Bell with Buddha and Ganesha Figures

Cambodia, Khmer empire (ca. 802-1431), 12th century


8¾ × (dia) 5⅛ in. (22.22 × [dia] 13.01 cm)

Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas, 1990.7

Piece Description:

Relics of Khmer bronze casting include sculptures and ritual objects as exemplified in this work. Bronze casting has a long history in Southeast Asia, emerging sometime around 1000 BCE, perhaps adopted from technology in use in China at this time. By 500 CE, bronze casting was a major industry in Southeast Asia.

This bell is a vivid example of the syncretic nature of Khmer beliefs. A small Buddha seated in meditation appears on one face of the bell handle while the opposite face has an image of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati. Petal-like shapes flank both sides of these figures. The handle of the bell rises in two foliated arcs that, upon closer inspection, conceal a pair of confronting dragons. Gods, kings, demons, and leaves bring their respective forces to bear in this small surprising object. Bells are employed to direct the mind and signal phases in ceremonial worship in both Tantric Buddhism and Tantric Hinduism. Imprints of both religions, the devaraja cult fusing ruler and divinity, and animistic beliefs invest this bell with powers to perform its function of intersecting time with sound.












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