Accepted Papers:

Early Avalokitsvara statuettes from insular Southeast Asia and ascetic iconography  


Sofia Sundstrom (University of Leiden)

Paper Short Abstract:

A number of ascetic Avalokiteśvara statuettes have been found across insular Southeast Asia. A study of this iconography, which was only temporarily in use,allows us a better understanding of the local development of Buddhism.

Paper long abstract:

The earliest form of Avalokiteśvara in Southeast Asia is a standing form that is spread along the coast in the western part of Southeast Asia (Thai-Malay Peninsula, Java and Sumatra). These statuettes can give us further information about the Buddhism practiced during their period of production. I propose that the ascetic Avalokiteśvara images discussed in this paper may have played an important part in the early propagation of Mahāyāna Buddhism in insular Southeast Asia during the 7th century CE. These statuettes show Avalokiteśvara standing and wearing a plain lower garment without a sacred thread and jewellery. The iconography of these various statuettes can be linked to the ascetic Avalokiteśvara reliefs found in Buddhist Cave complexes such as Aurangabad and Ellora as well as the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra illustrating a possible geographical source of Buddhist influence.

panel P13
Symbolism of ancient sculptural art evidenced across the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Bali