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Dancing architecture at Angkor: 'halls with dancers' in Jayavarman VII's temples.

The ascent of the ancient Khmer empire to its apogee in the twelfth century is attested in the vast, unprecedented expansion of ceremonial architecture under Jayavarman VII. In a long reign from 1182/83--c. 1218 CE, the king built the temple complexes of Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei, Bayon and Banteay Chhmar, as well as the 9 sq. km walled city of Angkor Thom. (1) His architecture projected powerful new concepts in what French historians called the 'Bayon style', named after the towering Buddhist state temple erected at the heart of Angkor Thom. Several of the king's temples went through different construction phases as religious and ceremonial demands on space evolved, and during the last building phase large, open, pillared halls adorned with female dancing figures were added to all his temples on the main axis, creating the final approach to the temple. (2)

French scholars remained unsure of their function and chose the term salles aux danseuses ('halls with dancers'), based on the reliefs of dancing female figures carved into the architraves and pillars of the halls. (3) The structure and positioning of large, open pillared halls erected on the axial entrances to Jayavarman's central sanctuaries recall the Indian mandapa design of colonnade and sculptural pillars set in large temple compounds. Mandapa literally means 'the one that protects the decoration'. (4)

Focusing on the halls with dancers, a distinct architectural feature of Jayavarman VII's temples, this article explores the possibility of a link between the architecture, associated inscriptions, dance and music rituals (5) evolving in Angkor and the contemporary Indian Chola temples that housed several mandapas. The article argues that the architecture of the halls with dancers worked in tandem with ritual practices to provide a symbolic and possibly actual space for encountering the divine.

Plan and design of the 'halls with dancers'

Both Ta Prohm and Preah Khan have such pillared structures situated at the eastern axis and principal approach to the main sanctuary (Fig. 1). They are rectangular cruciform structures with approximately one hundred pillars dividing the space into four courtyards with surrounding galleries. The central bay of the hall corresponds in width to that of the central sanctuary. Two side aisles are half the width of the central aisle. Several female figures in ardhaparyanka (half cross-legged) (6) dance posture adorn the columns and gopura (ornamental entrance) friezes. The halls with dancers are set between large water tanks between the second and the third enclosure walls of the temple complexes. They would have been covered with high barrel-vaulted roofing as can be seen today in the restoration work at Ta Prohm.

At the Bayon temple, according to Olivier Cunin, in the last phase a long causeway was built to project out from the main eastern entrance and was lined with naga balustrades and flanked with artificial water tanks. A raised platform in the shape of a Greek cross (Fig. 2) was later built onto the causeway and a large, pillared wooden structure added. (7) This open wooden hall, in front of the eastern gopura and sanctuary BY55, composed the final approach to the central sanctuary of the temple. As the wooden structure of Bayon temple was positioned on the axial approach to the central sanctuary, like the halls with dancers in the king's other temples, this building classifies alongside the others, by its structure and positioning, as a 'hall with dancers'.

The halls with dancers are a prominent architectural feature and are noteworthy for two reasons: they contain finely carved reliefs of several hundred female dancers and they are a dateable architectural element distinctive of the final phase of the king's construction programme. Jayavarman's purpose in providing this sacred space on an unprecedented scale as the final addition to these temples has yet to be studied.

The new architectural feature of a spacious hall with dancer motifs in fact first appears at the temple of Phimai, in what is today northeast Thailand, where there is a cruciform terrace surrounded by a gallery before the main sanctuary. Fifty years later, a similar design appears on a much grander scale in the cruciform galleries of Angkor Wat, again on the axis (this time western) to the main sanctuary. These galleries, accompanied by water tanks, have a large architrave with dancing female figures (Fig. 3). Somewhat similar designs are found in the succeeding temples of Preah Khan of Kompong Svay and Beng Mealea. Whatever their ritual function, these halls were an innovation started and maintained by the Mahldharapura dynasty of kings Jayavarman VI (c.1080-1107 CE), Suryavarman II (1111-1145/1150 CE) and considerably enhanced in scale by Jayavarman VII.

Under Jayavarman VII, the female dancing figures occur on an unprecedented scale, notably in the Bayon temple. (8) Khmer epigraphy tells us that dance was a significant aspect of Jayavarman's temples and dancers were held in high esteem. (9) They were embedded in the social and religious fabric of Cambodia. (10) We have no dedicatory stele for the Bayon and no palm leaf ritual text has survived to guide us, but the reliefs of the Bayon depicting dance performances with musicians and varied musical instruments form an important visual resource for the study of Khmer temple dance. In addition there are two thirteenth-century Chinese sources: the report of Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan who spent a year in Angkor, and the chronicle of Zhao Rugua, the Chinese superintendent of maritime trade in Canton.

Since the architectural feature of the hall with dancers shows striking similarity to the Indian mandapa feature, let us understand the mandapa in Indian temple architecture.

Mandapas in Indian temple architecture

In India early temples had a modest vestibule (ardhamandapa) in front of the central sanctuary (garbhagrha), where priests and devotees would gather for prayer and offerings. From the eighth century onwards, mandapas were built in place of the vestibules and on a grander scale. By the eleventh century, with the spread of the devotional movement in most regions of India, mandapas extending out from the sanctuary sometimes contained up to 1,000 pillars, as at the Minakshi temple, Madurai, South India.

During the Chola period (c.985-1267 CE), temples in South India developed from small shrines and simple places of worship into grandiose, courtly cultural establishments and religious institutions. Inscriptional evidence tells us about how Rajaraja Chola (r. 985-1014 CE) utilised the pre-existing social structure of village assemblies and craft guilds for his new temple programme. Hundreds of text reciters, dancers, musicians, lamp holders, carpenters, goldsmiths, actors, tailors and watchmen were employed to keep the temples functioning. (11) The mandapa was thus borne out of the need for congregation areas and formed an interesting dialectic between employment creation and the new ritual practices, including dance and music, which were to evolve from the still thriving devotional bhakti movement.

Scholars assume that the mandapa housed festivals, gatherings for recitations and dance performances. (12) The iconography of cymbals, drums and dance sculptures on the walls of Brhdlsvara temple is suggestive of such performances. Zhao Rugua, the official who controlled the Chinese trade system from southern China, noted in his 1225 CE account on trade partners that the Chola king retained '10,000 dancing girls' in the twelfth or early thirteenth century. (13) Dance became an essential part of the temple institution under the Cholas. (14) The temples of Brhdlsvara, Gangaikondacholapuram, and Rangnatha contain several mandapas and display abundant dance images. (15) The temples became large walled complexes with multiple shrines, long corridors and several concentric enclosures entered through towering gateways. Inside the walls were several semi-open mandapas such as rangavllasamandapa, natyamandapa, bhogamandapa, kalyanamandapa, mahamcmdapa to support the growing functions of the temple establishment. Sometimes a mandapa was added at a later date to an existing temple to specifically create a sacred space for devotional music and dance, as in the case of Rangnatha temple at Srlrangam in Tamilnadu. (16) Dance became one of the sixteen important offerings to the deity. (17)

The Indian mandapa, whether small or large, is usually laid out as a single processional aisle leading to a raised platform on which the deity rests or where a performance may be offered to the deity. The central aisle of the mandapa is usually the same as that of the central sanctuary, as in Angkor.

Why would an Indian mandapa and a Chola temple model be relevant to the study of Jayavarman VII's halls with dancers?

