INFLUENCES BEYOND AND FROM
In Search of an Ideal
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In speaking of influences we will speak not purely of the iconographic, but of the analogies that are not only of an iconographic, but also of a really artistic nature, because the way of treating influences that concern, essentially aesthetic questions and not only subject matter in art seems to be more attractive and more in harmony with the aims of the study of Indian influences on the art of Java.
The Indonesian races of Java, who form the bulk of the population have left very few monuments. They nevertheless are important as representing the Javanese element in Indo-Javanese art.
Java in a large degree has been influenced by Indo-Vedic civilization. Although the inhabitants adopted Islam in the course of the 15th century A.D. Hinduism has left traces which four centuries of Muslim ascendancy have not uprooted.
First, there are a number of geographical names that retain the remembrance of that most brilliant period of Javanese history. The loftiest mountain top of the island is known as Smeru, in which we easily recognize the Sumeru of Indian mythology. Other volcanoes bear familiar names of Arjuna, Brama (i.e. Brahma), and Kawi. The principal river of Central Java is Serayu, which rises from the southern slopes of Mount Prabhu. Serayu is the ancient name of Gogra, the well known tributary of the Gangese. Ayodhya, was situated on the banks of the Sarayu. Prabhu is the Sanskrit for God.
One of the eastern most districts of Java is called Besuki. Besuki is the Javanese form of Vasuki mentioned in Sanskrit as the name of the great Nagaraja, the King of Snakes. "Among snakes I am Vasuki" says Krishna in the Bhagavadgita. The Javanese language is as full of words of Sanskrit origin as the English is of French (Roman) words. The Old Javanese is even denoted by two Sanskrit words as Basa Kavi i.e. "the language of poetry".
The Clowns that follow the characters of Mahabharat and Ramayan are Semar, the father and his two sons, Petruk and Nalagarang.
The Hindu influence which is present until present day in many aspects of Javanese life has found its grandest expression in monuments and sculptured remains.
With the introduction of the Muslim
religion the old gods of Hinduism no longer enjoyed official worship and
veneration. Islam gradually came to the land, its ways were peaceful and free
from threat of fanaticism which five centuries before had robbed the plains of
India of her entire wealth of her ancient temples.
During the reign of Erlanga (1010-1042) his statute is representeda as Visnu riding upon Gauda, recalling yet very different from an Indian treatment of the same subject. Java was now becoming a great maritime power, destined soon to occupy the old position of Sumatra. The Eastern Javanese King had already made their power felt in Palembang, the Arab and Chinese trade were flourishing, and the island of Bali was dependent on Java. A national Javanese culture had developed, based indeed on the old Indian tradition, but Indonesian in essence, idiomatic in expression, and in the truest sense of the word, original. The Javanese language (Kawi) had become a fitting vehicle of classic epic literature. Javanese versions of the Indian epic, and the classic Arjuna-vivaha in which the shadow play is mentioned for the first time, date from Erlanga's reign.
Of the Javanese ancient texts "Nagarakretagama" was completed in the year 1365 AD and has the history of dynasties that ruled eastern Java two centuries previous but has no mention of India.
Fa Hien, a Chinese pilgrim in 414 AD, writes of Brahmins and heretics flourishing in Java or Sumatra where Buddha is not much known. Some of the earliest Sanskrit inscriptions are found in Borneo and corroborate Fa Hien’s record that at that time a Hinduized raja who bore the names ending with Varnam, i.e. Asvavarman and Mulavarman ruled.
These inscriptions are composed in plain but pure Sanskrit and record a Brahmanical sacrifice offered by Brahmin priests.
Half a century later about 450 AD lived a King Purnavarman in Taruma in Western Java and inscription to that effect are found in the river Chi Tarum comparing him to Vishnu. Hindu rule in Western Java, however did not persist much later than the 6th century, and has left few traces. Thereafter, Western Java seemed to have remained independent, under native rule.
The Sanskrit inscription are written in a character unmistakably South Indian, used by the Pallava Dynasty. This dynasty ruled over India's Coromandel coast from 300 to 800 A.D. and their prince had names ending in Varman. The two other earliest dated inscriptions found in Middle Java, 732 A.D., are those of Changal or Cangala in Kedu and Dinaya, 760 A.D., in Eastern Java, which speaks of a fiery "Putikesvara".
The Changal stone inscription is in Sanskrit and records the consecration of a Linga, a shaivaite symbol, by a King Sanjaya of Central Java, and who was from Kunjarakunja-desa, in the far south of India and the land of the sage Agastya, especially worshipped in Southern India. It is dated in the Saka year 654, corresponding to 732 AD.
