George Cedes and K. Ananda Coomaraswamy made astute observations on the cult of deified royalty in South Asia for the first time. The cult of Devaraja or God King was the Cambodian State religion, while it may have originated in Java under the great Shrivijaya may have originated in Java under the great Shrivijaya Empire at a time when it exercised some control over Cambodia and Siam. Of the thirteen temples attributed to the Khmer Kings in Cambodia six were certainly dedicated, between the ninth and eleventh centuries, to the royal linga. A seventh, Angkor Wat, became the mausoleum of its founder Suryavrman ll. And, finally, Bayon, built at the end of the twelfth century was installed with an image of Jayabuddha, named after jayavarman VII. The focus of the new cult instituted by jayavarman II was a deity known in Khmer language as 'the master of the world who is the king', the equivalent in Sanskrit being devaraja. The Cambodian version is similar to the Hindu cult of the World Ruler, the Chakravartin.
In Asia the king did become god. And all power, religious and secular, was centered in him, the task of tracing the Devaraja Cult is simplified in a series of Temple Mountains where the consecrated image is associated by its name with the kingly founder, thus revealing 'several devaraja' in a flourishing cult. In the cult, a unique image created in a particular era was passed on to the successor. The hypothesis of a single devaraja venerated as a deity throughout the centuries ought to raise some difficulties. The devaraja cult in India as elsewhere in Asia is unique when considered as a philosophical and religious conception that coincides with the veneration of ancestors and guardians of the soil. It seems that the originality of the devaraja cult lay in the integration of the personal cult of the king into a system in which the deification of the eternal principle of royalty was adopted to ensure stability, peace and prosperity. On 27th and 28th March 2001 distinguished scholars gathered in the influence of the royal cult in Asian art and architecture, which merits greater attention. The proceedings published in this volume, it is hoped, is a fitting tribute to Dr. Grace Mac Cann Morley, who encouraged advancement of knowledge in order to place the material culture of India in its historical and cultural context.
About the Author
Arputha Rani Sengupta is Associate Professor in History of Art at the National Museum Institute (Deemed University), New Delhi, since 1996. she has coordinated several symposiums, including God & King: Devaraja Cult. She has lectured widely and published extensively her writings on diverse aspects of art and culture in journals and contributed to leading publications, including the IGNCA. Sengupta specialises in cross cultural studies and Globalisation during the early Buddhist period in India. She is currently writing on Symbols and Substitutes in Early Buddhist Art under ICHR grant. Her book on Art of Terracotta (2005) brings together extraordinary votive terracotta of India from early historic to late medieval period to trace their morphology, cult and cultural synthesis. In particular the phenomena of 'Interpretation Ramana' may be observed in early terracotta that reveal unprecedented assimilations. The internationalism and interculituralism evidenced by the material culture of the Early Buddhist Period in India is investigated further in her forthcoming book on Buddhist Jewellery.
Sengupta has been teaching Art History since 1977. She was Assistant Professor in History of fine Arts in Stella Maris College, Chennai and at Lasbrey Teachers' College in Imo State, Nigeria. A First Ranker in History of fine Arts from he University of Washington, Seattle, and obtained her Ph. D. in Art History from Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. As a practicing artist she has also exhibited extensively and has received awards for her paintings, several of which are in public and private collections.
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