic issue on Cambodia's interactions with India looks at current research on the early interactions not only in architecture but also in dance-drama, textiles and new challenges facing Cambodia as it recovers from the Pol Pot regime excesses.

Chemburkar, Swati
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 10-19

This special issue of Marg brings together current research and reflections on the early interactions between Cambodia and India in the diverse fields of architecture, iconography, textiles and the performing arts. With the development of maritime and overland routes, distinct Indic traditions became significant in Cambodia. This process is known as “Indianization”, where elements of Indian culture were absorbed or chosen by Khmers. When and why did Indian cultural and religious elements come to be preferred by Khmers? Which ones were adopted, absorbed, revised or rejected are the questions that are still unanswered. To improve our understanding of the term “Indianization” we need better transcultural historiographies and an understanding of the shared cultural elements between Cambodia and India.

Serpent-enthroned Buddha of Angkor
Sharrock, Peter D.
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 20-31

Why was the predominant Buddha of ancient Angkor seated on the coils of a giant, multi-headed serpent with raised cobra hood? The Khmer Buddha has yet to be named despite being the principal image in the central sanctuary of the Bayon, Angkor’s first Buddhist state temple. The icon is widely taken to represent the naga Muchalinda sheltering the Buddha from a storm after his enlightenment, but some scholars have questioned this and this author endorses rejecting the association. The author proposes that the Khmer naga and Muchalinda are each other’s doppelgänger with quite different meanings – conclusion reached after examining the historical contexts of the Khmer icon’s predecessors in Amaravati, Sri Lanka, the Mon Peninsula and northeast Thailand. This essay argues that the Angkorian Buddha should rather be seen as the Khmer Esoteric Vairochana or “Sarvavid” (“Omniscient”, as named in one key Khmer inscription), with the naga conveying transcendence and perhaps the internal yogic processes believed capable of achieving that state. Centuries later, the Muchalinda episode of the early biographies re-emerged in the southern Buddhism of modern Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia, where it borrows the ancient, and perhaps no longer understood, form of the naga-enthroned icon and consequently long distorted our identification of the major earlier icon.

Indic Epics in Khmer Art: Narrative Reliefs of Baphuon
Loizeau, Rachel
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 32-41

Sculptural narrative representations of the Ramayana and Mahabharata adorn several Khmer and Indian temples, but Baphuon is  unique in its use of these themes. Earlier Khmer representations of these epic narratives were located on lintels and pediments, but at Baphuon this was expanded to the wall surfaces and carved in rectangular panels or horizontal registers of various dimensions. However, there is no chronological order for these narrative scenes, so possibly they are not meant to be read in the ritual circumambulation. This essay focuses on the Ramayana and Mahabharata reliefs at the Baphuon temple and tries to understand the relevance in Cambodia’s religious and socio-political structure of Cambodia.

Indigenous Roots of the Cambodian Dance Drama
Cravath, Paul
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 42-51

The author explores the evolution of the classical dance drama of Cambodia, based on primary observation and research, archaeological evidence and academic studies. Beginning with ancient indigenous beliefs and forms of ritualized worship, the article describes the relevance of dance rituals in the founding and expansion of the Khmer Empire. While recognizing Indic forms in Khmer culture, the article argues that Cambodian dance remained a distinctive art that embodies Khmer values. To the Cambodian mind, their dance represents the interaction of earth and sky, matter and spirit, female and male, rice and rain – in short, the union of Feminine and Masculine – which engendered all fertility, spiritual fulfilment and life itself.

Khmer Traditional Dress and Textiles: Early Manifestations of Indian Styles and Motifs
Green, Gillian
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 52-63

While no actual examples of ancient Khmer textiles have been found, their presence is indicated in great detail on temple sculptures, both bas relief and in the round, during the Angkorian period over a millennium ago. These visualize styles of male and female dress of deities, royalty, commoners and military men and, interestingly, interior decor items.

