Shiva and Vishnu Images in Dvaravati Art of Central Thailand: An Overview Study

Silpakorn University, Thailand

Central Thailand during the 6th-10th  centuries CE witnessed the rise of various Hindu cults testifying to the influx of Indians, both Brahmins merchants and Hindu laypersons. Examples of Hindu imagery includes Shivalinga, Human-formed Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Surya as well as Ganesha. However, the Shakti cult was less popular in Dvaravati art than many of the others. This presentation focuses on the cult and images of Shiva and Vishnu. The Shiva cult is represented by Shivalinga-s in several cities in Central Thailand. As Sivalinga must be enshrined inside a sanctum, the number of Shivalinga-s indicate how many Shiva temples existed in a particular city. As Indian ideology, Linga is the representation of the supreme omnipresent Shiva. Evidence of the Vishnu cult in Dvaravati art is in the human-formed Vishnu with four normal attributes. Vishnu images can be divided into several sub-groups based on the artistic schools. For example, smaller-than-human-sized Vishnu images, normally sculpted in relief pattern, were common in the Uthong Schools. The ways of holding the attributes is comparable to those observed in some of the earliest Vishnu images in Indian art, and this group of images are the most ancient in Southeast Asia.  The life-sized Vishnu images of the Sri Mahosot and Sri Thep Schools are later. Those in Sri Mahosot are sculpted in a round-relief pattern with the lower hands attaching on the hips. The dress in these images is of Early Pallava pattern, i.e. simple cylindrical crown and Dhoti with the strip wrapping around the waist. Early-Pallava-styled plain cylindrical crown is shown with the Pre-Angkorian short garment, indicating the cross-cultural origins. At Sri Thep, Vishnu is a special character indicating the identity of the school.