Maritime trade connections: The Chdjas and Suryavarman I

The spread of new Indian culture and thought among the states of Southeast Asia, following trade routes, was a continuous process that evolved and was constantly renegotiated. (18) By the ninth century CE, there is evidence of Indian merchant guilds trading with Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. (19) The inscriptional record attests to the presence of Indian Brahmins in the courts of Khmer kings from the eighth century onwards, who acted as royal advisors, officiants (20) and sometimes as acknowledged authorities on art and music. (21) These ties continued under Rajaraja and Rajendra I (1012-1044 CE), as the Cholas extended their hegemony over South India from the ninth to thirteenth centuries and dominated trade around the Bay of Bengal. (22) In these centuries the kingdom of Angkor for the first time extended its boundaries to include central Thailand and the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. It became the dominant power around the Gulf of Siam and across mainland Southeast Asia under Suryavarman I (r. 1002-1049 CE) and his successors. (23) During his reign, the Khmer king sent a gift of a chariot and a precious stone to Rajendra Chola with a request for a military alliance. (24) Kenneth Hall views this gesture as a culmination of Cambodia's tenth and eleventh century economic development under Suryavarman I. The gifts were intended more to establish commercial trade relationships (and possible ritual diplomacy) between the two growing powers rather than to secure military help. (25) The inscriptional records refer to travelling Khmer merchants and also confirm the participation of foreign merchants in the activities of Khmer commercial centres in this period. (26) The impact of these trade exchanges was accompanied by a new wave of cultural influence in the Khmer cultural realm. Some royal endowments to temples were transacted through merchants. (27) The Khmer temples became increasingly complex, much like the Chola temples, with multiple shrines, several galleries, long corridors, open pillared halls, and concentric structures entered through towering gateways as in case of Angkor Wat and the temples of Jayavarman VII. The reliefs of Angkor Wat include traces of exported luxury fabric from India, which was the most common trade good, (28) along with some dance imagery showing uncommon Khmer postures which can only be explained as of foreign (probably Cholas?) influence. Much as in the Chola temples, the inscriptions in Jayavarman VII's temples mention festivals, dependent village manpower, cooks, goldsmiths, garland makers, lamplighters, tailors, and several other servants, including thousands of dancers. (29)

Jayavarman VII's temples: Preah Khan, Ta Prohm and Bayon

Jayavarman VII's temples were huge, walled enclosures like that of the Cholas, housing multiple shrines and with mandapa for ceremonial feasts in the royal calendar. We find small, open pillared vestibules immediately before the central sanctuary in Ta Prohm, Preah Khan and Bayon (Fig. 6). (30) The exact purpose of such vestibules is not known, but they may have housed the paraphernalia of the priests and officiants who performed the rituals within. The larger space created by the 'halls with dancers' between the outer gopura and the sanctuary is identical to the small vestibule before the sanctuary, but greatly enlarged, indicating a need for space involving many more people. Possible uses for the 'hall with dancers' space would be to engage the laity of the surrounding large temple complex in festivals, celebrations, recitations and ritual dance.

Cankrama or ritual dance halls?

Thomas S. Maxwell argues that the dedicatory inscription K.908 from Preah Khan suggests the 'hall with dancers' served not for dance rituals but for the solemn meditative purpose oi'cankramas' or 'ambulatories'--passageways used by monks for meditation, prostration and reading sacred texts. (31) As this counters the Chola temple model it requires investigation. Cankramas are monastic ambulatories recalling the Buddha's walk in the third week after his enlightenment as per the Buddhist biographies. The ancient stupa at Bharhut has a relief of an early Buddhist pillared cankrama with hanging flower garlands. Below the flower garlands we see hand-prints, which suggest monks were making prostrations there. Prostration was highly recommended by monastic authorities not only as a spiritual exercise but also as the only form of physical exercise undertaken by monks--as many Nepalese, Tibetan and Chinese monks do today for hours on end around the Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya.

In Angkor, the word cankrama occurs for the first time in the Preah Khan inscription, according to the index of George Coedes' collected volumes of Cambodian inscriptions. (32) The inscription first uses the word in line A58 to describe the causeway built by Hanuman's monkey army to reach Lanka in the Ramayana epic. Then in line B5 it says there are ten gods (devas) in the cankramas. (33) In the second instance too, the word appears to refer conventionally to a causeway in the sense of promenade but without specifying its location. (34)

Maxwell claims these cankramas with the ten gods (devas) are to be found in the hall with dancers. This interpretation requires further analysis for such meditation areas for monks are never found on the main axis of a temple, but in a quieter places ('in seclusion' as Maxwell himself says) at some distance from the main sanctuaries and the daily traffic of ritual activity they generate. There are at least five problems to seeing the Preah Khan hall with dancers as a cloister for monks meditating and venerating the ten deities: (i) there are no traces of stone sanctuaries for gods in the hall with dancers numbered PK68 by Cunin; (35) (ii) the decoration of female dancers in the ardhaparyanka dancing posture at eye-level on its pillars and in the carved friezes would hardly be appropriate to meditation activity; (iii) there is no temple architectural precedent for cankramas being built on the main axis to the main sanctuary; (iv) there is enough space for a dozen dancers to perform as the central aisle is 5 m wide (performances by classical dance troupes are sometimes held in them today for tourists; (see Fig. 1); (v) restoration work at Ta Prohm temple has uncovered holes for securing three pedestals in the centre of the cruciform hall with dancers that probably housed portable festival images of gods, mentioned in the Preah Khan inscription, (36) to whom a dance performance would have been offered (Fig. 7).

Where then were the cankrama for meditation and prostration by monks? One possibility is a location nearby that appears to offer four pillared, cloister-like ambulatories with reasonable seclusion that have access to the sanctuaries of ten gods. (37) This location, called the 'second enclosure', was numbered PK54 by Cunin and possibly constructed in wood (38) at the time of the inscription stele, is placed beside a row of monks' cells, making it an appropriate location for meditation.

This relocation of the cloister-ambulatory and the sanctuaries for ten gods in the second enclosure of the temple permits us to return to the previous standard assumption in Maurice Glaize's classic French guidebook Les monuments du groupe d'Angkor that the halls with dancers were possibly associated with ritual dance ceremonies performed in temples. (39)

We cannot know the exact nature of the ceremonies or rituals, or the number of people using the space, but the halls do provide the largest covered, unencumbered spaces constructed in stone all over Angkor. In Preah Khan, building PK146 (next to the hall with dancers structure) has been interpreted as the house of the rice god. If we agree with that, this building could have served as the symbolic centre in the distribution and offering of newly harvested rice; (40) in which case the adjacent hall with dancers (PK68) could been the location for a dance ritual during the rice festival. Is the construction of these two structures belonging to the same building phase, (41) indicative of their dependency? Rice, the staple nourishment and major taxable commodity of a 'rice empire' like ancient Cambodia, is today still annually celebrated by the 'good crop dance' and 'pestle dance' at the beginning of the harvest. Toni Samantha Phim and Ashley Thompson have shown the strong link between dance, fertility and rice in their study of Dance in Cambodia in the modern context. (42) In twelfth and thirteenth century Angkor the annual rice festival, according to Zhou Daguan's contemporary account, is presented as the greatest annual celebration of the earth's fecundity where rice was burned as an offering to all the Buddhas. (43) In this context, it is not surprising to see the hall with dancers in the vicinity of the rice god's abode. The central pediment relief deity of the impressive edifice of the rice god (at PK146) is lost, but its motifs of dancers are still in place. Jayavarman VII's Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm temples in Angkor have similar structures with thick square pillars next to their halls with dancers, which suggests the rice festival was celebrated in all temples and presumably all over the kingdom.

Temple inscriptions in Old Khmer often mention the Sanskrit word utsava or festival along with the descriptions of various spectacles, inside the temple complexes. (44) Words like pancotsava (five religious festivals), mahotsava (the great festival), and mahanavaml (Hindu festival of Dussehra) occur throughout the Angkor period as royal celebrations. This seems to be in concurrence with a post-Angkorian Khmer tradition whereby the monarchs, during great festivals, entertained their subjects with games, music and various spectacles such as drama and puppetry. (45)

The reliefs of the Bayon temple give us rare insights into the everyday life of the Khmers. The major reliefs at the eastern entrance of the temple, in the galleries of BY22, BY23 and BY37, which are just beyond the hall with dancers, show dancers, musicians, spectacles and acrobatic performances (see Fig. 9). These are the most informative images as they show the dance performance in various contexts such as in an architectural setting of a naga balustrade terrace (similar to the one at the entrance of the Bayon) or floating pavilions, or pillared halls (resembling a hall with dancers), sometimes surrounded by a courtly audience and sometimes accompanied by musicians. These depictions show a wide range of activities from acrobatic circus-like performances, courtly dances, martial art demonstrations, dances of victory in military processions, parades, and portrayals of independent dancing figures. Such depictions of performances correspond to Zhou Daguan's eyewitness account of royal processions.

