Readers in London may be interested in this presentation at SOAS by Hunter Watson on 30 October.
Old Mon inscriptions and the Dvāravatī culture
Hunter Ian Watson (National University of Singapore)
Date: 30 October 2019
Time: 5:15 PM
Venue: Russell Square College Buildings Room 4426
The name Dvāravatī is used to refer to a first-millennium culture predominantly in what is today the Central Plain of Thailand. This name has been used as such for over a century, yet there are ongoing debates about what the name implies and how it should be used. The greatest problem arises from the fact that scholars in the fields of archaeology, art history, and palaeo-linguistics use the name with different connotations and implications, causing confusion. This presentation will elaborate on these debates.
One window to understanding Dvāravatī is through the study of inscriptions composed in the Old Mon language. Old Mon inscriptions have been identified scattered around the Central Plain, the Khorat Plateau of northeastern Thailand and lowland Laos, and in the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Basin in northern Thailand. These inscriptions have received little scholarly attention, and my studies have included many inscriptions which have never been properly studied or published. They date approximately from the sixth to the thirteenth century. Tentatively, I have identified around 100 artifacts in the region inscribed in Old Mon, and this number continues to increase. They range in size from large steles with numerous lines of text to small sealings with only a few words. The majority are quite short, rarely exceeding a few lines; in nearly all cases Old Mon was utilized for composing donative texts, which were records of meritorious deeds such as the donation of resources for a religious foundation. The details of the meritorious actions are not normally described, but emphasis is given to naming the donors. The exception is the later Old Mon inscriptions of the Haripuñjaya culture in northern Thailand, where several large inscription stele have been found. These give much greater detail in a narrative fashion, and some references are made to historical events.