Compositional connections: temple form in early Southeast Asia
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The temples of Southeast Asia are remarkable and intriguing in their architecture, in that they are obviously derivative from Indic canon and yet profoundly original and different from the corpus of the subcontinent. Further, the regional nuances of these temples, whether in Java, Cambodia or Champa, defy obvious and linear connections within these traditions and with the pan-Indic corpus. While epigraphists, Sanskritists and historians have made significant connections between these temple building traditions, much work remains to be done on the compositional and architectural linkages along the trading routes of South and Southeast Asia. This paper is an early attempt at understanding the compositional connections, as evident in the temple forms of early southeast Asia. To elucidate the complex material, the authors deploy a comparative method on two levels. Between ideal notions of the Hindu temple and shared cosmogony on one hand and individual temples as a realization of the ideal on the other. The consideration of the compositional material yields some surprisingly rich and varied connections. For example, the affinities between 7th century cellas in Cambodia and early Gupta models from central India are difficult to ignore. Further, the linkages between these cellas and the early Deccan experiments in structural stone raise questions about both idioms. The range of experimentation in Cambodia (in plan forms, superstructure and construction methods are discussed with reference to their Indic antecedents. The findings of the paper raise questions about the relation between temple and treatise; between theory and practice and between the individual temple and its collective corpus.
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