This sage is believed to have dwelled on top of a sacred hill called Agastya-Malai or Agastya-Kutam, on the boundary of Travencore and Tinnevelly. He is credited for having carried Brahmanical civilization across the Vindhya mountains into the Deccan. He is also identified with the brightest stars of the Southern sky. It is said that at his rising at the end of the monsoon the waters come to rest. "Agastyodaye jalani prasidanti ityagamah".
The Dinaya inscription, dated in Saka year 682, or 760 AD speaks of a fiery "Putikesvara" connected to the ruling house.
The Brahmanical influence on Java seems to have come from Southern India. If we turn to the earliest Buddhist inscriptions known to exist in Java they are in early type of Nagari which originated in Northern India.
Who were these immigrants who brought
Brahmanical and Buddhist influences from India? Even today in the Malay
Archipelago the immigrants from India proper are designated by the name of orang
Keling or Kling, and this term is undoubtedly derived from Kalinga, the ancient
name of the tribe inhabiting the east coast of India between the Mahanadi and
the Godavari, which is the present State of Orissa. During the sutra
period Kalinga was supposed to be outside the pale of Aryan civilization.
Among the numerous sculptures we recognize Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, Ganesh and Durga. Also we meet with the serene semblance of the Buddha fashioned in those fixed attitudes or mudras which have received authority in the art canons of ancient India. It is not the historical Buddha, Sakyamuni, as meant to be portrayed at Borobudur, nor his predecessors, the human Buddhas, who were believed to have preached the good Law. They are Dhyani Buddhas, who never assumed human form but who have their eternal existence in the highest heavens. Also are Bodhisattavas Avalokitesvara, Maitreya, Manjusri of Northern Buddhism and the goddess Tara.
The other inscription at Kelurak (Kloerak) is dated in the Saka calendar 704 or 782 A.D. It refers to the consecration of the image of the Bodhisattva Manjusri or Manjughosha. Set up at the instance of the Guru of the King of the Sailendra Dynasty.
The Kingdom of Srivijaya, which at its greatest expansion included Kataha (Kedah) on the Malay Peninsula as well as a large portion of Java, was ruled by a royal house known by the dynastic name of Sailendra. Epigraphical records scattered from India's Coromandel coast to the heart of Java bear testimony to the zeal of the Sailandras in promoting the Good Law and raising magnificent monuments for the worship of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas.
The magnificence of their architecture may still be admired in that very shrine of Tara, Candi Kalasan, one of the finest ruins of Central Java.
It is Indo-Javanese in character. Yet both in its structural design and in its splendid sculptured decoration, this great monument of Mahayana Buddhism in Java is inspired by Indian thought and Indian craftsmanship.
Here are seen grim, grey volcanoes, both extinct and active, which ever seem to threaten with destruction the fair edifice of the Creator. But to the Indian thinker the contrast would seem only to illustrate Nature’s law, symbolized in the cosmic Yantra with its two similar equilateral triangles, which interlaced keep the universe in equipoise. The equilateral triangle, standing on its apex, is a symbol of water; reversed it becomes a symbol of fire.
The builders of Borobudar, therefore, when they created a splendid shrine for all the Buddhas of the Mahayana pantheon, followed the Indian tradition and designed it after the cosmic Yantra, used in the ritual of Yoga, but in three dimensions instead of two. The plane Yantar when constructed in three dimensions, becomes a hemispheroid, like an early stupa, with the generating point, the Bindu, or Kailas, at the top. It is used in this form in modern Hindu ritual, and is the symbol of the Brahmanda, the cosmic egg or spheroid, with its seven upper and seven lower planes; but only the upper half is worshipped, as representing the earthly and heavenly sphere.
In the stupa of Borobudar this cosmic symbol is constructed on a colossal scale. It was designed with a square base, like the miniature Yantra used in ancient and modern ritual, and arranged in seven planes after the metaphysical concept. Constructional necessity compelled the builder to flatten the curve of the spheroid considerably, so that the pilgrims in their circumambulation might be able to reach the summit. Those who followed the whole procession path up to the stupa’s crowning pinnacle were performing symbolically the same rite as the Buddhist pilgrim of today, when he first visits the scared places associated with the various lives of the Blessed One on earth, and then climbs the heights of Kailasa to bow down in worship, as if in the presence of Lord Buddha.
Borobudar is a relic shrine. This very complicated edifice, rising in a number of terraces and crowned with a cluster of perforated dagobas is very different from the plain stupa structures of Central India. In the island of Sumatra stupas are found, but of an entirely different class. That no other stupas exist in Java is also surprising. Borodudar is unique.
