Overview for Buddhist Iconography in Thailand: A South-East Asian Perspective
Beginning with Theravada which formed the core of Hinayana, Thailand in the South-East Asian region formed a strong-hold of Buddhism and remained so till it gave way to Mahayana though in a very small measure. Buddhism in Thai conception is primarily and mostly the adortion to the personal image of Buddha. Sthaviras in this land are the predominant part of Buddhist congregation and naturally, therefore, Buddhist art and iconography is centred round the person Buddha, the greatest of the Sthaviras. Still it can not be denied that thai Buddhism remains the high stronghold of this faith in South-East Asia. The result has been, however, that while the ramifications of the Buddhist pantheon have escaped from the Thai artist yet it effloresced in the variegated innovations in forms touching upon the personality of the Great Master, in a way that can be met with nowhere else. And there lies the interest in the study of Buddhist iconography of Thailand. And this is what the present work has taken up with. The book in eight close Chapters has laid bare the innovative genius of Thai artists step by step following the unfolding path of history. From the earliest style of iconic art that found expression in the Mon-Dvaravati regime to the ravaging conquest by the Mayanmar onslaughts in the late eighteenth century, ending with the Rattanakosin period, the course of Buddhist art history in icons has been followed with examples that retained the traits prescribed by the canonical literature and at the same time did not ignore the overflow of innovations to the extent that Hinayana could compromise with Mahayana. With this analysis, the book affords an interesting study. A Glossary appended, specia-lly of Thai terms, is a useful aid to study the subject, as also a site Map, while a Select Bibliography provides an indication to further researches.
A K Bhattacharyya (Author)
A renowned scholar in East Asian Art in addition to his contribution to the study of all branches of Indian art, Professor A.K. Bhattacharyya has made a mark as an art-historian since long. His other interests include epigraphy and numismatics in which he has well-known publications. One of his works on Aspects of Perso-Arabic Epigraphy of India has earned worldwide commendation. His visits to Japan four times since 1968 and upto 1980, include a stay for a year in that country on a Japan Foundation Fellowship which he utilized in visiting almost all places of Buddhist interest, studying temples and sculptures. He took special care to study the stone sculptures in the southernmost island, Kylshi, by personal visits to the caverns and the rock-cut images in the Oita Prefecture and a few other places. Back from the study-tours in the Republic of China and Japan, Professor Bhattacharyya was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship for his wide range of contribution to the study of the art of India and abroad. Among his works, A Corpus of Dedicatory Inscriptions for Temples of West Bengal; A Pageant of Indian Culture "Art & Archaeology; Historical, Cultural and Political Aspects of Perso-Arabic Epigraphy of India; Development of Buddhist Iconography in China, Korea and Japan from Indian Concepts; Buddhist Stone Sculpture of Japan; Thai Buddhist Iconography" Calcutta University on is dissertation: Studies in Jaina Iconography. Academically he has the most distinguished records and his linguistic equipment is the most unique in India, being a graduate in Arabic, and B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. in Sanskrit with a First class. He also secured the first class position in M.A. in Islamic History and Culture with Epigraphy and Numismatics as special subjects. He held important positions in India throughout his career. After being a Lecturer and Principal of Colleges for the first eight years of his service career, he served as Asstt. Curator, Archaeological Survey, Deputy Keeper and Keeper of Art Deptt. at the National Museum, New Delhi, Superintending Archaeologist in charge of the Museums Branch of the Archaeological Survey of India, and finally as Director, Indian Museum, Calcutta. On retirement, served the National University in the Republic of China as Visiting Professor.