Spiritual World – Images of Gods and Goddesses

Traditional Thai art primarily consists of Buddhist art and, to a lesser extent, Hindu-influenced Thai folklore. Thai sculptures most often depict images of the Buddha and other characters from Buddhist and Hindu mythology, while Thai paintings comprise book illustrations and painted ornamentation of temples and palaces. The history of Buddhist art in Thailand until the 18th century can be divided into three broad phases: the Dwaravati period, the Sukhothai period, and the Ayutthaya period.Origins of Buddhist art in ThailandFrom the 1st to the 7th centuries, art in Thailand was influenced by direct contact with Indian traders and the expansion of the Mon Kingdom, leading to the creation of Hindu and Buddhist art inspired by the Gupta tradition of India. (Boundless)                                                     The collection of images in this gallery include: Buddha calling the Earth to witness (1347-1400) by Early Ayutthaya period, Thailand - is in the U-Thong style of fourteenth-century Thailand. ;        Ravana, King of Langka (late 18th century-early 19th century) by Ratanakosin period (1782?), Thailand - The Ramayana, one of the great Indian epics, was introduced to Southeast Asia by Indian traders as early as the 8th or 9th century.;       Buddha at the Moment of Victory (15th century) by Thai- Standing Following the emergence of Sukhothai as an independent kingdom in the late 13th century, a new style of Buddha image was developed in Siam crowned ;      Bronze figure of the walking Buddha (1300-1399) Walking images of the Buddha continue to be made in Thailand to this day. ;           Standing crowned Buddha (12th century-13th century) by Unknown- The style of Buddhas of this type is often classified as Lop Buri, after the name of a city in Thailand             ; Shiva (1010-50) by Baphuon period (1010-1080), Cambodia- Shiva and Vishnu were very popular deities in Cambodia during the Angkor period.;          Head of Buddha (14th century) by Unknown- Thai sculptors of the Sukhothai period (1200-1400) created a transcendental and unique statement about the spirituality of Buddha within the canonical framework.                                                                                                                                                        Source: Boundless. “Thai Buddhist Sculpture.” Survey of Non-Western Art. Boundless, 15 Apr. 2016. Retrieved 28 Apr. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/users/159928/textbooks/survey-of-non-western-art/south-and-southeast-asia-after-1200-ce-28/southeast-asia-177/thai-buddhist-sculpture-658-5769/"Buddha at the Moment of Victory." The Art Walters Museum. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <http: / /art.thewalters.org /detail /37881 /buddha-at-the-moment-of-victory-4>. Menzies, Jackie. "Head of Buddha." Art Gallery of New South Wales. Web. 28 Apr. 2016."Thai Crowned Buddha 11th-12th Century." The Amica Library. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.  

This image of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, is in the U-Thong style of fourteenth-century Thailand. The style was apparently named after Prince U Thong, the first king of the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya. U Thong reigned as Ramathibodi I from 1351 to 1369, and actively propagated Theravada Buddhism as the state religion. This sculpture represents a move away from the Khmer-influenced Mahayana traditions of the Lopburi period towards a focus on the teachings of the earthly Buddha, Shakyamuni or Gautama. The Buddha wears an unadorned monk’s robe, folded across the left shoulder. His right hand extends to the ground in the earth-touching gesture (bhumisparsha mudra), signifying the Buddha calling on the earth to witness his attainment of enlightenment. His legs are crossed, with only the sole of the right foot visible. With a serene facial expression, the Buddha is shown with the pronounced cranial bump, capped with a flame-like jewel, characteristic of Thai Buddhist art. For Theravada Buddhists, this type of image serves as a focus for contemplation of the dharma, or Buddha’s teachings.
The Ramayana, one of the great Indian epics, was introduced to Southeast Asia by Indian traders as early as the 8th or 9th century. In Thailand, where it is known as the Ramakien (Glory of Rama), the legend has inspired storytelling, performance and the visual arts for centuries, and remains extremely popular. The destruction of the kingdom at Ayutthaya in 1767 and the subsequent relocation of the royal centre to Bangkok resulted in the tragic loss of most Thai literary texts. However, in the 1790s, King Rama I devoted himself to compiling surviving texts and composing the Ramakien in its present form, adding 40 episodes and many uniquely Thai elements to the story in the process. The lengthy tale begins with the previous incarnations and early lives of the main characters and is best known for the series of battles that ensue when Ravana (Tosakanth in Thai), the demon King of Langka and supreme villain of the story, abducts Sita (Sida), the wife of the story’s hero Rama (Prah Ram). In the Ramakien version of the epic, unbeknown to Ravana, Sita is his daughter. As a baby, Sita was predicted to destroy the demon race and consequently banished from his kingdom. The prophecy is validated when Rama, alongside his brother Lakshmana (Phra Lak) and the monkey army led by Hanuman, fights for Sita’s release and ultimately defeats the demon king. This sculpture represents Ravana or possibly his ally Sahasadecha, the white-faced demon king of Pangtan who was killed in battle by Hanuman. The superhuman qualities of the demons are indicated by their multiple heads, with descriptions ranging from 10 to 1000, as well as their fangs and bulging eyes. Seated in a reverential pose, this sculpture may once have adorned the entrance to a noble residence or temple.
