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THE EXTENT OF SRIVIJAYA'S INFLUENCE ABROAD

Author(s): H. G. QUARITCH WALES


Source: Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 51, No. 1 (233)
(1978), pp. 4-11
Published by: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
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Plate 1. Gold
plaque depicting
Bodhisattva
from
Thamorat
cave,
near Si
Tep
.
Height
3 in.
(
James H. W .
Thompson
collection ,
Bangkok).
Plate 2. Head
of
stone
Bodhisattva
from
Thamorat
cave
,
near Si
Tep
.
Height
15 inches. In
Bangkok
Museum .
(Photo by
the
author
).
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THE EXTENT OF
SRIVIJAYA'S
INFLUENCE ABROAD
by
H. G.
QUARITCH
WALES
rivijaya, comprising
Sumatra and the
Malay
Peninsula,
is
primarily
known
as the famed
trading empire
of the
eighth
to twelfth centuries
A.D.,
but there is
ample
evidence that it wras
equally
a
great
centre of
Mahyna
Buddhism and
of the art that
gave expression
to it. The
question
that remains at issue is the
extent to which its culture was able to influence its
neighbours,
which means
mainly
the
essentially Hnaynist kingdom
of Dvravat to the north. In
my
book Dvravat
,
while
doubting
that the
religion
of that
kingdom
had been
influenced
by Srvijayan Mahynism,
I
accepted
that there had been some
influence in the field of art. "So the
question
for the future" I wrote "is
largely
one of
determining
the extent of
Srvijayan
influence in Dvravat art."1 Since
that time the
progress
of research has made it
possible
to re-assess a
good
deal
more
precisely
the extent of this influence in both art and
religion.
To a certain
degree
it is
necessary
to take into consideration
Srivijaya's
political relationship
with
Java
towrards the end of the
eighth century,
the most
active
period
of
Mahynist expansion.
About this time
rivijaya
became united
with
Java
under the rule of the
Mahynist
ailendras who before
long
transferred
their centre of
power
to the
Srvijayan capital
in
Sumatra,
their connection with
Java terminating
soon after A.D. 824. While central
Java
and the
Srvijayan
capital
functioned as
independent
centres of this Buddhist cultural
diffusion,
no certain distinction can be made between the
style
of the Buddhist
images
diffused from either centre. This was
recognized by
me in 1951 when I
proposed
the term
Indo-Malaysian
to cover them both.2 Then in 1955
J.
Boisselier
recognized
the same situation when he wrote: "Pour l'historien
d'art,
la statuaire
des deux
tats,
profondment
indianiss,
semble actuellement
impossible

distinguer."3
However his use of the term
rivijayan
to cover the
products
both of
rivijaya
and of central
Java
has tended to confuse the
issue,
as noted
by
me,4
and
by
A. Le Bonheur.5 The latter therefore
suggested,
and obtained
Boisselier's
agreement
to,
the use of the
generic
term
Indonesian,
which corres-
ponded
to
my Indo-Malaysian. Unfortunately Malaysian
and Indonesian have
each
acquired
a restricted modern
political
connotation
(while
Indonesian has
also an
anthropological usage)
which in no
way
furthers our need for a
generally
accepted
term
characterizing
the
style
of
religious imagery
that was common
to central
Java
and to
rivijaya.
However in the
present
article we shalf be more
1
Dvaravati
, London, 1969, p.
28.
2The
Making
of Greater India
,
first edition, London, 1951, p.
42.
3J. Boisselier,
La Statuaire Khmer e et son Evolution
, Saigon, 1955, p.
264.
*Dvaravatt .
p.
21.
SA. Le
Bonheur,
"Un bronze
d'poque prangkorienne representant Maitreya",
Arts
Asiatiques,
Vol.
XXV, 1972, p.
140.
5
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H. G.
QUARITCH
WALES
JMBRAS, VOL. 51
concerned to bear in mind the existence of these two
parallel
centres for the
diffusion of the common
sculptural style.
At the same
time,
where
merely
decorative motifs are
concerned,
central
Java
showed
greater originality
and
freedom from Indian control than was
possible
to the
Srlvijayans.
