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The Dikpalas of ancient Java revisited: a new identification for the 24 directional deities on the Siva temple of the Loro Jonggrang complex.


Candi Siva, sacred centre of the famous ninth-century Loro Jonggrang temple complex at Prambanan, Central Java, is decorated with numerous iconic and narrative reliefs. (1) Starting from the eastern staircase and traversing the perambulatory in a clockwise direction, we find narrative reliefs of the Ramayana on the balustrade wall on our left, and iconic reliefs of 24 seated male deities, each flanked by several attendants--collectively referred to in the accompanying iconographic plan (Figure 1) as 'lokapala with attendants'--on our right, that is, on the temple body proper.

The objective of the present inquiry is to identify this set of 24 deities forming Siva's retinue--an unresolved issue in the art history of Central Java. Our findings have implications for the understanding of the iconographic master plan of Loro Jonggrang, and, in a wider sense, of developments in Indo-Javanese and Balinese iconography.


Art-historical research thus far

First photographed by Kassian Cephas and discussed by Isaac Groneman (1893), who thought the 24 deities represented a mixed assembly of Bodhisattvas and Hindu deities, it was Martine Tonnet (1908) who recognized that 16 deities belonged to the category of Lokapalas or 'world protectors', that is, regents of the cardinal and intermediate directions. Most of these Lokapalas, on account of their seemingly similar features and attributes, were assumed to be represented twice. Tonnet proposed the following identifications:
East            Indra (2x)
Southeast       Agni (2x)
South           Yama (2x)
Southwest       Nairrta and Surya
West            Varuna (2x)
Northwest       Vayu (2x)
North           Kuvera and Soma
Northeast       Isana (2x)

Many years later, Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw (1955) reviewed the matter and agreed with all the identifications listed above, except for Nairrta and Soma, for whom she proposed substituting Surya and Kuvera, respectively. She argued that the 16 deities are identical with a specific set of eight Lokapalas whence their name Asfadikpalas, or eight (asta) deities, each of which guards (pala) a particular point (dis) or section of the world (see Figure 2).


According to Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, the Astadikpalas depicted on the Siva temple wall are in accordance with the Puranas, 'apart from the common substitution of Surya for Nairrta'. She noted that her corrections 'improved the group as a whole for we have now a regular system in which each of the eight cardinal [and intermediate] points is represented by two panels depicting the same god' (1955:80). Even so, the ostensibly minor modification of substituting Surya for Nairrta was disputed by Jordaan (1992), who argued that the Astadikpalas depicted on the temple are likely to comply with the standard list of the Puranas, in which Nairrta (not Surya) is the guardian of the Southwest. (2)

Be that as it may, provided we accept the identification of the first series of reliefs as representing the Astadikpalas (henceforth referred to by the synonym 'Lokapalas'), the problem remaining is the identity of the eight gods on the panels flanking that first series, and the figures on the panels interposed between them. The figures belonging to the latter series are placed between the eight (four cardinal and four intermediate) directions of the compass, resulting in a regular distribution of three sets of eight deities on the temple wall. Tonnet proposed the following identifications for the eight deities on the interposed reliefs: (1) Brhaspati, or alternatively Bhatara Guru (or a syncretic merging of the two) (relief 2); (2) Hanuman (relief 5); (3) Brahmanaspati (relief 8); (4) Surya (relief 11); (5) Karttikeya (relief 14); (6) Kama (relief 17) (7) Visvakarman (relief 20); and (8) Narada (relief 23). This yields the set of 16 deities in Figure 3.

The investigation continued

Considering the substantial advances in the study of ancient Javanese art, literature and religion since the time Tonnet and van Lohuizen-de Leeuw wrote on the issue, (3) as well as the advances in studies of related cultural domains of the Indian subcontinent, we propose an alternative hypothesis for the conceptual plan underlying the iconography of Candi Siva--and its satellites Candi Visnu and Candi Brahma--of the Loro Jonggrang complex.


First, we reject van Lohuizen-de Leeuw's (in part also Tonnet's) opinion that the Lokapalas are represented twice. Besides the fact that we could find no plausible reason justifying the builders' choice to duplicate this series of deities, (4) we found that not all the deities, or their attendants, display identical iconographic features. (5) This was noted by Tonnet, who regarded the two Southwest panels as representing Nairrta and Surya, and the two North panels as representing Kubera and Soma. However, if we accept Tonnet's identifications, the resulting scheme (including the deities placed between the intermediate directions) yields a 'random' series of unrelated deities whose grand total amounts to 17--a numerical as well as iconographic oddity that Tonnet herself was uneasy about and which was later dismissed by Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw. (6)

In Jordaan's introduction (1996) to a collection of Dutch articles on Prambanan, Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw is quoted as saying that she could accept some of Tonnet's identifications of the interposed deities, but not others. Regrettably, she does not mention the names of any of these deities, except Surya, for whom, as we have just noted, she claims a position among the Lokapalas at the expense of Nairrta. Commenting on her statement about the remaining identifications, Jordaan observed that van Lohuizen-de Leeuw gives the impression that the interstitial deities were identifiable individually and do not necessarily constitute a well-defined group, such as the Lokapalas of the main directions. Jordaan (1996:103) argued for an approach from the latter premise:
   It seems impossible to make progress by inductively trying to
   identify each of the deities individually. If one follows this
   procedure, one arrives at van Lohuizen-de Leeuw's position, namely
   that some of Tonnet's identifications are unacceptable, while
   others are more plausible. This would be a meaningless conclusion
   as long as it did not uncover the common theme or principle uniting
   the deities. It seems more logical to start from the premise that
   these eight figures were not grouped together randomly, but rather
   constitute a distinctive set, grouped together in this place for a
   specific reason.

