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Title: Dismantling the Nganjuk and Surocolo maṇḍalas: seeking Esoteric Buddhism through a Javanese bronze typology
Authors: Lua, Nicholas Swee Yang
Keywords: Humanities::History::Asia::Indonesia
Humanities::History::Asia::Southeastern Asia
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Lua, N. S. Y. (2023). Dismantling the Nganjuk and Surocolo maṇḍalas: seeking Esoteric Buddhism through a Javanese bronze typology. Master's thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: This thesis investigates what bronze figural objects found in Java can tell us about Esoteric Buddhism, a form of transregional Buddhist thought and practice in which wrathful deities featured prominently, on the island. In particular, I ask whether two bronze hoards excavated in the 20th-century, the Nganjuk and Surocolo Bronzes, constitute Esoteric Buddhist maṇḍalas, which are arrangements of specific Buddhist deities in fixed patterns according to known Esoteric Buddhist texts. Given that scholars who have attempted to identify both hoards with maṇḍalas tend to force-fit the objects to known textual descriptions, overlooking the many non-correspondences between the bronzes and text, I am sceptical of these attempts. Aligned with the material turn, this thesis seeks a more rigorous approach to studying Java’s objects. Borrowing from archaeology, it uses the typological method to create a typology of a hundred bronze objects, including the Nganjuk and Surocolo hoards, that have been attributed to Ancient Southeast Asia’s Middle Classic Period (10-12th centuries). According to my typology, there are 17 artefact types, and six of these are connected with two forms of Esoteric Buddhism: one more ferocious form associated with macabre demonic imagery and aggressive weapons, and a more benign form associated with weapons. These findings about Java’s Esoteric Buddhist dynamics force us to reconsider the theory of Nganjuk and Surocolo being maṇḍalas, and this thesis also shows exactly how the iconographic and stylistic elements of both hoards fail to align with textual sources. Even as both hoards are not maṇḍalas, they do possess certain qualities associated with maṇḍalas. Nganjuk orders deities hierarchically, while Surocolo contains almost-complete sets of deities that form sub-sections of known textual maṇḍalas. These maṇḍalic principles suggest that, even as the texts describing maṇḍalas codified particular ways of organising deities and deity groups, these maṇḍalic principles continued to develop independent of the texts and manifested clearly in Java’s material culture.
DOI: 10.32657/10356/171860
Schools: School of Humanities 
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:SoH Theses

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