• The communities and cultures of Southeast Asia were in direct contact
with India through trade routes. Furthermore, several Indic kingdoms
competed for dominance in the region between the 1st and 8th centuries
CE, particularly the Cambodian Funan and the Burmese Mon.
• Most of the Southeast Asian sculptures of the period 300 - 600 CE were
heavily influenced by the style of the Gupta Empire in India, which
patronized Buddhist art in the Greco-Buddhist style.
• Southeast Asian Buddha statues of this period were characterized by a
purity of statuary and a delicacy in portraying the folds of clothing.
Somewhat less attention was paid to the realism of artistic details, and
symbolic shell-like curls were used to render the hair of the Buddha.
• The Indic civilization of Champa flourished along the coasts of what is now
central and southern Vietnam from 500 CE onwards and left an impressive
artistic legacy consisting primarily of sandstone sculptures, both in the
round and in relief.
• In later periods Chinese influence predominated in Vietnam, Laos and
Cambodia, and more wooden sculpture survives from across the region.
Indic: Pertaining to India or its people or culture; Indian.
Mon: A people living primarily in Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Thailand;
one of the earliest peoples to reside in Southeast Asia, and responsible for the
spread of Buddhism in Burma and Thailand.
5. • 1st-8th century: several Indic
kingdoms competed for dominance
in Southeast Asia, particularly the
Cambodian Funan and the Burmese
• Heavily influenced by the style of the
Gupta Empire in 300-600 (Greco-
• In Thailand, art was shaped by
contact with Indian traders and the
expansion of the Mon kingdom.
• Buddha sculptures are described as
pure and delicate in terms of the
folds of the clothing.
• Votive tablets and Sanskrit
inscriptions are also found in the
Sculpted in the
curls for hair
6. • The communities and cultures of
Southeast Asia were in direct contact
with India through trade routes and
heavily influenced by Indian religion
• The Pali and Sanskrit languages,
Indian script, as well as Hindu epic
literature, such as the Ramayana and
the Mahabharata, were transmitted
to Southeast Asia in this period.
• Hinduism and Buddhism was brought
to the region and became the main
religions practiced from about the
1st century BCE to the 13th century
CE. These influences played a
considerable role in shaping the art
and sculpture of Southeast Asia.
The Birth of Brahma, sandstone relief, My
Son, Vietnam, 7th century.
This unfinished pediment is a fine
example of Hindu art in the style of
Champa. The relief sculpture shows the
birth of the Hindu god Brahma from a
lotus growing from the navel of Vishnu.
7. • The Indic civilization of Champa
flourished along the coasts of what is
now central and southern Vietnam
from 500 CE onwards and left an
impressive artistic legacy consisting
primarily of sandstone sculptures,
both in the round and in relief,
although relief was the preferred
• Artistic legacy includes sandstone
sculptures and brick building.
• These sculptures expressed religious
themes and synthesized elements of
Hinduism, Buddhism, and indigenous
cults. Common themes included
Hindu and Buddhist deities and icons,
as well as scenes from daily life .
This late 11th- or 12th-century sculpture
illustrates both the preferred medium of the
Cham artists (stone sculpture in high relief), and
the most popular subject-matter, the god Shiva
and themes associated with the god. Shiva can
be recognized by the third eye in the middle of
his forehead and by the attribute of the trident.
The hands above his head are making the
gesture called uttarabodhi mudra, which is
regarded as a symbol of perfection.
8. • The original Chams were probably
colonists from the Indonesian islands,
who adopted as their principal
vocations those of trade, shipping,
and piracy. Their cities were ports of
call on important trade routes linking
India, China and
the Indonesian islands.
• The history of Champa was one of
intermittent conflict and cooperation
with the people of Java, the Khmer of
Angkor in Cambodia and the Đại Việt
of what is now northern Vietnam. It
was to the Đại Việt that Champa
finally lost its independence.
A decorative theme that originated in Java, and
from there emanated to other parts of Greater
India, is that of the makara sea monster disgorging
some other being. In this 10th- or 11th-century
Cham sculpture, the makara disgorges a naga.