In The Hindu temple, Stella Kramrisch refers to such accompanying deities in general terms only, namely as 'certain specific images of the lesser gods'. Kramrisch (1976, II: 304) has the following to say about the occupants of the interposed sections:
   Apart from the main images, in their niches, and indispensable to
   all temples are the images of the Astadikpalas, the Guardians of
   the Eight points of space, each in its correct location. The
   multitude of divine figures stationed between these two kinds of
   essential images, each on a facet and having a console of its own,
   are Nagas, Sardulas, Apsaras, Surasundaris, Mithunas, etc. [...] and
   certain specific images of the lesser gods. Each such type of the
   'surrounding divinities' is represented in many variations of
   posture and movement on the walls of the temple.

Note the wording 'certain specific images of the lesser gods', which seems to indicate that these gods were not selected at random, but for a particular reason. It seems to us that a convincing identification of these deities should be based not only on their intrinsic iconographic features (such as posture and attributes), but should also conform to some set of 'lesser gods' known from Old Javanese or Sanskrit textual sources or archaeological remains. It is therefore against the background of Saiva views of the cosmos--of which the Hindu temple is ultimately a representation--and of the position of Lord Siva, along with his retinue, within this conceptual framework that the iconography of Candi Siva should be investigated.

Introducing Siva's retinue

Before reviewing in detail our predecessors' identifications of the 24 relief panels of Candi Siva, and then advancing our own, we discuss, from a textual and historical perspective, beliefs about Siva's retinue in India and ancient Java. These beliefs carry important implications for the present enquiry.

First is the concept of avarana, a series of deities encircling the main god that is made the object of ritual worship, meditative visualization (as in a mandala or yantra), enshrinement or depiction in a building. Such a circle--or series of circles--of deities surrounding the paramount Lord Siva has the function of protecting him and evoking the powers that are sought after, worshipped or visualized in a given context. Although avarana may be formed by independent deities, such as Rudras, all of them ultimately constitute aspects or manifestations of Siva himself.

The series of deities in question are usually hierarchically and schematically arranged in inner and outer circles. The most common standard encountered in Sanskrit Saiva scriptures preserved in South India is five, but this number is by no means fixed: for instance, descriptions of avarana ranging from one to six circles can be found. (7) The Saiva avarana may include, for example, the octads of Rudras known as Vidyesvaras and Murtis; the Lokapalas (along with, or symbolized by, their weapons); the attendant deities known as Ganesvaras; or the aspects/faces/limbs of Siva known as Brahmamantras and Sivangamantras.

It seems very likely that the concept of avarana deities was known in ancient Java and applied to the master plan and iconography of the Siva temple of Loro Jonggrang, where the Lokapalas also serve as manifestations of the main god, Siva. A first step towards the identification of the avarana of the Siva temple is to investigate whether any series of guardians or attendants of the directions attested in the iconography of South Asian Saiva temples or described in Saiva scriptural literature, may have served as the prototype that inspired the Javanese architects. As for the latter source, it is probable that the early Saiva Saiddhantika corpus of Sanskrit scriptures from South Asia served as the prototype for the Old Javanese literature that constituted the doctrinal basis of the 'localized' variety of Saivism flourishing in Java and Bali since the early centuries AD (see Acri 2006). We therefore make use of texts belonging to the corpus of Old Javanese-cum-Sanskrit texts known as Tuturs and Tattvas as important sources of information for our research.

Besides the well-known list of eight Lokapalas, (8) two other sets of eight deities are widely mentioned in Saiva Sanskrit texts, namely the Vidyesvaras (or Vidyesas, the 'Eight Lords of Knowledge') and the Murtyastakas (the 'Eight Forms' [of Siva]; also Astamurtis or Murtisas). (9) Considering that these deities are known to be part of Siva's retinue, and are at the same time intimately connected with him either as 'aspects' or 'manifestations' (Liebert 1976:185, 336; Brunner, Oberhammer and Padoux 2000:156), they would not be out of place at the Siva temple of Prambanan.

An argument in favour of the presence of the Vidyesvaras at the temple is the fact that they are attested, albeit scantily, in Old Javanese Saiva texts. (10) For instance, in the Dharma Patanjala (11) they are mentioned--as Vidyesana (12)--along with Brahma, Visnu and the Lokapalas. (13) They further appear in the Vrhaspatitattva, which lists their names one by one. (14)

As to the other series, that of the Murtyastakas, these are only rarely mentioned in the extant Old Javanese literature. We know of only two sources referring to them, namely the Bhuvanakosa and the Brahmandapurana. Verses 3.1-11 of the former text homologize this series of deities to ontological principles when detailing the process of reabsorption of the cosmos into Siva, as follows: Sarva (earth), Bhava (water), Pasupati (fire), Isana (wind), Bhima (ether), Mahadeva (manas), Ugra (tanmatra), Rudra (tejas = ahankara), Isvara (buddhi), Brahma (avyakta), Purusa (caitanya), Mahesvara (karana). (15) The Brahmandapurana (p. 56) mentions an incomplete, and slightly different, list of seven deities that are characterized as forms of Paramesvara (that is Siva) who is himself a son of Brahma--as follows: Rudra, Bhava, Sarva, Isa, Bhima, Ugra, Mahadeva. Pasupati, the deity that would make the series an octad, is missing as the result of a textual corruption.

