by Ang Choulean

How the Navagraha, the nine Indic celestial deities, transformed in Ancient Khmer iconography.

Navagraha Ang Choulean

Publication: Udaya, Journal of Khmer Studies, n. 14, pp 139-142 | Translated by Chum Menghong and Ashley Thompson

Published: 2019

Author: Ang Choulean

Pages: 4

Language : English

In Hindu astrology, the nine Navagraha are Suryat (he Sun), Chandra (the Moon), Mangala (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Bṛhaspati (Jupiter), Shukra (Venus), Shani (Saturn), Rahu (Shadow body associated with the ascending (or north) lunar node), Ketu (Shadow body associated with the descending (or south) lunar node).

The author shows how the Sanskrit term was transposed in nabagroh (sacred planets) in Old Khmer. But the adaptation was not only linguistical: the celestial deities become, in Khmer cosmogony, lokapal (guardians of the World).

The study focuses on several iconographic examples from the 10th and 11th centuries, in particular a bas-relief found in Ak Yom, a smaller temple excavated from Angkor's Western Baray.

Photo: Navagraha at Ak Yom Temple, detail (by Ang Choulean)

Tags: astrology, Khmer sculpture, cosmogony

About the Author

Angchoulean2 2

Ang Choulean

Ang Choulean អាំង ជូលាន (1 Jan 1949, Kompong Kleang, Cambodia) is an anthropologist, a professor of historical anthropology at the Royal University of Fine Arts and a former Director of the Department of Culture of APSARA.

He was the second Cambodian national to be granted the Fukuoka Grand Prize in 2011.

Ang Choulean is the author of numerous academic papers and books, including an ethnographic essay on Food and Cuisine in the Angkor Area (La cuisine d'Angkor, 2020).

Read Prof. Choulean reflections on reading, education and the need for scholarly debate in Cambodia (Khmer Times, 3 May 2023).