10. • Very little Southeast Asian painting from 300 - 600 CE has survived to the
present day, owing to the heat and humidity of tropical and subtropical
• Artists worked in perishable mediums, painting mostly on wood, cloth, and
palm leaf, none of which have withstood the rigors of the Southeast Asian
• One can only hypothesize the styles and techniques that painters would have
used based on evidence gleaned from sculpture, which is far more durable
and has survived, contemporary painting styles in India, which played a huge
role in influencing Southeast Asian art, and literary texts that talk about
• Frescoes, usually executed on cave temple or monastery walls, would have
been the most common form of Southeast Asian painting.
• Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced to Southeast Asia from the 1st
century BCE onwards. There were also several powerful Indic kingdoms in the
region, which practiced Hinduism and Buddhism and produced art that
reflected their religious beliefs.
11. • Hindu art commonly depicted figures from the Hindu pantheon including
Shiva, Vishnu, and Shakti. Buddhist art depicted images of the Buddha, the
Bodhisattvas or enlightened beings, apsaras or celestial dancers, and tales
and parables from Buddhist lore, including the Jataka tales.
• The most famous surviving examples of Southeast Asian-style frescoes are
to be found in the rock fortress and palace ruin of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka.
These date from about the 5th-6th centuries CE and depict graceful
female figures bearing flowers.
Sigiriya, Lion Rock.
Ancient palace in
the Matale District
in Central Sri
12. • Artists worked in perishable
mediums, painting mostly on wood,
cloth, and palm leaf, none of which
have withstood the rigors of the
Southeast Asian climate.
• The most durable forms of Southeast
Asian art are sculpture and
architecture in stone. It is likely that
stone sculptures, both in relief and in
the round, were originally painted in
bright colors, but these have worn
away over the course of time, leaving
the underlying stone exposed.
• Frescoes, usually executed on cave
temple or monastery walls, would
have been the most common form of
Southeast Asian painting.
Padmapani fresco, Ajanta caves
Dating from 450-500 CE, this mural depicts the
Bodhisattva Padmapani who embodies the virtue
13. • These figures are hypothesized to
be apsaras or women of the
king's court or women
participating in religious ritual.
The paint has been applied in
sweeping strokes, using more
pressure on one side than the
other, resulting in deep colors
towards the edge.
The frescoes at Sigiriya depict graceful
female figures bearing flowers.
14. • These frescoes are reminiscent of
the contemporary frescoes in the
Ajanta Caves in India, which are
masterpieces of Buddhist religious
art and depict figures from the
Buddhist pantheon and scenes
from the Jataka tales .
16. • Sculpture and architecture were intimately connected in Southeast Asia
and monumental reliefs were used to decorate the walls of buildings.
• Relief is a sculptural form and technique. To create a sculpture in relief is
to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above
the background plane.
• Relief sculpture was used to decorate the walls of buildings, particularly
Hindu and Buddhist temples, and accomplished on a very large scale. It
was greatly influenced by Indian styles and techniques and generally
portrayed religious themes with high iconographic precision.
Borobudur relief, Java,
17. • Other themes included court and battle scenes, scenes depicting daily life
and the customs of the people, and animals, both real and mythical.
• Most of ancient Southeast Asian relief sculpture was done in bas-relief,
where the projecting images have shallow overall depth, although the
kingdom of Champa in southern and central Vietnam excelled in haut-relief
sculpture, which was marked by much greater depth and undercut
• The most famous examples of monumental relief sculptures in Southeast
Asia are to be found in the 9th-century Buddhist temple of Borobudur in
18. • The Khmer of Cambodia were also renowned for their monumental bas-reliefs,
which usually took narrative form, depicting stories from history
and mythology. The most famous example of Khmer sculpture is the 12th-century
Hindu temple of Angkor Wat.
Khmer people are the predominant ethnic
group in Cambodia, accounting for
approximately 90% of the
15.2 million[people in the country. They
speak the Khmer language, which is part
of the larger Austro–Asiatic language
family found throughout eastern and
central India and Bangladesh, Southeast
Asia, southern China and numerous
islands in the Indian Ocean.
19. • Relief is a sculptural technique which
gives the impression that the
sculpted material has been raised
above the background plane.