First to consider the
probable
extent of
rivijayan
influence in western
Dvravat,
which would be a
consequence
of the
expansion
of Sumatran
power
over the Peninsula in the latter
part
of the
eighth century.
The
possible
influence
of the
prototypes
of the
Bengal temple
of
Paharpur
in the architecture of Wat
P'ra
Men,
Nak'on
Pathom,
was realized
by Dupont,
but this did not
imply,
and
indeed
antedated, any
conceivable
rivijayan
influence. However in 1968
Boisselier described a number of stucco decorative motifs and animal
figures
found at U
T'ong
as
"rivijayan", though evidently having
in mind
supposed
similarity
to ninth
century
Khmer art which was influenced
by
central
Javanese
styles.6
In
my
criticism of this
opinion,7
1 remarked that I could see no difference
between the U
T'ong figures
and those found at other Dvravat
sites,
notably
Nak'on
Pathom,
where Boisselier had
specifically
stated that he could see no
evidence of
rivijayan
influence.8 At the same time he
regarded,
I believe
correctly,
the terracotta Bodhisattvas found at Ku
Bua,
as
products
of a
Mahynist
current from India
antedating any rivijayan
influence. However in 1969 he
claimed to see a more extensive influence of
rivijaya
in both the art and
religion
of the Menam
valley
than he had
formerly recognized.9
This was a radical
change
of
opinion
that
prompted
Le Bonheur to ask what new evidence had
justified
it.10 It
might
have been the
illogicality
of
denying
to similar stucco
figures
at other sites the
rivijayan
influence he claimed to have detected at
U
T'ong,
or it
might
have been the
importance
he attached to a few scattered
easily transportable
small
objects
of
rivijaya affinity
that actuated this
change
of
opinion;
but
undoubtedly
it was the
discovery
in 1968 of the fine series of
bas-reliefs at Wat P'ra
Paon,
or Chula
Paon,
at Nak'on
Pathom,
that seemed
to
give
confirmation to this revised view.
These reliefs were discovered in the course of road construction near the
site of the
stpa ,
the excavation of which
by
P.
Dupont
in 1939-40 had
evidently
been
very incomplete.
The
discovery
came
just
too late to be referred to in
my
Dvravat,
then in the
press, though
I had observed on
page
46 that the bas-
relief scene found in situ at
Mang
Bon
gave
an indication of what should
equally
have existed at Nak'on Pathom. Boisselier was
present
at the time of the dis-
covery,
and after
examining
the reliefs he
published
an article in which he claimed
to have identified as Bodhisattvas certain
figures
that
appeared among
scenes
that
generally
seemel
to illustrate the
Jtakas
. These
Bodhisattvas,
he
considered,
were of a
style
and decorated with
jewellery
of a
tvpe,
that characterized them
as
products
of
rivijayan
influence. He concluded that at the end of the
eighth
and in the ninth
century
Dvravat underwent a
period
of
rivijayan Mahynist
6J. Boisselier,
Nouvelles Connaissances
Archologiques
de la Ville U
T'ong , Bangkok, 1968, p.
32.
7
Dvaravati . d. 27.
8
Arts Asiatiques.
Vol. XII.
1965, p.
150.
9
Arts Asiatiques, Vol. XX, 1969, p. 59.
10Loc.
cit., p. 141,
n. 2.
6
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PART
1, 1978 THE EXTENT OF SRIVIJAYA'S INFLUENCE ABROAD
influence,
from which it returned to the Theravda fold and
gradual
decadence
at the end of the ninth
century.11
This rather
hastily
reached conclusion has been
superseded by subsequent
studies. In the first
place
Prince Subhadradis
recognized
one of the
supposedly
Bodhisattva
figures
as
Kuvera,
the
god
of wealth.12 He is of
course,
in the
Buddhist
scheme,
also the
lokapla
or
regent
of the North. However
Piriya
Krairiksh,
in the intensive
study
he devoted to the
reliefs,
would
prudently
call
him
just
a
yaksa.13
Moreover this author shows that the
style
of the
yaksa's
crown is closer to that of a sixth
century
iva at
Bhumara, India,
than to the
ninth
century rivijayan style.
