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.
Plans to relocate the artefacts from the Nakhon Pathom Museum to another province were axed after fierce protests from locals in the province. The Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum houses a number of artefacts from the Dvaravati period, spanning the 4th – 10th centuries.
The Culture Ministry has decided to shoot down a proposal to make changes to the Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum following strong protests by locals.
The Fine Arts Department, which is supervised by the ministry, is working on the proposal as it tries to improve museums in the face of staff shortages and budget constraints.
The proposal, however, has enraged people in Nakhon Pathom province as they suspect the department wants to take artefacts and historical items from the only national museum in their hometown.
Locals do not believe the department’s explanation that antiques from the Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum would only be put on display temporarily at the Uthong National Museum in Suphan Buri province – or to be exact – only when the Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum is relocated to another better-equipped venue.
The scepticism arose when word spread that the department planned to close or merge nine museums.
Phu Phra Bat Historical Park in Udon Thani Province Thailand is to be nominated at Thailand’s next World Heritage site. This ridge in northeast Thailand is reminiscent of Cambodia’s Phnom Kulen, and contains a long history of human occupation from prehistoric rock paintings, to remains of Dvaravati, Lopburi/Khmer and recently Lan Xang cultures. It is a beautiful landscape and I was really fortunate to have investigated some of the sites there as part of my PhD research.
The Culture Ministry has decided to nominate Udon Thani’s Phu Phra Bat Park as a Unesco World Heritage Site and will put the plan up for consideration at Parliament tomorrow.
Situated in Ban Phue district, the park features ruins and objects dating back to pre-historic times as well as to the Dvaravati, Lopburi, and Lan Xang periods.
The 1,200-acre site is located in the lush Phu Phra Bat Buabok Forest Park, where there are many peculiarly shaped rocks owing to slow-moving glaciers millions of years ago. Also, many of the ruins and objects – such as a rock shaped to look like a stupa and another chiselled to the shape of a foot – were not made entirely by hand.
Visitors can also admire the pre-historic paintings, sandstone images and idols. The Fine Arts Department declared the site a historical park in 1991.
A new exhibition opened last week at the Bangkok National Museum – Dvaravati Art: The Early Buddhist Art of Thailand puts together over a hundred artefacts collected from 12 museums showcasing this kingdom that ruled over central Thailand between the 6th and 11th century.