The above data, however, do not stand up to extant archaeological and textual iconographic evidence. Inspection of Rao's classic study Elements of Hindu iconography (1916) reveals that neither the Vidyesvaras nor the Murtyastakas are considered to be depicted on Candi Siva in view of striking iconographic incongruities. According to the descriptions found in Sanskrit textual sources, both the Vidyesvaras and Murtyastakas are four-armed, while some are three-faced, (16) contrary to the unidentified Prambanan deities who each have two arms and one face. Also relevant is Rao's (1916:404) remark that there are no sculptural representations of the Vidyesvaras and Murtyastakas in any of the South Indian temples, and that he did not know of any found in a North Indian temple. This would make their presence in Java exceptional and, therefore, unlikely.

Another counter example is provided by the eight Bhairava gods or Astabhairavas, who in the Indian zodiac of the Siva Rock Temple at Tiruchirappalli happen to occupy the positions of the intermediate directions (see Mollien 1853; Kirfel 1959:56). Apart from the fact that this series is mentioned nowhere in extant Old Javanese sources, what seems to argue against the identification of the Prambanan deities as being Astabhairavas, is that at Tiruchirappalli they are depicted as four-armed and that some of their attributes are not found among the Prambanan deities. It is true that in Liebert's (1976:36) iconographic dictionary several varieties of Bhairavas are distinguished, but most of their attributes do not match the Prambanan deities either.

So far, our search for a prototypical group of deities common to both the ancient Indian and Javano-Balinese traditions has failed to produce a series that can be convincingly linked to those depicted on Candi Siva. We therefore wonder whether a 'localized' series, that is, one attested only in the Javano-Balinese tradition, could offer a clue to get out of the present impasse.

An interesting clue is offered by van Lohuizen-de Leeuw herself in her article 'The Dikpalakas in ancient Java' (1955). In her discussion of the identification of the Lokapalas in the East Javanese temples of Jalatunda, Singhasari and Panataran, van Lohuizen-de Leeuw draws attention to a series of Saiva deities commonly referred to in Bali as Navasana (Sanskrit nava + Old/ Modern Javanese sana/sanga, both meaning 'nine'). These deities--which are themselves manifestations of Siva--are aptly named, since they rule or watch over the nine principal directions of the compass (that is, eight plus the centre). Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw notes striking correspondences between the attributes of the eight deities and those of the Lokapalas. The correspondences, drawn on the basis of the Balinese texts and visual documents used by van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, are as follows: (17)
East        Isuara     bajra     [thunderbolt]
Southeast   Mahesora   dupa      [burning incense/flames]
South       Brahma     danda     [rod]
Southwest   Rudra      kadga     [sword]
West        Mahadeva   pasah     [snare]
Northwest   Sangkara   duaja     [banner]
North       Visnu      gada      [mace]
Northeast   Sambu      trisula   [trident]
Nadir       Darma      cakra     [wheel]
Centre      Siva       padma     [lotus]
Zenith      Guru       naraca    [balance]

This series appears to be well known in Bali, where it still plays a role in many aspects of ritual and religious practice, art, and architecture. (18)

As van Lohuizen-de Leeuw rightly observes, this series may represent a Javanized version of the manifestations of Siva known in South Asian Sanskrit literature as the Murtyastakas. (19) Although hinting at the possibility of the Navasanas being represented at Panataran instead of the Lokapalas, van Lohuizen-de Leeuw (1955:376) was puzzled as to whether the one set preceded the other, or both were used simultaneously. She considered the possibility of a conflation between the two octads but did not investigate the matter further. In her view, the Navasanas were introduced in Java in the mid-fourteenth century at the earliest, but they derived from an ancient Indian prototype. (20)

An intriguing question is why the two series eventually came to share the same attributes. One possible answer is a merging of the two octads: a general one, formed by the mainstream 'Brahmanic' series of Lokapalas, and a specifically Saiva one, formed by the Navasanas. Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw herself (1955:381) hinted at this possibility by suggesting that the set of attributes of the Lokapalas was 'borrowed' by the Navasanas. (21) In her opinion, the Lokapalas were replaced by the Navasanas, and the attributes of the former were conferred upon the latter. She concludes her article with an interesting remark: 'We should leave open the possibility that the Dikpalakas at Singhasari were already indicated by names of Siva although retaining the attributes and vahanas of the older group of Dikpalakas' (Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw 1955:383). Further:
   It is possible that already in early times the Astadikpalakas were
   considered aspects of the great god Siva. This would be entirely in
   line with the general Indian belief cherished also in Hindu Java,
   that all differentiations are but aspects of the One Deity, whether
   He be called Siva, Visnu or be indicated by any other name. This
   idea seems to be corroborated by the fact that a considerable
   number of guardians at Lara Jonggrang have differing earrings in
   their left and right ears which is a peculiarity of Siva. If the
   idea that the Astadikpalakas were aspects of the great god Siva
   existed already in the Central Javanese period, then it is clear
   that the ground was already prepared at a very early date for the
   eventual changeover from Astadikpalakas to Navasanga (p. 384).