• This is accomplished by cutting into a
flat surface of stone or wood, thereby
lowering the field and leaving the
unsculpted parts seemingly raised.
• Reliefs depicting figures that are at
least life-size or bigger or are
attached to monuments of some sort
are termed monumental reliefs by
art historians, thus distinguishing
them from small metal or ivory
reliefs, portable sculptures, and
Stone carving practice
20. • Monumental reliefs represent an important
facet of ancient Southeast Asian art. As a
result, relief sculpture was generally used to
decorate the walls of buildings—particularly
Hindu and Buddhist temples—and was
accomplished on a very large scale.
• It was greatly influenced by Indian styles and
techniques and generally portrayed religious
themes with high iconographic precision.
Court and battle scenes, scenes depicting
daily life and the customs of the people, and
animals (both real and mythical), were some
other common subjects.
Slideshow of images
• The most famous examples of
monumental relief sculptures in
Southeast Asia are to be found in
the 9th-century Buddhist temple
of Borobudur in Java, Indonesia.
Built during the rein of the Indic
Sailendra Dynasty, the temple is
constructed to reveal many
different levels of terraces, many
of which are heavily ornamented
with intricate bas-reliefs.
• In total, there are 2,672 individual
bas-reliefs, 1,460 of which depict
narratives from Buddhist lore,
including the birth and life of the
Buddha. The remaining 1,212 are
22. • The reliefs have a diverse range of
themes. They depict mythical, spiritual
beings from the Buddhist pantheon such
as bodhisattvas, apsaras and gandharvas,
or celestial dancers and musicians; and
asuras or demons . They also depict
images of people: the king and queen,
princes, priests, courtiers, soldiers,
servants, and commoners.
• They provide glimpses of scenes from 8th-century
Java: courtly palace life, a hermit
in the forest, commoners in the village,
temple and marketplace scenes,
native vernacular architecture, and flora
• These bas-relief sculptures have served as
a reference for historians in the study of
ancient Javanese architecture, weaponry,
fashion, and transportation .
The bas relief of 8th century Borobodur
depicts the palace scene of King and Queen
accompanied by their subjects, depicting the
actual scene of Sailendran royal court.
23. • In addition, a group of 160 panels of
monumental relief sculpture provides
a complete illustration of the law of
karma or the principles of cause and
effect. There are depictions of both
praiseworthy activities (including
charity and pilgrimage) and
blameworthy activities (ranging from
gossip to murder), with their
corresponding rewards and
punishments. These panels provide
particularly complex scenes of daily
life, depicting the full panorama of
samsara (the endless cycle of birth
24. Khmer Temples
• The Khmer of Cambodia were also renowned
for their monumental bas-reliefs, which
usually took narrative form, depicting stories
from history and mythology. They decorated
the tympana (semi-circular
arched spaces above a doorway), walls, and
ceilings with complex scenes.
• The earliest surviving example of Khmer
narrative bas-relief sculpture comes from the
10th-century Hindu temple of Banteay Srei,
which has carved tympana and towers
depicting scenes from the great Hindu epics,
the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
• The most famous example of Khmer bas-relief
sculpture is undoubtedly at the 12th-century
Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, which
has 13,000 square meters of narrative bas-reliefs
on the walls of its outer gallery .
The Churning of the Sea Milk, Angkor
Wat. This episode from Hindu mythology
is depicted in bas-relief on the south of the
east wall of Angkor Wat's third enclosure.
25. A male devata flanked by asparas, Vishnu
Temple, Prambanan (devata—smaller more focused
deity, aspara --female spirit of the clouds and waters
in Hindu and Buddhist mythology
Devatas on Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is decorated with depictions of apsaras and devata; there are more than 1,796 depictions of
devata in the present research inventory. Angkor Wat architects employed small apsara images (30–40 cm) as
decorative motifs on pillars and walls. They incorporated larger devata images (all full-body portraits
measuring approximately 95–110 cm) more prominently at every level of the temple from the entry pavilion
to the tops of the high towers. In 1927, Sappho Marchal published a study cataloging
the remarkable diversity of their hair, headdresses, garments, stance, jewelry and decorative flowers, which
Marchal concluded were based on actual practices of the Angkor period.