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.

Plans to move museum axed after locals protest

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.

Dvaravati Wheels of Law at the Nakhon Pathom Museum. Source: Bangkok Post 20150507
Dvaravati Wheels of Law at the Nakhon Pathom Museum. Source: Bangkok Post 20150507

Museum move sparks ire
Bangkok Post, 07 May 20015

Thousands fight plan to close Nakhon Pathom museum
The Nation, 12 May 2015

Plan to change Nakhon Pathom museum axed
The Nation, 13 May 2015

Ministry scraps museum merger plan after protests
Bangkok Post, 13 May 2015

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.

Full stories here, here, here and here.

Phu Phra Bat Historical Park to be nominated for world heritage

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.

U-sa's Tower in Phu Phra Bat Historical Park. Source: The Nation, 20150127
U-sa’s Tower in Phu Phra Bat Historical Park. Source: The Nation, 20150127

Phu Phra Bat Park nominated for Unesco Heritage Site list
The Nation, 27 January 2015

Phu Phra Bat Park chosen for Unesco Heritage list
The Nation, 28 January 2015

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.

Full story here and here.

Vishnu statue discovered in Sithep Historical Park

A statue of Vishnu discovered in the Sithep Historical Park in Thailand hints at the larger exchange networks that would have existed during the Dvaravati and Khmer periods.

Statue of Vishnu discovered at Sithep Historical Park, Bangkok Post 20130330
Statue of Vishnu discovered at Sithep Historical Park, Bangkok Post 20130330

Glimpses into pre-Siam life
Bangkok Post, 30 March 2013
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Cultural treasures from Ratchaburi Province

This travel piece in the Bangkok Post features the cultural treasures from Ratchaburi Province, including Buddhist shrines and ruins from the Dvaravati period and Khmer-style architecture.

Khu Bua Ancient Town, Bangkok Post 20110407

Treasures of Ratchaburi
Bangkok Post, 07 April 2011
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Symposium: Before Siam Was Born

A special symposium will be held next week at the Bangkok National Museum in conjunction with the Dvaravati exhibition.

Before Siam was Born: New Research on Dvaravati
Date: 03 September 2009
Time: 09:00 am – 04:00 pm
National Museum Bangkok
Information and reservation: Nicolas Revire nicolas@tu.ac.th
Continue reading “Symposium: Before Siam Was Born”

Rediscovering an ancient Thai hub

A travel feature on the village of Kok Mai Den in the northern province of Nakhon Sawan in Thailand, which was a major prehistoric city until the Dvaravati period.

Local efforts put an ancient site on the tourist map
Bangkok Post, 23 August 2009
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Public Lecture: Dvaravati: What Was It Then, What Is It to Us Now

In conjunction with the Dvaravati exhibition at the Bangkok National Museum, John Toomey will give a lecture at the Siam Society on October 1 and conduct a special tour of the collection on October 3.

Dvaravati: What Was It Then, What Is It to Us Now
Date: 01 October 2009
Venue: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21
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Exhibition on Dvaravati opens at the Bangkok National Museum

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.

Mon-Dvaravati Sculpture of seated Buddha, c. 8th century. From the Nei Xue Tang Museum.

Ancient masterpieces
Bangkok Post, 13 August 2009
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