In an attempt to find a solution to this problem, let us carry Van Lohuizende Leeuw's consideration one step further and see whether evidence of an identification between the Lokapalas and the Navasanas can be found in the Central Javanese period and in the iconography of Candi Siva. We begin by presenting data drawn from Old Javanese Saiva texts that were not available to Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, (22) to see whether they might help us identify the 24 deities carved on the temple wall. (23)

First, while the extant evidence for the term navasana is of relatively recent date, (24) the same series of deities is attested in other--arguably earlier, that is pre-Majapahit--Old Javanese texts. These texts either pass over in silence the collective designation of the deities, or refer to them as Digbandhas ('those fixing the quarters of space') or Lokanathas ('Lords of the world'), both being near synonyms of Lokapalas. In order to avoid possible anachronism, from now on we shall refer to this series of deities as (Saiva) Digbandhas rather than Navasanas.

Second, a tendency to identify the Lokapalas with forms or manifestations of Siva can already be observed in several early Old Javanese Saiva texts. (25) For instance, as noted by Zieseniss (1939:109-10), the Bhuvanakosa describes the octad of Lokapalas in terms that apparently identify them as manifestations of Siva himself. (26) Similarly, the Surya Sevana, describing the daily Saiva worship of the Balinese pedanda as reconstructed by C. Hooykaas (1966), lists various series of deities, both male and female, constituting Siva's retinue and, at the same time, aspects of him. Section Nf (Hooykaas 1966:70) assigns each Digbandha a gesture (mudra) and places him in a leaf of an eightfold lotus, with which a grapheme of the Sanskrit syllabary is associated. When dealing with the visualization of Siva's nine female Powers (navasakti), which are also the Digbandhas' consorts, section Ng (Hooykaas 1966:72) lists the eight Lokapalas. (27) The two series, the Lokapalas and Digbandhas, therefore appear to be closely related.

Another rich source of data on manifestations of Siva and his retinue is the large collection of Sanskrit hymns from Balinese manuscripts edited by Goudriaan and Hooykaas (1971) under the title Stuti and Stava. First, note that the 'standard' list of Lokapalas does not prominently figure in that corpus of texts. In hymns 802, 824, 935, and a few others, we find mention only of the quartet of Lokapalas of the cardinal directions, namely Indra (E), Yama (S), Varuna (W) and Kubera (N). An exception is Stuti 40, Akasastava, which mentions the eight deities (with Surya instead of Nairrti) as aspects of Siva. Much more numerous are the hymns mentioning only the Digbandhas. (28) Most of these correlate each deity with, for example, a direction of the compass, a colour, an attribute or weapon (astra), or a grapheme of the Sanskrit syllabary.

A summary of the data drawn from both textual and visual documents is presented in Table 1.
Direction   Deity                   Attribute

                         Surya Sevana     Stuti 94, 772
                           (mudra)           (astra)

E           Isvara (1)   bajra          vajra
SE          Mahesvara    sankkha        dhupa
S           Brahma       danda          danda
SW          Rudra        khadga         khadga
W           Mahadeva     pasa           pasa
NW          Sankara      dhvaja         dhvaja (3)/ankusa
N           Visnu        cakra          gada (4)/cakra
NE          Sambhu       trisula        trisula/ankusa
Centre      Siva (5)                    padma

Direction                    Attribute

            Stuti 363, 703,   Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw,
              706 (astra)        Chart VI + notes

E           bajra             bajra/ghanta
SE          dhupa             dhupa
S           danda             danda
SW          moksala (2)       khadga/moksala
W           pasa              pasa/nagapasa
NW          ankusa            dhvaja/ankusa
N           cakra             gada/cakra
NE          trisula           trisula
Centre      padma             padma

(1) Stuti 772 only has Guru/Vasudeva.

(2) Stuti 363 has padma. The term moksala is apparently a hybrid form
derived from the Sanskrit musala/musala ('club, mace').

(3) In Stuti 772, Ms. PvtG.

(4) In Stuti 772, Ms. PvtG.

(5) Sadasiva in Stuti 94; Mahabhairava in Stuti 772.

A hymn mentioning the Saiva Digbandhas together with the Lokapalas--albeit only four of them--is Stuti 145. But our most comprehensive source of information is the impressive Stuti 751, titled Sivastava or Sivasamaha, which, while praising Siva as the paramount Lord, characterizes his body as made up of various elements of the Saiva cosmos, such as the 9 planets, the 31 tattvas and the 38 kalas, as well as deities that constitute his manifestations. In verses 4-9, Stuti 751 equates Siva with three of the Digbandhas, namely Brahma, Visnu, and Mahadeva, and then with the Lokapalas, namely Indra, Varuna, Yama, Kubera, Surya, Agni, Vayu, and Isana. The hymn continues (verses 9cd-10ab) by listing another series of eight manifestations, namely Satya, Dharma, Siva, Kala, Mrtyu, Krodha, Visva, Kama, (29) and Hari (a name for Visnu); although this is not expressly mentioned in the text, each deity seems to be correlated with a direction of the compass.