An indigenous tradition of simple hip-wrappers existed in the Khmer region at the time. These temple-sculpted forms, however, show that new dress styles had been adopted into the indigenous tradition from about the 7th century. Comparisons of depictions of dress styles and their patterns on Khmer sculpted imagery with that of Indian imagery in this period strongly suggest that these novel forms, at least at the elite level, were a response to dress styles from India. Not only the styles, but the patterns themselves suggest that India was, in addition, a source of the cloth itself at that time. These comparisons and their implications are explored. 

National Heritage, Antiquities and Protecting Angkor: Hab Touch, Director General, MCFA with Swati Chemburkar
Chemburkar, Swati
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 64-73

Archaeologically rich nations are steadily getting emptied out, and our knowledge about their past is being lost rapidly. The question of ownership of the antiquities is particularly relevant in today’s globalized world. The appropriation of Khmer heritage and its physical transfer to museums, auction houses and private collections is intimately bound with nationalist, colonialist and capitalist ideology. Khmer monuments have become increasingly important for Cambodia over the last decade. In this conversation Hab Touch, Director General of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (MCFA),  shares his views regarding antiquities, cultural heritage and their symbolic value and his efforts at safeguarding Angkor.

The Bayon: Interpretations Continue
Cunin, Olivier
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 74-85

This photo essay present a short historical synthesis of the archaeological reconstruction and the architectural history of the Bayon temple (end of the 12th–beginning of the 13th century CE) at the centre of the ancient capital of the Khmer empire, Angkor Thom. A selection of the drawings and photos are used to illustrate the evolution of the interpretation of this temple since the second half of the 19th century. The last results on these topics are illustrated by images from several 3D computer graphic techniques used to continue the interpretation of this masterpiece of Khmer architecture.

Pala-inspired Vajrayana Buddhist Bronzes from the Khorat Plateau: The Khmer-Pala Link
Bunker, Emma C.
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 86-95

Scholarly attempts to explain Khmer esoteric Buddhism have focused primarily on analysing texts. No Khmer liturgical literature has survived, so scholars seek evidence of shared elements in Tibet, Nepal and  Southeast Asia to help explain Khmer “Vajrayana” practices. Many Esoteric Buddhist bronzes from northeast Thailand relate stylistically to bronzes cast in Pala Bengal, suggesting a direct Vajrayana link from Pala Bengal via the pre-Thai Malay Peninsula to Khorat running parallel to the already established link between Pala Bengal and Sumatra/Java. The present study of Khorat bronzes indicates the early existence of this link, long before the Sab Bak 1066 CE inscription. Combined with knowledge of their technical foundry characteristics they could go far toward our understanding of the transmission process of Vajrayana imagery into the Khmer world which would ultimately impact the reign and artistic masterpieces produced under Jayavarman VII, culminating in the extraordinary face towers.

Angkor: Diary of a Modern Explorer
Kwok, Kenson
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 96-103

In extracts and sketches from two journals, Kenson Kwok records his impressions of the Angkor of 1992 and of almost a quarter century later. In 1992 the place was swarming with UN troops but there were very few visitors. Roads were potholed obstacle courses and the further flung sites inaccessible. Today accessibility and danger are no longer an issue and many more monuments have been or are being restored. Water has been returned to some of the moats and barays, making the experience of the site closer to what would have been during the heyday of Angkor. Is it possible to re-capture the aura of a place through words and watercolours, is the question raised here.

Book Reviews
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015-March 2016, pp. 104–108

Banteay Chhmar: Garrison Temple of the Khmer Empire by Peter D. Sharrock with contributions by Claude Jacques, Swati Chemburkar, John Sanday, and Julia Killmer, photography by Paisarn Piemmettawat, reviewed by Emma C. Bunker. Before Siam: Essays in Art and Archaeology edited by Nicolas Revire and Stephen A. Murphy, reviewed by Peter D. Sharrock.