Most
important
are the conclusions he derives
from his careful
study
of the relief
scenes,
and their
comparison particularly
with those
Jtaka
scenes illustrated at Kizil in the Central Asian
kingdom
of
Kucha. These indicate that all the scenes
depicted
at Chula
Paon,
as well as
those at
Mang
Bon,
were
inspired by Hnayna
Buddhism. Since no cult
images
of Bodhisattvas have been
found,
nor
any
relief
showing
a scene derived
from a
specific Mahyna
sutra,
there can be no doubt that it was Buddhism of
the
Hnayna
school, though
of the Sanskrit
canon,
that was
practised
at this
temple.
The above would
appear
to leave us in the main Dvravat centres with no
greater
evidence of
rivijayan
contacts than is
provided by
the occasional votive
tablet or small Bodhisattva
figure.
The fact that such
easily transportable objects
were
evidently
admired and valued in Dvravat
centres,
provides
no more evidence
that
they
were influential in
modifying
the art and
religion
of the
people
than
does the
presence
of Khmer statuettes in the collections of modern
Bangkok.
One would
require
evidence of the local art
being
modified
by
such influence.
One such
apparent
case occurred to me when I went so far as to
suggest
that the
"rivijayan" gold plaque (Plate 1),
one of two found in the Thamorat cave
near Si
T'ep,
could have
inspired
the monks there to carve in similar
style
the
Bodhisattva
images (Plate 2)
beside their normal Dvravat Buddhas.14 But that
was before the full
significance
of the Ban Tahnot bronze
(Plate 3),
the Prakhon
Chai hoard of several hundred bronze
Bodhisattvas,
and
finally
the two bronze
Bodhisattvas
(together
with a Buddha
image) brought
to
light
at Ban
Fai, Buriram,
in
1971,
had been
appreciated.15
On the basis of his
study
of those of the bronzes
that were then known Boisselier showed their
similarity
to the
Pre-Angkorian
style
of
Kompong
Prah,
and he dated them from the end of the
eighth
to the
early part
of the ninth
century
A.D.16 He identified what he called the influence
of
rivijaya especially
in the
style
of the
jatmukuta
of the
Bodhisattvas,
and
nJ. Boisselier,
"Rcentes recherches Nakhon
Pathom", Journal of
the Siam,
Society, 1970,
pp.
55-65.
l2The Sculbture of Thailand . Ed. T. Bowie, New York, 1972, p. 51.
13Piriva Krairiksh. Buddhist Folk Tales . depicted at Chula Pathon Cedi . Bangkok. 1974, p. 5.
14
Dvaravati , p. 83.
15The Ban Fai
images
were unearthed from a mound in a
typical
multi-
ramparted
small circular
site on the Korat
plateau,
situated a considerable distance south of the sites of M. Phet and
Thamen Chai
investigated by
me in 1956
("An early
Buddhist civilization in Eastern
Siam",
JSS, Vol. XLV, pt. 1, 1957.)
16J. Boisselier,
"Notes sur l'art du bronze dans l'ancien
Cambodge",
Artibus
Asiae,
Vol.
XXIX,
part 4, 1967, pp.
275-312.
7
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H. G.
QUARITCH
WALES
JMBRAS, VOL. 51
particularly
in the
pearls ornamenting
the centre of each hair
loop.
Since the
Prakhon Chai
figures
include those of Avalokitesvara he concluded
rightly
that
the
religious
influence was
Mahynist.
Similarities observed in the case of the
Si
T'ep
cave statues had led him to
recognize
the same
"Srvijayan"
influence
in their
jatmukuta
. That
they
further evidence the existence of
Mahynism
would also be established if one of the Bodhisattvas can be
definitely
identified
as Avalokitesvara.17
Since the
very large
number of bronze Bodhisattvas now known from the
Korat
plateau
have been classed as of the
Pre-Angkorian style
of
Kompong Prah,
it seems reasonable to
regard
them as the forerunners of that wave of Khmer
influence which would
eventually encompass
the whole of Dvravat. In the
late
eighth century
this wave had
proceeded only
so far as to influence and mix
with the Dvravat culture of the
plateau,
which there is
good
reason to associate
with the
possibly independent
state of Canasa. It is well known that this
early
Khmer art was
strongly
imbued with central
Javanese influence,
and when
Boisselier sees
rvijayan
influence in the
jatmukuta
of all these Bodhisattvas
it is obvious that his use of the term here in a loose sense is a cause of confusion.
