Saturday, 23 March 2013

Goddess Images in Cambodian art

A review of The Symbiosis of Image, Monument and Landscape: A Study of Select Goddess Images at Prasat Kravan, Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei in Cambodia, by Soumya E. James.

"In Chapter 5, James develops the idea that in Angkorian art the divine feminine embodied chthonic forces capable of energizing her divine male consorts, bestowing blessings on the king and bringing fertility to the kingdom. . . .Her argument is that the goddesses drew power from the ground, activated the site, and that the resultant conjoined power of god/Viṣṇu and goddess/Mahalakṣmī emanated from the temple to permeate the human realm.
Similarly, numerous images of Viṣṇu reclining on the nāga (serpent) Ananta and accompanied by Lakṣmī were carved into the Kbal Spean riverbanks in order to enact and consecrate a sacred geography.
Utilizing myths, inscriptions, and Tantric notions of “power substances,” James interprets the water of the river as an “activating agent” arising through the “exchange of fluids between the male and female forces” that flows down the mountain and into the “‘womb’ of the kingdom…to impregnate the land”.
At both Prasat Kravan and Kbal Spean, according to James, the male and female are united through interaction with natural elements, and it is this tandem power that underlies the meaning and purpose of the relief images."

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