The Buddha is depicted at the moment of his victory over the forces of evil, when he took his right hand from his lap (where it had been resting as he meditated) and touched the earth. Following the emergence of Sukhothai as an independent kingdom in the late 13th century, a new style of Buddha image was developed in Siam (Thailand). Before achieving enlightenment – a state of freedom from desire and the suffering it causes – the meditating Buddha was assaulted by the forces of Mara, a demon who personifies both death and the attachments that trap living beings in a cycle of worldly suffering. Prevailing over Mara, the Buddha touched the earth with his right hand so that she would witness his moment of victory–and his enlightenment. Gazing downward in an expression of meditative tranquility, this Buddha at once embodies a calm equilibrium and a radiant energy, present in the flame-like rays that emerge from his head and in the shining gold that once covered his entire body. (Buddha)
This Buddha is depicted walking with his right hand in the gesture of reassurance (abhayamudra). Most Buddha images throughout Asia are in one of three postures: standing, sitting or lying down. The creation of a walking Buddha image is a distinctive feature of Thai art in the thirteenth century. Walking images of the Buddha continue to be made in Thailand to this day. After renouncing his early life as a prince, the Buddha spent the remainder of his life as a mendicant, teaching throughout northern India. Earlier Buddhist art had stressed the god-like and king-like aspects of the Buddha, and neither gods nor kings were imagined as a walking monk. Thai images presented a new image of the Buddha walking among the people emphasizing his earthly aspects. Sukhothai walking images are also connected with the conception of Thai kings as being closer to the people than their Indian or Khmer counterparts. The Sukhothai kingdom was the first Theravada Buddhist kingdom of Thailand. The ethnic Thai people entered modern Thailand from the north, modern south-west China. The Sukhothai style of sculpture is very distinctive, with smooth long limbs, an oval face and smooth modelling of clothing. The influence of Sri Lanka is clear in the flame-like ushnisha which is seen on the head of images of the Buddha.
This finely crafted regal figure of the Buddha is depicted in a strong frontal stance wearing long, flowing monastic robes, scalloped at the hems and gathered in front with a jewelled girdle. While the smooth and naturalistic modelling of the torso gives the appearance of a bare upper body, the Buddha's robes are in fact draped over both shoulders where an elaborate necklace or collar disguises the neckline of the garment. In addition, the Buddha is depicted wearing elaborate jewellery: heavy earrings, armbands and a distinctive conical crown, the practice of depicting the Buddha as adorned with a crown having developed in Pala India where the crown represented the complete attainment of Buddhahood. Nevertheless, dressed in the regalia of a king, this majestic figure of the Buddha embodies the concept of the Devaraja (literally god-king), as an incarnation of the Divine on earth and as the means by which the Khmer kings legitimised their sovereignty. In an interesting variation, the hands of this Buddha are held in the gesture of 'vitarka mudra', the gesture of philosophical debate and discussion, reminiscent of Thai Buddha images of the preceding Mon-Dvaravati period. Thus although the distinctive facial features, powerful frontal and hieratic stance, and ornate formalism of this skilfully executed image of the Buddha has its stylistic origins with the Khmer culture, this appropriation and adaptation of Mon-Dvaravati elements attest to the dynamic evolution of Southeast Asian Buddhist sculpture. The style of Buddhas of this type is often classified as Lop Buri, after the name of a city in Thailand that was a viceregal Khmer city in the 11th and 12th centuries. Lop Buri also appears to have been an important center for the production of stone and bronze images of the Buddha. Bejeweled Buddhas of this type are found in the decoration of Phimai, a temple dedicated to Esoteric Buddhism constructed at the beginning of the 12th century in the southeast part of central Thailand. Image types developed for this site were influential in Thai and Cambodian art during the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The crown and other jewelry in these 12th-century examples may refer to the reign of Jayavarman VII (1181-c. 1218), a Khmer monarch who ruled as a buddha-king rather than a Hindu god-king and thus dedicated his monuments to Buddhist rather than to Hindu divinities. It may also illustrate a belief in the transcendence--rather than the historicity--of the Buddha, which is typical of Esoterism, the branch of Buddhist thought favored by Jayavarman VII. (Thai)
Description The elegant, slightly elongated appearance of this sculpture, as well as the pleated skirt cloth (sampot), is characteristic of the Baphuon style of Cambodian sculpture. The style is named after a major eleventh-century monument, the Baphuon temple. Located in the Angkor Thom complex near present-day Siem Reap, the Baphuon was created as a model of mythical Mount Meru, the centre of the Hindu cosmos. Both Buddhist and Hindu sculptures were created in this style, and Baphuon bronze casting demonstrates particularly skilled craftsmanship. Shiva and Vishnu were very popular deities in Cambodia during the Angkor period. The lack of recognised divine attributes makes it difficult to identify this gilded sculpture with certainty, but the third eye on the forehead suggests it may be an image of Shiva. Originally the figure’s right hand may have held a trident, the principal symbolic attribute of Shiva. The pupils of the deity’s three eyes, the eyebrows and the moustache are inlaid with black glass, while silver is used for the whites of the eyes. The inscription around the base of the sculpture indicates that it was commissioned by Viralakshmi, the queen of the Khmer King Suryavarman I, who reigned during 1002–50.
By the time Buddhism reached Thailand, its images were well defined and governed by prescribed canons. In an absorbing story of permutation and evolution, Thai sculptors of the Sukhothai period (1200-1400) created a transcendental and unique statement about the spirituality of Buddha within the canonical framework. The 32 major and 80 minor anatomical characteristics necessary to create a true Buddha image include the cranial protuberance symbolic of Buddha's supernatural wisdom; the elongated earlobes signifying his princely birth; the spiral curls symbolic of his great renunciation of cutting off his princely locks; a nose like a parrot's beak; and rounded chin like a lime or mango stone. The high flame finial which would have been attached to the crown of this figure, an innovation adopted from Sri Lanka, but now synonymous with the classic Thai style, is the Fire of Knowledge that burns away selfhood, ignorance and suffering. Sukhothai sculptors preferred bronze as their medium and achieved their greatest triumphs with it. Motivated by the belief that the more perfect the statue the stronger its power, they were driven to create such distillations of condensed spirituality as that captured here. (Menzies)
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