It is in this connection that A. Le Bonheur
prevailed
on Boisselier to use the
term Indonesian rather than
rvijayan.18
And Le Bonheur makes the almost
inevitable deduction that we
ought
to think in terms of an influence "in the other
direction",
that is of the "school of Prakhon Chai" on the art of Dvravat.19
And what more
likely,
I
may
add,
than that such
Pre-Angkorian
art and
Mahyna
religion
should
overspill
the
plateau
to Si
T'ep,
which is on an old route there-
from. In that case there is no more
rvijayan
influence at Si
T'ep
than there
is on the Korat
plateau,
where indeed we should
hardly expect
it,
and where the
characteristics of the art and
religion
we have mentioned find a
satisfactory explana-
tion in terms of
ultimately
central
Javanese
influence. Moreover Si
T'ep
is a
long way
from western
Dvravat,
where at Nak'on Pathom and
Mang
Bon
the claim for the
presence
of
rvijayan
influence and the
Mahyna
has been
shown to be unfounded.
This
brings
us to a consideration of some even more
far-reaching
claims
by
Boisselier for the extent of
rvijayan
influence,
in his recent
publication
La
Sculpture
en Thalande
(1974).
In
offering
certain criticisms of
these,
one does
not wish to detract from
recognition
of the work as a whole as
constituting
a
laudable achievement, providing
a
comprehensive
introduction to an immense
subject.
Unlike so
many popular
books the author does not in this one seek
safety
in
propounding only apparently
well-established, yet
in fact sometimes
outdated, theories;
he
boldly
takes the
opportunity
to
put
forward some
striking
new
hypotheses, largely
based on his own work in the field.
However,
as he is
well
aware,
this has one serious drawback: in the context of a
popular publication
the author often lacks the
space
needed to martial the
required evidence,
and he
rightly recognizes
that such detail would be
palatable only
to
specialists.
17J. Boisselier,
Arts
Asiatiques,
Vol.
XII, 1965, p.
154.
18Le
Bonheur,
loc.
cit., p. 143,
. 3.
19loc.
cit., p.
141.
8
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Plate 3. Head of
Bodhisattva:
bronze: from
Ban Tahnot,
Korat
Plateau. Hight
28 inches.
In Bangkok
Museum.
Plate 4. The
Takuapa
Visnu: a
typical
long-robed
stone Visnu, with
cylindrical
mitre.
Height
6
feet.
In
Bangkok
Museum.
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Plate 5. A Si
Tep
stone Visnu, with
characteristic short robe and
polygonal
head-
dress.
Height 38!2
inches. In
Bangkok
Museum.
Plate 6. The
recently found
stone head
of
Visnu
from
Si
T'ep,
with
cylindrical
mitre ,
before
attachment to the Si
T'ep
torso
(Plate 7) Height lllU
inches . In
Bangkok
Museum.
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PART
1, 1978 THE EXTENT OF SRIVIJAYA'S INFLUENCE ABROAD
An
example
which
closely
concerns our
subject appears
on
page
81 where
we are told that a
study
of those Dvravat
standing
Buddhas which have one
shoulder bare and a different
position
for each hand would "without doubt"
provide
evidence of
rivijayan
influence.
Unfortunately
"a
study
of these
images
cannot find a
place
in our
very general
scheme."
However,
in view of
what has been said earlier in this
article,
it is obvious that this claim cannot be
entertained without a full statement of the evidence on which it is based.
Some of Boisselier's new and contentious
hypotheses
are less
vaguely stated,
for were it not so further comment would be
superfluous.
