Lecture: The Religions of Dvāravatī and Zhenla in the 7th-8th Centuries

Readers in Phnom Penh may be interested in this lecture by Dr Nicolas Revire at the Royal University of Fine Arts on 29 September 2017, at 5.30 pm. The lecture is in French.

The paradigm that Dvāravatī in pre-modern Thailand was predominantly “Buddhist” and the entity known
as Zhenla in 7th–8th-centuries Cambodia “Brahmanical” has long remained uncontested. In the past, the “Dvāravatī realm” has largely been described and associated with settlements in today’s western-central Thailand where “Buddhism” was significantly and increasingly practised during the second half of the first-millennium CE. Based on this literature, Dvāravatī has long been assumed by scholars as almost exclusively a Buddhist domain although there has been a hesitant shift in recent years to argue for Brahmanism alongside Buddhism. In contrast, “Brahmanism” has often been perceived to operate primarily in the eastern margins of this territory, closer to Khmer counterparts in Zhenla where there were presumably followers of Śiva and Viṣṇu as well as Harihara, a combination of both gods. In this lecture, however, I challenge this basic religious dichotomy. My reassessment of the material culture and inscriptions from these two neighbouring regions temper and question the compartmentalization of such doctrinal categories as either “Buddhist” or “Brahmanical” and instead emphasize on the complex nature of the religion of that age through the lens of the ideology of merit.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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