   Each time the king came out all his soldiers were gathered in front
   of him, with people bearing banners, musicians and drummers ...
   followed by women ... they wore clothes with floral design and
   flowers in coiled up hair .... There were also women of the palace
   carrying gold and silver utensils from the palace and finely
   decorated instruments made in exotic and unusual styles ... then
   there were carts drawn by goats deer and horses ... next came the
   king's wives and concubines in palanquins and carts ... Last came
   the king. (46)

The dancing figures depicted in the context of actual performances on the reliefs of Bayon and Angkor Wat show striking similarity to the dancing figures carved on the hall with dancers. Since these reliefs depict everyday city life it seems plausible that the dancing figures of the halls with dancers may refer to the idealised humans, dancing from devotion?

Dance and music tradition of Angkor

The earliest evidence of dancing in Cambodia specifically associates this art with funerary rites and the realm of ancestor spirits. Dancers, musicians and musical instruments are the primary motifs in the elaborate ornamentation of the large bronze kettledrums found from southern China to Indonesia, including sites in Cambodia from at least fifth century BCE. (47) Victor Goloubew's ethnographic research concluded that the use of drums and dancing at ceremonies such as funerals was believed to assist the deceased in gaining rebirth in the spirit world. (48) The twentieth-century account of the cremation ceremony of king Sisowath (1927) and king Monivong (1941) was largely a dance rite of rebirth into an ancestral world. (49) This association of dancers with the king's remains was probably an ancient link. Dancing figures appear on the walls of the Leper King terrace in Angkor, which Coedes considered to be built for the funerary rites of Jayavarman VII in c.1219 CE. (50)

Dance was associated with pre-Angkorian and Angkorian temples, especially with the temples dedicated to the ancestors. When the Angkorian king, or a high official, founded a temple to house the spirit of a deceased ancestor, dancers were installed in a conjoining temple. At Preah Ko, for instance, Yasovarman I (r. 890-c.910 CE) offered a great number of beautiful dancers, singers, reciters, musicians, players of vina and other instruments, skilful at beating the clappers and a great number of handsome, mature men skilful in dance and the other arts, well dressed and adorned with ornament. (51) When he dedicated the temple of Lolei (893 CE) to the worship of his ancestors, the king consecrated 'men and beautiful women without blemish, skilful in song and dance'. (52) Yasovarman himself was an accomplished dancer. (53)

In addition to the funerary and ancestral aspect of the music and dance, there is evidence for dramatic performance from the time of Funan/Zhenla. (54) A ninth-century Khmer inscription mentions the word bhanni, which means 'a dramatic performance with recitation'. (55) The Ta Prohm inscription mentions how Jayavarman VII paired the Buddhist practice of dana (charity) and sila (proper conduct) with the performances by dancers attached to the temple, (56) possibly referring to performances of dramatised Buddhist stories. The inscriptional records mention the words vaca (57) and gandharva, meaning reciter performing a divine service and, indicating a class of singers performing at temples respectively. Khmer and Sanskrit epigraphy mentions the words krala ram and ranga, which Saveros Pou has translated as playhouse and dancing-hall, respectively. (58) Dramatic entertainment with some recitations continues today with the popular Ramayana theatre, called the Ikhon khol.

There is some evidence to suggest that the temple dance was an offering and perhaps a celebration as Jayavarman VII offered two gold Natarajas to the sivalinga of Preah Khan. Maxwell believes that such dancing images were used as utsavamurtis or festival images, much like their Indian counterparts. (59) The Preah Khan inscription mentions that when the festival of Palguhna (February to March) is celebrated every year 122 deities are on display. (60) These would be festival replicas brought in on palanquins from other temples in Angkor and received at the entrance of the temple with much fanfare. We know that images of dancing Siva were indeed carried in palanquins in Angkor. (61) Based on the inscriptional record, Pou has suggested that the dancers of a ballet group performed for effigies of Siva during ceremonies held in the temple precincts. (62)

The pedestal bases uncovered by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in the Ta Prohm hall with dancers possibly would have been for the installation of such images. The reliefs at Banteay Chhmar depict the Bayon face tower god and standing portable image of Visnu being carried out by people in a palanquin and in a procession respectively.

From the above data, we can safely say that dance formed a part of the offerings and rituals, communal and festival celebrations, military parades and processions in Angkor.

Dance and music in Khmer inscriptions

Inscriptions from the third to ninth centuries in Cambodia list female dancers, female musicians, female singers, male musicians and male dancers donated to or belonging to the temple as 'slaves of the God'. One of these inscriptions says the gifts offered to a temple included female dancers, who were assigned exclusively to the main deity of the temple. (63) Another inscription lists offerings to a Siva temple, including seven female dancers, eleven female singers and four female musicians. (64) Another says a Siva temple received nine male musicians, nine female dancers, seven female singers, three female dancers and six female singers. (65) Several words in the inscriptions refer to musical instruments, (66) dance, the dance profession, recitations, and the performances of actors and buffoons in ceremonies. (67) It should be added that subsequent iconography, mainly of Angkor Wat and Bayon, shows many more musical instruments. (68)

Judith Jacob has pointed out that the names of all gods, kings, priests, musicians and dancers are all written in Sanskrit in the inscriptions, while the names of those associated with temple maintenance are written exclusively in Old Khmer. (69) Unlike the slaves who bore Khmer names such as 'cat', 'dog' or 'stinking', dancers and musicians names in Sanskrit include Vasantamallika ('spring jasmine'), Taiivangi ('slender limbed'), Gandharvagita (name of the male musician with a sweet voice), Sakhlpriya (beloved lady friend), (70) clearly indicating their significance in the temple and possibly courtly sphere, much as among the Chola temple dancers. (71) Pou's study of the inscriptions has further categorised the proper names based on the specific performance, technical competence and physical qualities. It is an illuminating account of the sociological connotations of these dancers and musicians. (72)

The Angkorian period is conventionally dated from 802 to c.1400 CE. The number of dancers in the state temples increased steadily through this period. By Jayavarman VII's reign, there are records of thousands of dancers serving in temples as an offering to the spirits who influenced the cosmic interaction of earth and water and the fertility of the land. (73) Jayavarman VII installed 615 female dancers in Ta Prohm, (74) a temple dedicated to his mother, 1,000 dancers in the Preah Khan, dedicated to his father, and 1,622 dancers in other temples throughout the kingdom. (75)

Status of dancers in society

Pou says musicians and dancers in the Angkorian period formed a temple community organised as a varna rpam or a corporation of dancers. A tenth-century inscription mentions one such varna belonging to Lady Tan Pan, who was in charge of the dancers of the high-ranking patron of the inscription, probably a king. (76) Khmer musicians and dancers acquired high status in society as they were addressed as 'vap', the equivalent of 'Sir', for instance Sir Myan, Sir Rajadasa or Sir Ananda dancer. They were also landowners and held positions as high dignitaries at court (77) much like the Chola temple dancers. (78) One varna called khmuk vrah kraal arcana, seems to have been associated with the cult hall (hall with dancers?) and was entrusted with ringing the temple bells. (79) Based on the epigraphic evidence Ian Mabbett thinks that varnas were largely ceremonial orders, controlled by the kings to ensure their ritual position and royal power in the society. (80)

The 1225 CE chronicle Zhufanzhi, by Zhao Rugua, the Chinese superintendent of maritime trade in Canton, is an important document on medieval geography and ethnography. Even though the chronicle is based on hearsay from traders and merchants rather than on visits to the countries engaged in maritime trade, it gives us an impression of what was different about the temple rituals in Angkor.