An analogous list of eight additional deities, each explicitly correlated with a direction, is found in the Batuan plates (30) dated 944 Saka (no. 352, plate 6 verso, lines 1-2, see Goris 1954:100): Satya (East), Dharma (South), Kala (West), Mrtyu (North), Krodha (Southeast), Kama (Southwest), Isvara (31) (Northwest), Hari (Northeast). Another such list is found in the undated, but probably early tenth century AD, Wukajana copperplate inscription (plate 1 verso, line 3, see Van Naerssen 1937:445). Having invoked all deities residing in the eight main directions (not naming them but only their respective directions), the text lists Satya, Dharma, Kala, Mrtyu, Krodha, Visva, Kama, and Visnu; then the gods of the centre, nadir, and zenith. This series corresponds to a three-dimensional cosmogram encompassing all the cardinal and intermediate directions of the compass (8 + 8 + 3). The unnamed eight deities of the main cardinal points are very likely the Saiva Digbandhas. This possibility is suggested by the occurrence of a series of 8 + 8 + 3 deities in the Sanskrit/Old Javanese Saiva Tutur Bhuvanasanksepa. Slokas 11-13 detail the consecration of the eight Digbandhas in the directions of the compass, plus Sadasiva in the centre, Paramasiva in the zenith, and Hara in the nadir. Stanza 14 specifies that each of the deities of the additional octad (as in Stuti 751 and the Sangsang plate, save for one variant) should be placed between the eight main directions. The ensuing stanzas, up to 24, link each of the above deities to specific colours and bijamantras. (32) The distribution of the deities in the cardinal and intermediate points of the compass, and their Sanskrit syllables, are shown in Figure 4.


The cosmogram reproduced here may represent a uniquely Javano-Balinese tradition, for no exact counterpart has yet been found elsewhere--although nearly all the gods and manifestations of Siva appearing here are known in the Indian subcontinent. Whatever the case may be, it seems reasonable to ask whether this representation of the Saiva cosmos could have constituted the prototype for the iconographic master plan underlying Candi Siva, and, from a wider perspective, of the Loro Jonggrang temple complex. Could the series of 16 deities of the points of the compass listed by the Bhuvanasanksepa and other Old Javanese texts match the 16 deities depicted on the panels of the temple? Additionally, are the three extra directions of nadir, zenith, and centre also represented at Loro Jonggrang? We think the answer to these questions is affirmative, and the next part of our enquiry is devoted to them.

A problem, however, arises with respect to the total number of deities depicted on the Candi Siva panels, which is 24. Since we dismissed the possibility of the Lokapalas being represented twice, we have to find a way to reconcile the cosmogram (see Figure 4), including the 16 Saiva Digbandhas, with the one admitting eight Lokapalas. The solution was already suggested by Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, who hinted at the possibility that attempts at merging the two traditions are traceable in early Javanese iconography. We will therefore check against the available archaeological and visual evidence the hypotheses (1) that the builders of Candi Siva intended to represent the eight standard Lokapalas, the eight main Saiva Digbandhas, and one more series of eight interstitial Digbandhas; and (2) that they regarded these deities to be both 'guardians' and manifestations of the paramount form of Siva--enshrined in the centre of the main temple--they encircle. We suggest that the representations of the deities should be viewed within the wider context of Loro Jonggrang, comprising Candi Siva and its satellites Candi Visnu and Candi Brahma, lying respectively to the north and south of the main temple (see Figure 5).

Before embarking on our identification, note that the conceptual plan for the Candi Siva panels appears to have been developed in Java according to a well-established Indic tradition. A clue in support of this view may be found in Pott's seminal study Yoga and Yantra (1966, Dutch edition 1946). Elaborating on related Indo-Javanese and Tibetan systems of deities, Pott (1966:136) advances the view that the system of the Navasanas was a simplification and contraction of the more complex pantheon of the Saivasiddhanta. Describing the dynamic aspect--underlying the principle of metaphoric 'substitution'--of ensembles of 3 x 8 guardian deities used in mandalas, temples, and meditative visualization, Pott (1966:100) notes:
   The eight-petalled lotus is directly related to the system of eight
   Lokapalas (guardians of the cardinal points) and to other
   well-known groups of eight such as that of the Bhairavas. They are
   the eight aspects, distributed by cardinal points, of one centrally
   positioned figure which is seated in the heart of the lotus. This
   principal figure, however, forms part of a no less important group
   of three deities, with the consequence that there may come about a
   contamination of both groups [...]

We believe that analogous considerations can be applied to the three sets of eight deities represented on Candi Siva, resulting in a grand total of 24. Still, we cannot exclude the possibility that the pairs formed by Lokapalas and the (main) Digbandhas once constituted a unified series of eight, to be added to the other series of eight interstitial deities. The finding of consecration deposit boxes having either 25 (24 + centre), 17 (16 + centre) or 9 (8 + centre) compartments in South and Southeast Asian temples would seem to confirm the existence of both configurations. (33) The 19 inscribed gold leaves found under Candi B of Loro Jonggrang apparently presume three sets of deities, namely the eight Lokapalas, four Nagas, the four qualities of intellect (buddhi) making up Siva's throne, and three other deities probably representing the nadir, zenith and centre. (34) It is conceivable that in the minds of the planners of Loro Jonggrang such series of deities were associated with Sanskrit syllables, in their turn visualized on lotus petals, as is also suggested by the fact that gold-leaf lotus flowers, letters of the Sanskrit syllabary, and the name (of the Lokapala) 'Baruna' inscribed on gold leaves were found in the consecration deposit boxes buried under Candi Siva. (35) A similar association of syllables, lotuses and attributes of (Saiva) deities is depicted on an engraved stone (BG 748) found in the Opak River, not far from Prambanan (see Setianingsih 1998:18); symbols reminiscent of the attributes of the Digbandhas/Navasanas are represented, in a diagram displaying lotus petals and lotus flowers, on another stone (BG 1521) from the same site. (36)


New identifications

Before examining the identifications advanced by our predecessors and proposing our own, a few remarks are in order about the position and present condition of the reliefs so as to help the reader understand why the deities are so difficult to identify.

