The galactic polity in Southeast Asia

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The galactic polity in Southeast Asia

HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Religion
  • Southeast Asian Studies


Microsoft Word - Tambiah_TheGalacticPolity_Reprint_HAU_2013_3_3_FINAL.doc 2013 | HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3 (3): 503–34 This work is licensed under the Creative Commons | © Stanley Tambiah. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported. ISSN 2049-1115 (Online) REPRINT The galactic polity in Southeast Asia Stanley Jeyaraja TAMBIAH, Harvard University I have coined the label galactic polity to represent the design of traditional South- east Asian kingdoms, a design that coded in a composite way cosmological, topo- graphical, and politico-economic features. The label itself is derived from the con- cept of mandala, which according to a common Indo-Tibetan tradition is com- posed of two elements—a core (manda) and a container or enclosing element (la). Mandala designs, both simple and complex of satellites arranged around a center, occur with such insistence at various levels of Hindu-Buddhist thought and practice that one is invited to probe their representational efficacy. Mandala as cosmological topography Cosmological schemes of various sorts in Tantric Hinduism and Buddhism have been referred to as mandala—for example, the cosmos as constituted of Mount Meru in the center surrounded by oceans and mountain ranges. At a philosophical and doctrinal level, the Buddhist Sarvastivadin school represented the relation between consciousness (citta) and its associated mental phenomena (caitta) in terms of the law of satellites, wherein consciousness placed in the center is surr- ounded by ten caitta, each of which again is surrounded by four laksana, or sate- llites (Stcherbatsky 1923; Conze 1970). The design and arrangement of the magni- ficent architectural monuments like Borobodur and Angkor Vat have been called mandala (Mus 1935, 1936). Publisher’s note: This is a reprint of Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. 1973. “The galactic polity in Southeast Asia.” In Culture, though

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