[In Chen-la, i.e. Cambodia] the people are devout Buddhists. In the temples there are 300 foreign women [Khmer women]; they dance and offer food to the Buddha. They are called a-nan [Skt. ananda]. (81)

Peter Sharrock has associated the word a-nan with the four-stage consecration cycles of Hevajra-tantra and suggests an esoteric role for dancers in the temple rituals. (82) The Hevajra-tantra is accurately depicted in a series of ritual bronzes during Jayavarman VIPs reign. (83) But it is also possible that the word a-nan is indicative of the group of Ananda dancers that Pou mentions, since the dance tradition continued in the following centuries. Either way, the temple dancers had honoured status at temple rituals as virtually all these dancers and musicians were endowed with rice fields or water sources and exempted from paying temple taxes. (84) There are also many bronze figures in museum collections that indicate a ritual context for dance. (85) All these dancing figures have characteristics which distinguish them from the other class of heavenly figures--usually flying figures of apsaras or standing devatas.

The dancing god of the Cholas and Jayavarman VII: Siva Nataraja and Hevajra

Around the eleventh century, the Cholas started extending their kingdom through a system of incorporative kingship, in which sovereignty was shared with subregional and local leaders as subordinates. It included people from all strata of society. Crucial to this process was the inclusion of local deities into the mainstream Hindu pantheon, such as the inclusion of Siva Nataraja. In her study of Siva Nataraja, Padma Kaimal argues:

   Nataraja's association with the town (of Cidambaram) deeply rooted
   in the autochthonous cults of popular, non-orthodox Hinduism may
   have made Nataraja quite an effective god through whom to appeal to
   the population of a region in which the non-hierarchical and
   intensely personal religious tradition of bhakti had flourished for
   centuries. (86)

The dancing Nataraja was elevated from its local origins to the emblem of the Chola kings during their period of expansion and its cult continued to evolve, transforming a Tamil local deity into a Sanskritic god of broader significance who was more precisely suited to the ambitious dynasty and its powerful religious community. (87) Nataraja exemplified what Hermann Kulke calls a 'royalising' deity, one whose identity and worship contributed directly to the reputation and authority of the affiliated king. (88) There was a widespread emphasis on dance throughout the Chola temples, but by replacing the earlier non-dancing images of Visnu and Siva with dancing Nataraja at the royal temple of Brhdisvara, Rajaraja I declared its importance in Chola politics. (89) As Chola fame increased over the course of the centuries, sculptures of Nataraja were rendered with increasing frequency in the Kaveri delta, which the Cholas aspired to control. (90)

Whether Hevajra, the Heruka-type peripheral, dancing Buddhist deity who gained importance during Jayavarman VII's reign, played a role similar to that of Nataraja is a question worth pursuing. Hevajra is a fierce tantric Buddhist deity first known from one of the major texts of mature Vajrayana Buddhism called the Hevajra-tantra. (91) This eight-headed, sixteen-armed deity is usually depicted, in ardhaparyanaka posture, and surrounded by a circle of eight dancing yoginls, following the iconography of the text. (92) In the text and in the Tibetan tradition Hevajra is depicted in a sexual union with his consort Nairatmya at the centre of his mandala, but in Cambodia Hevajra always dances alone or within his circle of yoginls. Khmer Hevajra images do not illustrate either the violent or sexual side of the deity. The dancing pose of Hevajra is similar to that of the Khmer Siva Nataraja and seems to be strongly influenced by the dancing Indie deities of Saivism. (93)

Though the earliest known image of this deity in Cambodia is from the late eleventh century, its popularity increased under Jayavarman, and many bronzes, stone statues, ivory sculptures and other ritual objects such as libation conches were produced during his time.

   Judging by the number of images of Hevajra found around Angkor and
   on various sites on the Khorat Plateau in Thailand ... it would
   seem that a cult of this important tantric divinity was practised
   from the 11th century onwards. Since no relevant literature is
   available, not even a stray reference on a carved inscription,
   nothing certainly can be said regarding this cult. (94)

The large cult statue of Hevajra, found outside the west gate of Jayavarman VII's fortified city of Angkor Thom, clearly indicate the royal status of the deity. (95) Featuring Hevajra at the royal capital, Jayavarman VII placed the dancing god of Buddhism at the geographic centre of the king's political realm, declaring its importance in the world of Khmer politics.

After the death (c. 1150 CE) of Suryavarman II, the builder of Angkor Wat, the empire had fallen into chaotic civil unrest. (96)

In such conditions, the new king Jayavarman VII brought Buddhism as the state religion for the first time in Angkor, which was predominantly Saivaite. This was achieved partly by means of royally subsidising religious foundations and partly through bringing hostile or indifferent populations under some form of control. (97) As Michael Vickery suggests, considerable resentment must have built up against him among the disaffected members of the Brahmanical elite. (98)

Jayavarman's temple complexes include many Hindu deities, but the central sanctuaries are always Buddhist. The unusual feature of his state Buddhism was that it was not imposed at a stroke, but rather was allowed to evolve throughout his long reign. (99) Is it possible that the new religion was slowly unveiled with gradual inclusion of the populace? The annual Phalguna festival at Preah Khan where several gods from the Khmer provinces were displayed was clearly intended to be seen as a demonstration of political unity expressed through the symbolism of religious ritual. (100)

The architectural evidence, plus rare contemporary reports, show that Jayavarman VII's temples were equipped for a full annual calendar of festivities with richly furnished icons and spaces provided for ceremonial music and dance. Bernard-Philippe Groslier saw Jayavarman's temples and the final stage of the Bayon as exoteric means to engage the people in the king's cult, much as was happening in Chola south India. (101) Cambodia's permanent change from centuries of state Saivism to state Buddhism was achieved by the year 1300 CE, according to Zhou Daguan's account, when Cambodians had turned to Buddhism in large numbers. (102) Zhou Daguan reported in 1297 CE:

   Every month there is an event ... 4th month there are ball games
   ... in the 5th month of the year, there is water to welcome Buddha,
   when Buddhas throughout the country, far and near, are all brought
   together and taken into the water, where they are bathed in the
   company of the king ... In the 8th month there is 'ailari a dance
   that selected female dancers performed daily in the palace. There
   are boar and elephant fights as well ..., (103)


The earlier scholarship on the 'hall with dancers' has looked at it from a merely decorative perspective. The design and the motif of the dancer began during the Mahidharapura dynasty and was systematically developed during the long reign of Jayavarman VII. The approach adopted for this article can be called 'coherentist' for, while remaining close to the material record, it explores the politico-religious horizon of the contemporary Cholas as a necessary complementary source of evidence. Signs of coherence with the material have been sought in both local and nonlocal contexts. I have argued for an analogy of the 'hall with dancers' with Indian temple mandapa, suggesting similar symbolic and ritual functions of this architectural feature within the temple complexes of Jayavarman VII.

Whether it was Rajendra Chola I or Jayavarman VII, rulers maintained institutions and participated in ceremonies that continually renewed their legitimacy as upholders of the cosmic order. Legitimating activities such as military campaigns or meetings of the court could be episodic, but the most important forms of legitimation were the long-term support of religious institutions such as temples or monasteries and the engagement of the laity in public ceremonies.