As is well-known
he has over the
years
made
many
valuable contributions to the detailed art
history
of South-east Asia. But since in this
question
of
rivijayan
influence the
Malay
Peninsula is
very
much
concerned,
one cannot overlook the fact that in the case
of the "aberrant"
Chaiya
Visnu with conch on
hip,
he was no more infallible
than were the rest of us
-
all
except
Prof. S.
J.
O'Connor who showed it to date
from not later than A.D. 400.
20
Now I can
only express
astonishment when I find all the mitred
long-robed
Visnus of the
Peninsula,
as well as those of central
Siam,
classed
by
Boisselier
as
rivijayan.
While he allows a somewhat earlier
dating
for them than he had
previously envisaged, namely
from about 650 to 800
A.D.,
he does not seem to
appreciate
that much of this
period
antedates the
activity
of
rivijayan
influenc
in the Peninsula. He
appears
to
ignore
the
important analysis
and conclusions
of
O'Connor, although
he recommends his book "above all" in his
bibliographical
note. Now O'Connor
explains very satisfactorily
the difference in
style
of the
three
groups
into which Pierre
Dupont
had divided the mitred Visnus. It was
due to an accretion of
styles, Gupta, post-Gupta
and
Paliava,
which were over a
period
from the sixth to the
eighth century brought
to bear on the
original impulse
from India
represented by
the conch on
hip Chaiya
Visnu.
Only
in the latest
group, represented
in the Peninsula
primarily by
the
Takuapa
Visnu
(Plate 4),
does O'Connor
suggest
a "local
preoccupation"
directed towards
extending
the
arms
away
from the
body.
All this
carefully analysed
Indian
influence,
based on
unquestionable evidence,
is
ignored by
Boisselier,
who sees these
sculptures
as "the fruit of a local
evolution,
pursued independently
of all new influences."21
So, just
the
opposite
of what
was
already
foreseen
by Dupont,22
we have
original styles paralleling
those of
Angkor
and
Champa.
Classed
by
Boisselier as
rivijayan,
one
might enquire
why
not even a
fragment
of one
single example
of such mitred Visnus has been
found on mainland Sumatra ? Was it not in fact because the
religion
of
rivijaya
was
Hlnayna
Buddhism, replaced mainly by
the
Mahyna during
the
eighth
century?
And does not their
disappearance
at that time from the Peninsula
coincide with the
expansion
of
rivijayan religion,
of which Vaisnavism was not
20S.J. O'Connor, Jr.,
Hindu Gods
of
Peninsular Siam
, Ascona, 1972, Chapters
II and III.
lLa
Sculpture
en
Thalande, Pans, 1974, p.
97.
ZZP.
Dupont,
Visnus Mitres de 1 Indochine Occidentale
,
Bull, de I hcole rrancaise d hxtrme
Orient
,
Vol.
XLI, pt. 2, 1941, p.
238.
9
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H. G.
QUARITCH
WALES JMBRAS, VOL. 51
a feature?
Again,
with the decline of the direct Indian
influences,
the cult of
the mitred Visnus did not survive
anywhere long
after that
century.
In this same remarkable
publication
the author makes other
propositions
with which not
everyone may
find it
possible
to
agree,
but
they
do not concern
us here.23 But for the
sculpture
of Si
T'ep,
in the Pasak
valley
of central
Siam,
he
presents
us with a tour de force which
very
much concerns our immediate
enquiry.
His
opening
words on the
subject
could
scarcely
strike a truer note:
"It
may appear surprising"
he
says
"that we have chosen to
present
the art of
Si
T'ep
in the
chapter
devoted to
rvijaya."24
The
surprise
would be some-
what diminished were he
referring only
to the Bodhisattvas of the Thamorat
Cave,
the
"rivijayan"
element in whose
make-up
we have dealt with above.