Relying on the reports of early European visitors and the old photographs of the Siva temple by Kassian Cephas, dating from the 1890s, it may reasonably be assumed that the reliefs in question are still in their original positions. The iconographic information pertaining to the individual Lokapalas/Digbandhas and the eight interstitial deities is distributed over three interconnected panels: a slightly protruding and more or less square section in high relief being flanked by two rectangular sections in low relief. Whereas the image of the main deity is found in the middle section, his attendants or servants are depicted in the two side panels. (37) Regrettably, the figures in high relief are all damaged. In some cases, the damage is so serious as to obliterate the deity's main attributes. This is a serious problem given the paucity of other iconographic data. For instance, none of the main deities is escorted or represented by its mount (vahana), which normally constitutes a fairly reliable mark for identification. More often than not, the identificatory value of other iconographic clues is limited because of their general or non-specific character. A sword or a bow and arrow, for instance, can be carried by a multitude of deities. The same considerations apply to the attendants in the flanking low reliefs. We therefore rely very little on the iconographic clues in these flanking panels.

Series I (Lokapalas) and II (Saiva Digbandhas/Navasanas)

It is our view that the pairs of deities represented as corresponding to the eight main directions of the compass--in spite of the fact that they mostly bear the same attributes--should be regarded as separate divine figures. The first series of eight represent the Lokapalas and the second the Saiva Digbandhas. Yet the two series are clearly related, for they all represent aspects or manifestations of Siva. As to the Lokapalas, some of them carry different attributes from the standard ones commonly found in 'classical' iconographic descriptions and representations from the Indian subcontinent (see Table 2). (38) Yet it is possible that the specific iconographic traditions that were considered normative by the Javanese artists have not survived in the subcontinent--a supposition that might be confirmed through further investigation of the surviving Sanskrit sources of Saiva persuasion dealing with matters of iconography. (39)

We start from the East and discuss the successive reliefs, proceeding in a clockwise direction.

1. East (Groneman 1893:20, 23, panels D1 and D24, plates XXXV and LVIII). Tonnet (1908:146) rightly identifies the deity of the panel to the left of the staircase (D1/XXXV) as Indra. In his left hand he holds the stem of a lotus (utpala) that supports his characteristic attribute: the thunderbolt (vajra). (40) He is flanked on the right by three female figures--arguably apsarases, who in Sanskrit and Old Javanese literature (41) are commonly associated with Indra. The figures on his left appear to be gandharvas, who abide together with the apsarases in Indra's heaven. The corresponding panel on the other side of the entrance (D24/ LVIII) is badly damaged, so it is not possible to discern the attribute of the main deity. The sitting posture of the three male figures to the left of the main deity is unusual in that the left foot of the first two figures is placed below the thigh of the next figure. The figure on the far right holds an utpala.

Tonnet does not justify her identification of the damaged panel D24 as depicting Indra, whereas Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw (1955:378) reasons that 'seeing that Yama, Varuna and Kubera were all three represented twice it seems permissible to assume that the damaged panel also represented Indra'. We note that all six minor figures of this panel seem to be male. Not every one of their attributes is clear, but we can discern a lotus flower, a piece of cloth, and a fruit.

The Digbandha of the East is Isvara. On account of the severe damage of the main figure's attribute and the general nature of the attributes carried by his attendants, we are unable to complete the identification.

2. Southeast (Groneman 1893:20, panels D3 and D4, plates XXXVII and XXXVIII).

Tonnet (1908:138-9) regards the South-facing relief (D4/XXXVIII) as representing Agni on account of the lance with seven flames (saptajihva) he carries. Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw concurs with this identification, but sees it a dhupa (incense) with seven flames. However this may be, we agree that the main deity of the panel is Agni.

Both Tonnet and Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw regard the East-facing relief (D3/XXXVII) as representing a second form of Agni--abjahasta, 'he who carries a lotus'--for this is the attribute displayed by the deity of the panel. (42) The Digbandha of the Southeast is Mahesvara. Because of the lack of specific iconographic correspondences between this figure and other representations of Mahesvara from South Asia, our identification must remain tentative. (43)

3. South (Groneman 1893:20, panels D 6 and D7, plates XL and XLI).

According to Tonnet (1908:133), in panel D7 (plate XLI) Yama, identifiable by the rod depicted to his left (as well as his characteristic moustache, we might add), is depicted as Kala. Tonnet regards the leftmost attendant to be Citragupta, Yama's bookkeeper, allegedly with a calendar, which we cannot see. He carries a sword, like the first attendant to the left of the main figure (on a lotus). In panel D6 (plate XL) Tonnet recognizes Yama as Dharmaraja. We cannot see a snare on the lotus allegedly carried by Yama; the attribute looks more like a rod, similar to the one depicted in the panel to the left of the staircase. Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw concurs with the identification of both figures as Yama on account of the attributes they carry.