King Jayavarman VII set his temples in large walled compounds, as did the contemporary Chola kings. The Bayon state temple was constructed at the heart of the new city of Angkor Thom, where access for the populace was unobstructed by moat or wall. The sheer size of the king's temple foundations suggests a strong trend towards urbanisation and consolidation of the state by periodically bringing large representations of the provincial population to the centre for festivals. (104)

Although no local inscription in Angkor specifically identifies the sacred space in which this host of festivities and celebratory performances took place, the architectural and iconographic evidence points firmly towards a 'hall with dancers', constructed at the main axis and in the outermost enclosure of the temple. Further, like the Chola Siva Nataraja, we see the importance of dancing Hevajra during Jayavarman VII.

Given the number of inscriptional records, it is enough to indicate that, even though dance and music existed in Cambodia since Funan times, they were used and elevated in the temple rituals during Jayavarman VII's reign in lavish festivals that appear to have touched deep Khmer cultural roots and achieved a historical shift to Buddhism.

It is likely that under Jayavarman VII, a local culture continued to develop that was far more influenced by local Cham traditions, given the king's Cham connections, than by artistic developments in the Indian subcontinent, but this article has looked at the architectural feature of the hall and the dancer's motif from a distinctly Indian angle. It would certainly be interesting to look at the representation of the Cham Siva, which shows iconographic similarities to the dancing Siva of Prasat Phnom Rung, the dancers of Tra Kieu and the female dancing figures in ardhaparyanka posture in Bayon-type monuments.

doi: 10.1017/S0022463415000363

(1) Claude Jacques, 'The historical development of Khmer culture from the death of Suryavarman II to the 16th century', Bayon: New perspectives, ed. Joyce Clark (Bangkok: River Books, 2007), p. 30.

(2) Phillipe Stern, Les monuments du style du Bayon et Jayavarman VII, Musee Guimet, Recherches et Documents d'Art et d'Archeologie 9 (Paris: Presse Universitaires de France, 1965), pp. 52-3, 61, 68, 74. Olivier Cunin and Etsuo Uchida's work on the magnetic susceptibility of the sandstone blocks in the 'salles aux danseuses' confirms they were late additions in Jayavarman VII's temples. Some halls were originally built in wood and then replaced by the current stone structures as in Ta Prohm, Preah Khan and Banteay Kdei. The magnetic susceptibility tests determined which halls were built from the same quarry shipments. Cunin and Uchida, 'Contribution of magnetic susceptibility of the sandstone to the analysis of architectural history of Bayon style monuments', in Annual report on the technical survey of Angkor monument (Tokyo: Japan International Cooperation Center, 2002), p. 216. For an in-depth architectural analysis of Bayon-style monuments, see Olivier Cunin, 'De Ta Prohm au Bayon: Analyse comparative de l'histoire architecturale des principaux monuments Khmers du style du Bayon' (Ph.D. diss., Institut National Polytechnique de Lorraine, 2004).

(3) The phrase 'salle aux danseuses' was first coined by Philippe Stern as an architectural structure common to several Bayon-style monuments; see Stern, Les monuments, pp. 52-3.

(4) See Bruno Dagens, trans., Mayamatam: Treatise of housing architecture and iconography, 2 vols. (New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, 2007), v. 26a, p. 457. The treatise mentions different mandapas for different uses such as consecration, festival celebrations, entertainment, dances and communal meals. The most remarkable of mandapas are those installed in front of the temples (ibid., v. 188, 189, p. 497). See further Adam Hardy, The temple architecture of India (Chichester: John Wiley, 2007), pp. 90-105.

(5) The terms dance and music are broadly used to include recitations, performances and festival entertainment. See Saveros Pou, 'Music and dance in Ancient Cambodia as evidenced by Old Khmer epigraphy', East and West 47, 1-4 (1997): 232.

(6) This pose, with the standing leg flexed and the other drawn up against it, can also be called the ardhamandali pose, according to the Indian dance historian Kapila Vatsyayan's Dance sculpture in Sarangapani temple (Madras: Society for Archaeological, Historical and Epigraphical Research, 1982), p. 112. The origin of this pose can be traced to Bharata's Natyasastra, trans. Manmohan Ghosh (Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1950), p. 48. The ardhamandali is the 28th of the 108 karanas or dance movements mentioned in this work.

(7) Olivier Cunin, 'The Bayon: An archaeological and architectural study', in Bayon: New perspectives, p. 222; p. 169, fig. 52-1; and p. 223, fig. 6-3-3-1.

(8) Sharrock calls this third and final phase of Jayavarman VII's Buddhist architectural decoration 'Yoginlfication', with 6,250 dancing female figures carved into the entrance pillars and gopura friezes of the Bayon alone. He uses the term 'yogini', suggesting they are emblems of a yogini Tantra cult derived from the Hevajra-tantra and calls these structures yogini halls. Peter D. Sharrock, 'The mystery of the face towers', in Bayon: New perspectives, p. 260. It is beyond the scope of this article to consider the argument for seeing these dancing female figures as 'yogini'. Many Hevajra and dancing female bronze icons have been found in Angkor and beyond, but the definitive reference to yogini is found in Phimai temple carvings and some bronzes.

(9) Claude Jacques, 'The inscriptions of Cambodia', Nokor Khmer 2 (Jan-Mar. 1970): 22, 24; George Coedes, 'La stele de Ta-Prohm', Bulletin de l'Ecole frangaise d'Extreme-Orient (BEFEO) 6, 6 (1906): 77-8.

(10) Paul Cravath, 'Ritual origins of the classical dance drama of Cambodia', Asian Theatre Journal 3, 2 (1986): 184.

(11) The 1014 CE Tanjavur temple inscription no. 66 (on the north face of the compound wall) indicates that 700 people were on the temple payroll to perform religious and artistic functions. The inscription mentions 400 dancing girls by their names. See E. Hultzsch and V. Venkayya, eds., South Indian inscriptions (SIT), vol. 2 (Madras: Suprintendent Government Press, 1891-1916), available online, http://www.

(12) Hardy, Temple architecture of India, pp. 93, 96.

(13) Chau Ju-Kua: His work on the Chinese and Arab trade in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, entitled Chu-fan-chi, trans. F. Hirth and W.W. Rockhill (St. Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1911), pp. 95, 100.

(14) At the time when the temple as an institution was expanding, the word patra (singing and dancing), starts appearing in the inscriptions of medieval Karnataka. See Aloka Parasher and Usha Naik, 'Temple girls of medieval Karnataka', Indian Economic and Social History Review 23, 1 (1986): 66-7. The 1058 CE Nagesvara temple inscription no. 93 at Sudi, Karnataka, built by Nagadeva (carved on the front mandapa pillar) mentions the 'ones acting for the god's enjoyment and dancers graced the four pillars'. See F.W. Thomas, ed., 'Inscriptions of Sudi', Epigraphia Indica (El), 15 (1919-20): 75-103, and Hardy, The temple architecture of India, p. 33.

(15) George Michell, Hindu art and architecture (London: Thames and Hudson, 2000), p. 89.

(16) Paul Younger, 'Srirangam', in Temple towns of Tamilnadu, ed. George Michell (Bombay: Marg, 2003), p. 84.

(17) 'During the 6 daily rituals performed at temples, the deity is treated as a royal personage with 16 rites of adoration including music.' Carl Gustav Diehl, 'Instrument and purpose: Studies on rites and rituals in South India (Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1956), p. 90.

(18) See Ian Glover, Early trade between India and Southeast Asia: A link in the development of the world trading system (Hull: CSEAS, University of Hull, 1989); Robert Brown, The Dvaravati wheels of the law and the Indianization of South East Asia (Leiden: Brill, 1996); Herman Kulke, 'Indian colonies, Indianization or cultural convergence? Reflections on the changing image of India's role in South-east Asia', in Onderzoek in Zuidoost-Azie: Agenda's voor de Faren Negentig, ed. H.S. Nordholt (Leiden: Vakgroep Talen en Culturen van Zuidoost-Azie en Oceanie, Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, 1990), pp. 102-10; Ian Mabbett, 'The Indianization of Southeast Asia: Reflections on the prehistoric sources', Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 8, 1 (1977): 1-14; Thomas Maxwell, 'Religion at the time of Jayavarman VII', in Bayon: New perspectives, pp. 74-87); Michael Vickery, Society, economics and politics in pre-Angkor Cambodia: The 7th-8th centuries (Tokyo: Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies for UNESCO, Toyo Bunko, 1998).