But- the astonishment is in fact accentuated when we find that he includes
equally
the
splendid
Brahmanical
sculptures
which
some,
including myself,
have attri-
buted to direct Indian influence of a much earlier date.25
We have seen on what
questionable grounds
the mitred
long-robed
Visnus
of the Peninsula have been classed
by
Boisselier as
rivijayan,
and it
appears
that
it is on
having just
one
supposed
feature in common with them that the Si
T'ep
Visnus are to
join
them. And this
supposed
evidence is
exaggerated by
Boisselier
to a
degree
which amounts to a mis-statement of the facts. He
says
that "the
Visnus of Si
T'ep possess
a smooth
cylindrical
mitre,
or more
rarely
a
polygonal
one,
also well attested in the art of the Peninsula..."26
However,
as
already
noted
by
Coed
s,
27
unlike the
cylindrical
mitre of the Peninsula
Visnus,
the
head-dress is either
vaguely octagonal
or flattened in front in the Si
T'ep
Visnus
(e.g.
Plate
5)
- -
with one
possible exception.
This concerns the
cylindrical
mitred
Visnu head
recently
found at Si
T'ep (Plate 6)
which has
apparently
been found
to fit
perfectly
to a
long
known Si
T'ep
torso
(Plate 7). Despite
the
apparent
good
fit,
I have serious doubts as to the
original
association of the two
parts.28
O'Connor,
in another
context,
has
rightly
warned of "the
danger
in
isolating
a
single
feature,
such as the
headdress,
without reference to the
stylistic
context
of the whole work of art."29 In this
case,
we can
see,
from the
gap
between the
thighs,
that the statue lacks the
long
robe characteristic of the mitred Visnus.
It further
appears
that the statue shows a
greater degree
of hanchement than
would be
expected
of a mitred Visnu. A case
might possibly
be made out for the
head
having originally belonged
to the
body
on the
grounds
that the
cylindrical
23His
suggestions
with
regard
to a local School of Nak'on Si Thammarat have been criticized
by
me in The
Malay
Peninsula in Hindu Times, 1976, p.
175. His further
suggestion (p. 102)
that
images
in
Srivijayan style
were not made after the ninth
century
is
unlikely
to find
acceptance.
24J. Boisselier, op. cit., p.
104.
25In this
book,
as in Arts
Asiatiques , 1965, pp. 141, 154,
Boisselier dismisses the architectural
remains at Si
T'ep
as all Khmer and not earlier than the eleventh
century.
To merit serious
consideration such an
opinion
would
require
a full statement of the evidence on which it is based.
Moreover on the
spot study
of the remains would be
essential,
but Boisselier was
apparently
prevented by
the weather from
visiting
the site.
26J. Boisselier, op. cit., p.
105.
27G.
Coeds,
"Note sur
quelques sculptures
de
Srideb", Mlanges
Linossier
, 1932,
Vol.
I, p.
162.
28A
replacement
in
antiquity
is
conceivable, during
the Dvaravati
occupation
of Si
T'ep.
29S.J. O'Connor, op. cit., p.
45.
10
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PART
1, 1978 THE EXTENT OF SRIVIJAYA'S INFLUENCE ABROAD
kiritamukuta is
occasionally
found in
Gupta art;30
but that would afford no
support
for Boisselier's
Srvijayan
thesis.
Taking
the area of Siam as a whole I see no
reason,
on the evidence discussed
above,
to
depart
from the
opinion expressed
in
my
book Dvravat to the effect
that,
while the
finding
of scattered
Srvijayan images suggests
that this art was
appreciated,
its influence was small and the
Mahynism
of
Srvijaya
was not
accepted.
In the eastern
part
of the
country, however,
that is to
say
the Korat
plateau,
the Dvravat
style
of art and
Hnayna
Buddhism that had been im-
planted
there was in the
eighth century
A.D.
considerably
influenced from Cam-
bodia
by
the
Mahyna,
with
pre-Angkorian
art
styles
that had
incorporated
some central
Javanese
features. Furthermore it
appears
that monks from Nak'on
Si Thammarat introduced some
Srvijayan
architectural features to
Subhodaya
in the fourteenth
century,
but that was after
Srvijaya
had ceased to exist.
Plate 7. Torso
of
Si
Tep
short robed stone
Visnu,
to
which the mitred Visnu
head
(Plate 6)
has been
attached . In
Bangkok
Museum.
11
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