The First States



The First States

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From the first few centuries BC Hindu and Buddhist missionaries from India and Sri Lanka came to Southeast Asia. Over the next millennium distinctly Indianized kingdoms emerged. The Dvaravati Kingdom (6th–11th centuries) flourished in what is now the heart of Thailand; the Srivijaya Empire of Sumatra (7th–13th centuries) was strong in the pen insula; while the Khmer Empire (9th–13th centuries) expanded from Cambodia. The Tai, from southern China, migrated to the area from the 11th century onward.

Flying Buddha (8th–9th centuries) This Dvaravati sculpture shows the Buddha on the back of Panaspati, a strange beast that comprises Nan din the bull, Shiva’s mount, and a garuda (a mythical bird).

Stone Relief

Dvaravati craftsmen were renowned for their stonework. They excelled at bas-reliefs such as this one, at Wat Suthat, which depicts Buddhist and Hindu figures.

Dvaravati Deities

Dvaravati bas-reliefs, found in a cave near Saraburi, central Thailand, depict Brahma, Vishnu, the Buddha, and flying figures.


This Khmer basrelief, one of many found at Angkor Wat , shows the god-king, or devaraja, King Suryavarman II (1113–50).

Terra-cotta Lion (8th-century) Dvaravati figures, such as this lion from Phetchaburi, were influenced by earlier Gupta art from India.

Srivijayan Buddha

This Buddha image, one of the most notable of the Srivijaya period, was found in Chaiya, an ancient city in peninsular Thailand.

Khmer Lintel

The Khmers built temples throughout their vast empire, many of which are in present-day Northeast Thailand. Intricate stone carvings are a striking feature of the monuments – the characters depicted are mainly Hindu, though some are Mahayana Buddhist. This lintel, from Prasat Hin Khao Phnom Rung, depicts a Hindu creation myth.

Where to See the First States

Dvaravati, Srivijayan, and Khmer artifacts can be seen at the Bangkok National Museum as well as at other regional national museums. Two Dvaravati-style chedis can be seen at Wat Chama Thewi in Lamphun. Phra Boromathat Chaiya is the best-surviving example of a Srivijayan temple. Khmer sites in Thailand include Prasat Hin Phimai and Prasat Hin Khao Phnom Rung.

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