(19) Burton Stein, A history of India (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), p. 125.

(20) We have clear evidence in the Khmer inscriptions of the presence of Indian Brahmins in the region. See inscriptions (K.809; K.904; K.438; K.910; K.923 v.14; K.300, v. 7-10) in George Coedes, Inscriptions du Cambodge (IC), vols. I-VIII (Hanoi and Paris: Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient [EFEO], 1937-1966); see also inscriptions (K.263 v. 30, K.95 v. 5 and K.323 v. 6), in Auguste Barth, Inscriptions sanscrites de Cambodge (ISC), Notices et extrait des manuscrits de la Bibliotheque Nationale 27, 1 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1885), pp. 77-97, 391-411. See also Paul Pelliot, 'Le Fou-nan', BEFEO 3 (1903): 258-303. Pelliot states that a 'Chinese source of the 5th century cited in the Taiping yulan, the general encyclopedia (leishu) published by Li Fang and others in 984 CE, reports that there were more than 1000 Indian Brahmins in Dunsun, a principality in the same area and a dependency of the early kingdom of southern Kambudjadesa that the Chinese called Funan. People of Dunsun followed the Brahmanical religion and practices.'

(21) See the term 'upadhyaya thmon in (K.181:A:9), Ccedes, IC, VI, 140, translated as 'a professor of percussion music'. The word upadhyaya has strong Brahmanical connotations in the Indian context and refers to the one who is well-versed in sacred texts, especially the Upanisadas. Based on the eleventh-century Sdok Kak Thom inscription (K.235) Groslier describes the role of Brahmans as authorities on art and music in the royal court. See Bernard-Philippe Groslier, 'The Angkor kings' (Preface), in Royal Cambodian Ballet (Phnom Penh: Cambodian Information Department, 1963), pp. 3-5. The inscription (K.235) was first published by George Coedes and Pierre Dupont, 'Les steles de Sdok Kak Thom, Phnom Sandak et Preah Vihar', BEFEO 43 (1943-46): 56-154.

(22) Sastri mentions two naval expeditions of Rajendra Chola to the Malay Peninsula based on the early 11th century inscriptions. See K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, The Colas (Madras: University of Madras, rev. ed., 1955), p. 213.

(23) Kenneth Hall, 'International trade and foreign diplomacy in early medieval South India', Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (JESHO) 21 (1978): 75-98.

(24) The Puttur copperplate inscription dated 1020 CE, of South Indian king Rajendra Chola has perplexed historians with its reference to gifts made to the Chola king by the king of Kamboja (Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy [ARE] [1949-50]: 3-5). It is generally accepted that this king of Kamboja is the Khmer king of Cambodia and not the king of Kambhoja in northeastern India, an area with which the Cholas had no contact. Identifying this reference as a record of a request for Chola aid, R. C. Majumdar, ('The overseas expeditions of King Rajendra Cola', Artibus Asiae 24 [1962]: 338-42), has interpreted it to be a Khmer response to a threat of (Srivijayan) military pressure. George Coedes (IC, VII, 164-89) suggested that the gift of the King of Kamboja in the Puttur plates corresponded in time to a Khmer military campaign into the Chao Phraya river valley and was Suryavarman I's request for Chola aid against his rival Jayaviravarman of Tambralinga.

Reference to the second gift to Rajendra Chola from the Kamboja king appears in an inscription of Kulottunga Chola I (r. 1070-1122) dated 1114 CE, which was found in Chidambaram, South Arcot district (ARE, 119 [1888]; the text is published in E. Hultzsch, ed., El, V, 13C [1898-99], p. 106). The inscription records that Rajendra Chola I placed the stone which he had received from the 'Kamboja-raja' in the temple. The stone had been shown to Rajendra as a curiosity; there is no mention of a request for military aid in return. The author suggests that this second inscription depicts the true nature of the gift in the Puttur inscription, that the Khmer king sent a chariot and this stone as 'curiosities [to] win the friendship' of the Chola in an economic rather than military sense. Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund think that in the second instance, the Cambodian king was Suryavarman II; Kulke and Rothermund, History of India (London: Routledge, 2004 [1986]), p. 125.

(25) Kenneth Hall, 'Khmer commercial development and foreign contacts under Suryavarman I', JESHO 18, 3 (1975): 334-6.

(26) Coedes translation of (K.262, K.263), IC, IV, 108-39; (K.987), 1C, VI, 183-6, 225-7.

(27) See Coedes translation of the late 10th century Prasat Car inscription (K.257), IC, IV, 140-50, 'objects such as scented wood, spices, gold, silver and cloth for the deity were acquired from the merchants'; and see (K.353), IC, V, 133-42, '... in return the merchants were reimbursed with land, buffalo, rice and slaves'.

(28) Gillian Green's study of tapestry reliefs of Angkor Wat demonstrates fragments of Indian fabric in the Khmer court. For e.g., Suryavarman II is seated on a cloth with a four-petalled flower pattern; see Green, 'Indie impetus? Innovation in textile usage in Angkorian period in Cambodia', JESHO 43, 3 (2000): 277-313; Zhou Daguan's account regards the fabric from the 'Western Seas' (thought to refer to parts of India) as the most refined. See Peter Harris, Zhou Daguan: A record of Cambodia: The land and its people (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2007), pp. 50, 101.

(29) The Preah Khan temple stele mentions the word bhoga (v. C46: 56) which literally means 'objects of the god's enjoyment'. These objects of enjoyment are mentioned in (v. B65, 66:48, v. C 8, 9, 10, 22:51, 53). See Thomas Maxwell, 'The stele inscription of Preah Khan, Angkor', UDAYA: Journal of Khmer Studies 8 (2007): 1-114. For the Chola inscriptions, see inscriptions (no. 62, 66), SII, II.

(30) My thanks to Olivier Cunin for bringing to my notice the small vestibules in front of the central sanctuaries of Ta Prohm, Preah Khan and Bayon, which are configured identically to the much larger space of the 'halls with dancers'.

(31) Maxwell, 'The stele inscription of Preah Khan': 31-2; Thomas Maxwell, 'A new Khmer and Sanskrit inscription of Banteay Chhmar', UDAYA 10, 9 (2012): 136.

(32) Coedes, IC.

(33) See Maxwell's translation of (v. A58, v. B5), 'The stele inscription of Preah Khan': 30. This must refer to three or more cankrama because the Sanskrit word 'cankramesu' is in the locative plural, not the dual, case. The hall with dancers structure does have four-pillared pathways, but there are no sanctuaries for the gods.

(34) The first to identify the 'hall with dancers' structure with the walkways of the inscription was Christophe Pottier, 'Preparation dune carte archeologique de la region d'Angkor', Memoire de D.E.A. UFR Orient et Monde Arabe (Paris: Universite de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris III, 1993, p. 32, n.2), followed by Cunin, 'De Ta Prohm au Bayon', p. 359. Both mention the 'hall with dancers' as a location of cankrama without indicating its usage. We have no idea which text Maxwell refers to, to justify the meaning of cankrama in stanza 39 as a place for monks to perform walking meditation. The primary meaning is established in stanza 29: a pathway leading from one place to another; in this case, possibly referring to the pathway/s connecting the 'rice god house' with the 'house of fire'. See Swati Chemburkar, 'Banteay Chhmar: Ritual space of the temple', in Banteay Chhmar: Garrison-temple of the Khmer empire, ed. Peter D. Sharrock (Bangkok: River Books, 2015), pp. 159, 160.

