An analysis of the sculpture of Candi Sukuh in Central Java : its meanings and religious functions 1437-1443 C.E.

Sbeghen, Jo-Anne Maree. (2005). An analysis of the sculpture of Candi Sukuh in Central Java : its meanings and religious functions 1437-1443 C.E. PhD Thesis, School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Sbeghen, Jo-Anne Maree.
Thesis Title An analysis of the sculpture of Candi Sukuh in Central Java : its meanings and religious functions 1437-1443 C.E.
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2005
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor H. Creese
Total pages 283
Language eng
Subjects 430205 Historical Archaeology (incl. Industrial Archaeology)
750900 Understanding Past Societies
Formatted abstract
The temple complex of Sukuh in Central Java is a valuable record of the spiritual beliefs and ritual performances of communities that utilised the site during the fifteenth century. To date, there has been no detailed examination of the architecture of Sukuh or its large corpus of statuary and narrative reliefs. Early scholars considered Sukuh enigmatic and outside the theoretical framework of the Classical period in Javanese art of the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. By virtue of its terraced design, truncated pyramid, obelisk-shaped stones, and stark unadorned sculpture Sukuh was categorised as megalithic and the product of pre-Hindu religious practice, devoted to fertility cults and to the worship of ancestors and chthonic mountain spirits. Based on preconceived notions and inappropriate sources, this superficial view has become the standard interpretation in the literature. This thesis investigates the meanings and religious functions of Sukuh based on the description and analysis of the artwork on its own pictorial and intra-visual terms, and interprets the images in an appropriate cultural context for the period 1437-1443 C.E. The research incorporates new directions in the field of Indonesian art history including considerations of geographical and architectural contexts, matters of style, codes of representation and visual metaphor, scene selection, and cultural traditions. It provides new interpretations and identifications of the images where appropriate. Using a semiotic approach, this thesis demonstrates that Sukuh was a coherent complex of temples, which facilitated ritual practices concerned with purification and spiritual empowerment, and that Sukuh was utilised by a community drawn from the ksatria class of Javanese society. The spring water at Sukuh, which was channelled to flow over and through the architecture, was transformed symbolically into amrta, the water of life and elixir of immortality. The sculptures functioned as objects of contemplation, presenting its ksatria audience with exemplary models in the attainment of amrta and the use of its divine creative power to maintain world order. Ksatria figures are depicted at Sukuh journeying into the forest to meditate, to undergo ordeals, to summon gods for assistance, to bathe at sacred springs, to engage in warfare and to do battle with demons. This religious ideology is consistent with what is known of Hindu-Javanese culture. Despite its differences, there is enough evidence from this close reading of the images to remove Sukuh from its peripheral context of megalithic art and position it back in the mainstream of Classical art with which Sukuh is related both thematically and iconographically.
Keyword Sculpture, Javanese -- Indonesia -- Sukuh.
Hindu sculpture -- Indonesia -- Sukuh.
Temples -- Indonesia -- Sukuh.
Symbolism in art -- Indonesia -- Sukuh.
Sukuh (Indonesia) -- Social life and customs.
Additional Notes Note: The author is also known as Grimmond, Jo-Anne Maree

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Mon, 20 Sep 2010, 12:13:32 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service