Task-force C. Southeast Asia

Task-force C members : 

Arlo Griffiths (supervisor)
Aditia Gunawan
Kunthea Chhom
Chloé Chollet
Véronique Degroot
Eko Bastiawan
Julia Esteve
Hun Chhunteng
Salomé Pichon
Dominic Soutif
Marine Schoettel
Tyassanti Kusumo Dewanti

Cambodia and Campā Epigraphy, History and Archaeology

Our knowledge of the history of the Indian religious movements most relevant to ancient Southeast Asia has been revolutionised since the appearance of Bhattacharya’s 1961 study of Les religions brahmaniques dans l’ancien Cambodge.
Since 1961, as mentioned above, intensive study and publication of the formerly neglected
voluminous writings of Tantric currents has transformed the religious historiography of medieval India, and it is these currents which had the most palpable impact on the religious landscape of ancient Cambodia (as well as of Campā and Indonesia). The first part only (which is itself already of booklength) of a monumental article of Sanderson (2003), entitled “The Śaiva Religion among the Khmers – Part I”, has merely begun to tackle the ramifications for Cambodian religious history.

A near complete collection of inked estampages kept in the Paris library of the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) has been digitised in preparation for online publication, and the members of two long-running EFEO projects (Corpus des inscriptions khmères and Corpus des inscriptions du Campā) have been gradually compiling a corpus of electronic transcriptions (so far without TEI mark-up) and checking them against editions and estampages. For Campā, a pioneering online publication was launched in 2012 (so far covering nearly 20% of all known inscriptions), while a series of articles “Études du Corpus des inscriptions du Campā” has now reached its 9th instalment. For the Khmer corpus, an online inventory is updated monthly (epigraphia.efeo.fr/CIK), and numerous inscriptions have been published in journals over the last 15 years.
Given the work already accomplished in this field by a team of contributors who will be joining this collaborative effort, we mean to achieve full integration of both corpora in our DHARMA-base by the end of the project.

One of the very earliest inscriptions discovered, K. 875 (5th -century), refers to a “hospital” for indigent brahmins, and inscriptions profusely testify to the will of sovereigns to concretise their hold on the territory by founding “repetitive royal religious institutions”. It was mainly āśramas that were so founded, across the whole Angkorian period, but also hospital-chapels or fire-shrines during Jayavarman VII’s reign at the end of the 12th century and the so-called temples d’étape at the beginning of the 12th century . The fact that these broadly replicated Khmer royal foundations were explicitly provided with exactly the same rules and infrastructure provides us with a unique opportunity to confront archaeological and epigraphic data, for by uncovering one foundation we can learn much about others.

By integrating epigraphy and archaeology, this project aims to illuminate:
(1) the material, social and religious organisation of the āśramas as centres of ritual practice, knowledge-transmission and preservation, and as resthouses
(2) the nature and political significance of religious tolerance, specifically the peaceful coexistence and collaboration of heterogeneous religions regulated by the king himself
(3) the consolidation of royal authority across the emergent Angkorian empire.

A first phase of this programme conducted in collaboration with the Apsara Authority and the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts was dedicated to the āśramas founded in Angkor, the capital. Four monasteries there, endowed separately for Vaiṣṇavas, Śaivas, brahmins and Buddhists, were established around the great Eastern tank and were responsible for protection of this major hydrological structure of the city. Our archaeological campaigns there allowed us to identify the internal organisation that characterised those monasteries; a publication integrating all the data gathered during this first phase will be published with the funds here requested.
A second phase dedicated to the provincial āśramas is now planned, in order better to understand the territorial impact of this institution. Two promising sites were identified during previous surveys: Prasat Neak Buos and Prasat Khna, both located in Preah Vihear province (northeast Cambodia), with two very extensive sanctuaries predating Yaśovarman’s reign.

It will first be necessary to establish whether these two buildings were active at the same time and—partly through study of the epigraphs—to determine whether these two foundations were assigned the same tasks. At the same time, in order to clarify the region’s sacred geography, we intend to build up a map of all the sanctuaries where comparable buildings have been founded, which will serve as a basis for a politico-religious map of Cambodia from the 9th to the 11th century.

