Varuna or Brahma?

This headless sculpture (pic.1) is on display in Gallery E: Angkor Thom, dated to Angkorian period, Bayon style, late 12th-early 13th centuries. According to EFEO’s archives in August 1962, this sculpture is originally from Prasat Prei (Pic.2).

Of note, he rides a sacred swan “Hamsa” in the same way Varuna, the god of rain, water and the ocean. In Khmer art, Varuna God is usually represented with two arms and riding one headed Hamsa or three-headed Hamsa (pic.3) or in some cases on Naga (Pic.4). His main attribute is a noose, commonly held in the right hand.

Even though, please take a look at this headless sculpture again, he has four arms, and one of them is probably carrying a scripture which can be one of the most important attributes of Lord Brahma. Brahma usually rides a sacred swan like Varuna but he’s got four arms and four faces. Furthermore, we found a rubbing paper of four God images related to the cosmic divine, carved on the sides of a linga from Preah Pithu temple group in Angkor Thom, one of them is clearly depicted four-arms and four-faced Brahma on a Hamsa (pic.5). For more details, please read an article of Nine Deities panel in Ancient Cambodia, written by Chhum Menghong.

Therefore, this headless sculpture can be assumed as the image of Brahma.

Photo credits: ANM, EFEO, Chhum Menghong & NMC.


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