Juli 14, 2014

The Mandala of Candi Gumpung (Sumatra) and the Indo-Tibetan Vajrasekharatantra


APPROXIMATELY A dozen years ago, Boechari (1985) published preliminary findings of the excavation of Candi Gumpung (Muara Jambi). This temple he holds to have been built from between the middle of the ninth to the beginning of the tenth century and to have been enlarged at least once in the eleventh or twelfth centuries. Among the material found at the site are 21 inscribed gold plates which together furnish the names, or fragments of the names, of some 22 deities. Boechari interprets these as belonging to the Vajradhatumandala, a mandala which traditionally in the secondary literature has been seen to have been present in the Indonesian Archipelago. Recently, the present writer published a study in which it was proposed that, despite the authority of the scholastic traditions of the West, no clear textual trace of this historically important mandala is to be found in Indonesia and that, in consequence, the syncretic mandalas of the yogatantras such as the Sakalajagadvinaya, Sarvadurgatiparisodhana and Trilokavijaya which may be shown to be extant in the Archipelago are chronologically prior to the Vajradhatu, which is orthodox insofar as it is inhabited by Buddhist divinities alone. That is, the yogatantra mandalas populated by both ‘Hindu’ and ‘Buddhist’ divinities are necessarily earlier than the Vajradhatumandala which, the Tattvasamgraha explicitly holds, the other mandalas reflect.

Since these conclusions have significant consequences for the history of the Buddhist tantra, indeed, for the religious history of India itself, in addition to the implications they have for the religious and cultural history of Indonesia, to wit, that syncretic features of its culture(s) are not necessarily of indigenous origin and that the primary influence of tantric Buddhism in Indonesia must have occurred before the compilation in India of the Tattvasamgraha as the fundamental text of the yogatantras, that is, in all probability sometimes before 700 A.D., it is of some interest to determine whether the data furnished by Candi Gumpung on Sumatra provide evidence either confirming or belying these interpretations reached on the basis of textual data from the Archipelago. It is the thesis of this paper that this reading indeed remains substantially unchallenged by the remains of Candi Gumpung and that the probable textual source of the mandala which the ritual deposits of this temple may represent is one or other version of material also found in portions of the extant Indo-Tibetan Vajrasekharatantra, whose likely presence in the Archipelago in a form differing greatly from the version available in the Tibetan canon has been proposed.

The material published by Boechari which will concern us consists of gold plates inscribed with short mantras which contain the names of tantric deities. These gold plates were found in six separate holes on the site. The collections of names found in each do not appear to form coherent groups. The readings furnished below are those given by Boechari. The underlined letters are those whose readings Boechari regards as problematic.[]


Max Nihom, “The Mandala of Candi Gumpung (Sumatra) and the Indo-Tibetan Vajrasekharatantra”, Indo-Iranian Journal, 41, 3 (1998): 245-254.
DOI: 10.1023/A:1003093413809; 10.1163/000000098124992691.

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