(35) I have assumed here 'sanctuaries' for the gods though the inscription neither mentions the word 'sanctuaries' nor the identity of the gods.

(36) (D 38:158) in Maxwell, 'The stele inscription of Preah Khan': 72, mentions festival images being brought from other temples during the festivals. Preah Khan would have had some provision for a pedestal in the hall with dancers much like that of Ta Prohm to receive the festival images.

(37) While calculating the ten sanctuaries of the cankrama, I have not considered the sanctuaries placed on the main axis of the temple (PK63, PK45 and PK36); as we know PK1 and PK63 are mentioned in the inscription, containing respectively one and three gods. This is one possible solution for the re-location of the ten sanctuaries.

(38) For the relative chronology of the wooden structures, see Olivier Cunin, 'A study of wooden structures: A contribution to the architectural history of the Bayon style monuments', in Materializing Southeast Asia's past: Selected papers from the 12th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, vol. 2, ed. Marijke Klokke and Veronique Degroot (Singapore: NUS Press, 2013), p. 105, fig. 6.35.

(39) Maurice Glaize, Les monuments du groupe d'Angkor (Paris: A. Portad, 1944); anon. English trans. of 4th ed. by Jean Boisseleier (1993), p. 177.

(40) The storage space of PK146 is limited, so it is more likely to be the symbolic centre for the blessing and distribution of rice grown by the villages belonging to Preah Khan. The king presided over the annual festival when rice was symbolically burnt, for the king was seen as the source and dispenser of the harvest. The rice ritual is made clearer later in the inscription. See Maxwell's commentary on (v. B5, B6:39), 'The stele inscription of Preah Khan': 30-32.

(41) Both these buildings belong to the third construction phase of the temple complex. Olivier Cunin, 'Preah Khan: Architecture, functions and significance', in Preah Khan monastic complex, Angkor, Cambodia, ed. Michael D. Coe and John H. Stubbs (London: SCALA, 2011), p. 32.

(42) Toni Samantha Phim and Ashley Thompson, Dance in Cambodia (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 74, 78, 80, 81.

(43) Zhou Daguan's contemporary account recorded that '... in the seventh month of the Khmer calendar when, new rice, ready for harvesting was ceremoniously received outside the city gates and burned as an offering to all the Buddhas. Countless women in chariots and on elephants came to watch'. Harris, 'Zhou Daguan, p. 63.

(44) Inscription (K.90) mentions offerings made during utsava or festivals; see Ccedes, IC, V, 25-7; 10th century (K.659), IC, V, 144:20; 11th century (K.989), IC, VII, 178:23. Pou ('Music and dance in ancient Cambodia': 232, 243) mentions inscriptions with the 'Skt. loanword kari as being 'derived from Sanskrit karin or actor'.

(45) In the post-Angkorian tradition the great festival is called mahosrab, a corrupted form of Old Khmer mahotsava. See Pou, ibid.: 232; Inscription (K. 155) mentions a female puppeteer. See Coedes, IC, V, 66: II: 5.

(46) Harris, Zhou Daguan, pp. 82-3.

(47) Bernard-Philippe Groslier, The art of Indochina, trans. George Lawrence (New York: Crown, 1970), p. 32.

(48) Victor Goloubew, 'Sur l'origine et la diffusion des tambours metalliques', in Praehistorica Asiae Orientalis (Hanoi: EFEO, 1932), pp. 137-44; this interpretation was supported by A.J. Bernet Kempers, 'The kettledrums of Southeast Asia: A Bronze Age world and its aftermath', Modern Quaternary Studies in Southeast Asia, 10 (Rotterdam: Balkema, 1988): 1-59; see also Helmut Loofs-Wissowa, 'Dongson drums: Instruments of shamanism or regalia? A new interpretation of their decoration may provide the answer', in Arts Asiatiques 46 (1991): 39-49.

(49) Evelin Maspero and Guy Poree, Moeurs et coutumes des Khmers (Paris: Pavot, 1938), p. 147.

(50) George Coedes, 'Etudes Cambodgiennes. La data du Bayon', BEFEO 28 (1928): 183.

(51) Inscription (K.713), Jacques, 'Inscriptions of Cambodia': 28.

(52) Inscriptions (K.323, A, 63), Barth, 'Stele de Lolei', ISC, p. 391; for the alternative translation see, Saveros Pou, 'Nouvelles inscriptions du Cambodge II', in Collection de textes et documents sur I'Indochine XX (Paris: EFEO, 1996).

(53) Inscription (K.282, C, 27), Barth, 'Steles du Thnal Baray', ISC, p. 474 and 'Stele de Lolei', ISC, p. 319.

(54) (K.359) was found near the Cambodian village of Veal Kantal just below the Lao border, which lists gifts from the brother-in-law of King Bhavavarman to a Siva temple that included copies of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana from which daily recitation were instituted. See Barth, ISC, p. 30.

(55) Inscription (K.270), Coedes, IC, IV, 70:16, mentions the word along with the word tmon or percussion player.

(56) (K.273 st. 87), Coedes, 'La stele de Ta Prohm', BEFEO 6, 1/2 (1906): 77-8.

(57) Based on the inscription (K.356) in Coedes (IC, IV, 17) Pou translates the word vaca as a reciter performing a divine service. See Pou, 'Music and dance in Ancient Cambodia': 242.

(58) Pou, 'Music and dance in ancient Cambodia': 234. Based on her studies of Natyasastra, Vatsyayan has demonstrated the shared architectural feature of the playhouse with the dance hall or natyamandapa in the Indian context. See Kapila Vatsyayan, The square and the circle of the Indian arts (New Delhi: Roli Books, 1983), pp. 43-8.

(59) See Maxwell's commentary on (v. A59, A 60), 'The stele inscription of Preah Khan': 21.

(60) Ibid.: 72.

(61) The 11th century Prasat Ta Keo inscription mentions 'a palanquin in which is placed the ten-armed Lord Natakesvara (dancing Siva) with all his ornaments'. See (K.276), Coedes, IC, IV, 154-5.

(62) (K.155), Coedes, IC, V, 65; Pou, 'Music and dance in ancient Cambodia': 246.

(63) A 7th century inscription (K.51), Coedes, IC, V, 14-16, mentions the dancers Kandin, Ata, Tittaru and Ngamgor being donated by Indradatta.

(64) (K.600), Coedes, IC, II, 23.

(65) (K.155), Coedes, IC, V, 64-8.

(66) For words such as Kinnara, Trisan, Vina, see (K.205), Coedes, IC, III, 5:14; (K.669), IC, I, 171: 26, and (K.741), IC, V, 161:10.

(67) (K.659), Coedes IC, V, 143:20 and (K.989), IC, VII, 178: 23 mention the word kuri in connection with ceremonies. A male servant 'bhanda' is mentioned with respect to ceremonies in (K.78) IC, VI, 13: 19. It is not a Khmer word and Pou traces it to the Sanskrit for buffoon. Buffoonery performed by monkeys was a crucial part of Ramayana theatre at all types and times in Cambodia. See Pou, 'Music and dance in ancient Cambodia': 243.

(68) George Groslier made reproductions of various musical instruments from the temple reliefs; see Groslier, Recherches sur les Cambodgiens (Paris: A. Challamel, 1921), ch. 12.

(69) Jacob Judith, 'Sanskrit loanwords' in pre-Angkor Khmer', in Cambodian linguistics, literature and history: Collected articles, ed. D.A. Smyth (London: SOAS, University of London, 1993), pp. 129-30.

(70) See inscriptions (K.137 LV), Coedes, IC, II, 115-18; (K.557, st. 33-34), IC, VIII, 166 and (K. 155), IC, V, 64. See Judith Jacob, 'The deliberate use of foreign vocabulary by the Khmer: Changing fashions, methods and sources', in Cambodian linguistics, p. 151.

(71) The Chola dancers too bore names that were royally significant such as Rajaraji, Rajakesari, or Sridevi. Tanjavur temple inscription (no. 66), SII, vol 2.