There is grand harmony in the whole grand structure. The body of the building consists of a succession of six square terraces, each side being relieved by a double projection. The lowest terrace is square, each side 497 feet long. The superstructure is formed by three circular platforms carrying as many rings of small stupas or dagobas, 32, 24, 16 respectively, so that their total amounts to seventy-two. These dagobas are of a very peculiar type, not met with anywhere else. Instead of a solid dome, typical in the Indian continent, they present the appearance of a perforated bell-shaped dome, each enshrining a Buddha image seated in the attitude of preaching the law (dharma chakra mudra). The innermost ring of those cage like shrines encloses a central stupa considerably larger in size (52ft in diameter) crowning the whole monument and originally surmounted with a lofty pinnacle. The unadorned and plain character of the upper circular platforms is very striking. This contrast is said to be symbolic, the lower part the world of the senses and the upper relating to the realm of the mind.
The square terraces are decorated with 5 superposed rows of life-sized Buddha figures, seated in richly sculptured niches. These images represent the celestial Buddhas of Mahayana. On the east side there are no less than 92 figures of Akshobhya seated in the earth touching attitude. On the south side there is the same number of images showing Ratnasambahva in the gift-bestowing pose. The west-side is adorned with 92 images of Amitabh seated in the attitude of meditation, the right hand resting palm upwards on the left, both being on the lap. The north side has the same number of figures representing Amoghasiddha in the gesture of imparting protection, the right hand being raised and displayed palm outwards. The uppermost rows of Buddha figures, 64 in number, as well as the 72 images enclosed in the perforated dagobas, are believed to represent the fifth Dhyani Buddha, Vairochana. We thus arrive at a total of 504 Buddha images.
At the cardinal points four flights of steps lead up from terrace to terrace to the central dagoba, which is the Holy of the Holies of the whole shrine. They have magnificent gateways at each entrance of each terrace though different from the toranas of the early stupas of central India. The decorative element of Indian origin are the magnificent monsters right over the entrance, an effigy of the terrible God Kala, though are traced back to the lion. Still known among the Dravidian architects of the Deccan. Also are carved the makara pair at the foot of each door jambs. Its curled up proboscis suggests connection with the elephant, but in India literature it is referred as an aquatic animal. The amusing story of the makara Karalamukha and the monkey Raktamukha, forms the framework of the fourth book of the Panchatantra and which the Buddhist have adapted for purposes of edification and converted into a Jataka or birth story. The earliest makara in India are found at the Lomas Rishi cave of Bihar. Also the Toranas of the stupas of Bharhut, in Central India, where both ends of the triple architrave are decorated with makaras, retaining their original character as a crocodile.
Ascending from the east and in the left Pradakshina, on the right is a double series of sculptured panels. The upper refers to the legend of Buddha Sakyamuni. It has 120 reliefs which do not end with Buddha’s death, or Nirvana, but represents his life until the moment of his first sermon at the deer park near Varanasi in India, where he commenced the turning of the Wheel of Law. The sculptors are representations of illustrations from the book "Lalitavistara" which does not contain the whole story.
Other Jataka stories have also been illustrated. It is not the Pali Jataka books they have followed but the Jatakamala one of the most famous Buddhist books written in Sanskrit. The popularity of this book in the Indian Archipelego is testified to by I-tsing.
The total number of sculptured panels
are no less than 1,300. The basement has another 160 reliefs which are no
longer visible as this part of the building was encased even before the
sculptured decorations were completed.
Other Buddhist Shrines
Bali- Theatre and Textile
Nothing is known of Javanese painting, except in manuscript illustrations. In Bali, on the other hand, very interesting mural paintings and tablets, as well as book illustrations and scrolls of the 17th and 18th century still exist. Even the scrolls that are made are in a style absolutely unaffected by foreign influences, and possess considerable distinction. The subjects are generally epic, sometimes erotic.
In Bali survives a uniquely Hinduised culture which presents a marvelous miniature picture of conditions that prevailed in Eastern Java during the last centuries of Hindu rule. The ancient culture of Java and Bali has survived to the present day mainly in the theatre (wayang) and in textiles (kain).
The theatre embraces a number of forms, of which the oldest may be the Wayang Beber. The Wayang Purva, Wayang Gedog and Wayang Klitik, together embracing Javanese history beginning with the Indian epics and ending with the last kings of Majapahit, constitute the shadow play.
The Javanese theatre embodies spiritual and cultural values of deep significance. Only the No-guks of Japan can be compared with it, and even so the Javanese have a wider range of theme and is far more than an exquisite survival.
The Ikat technique of weaving is of Indian origin and of high antiquity. Needless to say that Ikat weaving requires the most elaborate pre-calculation and measurement.
Semar, Petruk, Nalagarang
Sage Agastya-Malai of Travencore and Tinnevelly
Dhyani Buddhas never assumed human form
Fouth Book of Panchtantra
Lomas Rishi Cave, Bihar