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Violence and Serenity

Violence and Serenity: Late Buddhist Sculpture from Indonesia

Natasha Reichle
Copyright Date: 2007
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    Violence and Serenity
    Book Description:

    The mention of Buddhism in Indonesia calls to mind for many people the Central Javanese monument of Borobudur, one of the largest Buddhist monuments in the world and the subject of extensive scholarly scrutiny. The neglect of scholarship on Buddhist art from later periods might lead one to assume that after the tenth century Buddhism had been completely eclipsed by the predominantly Hindu Eastern Javanese dynasties. Yet, as the works discussed here illustrate, extraordinary Buddhist images were still being produced as late as the fourteenth century. Violence and Serenity offers a close examination of some of the impressive works from East Java and Sumatra and explores their political and religious roles. The number of clearly identifiable Buddhist works from the Singasari and Majapahit dynasties (1222–ca. 1520) is limited, yet existing examples are impressive. They demonstrate a remarkable level of craftsmanship and are exceptionally expressive, exhibiting a range of emotions from the ferocious to the serene. Following a brief discussion of the early history of Buddhism in Indonesia, Natasha Reichle focuses each chapter on a specific statue or group of statues and considers the larger issues evoked by the images. Through a rarely examined depiction of the last Singasari king, she explores the nature of religion in Java in the late thirteenth century and what we know about tantric practices and the syncretism of Hinduism and Buddhism. She reassesses the question of portraiture in ancient Javanese art while contemplating the famous Prajñāpāramitā from Singasari. Notions of kingship are discussed in light of a number of statues depicting the Buddhist deity Amoghapāśa and his attendants and the meanings of the Amoghapāśa mandala. The final chapter examines the origins and significance of one of Indonesia’s most spectacular sculptures, a four-meter-high Buddhist bhairava (demon) discovered in West Sumatra.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6547-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-14)

    AT THE HEART OF the Museum Nasional in Jakarta lies a remarkable collection of ancient sculpture. One after another, dozens of Hindu and Buddhist statues line the walls of the courtyard at the core of the building, giving the visitor a glimpse of the long artistic history of the region. Although many of the images are spectacular, when I first visited the museum, I found myself drawn again and again to the same two: an exquisite seated image of Prajñāpāramitā, the goddess of transcendental wisdom, and a colossal standing demonic figure known as abhairava.

    The bhairava sculpture is impossible...

  7. CHAPTER ONE The Development of Buddhism in Sumatra and Java
    (pp. 15-22)

    BEFORE TURNING TO Buddhist statues from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it is important to get a sense of the earlier history of Buddhism in the archipelago. Some of the earliest written information about both Java and Sumatra comes from the diaries of Chinese pilgrims, who used the sea route to reach or return from India and stopped at the islands while waiting for the proper conditions to travel onward. In 414 CE, Faxian (Fa-hsien, Fa-hien) spent an unhappy five months in either Java or Sumatra, where he observed “Buddha’s law [was] not sufficient to speak of.¹

    A very different...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Joko Dolok and the Politics of Royal Asceticism
    (pp. 23-50)

    THE STATUE KNOWN AS Joko Dolok sits today under a banyan tree in a small municipal park in central Surabaya (fig. 2.1).¹ Other assorted antiquities line the paths of the park, but this statue, placed upon a painted platform, is clearly the center of attention. The image is still worshipped: incense is placed before it, a beaded choker is tied around its neck, and flower petals are strewn on its lap.²

    At first glance the statue appears to be an image of a Buddha. The thickset figure sits inpadmāsana, his left hand upturned in his lap and the right...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Ideas of Portraiture: Prajñāpāramitā in Java and Sumatra
    (pp. 51-84)

    THE STATUE OF Prajñāpāramitā, the Buddhist deity of transcendental wisdom, in the Museum Nasional Indonesia (fig. 3.1), has been called “arguably Java’s greatest single stone sculpture.”¹ The image is indeed treasured and has been replicated many times, possibly first in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century in the years immediately after its manufacture, and even today recent replicas are available from online vendors in northern California.

    One of the central questions regarding the Prajñāpāramitā statue is whether this Buddhist sculpture also represented a historical figure, and if so, who she was. The issue of whether “portrait statues” existed in...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR The Many Roles of the Amoghapāśa Maṇḍala
    (pp. 85-132)

    THE REMARKABLY BEAUTIFUL statues of the bodhisattva Amoghapāśa Lokeśvara and his retinue found at Candi Jago in East Java have often been cited as evidence of a new wave of religious and stylistic influences from the Pāla kingdom in eastern India.¹ This chapter addresses questions of Indian influence and explores the religious and political significance of Amoghapāśa (an eight-armed form of Avalokiteśvara) in Java during the Singasari and Majapahit dynasties. The statues from Candi Jago are intriguing in their own right, but they are particularly interesting because they were replicated in both stone and bronze. These copies were sent from...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE A Charnel House of Images: The Padang Lawas Heruka
    (pp. 133-166)

    IT IS HARD TO imagine today, upon visiting the site of Padang Lawas in northern Sumatra, that it once was a thriving religious center.² This is so not only because of the physical remoteness of the site, but also because of the sense of desolation that pervades the region. Yet set against the barren landscape, amidst a network of extremely poor villages, are the ruins of dozens of temples. These temples have poorly withstood the passage of time—not only have they been eroded by nature, but bricks and stones have been removed by both villagers and early European excavators.³...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The National Museum’s Monumental Bhairava
    (pp. 167-210)

    THE FIRST IMAGE that one encounters when entering the hall of ancient sculpture at the Museum Nasional in Jakarta is instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with the art of South or Southeast Asia. A large stone statue of the Hindu god Gaṇeśa, the god of beginnings, greets the visitor (fig. 6.1). His long trunk swings across his body to dip into his bowl of sweetmeats. The surface of this ninth-century image from Candi Banon is smooth and shiny from the touch of the many hands of those who have passed by. Like many other Central Javanese images, it has the...

    (pp. 211-216)

    InForgotten Kingdoms of Sumatra, F. M. Schnitger, in his typically imaginative manner, describes the removal of the Buddhist Bhairawa from Sungai Langsat. “During the transportation,” he writes, “a terrible storm arose and a great tree fell directly in front of the lorry, almost crushing the image in its fall. It was as if the spirit of the departed king were protesting.” This short passage illustrates the impact of the colossal image on its colonial excavator. The powers he imagines the statue possessing can be compared to the spiritual power that important cultural objects (pusaka) in Indonesia are still thought...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 217-258)
    (pp. 259-276)
    (pp. 277-278)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 279-290)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-292)