Monday, March 28, 2016

Interpreting Angkor: Art and Empire in the Hindu-Buddhist World

Art and Empire in the Hindu-Buddhist World

                                                                      The monuments left by the Khmer empire offer one of the most striking examples of how art reflects politics and how politics shapes art.It does so in two ways, first by legitimising of the political authority of the sovereign, and second by reflecting the drive for imperial power through war and peace-making.The Angkor Thom and Bayan are the places to look for a snapshot of the intimate linkage between art and politics in classical Southeast Asia.Although a religious monument like much of Angkor’s heritage, Bayan is also a thoroughly secular and political statement of life in the Angkor period. It has gone through different phases of Hindu-Buddhist art.One signpost is the alternation between Hinduism and Buddhism, as legitimisation strategies of the rulers after periods of rise and decline of the Khmer empire. For example, Jayavarman VII built the monument to reflect his Mahayan Buddhist beliefs as the ruling ideology of Angkor. His embrace of Buddhism in what had been a staunch Hindu ruling class might have been partly due to disillusionment with Hinduism, including Shaivism, in failing to protect the empire from defeat in the hands of the rival Champa. But his successors, who struggled with the burden of empire that Jayavarman built, the greatest in Angkor history, turned to Hinduism as their fortunes declined. Hence Budhist images on the walls of Angkor were defaced and replaced with Hindu deities. These defacements can be seen quite clearly today.The bas reliefs of Bayon are full of secular depictions of daily life in Angkor, capturing its multicultural makeup, the social life of the inhabitants and the political role of the ruling elite, including the powerful Brahmin clergy. READ MORE

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