Indonesia: Epigraphy, History, Textual Sources and Archaeology

The ancient history of Indonesia, which is conventionally viewed as ending with the arrival of Islam between the 11th and 14th centuries, starts with a remarkable set of seven Sanskrit inscriptions, dating to about 500 CE, found “in the middle of nowhere” in the eastern part of the island of Borneo. But in the absence of other sources, this island has almost no further role to play in history for a good millennium. It is on the islands of Bali, Sumatra and especially Java that most historical institutions of interest to our project developed, and it is for these islands that we have a variety of sources. All the vernacular
languages of the “Indianised” islands of Indonesia are of Austronesian stock. The most important of these languages in the written sources that we will rely on are Old Javanese and Old Malay.

The Sanskrit inscriptions from Borneo are followed in the 6th century by another handful from West Java—an area which subsequently yields almost no sources until the 15th century. In Central Java, further Sanskrit inscriptions follow in the 8th century, before Old Javanese gains the status of written language and Sanskrit ceases to be used for official texts, but lingers in the shadows as a mine of vocabulary. From the 9th to the 15th centuries, there are about 600 Old Javanese inscriptions on stone and copper plates, if one counts only dated records (Nakada 1982). No inventory includes the many undated records, nor has any inventory been published that covers the whole archipelago.

The EFEO’s Jakarta centre has worked for the last 15 years on compiling just such a database, which contains metadata on about 3500 entries.
One of our first major tasks will be to edit and publish this database online, so that the extent of the corpus may at last be ascertained. All unpublished stone and copper-plate inscriptions liable to contain relevant data will be provisionally deciphered, allowing us to write a global history of the relevant institutions for the archipelago. For more fine-grained analysis, and more rigorous philological work to be contributed to the DHARMAbase, we will focus on the ancient kingdom of Mataram in Central and East Java (700–950 CE), i.e. about 200 inscriptions (in view of discoveries since Damais’ list of 1970).

Uniquely for Southeast Asia, written sources for early Indonesia (notably Java and Bali) are
not only epigraphical, but include also texts transmitted by manuscripts. While pre-Islamic manuscripts from Java number in the hundreds, the living “Hindu” tradition of Bali has preserved thousands. Among these is a group of texts styled Śāsana (“Instruction”), forming part of a larger body of broadly termed “legal” texts.
Among important legal texts, the Svayambhu and Aṣṭadaśavyavahāra, and among doctrinal ones the Bhuvanakośa are still unedited. We shall produce editions and annotated translations of these texts, from which we stand to learn much about ancient
ascetic practices, as well as their continuity and institutionalisation in modern Balinese Hinduism.

The archaeological component (supervised by Veronique Degroot) of our project will focus on the site of Bumiayu, in South Sumatra. Our aim is to understand the material organisation of this unique Hindu community, as well as its economic and environmental impact on the region. Bumiayu is situated in an area that, from the 7th to the 10th c., was under the authority of Śrīvijaya. This kingdom, whose capital was then located in Palembang, dominated the entire south of the island. It was also home to an internationally famed Buddhist centre, where monks from all over the Buddhist world came to study.
Śrīvijaya is therefore often described as an exclusively Buddhist kingdom. The fact that a major site such as Bumiayu is “Hindu” calls into question this idea. First reported by Tombrink (1870), the site is located on the Lematang River. Until now, twenty mounds have been identified. Diagnostic excavations have shown that all of them are remnants of brick structures. The five buildings that have been excavated more completely have yielded a rich carved decoration (antefixes, friezes etc.). A few stone statues of Hindu gods have also been found. Based on Chinese ceramics, Sondang Siregar (2005) determined that the occupation of the site began in the 8th century and lasted until the 13th.

To tackle the issue of chronology, we will combine building-archaeology, art-historical studies and controlled excavations. In parallel, we will open test-pits within and without the religious complex to identify possible settlement zones. If such areas are indeed discovered, excavations will be planned on a larger scale.
An important part of the research will also be devoted to the paleo-environment. During our period of interest, the highlands of South Sumatra were strongholds of megalithic traditions, while the plain was “Indianised”. These two regions, although very different, were interconnected: one provided gold and forest products (camphor, benzoin, etc.), while the other ensured that they were sold on international trading networks . To understand the role played by Bumiayu here, we need to determine what its environment was like. Changes in the environment may also be clues to fluctuations in population or modifications of agricultural practices and are thus relevant to understand the impact of the presence of a Hindu religious site in the area.

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