The Digbandha of the South is Brahma. The rod (danda) is listed as an attribute of Brahma by Liebert (1976:46); (44) Monier-Williams' Sanskrit-English dictionary glosses brahmadanda as 'Brahma's staff', 'name of a mythical weapon', and 'name of Siva'; the word is also used as an epithet of Lokesvara, 'the Lord of the world' (Liebert 1976:47), which in turn may refer to Brahma as well as to the Buddha Avalokitesvara.

Note moreover that a position in the South would be appropriate for a figure representing Brahma, given that it would face the auxiliary temple dedicated to the same deity on the South side of the Siva temple. We encounter a similar situation on the North side of the Siva temple, where the figure we believe depicts Visnu would likewise face the auxiliary temple dedicated to Visnu on the North side of the Siva temple.

4. Southwest (Groneman 1893:21, panels D9 and D10, plates XLIII and XLIV).

Tonnet identifies the deity in the South-facing panel (D9, and our Figure 6) as Nairrta, and the one in the West-facing panel (D10, and our Figure 7) as Surya. Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw contests the former identification and proposes that both panels depict Surya. None of the deities in question carries Nairrta's usual attribute, namely a sword (khadga), but instead a lotus topped with an object that could represent a jewel or the chatoyant sunstone (suryakanta). Whereas Tonnet sees the frown of the West-facing deity as an aesthetic representation of a third eye (allegedly because the Prambanan sculptors objected to physical 'absurdities', Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw sees the frown or scowl as a common indication of an angry (krodha) form of this deity. As far as his counterpart in the South-facing panel is concerned, van Lohuizen-de Leeuw claims that this deity and his attendants had a more pronounced angry look than the West-facing deity. Noting that in Bali Surya is equated with the demonic form of Siva known as Kala, she adds that 'as Surya as well as Nairrta occupy the inauspicious region of the Southwest, they would naturally show a krodha appearance' (Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw 1955:380).

Jordaan (1992), however, disagrees with Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw's identification of the South-facing panel as Surya. Along with Tonnet, who calls it the most mysterious of all the iconic reliefs, he discerns a number of notable differences between the West- and South-facing reliefs, for example in body shape and posture, crown, ear ornament, direction of glance, and waist band. In fact, the scowl is one of the few distinctive elements that the two reliefs of the Southwest have in common. Jordaan feels that the earlier identification of both figures as Nairrta--Genius of death and dissolution--was prematurely abandoned. (45) Relying on Teeuw and Robson (1981:25), Jordaan notes that in Old Javanese literature 'the direction of Nirrti' is a common term for Southwest. Indeed, Krom (1923:I 477), referring to some inscribed gold leaves found among the contents of the deposit box (pripih) placed underneath the pedestal of Siva Mahadeva in the Siva temple, mentions a small silver plate with the inscription 'Niriti' that was later retrieved from underneath the rubble in the northeastern corner of the temple. Furthermore, 'Riniti' (a mistake for Niriti, or Nirrti) was one of the 19 names inscribed on small plates in the foundation deposit box of Candi B. (46) Occupying an inauspicious region associated with destruction and death, Nairrta is described by de Mallmann (1963:130) as 'tres sombre, son aspect est celui du noir de fumee'. The serious facial damage of the deity makes it impossible to say if he did not once display 'a gaping mouth, exposing teeth and side tusks', as is stipulated for Nairrta in some iconographic manuals (see, for example, Rao 1916:528). Indeed, the terrifying appearance may have caused a villager to inflict the damage, as happened with demonic Camundi and Heruka statues in East Java and Sumatra respectively (see Reichle 2007:161, and references to earlier literature on p. 247).

It is relevant to note that the demonic and frightful countenance of the deity represented on the panel is in harmony with the character of Rudra, the Digbandha of the Southwest. Insofar as he is an angry and demonic form of Siva, Rudra may be regarded as an alter ego of Kala who, as pointed out by Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw (1955:380), was popularly represented as Surya in Bali. If our reasoning is correct, the deity of the West-facing panel could represent Rudra as the 'angry' manifestation of Surya (as well as Siva). A link between Rudra and Surya may be detected in early Brahmanic mythology, where Rudra is one of the twelve Adityas--who themselves are sometimes referred to as forms of Surya. Furthermore, one of Surya's 108 names is Rudra (Bunce 2000:451). The association, or even conflation, of Rudra and Surya is apparently due to the fierce nature and appearance of both deities. For the same reason, Rudra is often identified with Agni. (47) In a Balinese Sanskrit Stuti (363), which constitutes a litany to the nine regents of the regions of the sky, Rudra is characterized as having the form of Fire (agni) and Sun (surya), a terrible or angry (krura) appearance, and a 'fire-lotus' (padmagni) as attribute. (48) This detail would seem to be in harmony with the relief (D10) depicting the West-facing deity, who carries an open lotus topped by an object that, rather than a jewel or sunstone, might represent some kind of burning substance (see Figure 7). (49) Note that the Aditya form of Rudra is described by Bunce (2000:451) as holding a lotus on two of his four hands--an iconographic feature that distinguishes Surya too. Speaking in favour of the identification of Surya as the deity depicted in the South-facing panel is an image of Surya found in Paharpur, (50) in which the deity bears a lotus mark on his forehead and holds a flower (lotus?) blossom in his right hand--in contrast with the 'usual' form of Surya holding two full-blown lotuses (Mevissen 2009:397); compare the Surya in our relief, who holds in his left hand a stalk topped by a lotus blossom.

