Asura

CULTURE:
Khmer empire
DATE:
late 12th–early 13th century
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General Description

Between 1100 and 1400 CE, the artists and builders of the great temples and sculptures created for Khmer rulers at Angkor produced many masterpieces of religious art. In them Hindu and Buddhist religious images were blended in a unique Kampuchean style. This large head depicts one of the asuras (antigods or demons) who were enlisted by the gods to churn the ocean of milk in order to extract amrita, the elixir of immortality, which the gods wanted for their own use. The theme of devas (gods) and asuras churning the elixir of immortality is seen repeatedly in Khmer sculpture. These two forces engaged in a struggle over the elixir of immortality in a myth relating to the Hindu god Vishnu, a patron deity of the Khmer kings.

Adapted from

  • "Figure of a dvarapala," in_ Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ ed. Charles Venable (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), 57.

  • Nancy Tingley, "Asura," in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 220.