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The Tantric Goddesses of Angkor

Immortalizing the 12th Century.

Anica Mann.
258074

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment


of the requirement for the degree of Master of Arts.

Under the supervision of Dr. Peter Sharrock


Department of History of Art and Archaeology
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
15 September 2010

Word Count: 10,650

Declaration

I have read and understood regulation 17.9 (Regulations for Students of SOAS) concerning
plagiarism. I undertake that all material presented for examination is my own work and has not
been written for me, in whole or in part, by any other person(s). I also undertake that any
quotation or paraphrase from the published or unpublished work of another person has been
duly acknowledged in the work which I present for examination. I give permission for a copy of
my dissertation to be held at the Schools discretion, following final examination, to be made
available for reference.

Signed: ..

Abstract

This paper analyses the reliefs of female goddesses that impose themselves strikingly in the
temples of the greatest Khmer kings Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII in the 12th century CE. I
see their presence in the temples as symbolic of the larger religious context meticulously
engineered by the monarchs, to empower the temples with a cosmic force or Shakti. I will trace
the origins of the three different feminine representations namely the Apsaras and Devatas of
Angkor Wat and the Yogins of the Bayon from the early history of the Khmers by looking at the
temple complex of Phimai, in modern Northeast Thailand.
These origins have so far been little researched, despite the fact that they belong to separate
religious traditions. I will argue for seeing a significant continuity from the tantric Buddhism of
Phimai to the tantric Vaisnavism of Angkor Wat and the tantric Buddhism of the Bayon. This
continuity, I will argue, can be perceived in the iconographical family resemblance of the tantric
Buddhist Yogins of Phimai, the many goddesses of Angkor Wat and the plethora of tantric
Buddhist Yogins of the Bayon. I will apply two major tools for understanding this development
namely, logic and cultural parallels.

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my supervisor Dr. Peter Sharrock who is
responsible for the successful completion of my dissertation. His untiring effort, commitment,
encouragement, and support helped me greatly in the understanding and writing of this
dissertation. This year would not have been the same without your inspiring and stimulating
guidance. I am grateful to Dr. Crispin for all the wonderful discussions on Indian Art.
I would also like to thank Kent Davis for all his valuable inputs.
I owe my heartfelt gratitude to my support system, my parents who made everyday even more
special with their early morning phone calls. Thank you for your trust and care. And thank you
for letting me follow my heart. It is a pleasure to thank those who made this thesis possible, my
colleagues who kept me company in the Art Reading Room all year round. I would like to thank
the SOAS library and Monmouth Coffee for helping me get out of stressful situations. And finally,
Tushar Warrier for being my stability.

Table of Contents.

1. Introduction.....................................................................................................................................1
2. Transmission of Buddhism into Kambhujadesa..............................................................2
3. Women of Angkor.........................................................................................................................7

4. The Goddesses of Angkor.........................................................................................................11


4.1. Apsaras....................................................................................................................................15

4.2. Devatas.....................................................................................................................................18
4.3. Yogins of the Bayon............................................................................................................22

5. Conclusion.......................................................................................................................................25
6. List of Illustations.........................................................................................................................26
7. Appendix I........................................................................................................................................27

8. Appendix II.......................................................................................................................................29
9. Appendix III.....................................................................................................................................30
10. Bibliography....................................................................................................................................31