Although we find the visual evidence in support of the identification of the South-facing deity as Surya to be strong, in view of the parallel existence in both South Asia and Java of two traditions placing either Surya or Nairrta in the Southwest, (51) we are obliged to leave this matter open. The uncertainty surrounding the identification of the South-facing deity, however, does not stand in the way of our proposal to identify the West-facing deity as Rudra, a fierce and demonic form of Siva who is appropriately placed in the inauspicious Southwest, and who may be fittingly paired with either Surya or Nairrta.

5. West (Groneman 1893:21, panels D12 and D13, plates XLVI and XLVII). Both Tonnet and Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw (1955:378) maintain that Varuna is represented twice, for both figures carry the god's characteristic attribute nagapasa. Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, however, disagrees about the attribute carried by the deity's first follower on the right (D12/XLVII), seeing it as a winged conch-shell rather than a sunshade (abhoga). The attendants to the left of the deity seem to carry small objects, probably gems or fruits.

It is difficult to establish which of the two panels could represent Mahadeva, the Digbandha of the West. The snare (pasa) is listed as an attribute of Mahadeva by Liebert (1976:157); and the varadamudra, displayed by the god in the left-hand panel (D13/XLVII), has been attributed to both Varuna (see Liebert 1976:331) and Mahadeva (see Bunce 2000:315, 317). We provisionally place Varuna in the left-hand panel.

6. Northwest (Groneman 1893:21-2, panels D15 and D16, plates XLIX and L; our Figs. 8 and 9).

Both Tonnet and Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw identify both panels as depicting Vayu in his gandhavaha form, on account of the burning incense that both deities seem to carry on top of a lotus. However, the object carried by the deity of the North-facing panel (D16, plate L; see Figure 9) is slightly different from the one depicted in panel D15 (plate XLIX, see Figure 8); it consists of three distinct flames--instead of one--emerging from a bell-shaped object placed on a large lotus bud (or flower?). As Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw (1955:373) notes, in some representations of Navasanas on Balinese textiles 'Sankara is given an ankusa or a sort of danda. In the drawing by Ida Made Rai (52) it is an object that branches into three flames, but the inscription refers to it as an "angkoes"'; this makes her wonder 'whether this queer object could be related to the incense, also burning with three flames on Vayu's lotus at Loro Jonggrang [panel D16/ plate L]'.

The object in question is not clear enough to allow us to positively identify the deity depicted on panel D16. Purely on account of his correspondence with the sequential order of the postulated series of deities, we tentatively propose the form of Siva known as Sankara. (53)

7. North (Groneman 1893:22, panels D18 and D19, plates LII and LIII).

Tonnet identifies Kubera to the right and Soma to the left of the steps, whereas Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw claims that both panels represent Kubera. Rejecting Tonnet's identification of the soma plant and a moonstone (candrakanta) as the attributes borne by the attendants of the main deity in panel D19 (plate LIII), Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw (1955:378) argues that 'as we have found the guardians of the South and West twice, we see no reason why Kuvera should not be represented twice on the North'. According to Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, attributes of the two main figures, a conch-shell (sankhanidhi) on a lotus flower and a jewel on a lotus flower, are commonly found in the iconography of Kubera in the Indian subcontinent. We prefer to identify the former attribute as a winged conch-shell, which is actually an attribute of Visnu. The second attribute, which is not very clear, may well represent a fruit or a closed lotus bud. The attendants to either side of the main figures in both panels seem to be yaksas, which are usually associated with Kubera.

In agreement with both Tonnet and Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, we identify the deity depicted in the panel to the right of the staircase as Kubera; however, we reject both Tonnet's speculative identification of the other deity as Soma and Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw's alternative identification as Kubera. We believe that the two figures cannot possibly represent one and the same deity since the figure of panel D18 (plate LII), besides displaying the varada mudra peculiar to Kubera, has a dwarfish shape and a prominent pot-belly, whereas the body of the other figure is normal in appearance and well-proportioned.

The Digbandha of the North is Visnu; since the attributes represented in the two panels may be associated with both Visnu and Kubera, we identify the latter deity purely on the basis of his physical features. A position in the North would be entirely appropriate for a figure representing Visnu given that it would face the secondary temple to the North dedicated to him. As seen earlier, this was likewise the case for the figure we identified earlier as Brahma, which faces the secondary Brahma temple to the South.

8. Northeast (Groneman 1823:22-3, panels D21 and D22, plates LV and LVI).

Both Tonnet and Groneman identify these two figures as the Lokapala Isana, himself a form of Siva, from the presence of unmistakable Saiva attributes such as the trident (trisula) and the skull (kapala) displayed next to the main deities of both panels. According to Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, the attendants in the East-facing panel are Ganas--Siva's attendants--on account of their 'childish jewelry and rounded eyes'.

We prefer to identify the deity of the East-facing panel as the form of Siva called Sambhu, the Digbandha of the Northeast. This deity represents the calm or benevolent form of Siva-Rudra. The serene and smiling expression of the figure depicted in the panel is entirely consistent with the mild nature of Sambhu, who presides over the auspicious Northeast (as opposed to the inauspicious Southwest).
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Title Annotation:p. 274-299
Author:Acri, Andrea; Jordaan, Roy
Publication:Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia and Oceania
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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