(72) Pou, 'Music and dance in ancient Cambodia': 243-4.

(73) In 1965 and 1967 there were serious droughts in a number of provinces in Cambodia. Brief announcements were made in the Kambuja magazine of these two years (a magazine started by King Norodom Sihanouk in 1965 that covered royal activities, agriculture and economic progress of the country) by delegations requesting the king to perform dance ceremonies to bring rain. On both occasions, Sihanouk offered a dance performance for the invocation of supernatural forces in the throne room of Wat Keo palace. In her study of sacred dances, Solange Thierry, Les danses sacrees au Cambodge (Paris: Editions du seuil, 1963), pp. 363, has pointed out the connection between the celestial and terrestrial worlds.

(74) See (K.273, LXIV-LXVII, LXXXVII), Coedes, 'La stele de Ta Prohm': 77-8.

(75) See Maxwell (v. 76), p. 51 and (v. D24), p. 69, 'The stele inscription of Preah Khan'; and (K.908, CXLIV); George Coedes, 'La stele du Prah Khan d'Angkor', BEFEO 41, 2 (1941): 297.

(76) A Khmer word that occurs in the inscription (K.155) is peda, derived from Skt. petaka, which Pou translates as company or troop and thus pedanataka or pedanatta is a 'group or company of dancers'. See Pou, 'Music and dance in ancient Cambodia': 246.

(77) See (K.831) and (K.693), Coedes, IC, V, 147-8, 205-18; Pou, 'Music and dance in ancient Cambodia': 240; Mabbett thinks that in certain periods a varna could have been a group of individuals appointed by the king and granted with properties. Most of the varnas were in association with boxers, sculptors, engravers, flywhisk holders and people responsible for royal pleasures. See Ian Mabbett, 'Varnas in Angkor and the Indian Caste System', Journal of Asian Studies 36, 3 (1977): 434, 436.

(78) Tanjavur temple inscriptions in SII, vol. 2, contain: an order of the king declaring that certain villages were exempted from the tax as they had been granted to the Tanjavur temple (no. 23); records of the daily allowance of paddy for temple reciters (no. 65); records of land donations to the dancing girls and the donations made by them (no. 66).

(79) See (K. 444) Coedes, IC, II, 65-8; Adhir Chakravarti, 'The caste system in ancient Cambodia', Journal of Ancient Indian History 4 (1970-71): 30.

(80) Prasat Ben stele inscription (B: 8, 9) refer to Jayavarman II and Suryavarman I reorganising varnas. See Coedes, IC, VII, 175.

(81) Hirth and Rockhill, Chau Ju-Kua, p. 53.

(82) Sharrock, 'The mystery of the face towers', p. 262.

(83) Ibid, p. 262.

(84) See (K.214, X), Coedes, IC, II, 204; (K.702, 9-12), IC, V, 225; (K.356, 17-22), 'Le site de Janadipa d'apres une inscription de Prasat Khna', George Coedes, BEFEO 43 (1943): 10.

(85) A number of bronze figures from Cambodia and Thailand have been published. See Robert T. Bowie, The arts of Thailand (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960), fig. 50; Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Schatze aus Thailand: Kunst eines buddhischen Konigreiches (Koln: Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, 1963), fig. 38; Georges Groslier, 'Recherches sur les Cambodgiens', pi. XXVIII-D; George Coedes, 'Bronzes Khmers' Ars asiatica 5 (Paris: G. van Oest, 1923), pi. XIX, 1 and 3; Emma Bunker and Douglas Latchford, Khmer bronzes: New interpretations of the past (Chicago: Art Media Resources, 2011), pp. 374, 385.

(86) Padma Kaimal, 'Early Chola kings and "Early Chola temples": Art and the evolution of kingship', Artibus Asiae 56, 1-2 (1996): 59.

(87) Kenneth Hall, 'Merchants, rulers and priests in an early South Indian sacred centre: Cidambaram in the age of the Colas', in Structure and society in early South India: Essays in honour of Noboru Karashima, ed. Kenneth Hall (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 87-95. For a detailed study of Siva Nataraja as Chola emblem see Padma Kaimal, 'Shiva Nataraja: Shifting meanings of an icon', Art Bulletin 8, 3 (1999): 390-419.

(88) Herman Kulke, 'Royal temple policy and the structure of medieval Hindu kingdoms', in The cult of Jagannath and the regional traditions of Orissa, ed. Anncharlott Eschmann, Hermann Kulke and Gaya Charan Tripathi (New Delhi: Manohar, 1980), p. 133.

(89) Inscription (no. 66), SII, vol. 2, pp. 278-303. For the dancing figures being sculpted on the second storey, see B. Venkatraman, Rajarajesvaram: The pinnacle of Chola art (Madras: Mudgala Trust, 1985), pp. 131-47.

(90) Padma Kaimal, 'Shiva Nataraja': 412.

(91) This Vajrayana Sanskrit text was compiled in the late eighth to early ninth century Pala India. See David L. Snellgrove, The Hevajra Tantra: A critical study (London: Oxford University Press, 1959).

(92) Rob Linrothe, 'Compassionate malevolence, wrathful deities in esoteric Buddhist art' (Ph.D. diss. University of Chicago, 1992), pp. 535-6.

(93) Pratapaditya Pal, Dancing to the flute: Music and dance in Indian art (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997), pp. 127, 132.

(94) David Snellgrove, Khmer civilization and Angkor (Bangkok: Orchid Press, 2001), p. 57.

(95) Sharrock, 'The mystery of the face towers', p. 266. The 3-metre-tall statue is now physically divided between the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Sihanouk Museum in Siem Reap.

(96) Claude Jacques and Philippe Lafond, The Khmer empire: Cities and sanctuaries from 5th to 13th century (Bangkok: River Books, 2007), pp. 237-9.

(97) David Chandler, A history of Cambodia (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2008), p. 72.

(98) Michael Vickery, 'Introduction', in Bayon: New perspectives, pp. 13-27.

(99) Peter D. Sharrock, 'The Buddhist pantheon of the Bayon of Angkor: An historical and art historical reconstruction of the Bayon temple and its religious and political roots' (Ph.D. diss., SOAS, University of London, 2006), p. 69.

(100) See Maxwell's commentary (v. D46), 'The stele inscription of Preah Khan': 75.

(101) Bernard-Philipe Groslier and Jacques Arthaud, Angkor, hommes et pierres (Paris: Arthaud, 1956), p. 153.

(102) Sharrock, 'Buddhist pantheon of the Bayon', p. 68.

(103) Harris, Zhou Daguan, p. 63; See (v. D46), Maxwell, 'The stele inscription of Preah Khan'; he mentions the assembly of gods from the Khmer provinces and images of gods being bathed and ritually dressed on pp. 42, 43, 75.

(104) 'Both members of aristocracy and Khmers of lowly birth participated in dances.' Groslier, 'The Angkor kings', pp. 3-5.

Swati Chemburkar is an architect who directs the postgraduate diploma course in the Art and Architecture of Southeast Asia at the Jnanapravaha Institute, Mumbai. Correspondence on the article should be addressed to:

This article is based on a paper presented at the 'Religious Studies in Cambodia: Understanding the old and tracing the new' conference, Siem Reap, June 2012. I owe special thanks to Olivier Cunin for his inspiring work; for sharing his breadth of knowledge of the Bayon-style monuments of Angkor and graciously providing me all the drawings of Jayavarman VII's temples. I appreciate the critique of my draft by Adam Hardy, Peter Sharrock and Hiram Woodward. Many thanks to Adam Hardy for the architectural plans of the Indian temples. All the photographs used in this article are mine unless otherwise mentioned. The research for this article is indebted to the team of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who are restoring the 'hall with dancers' at Ta Prohm.
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Author:Chemburkar, Swati
Publication:Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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