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Scenes from Swarga (the afterlife)
Tabing temple painting depicting 'Swarga' - a hell scene. Anthony Forge Collection. Bali, Indonesia. AM Collection E74161. Image: Emma Furno
© Australian Museum

This painting was collected in the 1970s from a temple in the Karangasem district in Bali. Professor Anthony Forge, a prominent academic at the Australian National University, who collected this painting, considered it one of the best in his collection. It is a work of fine quality, dated to the middle of the 19th century. The inscription in the bottom right corner suggests that the picture illustrates the afterlife as described in a lontal (palm leaf manuscript) completed in about 1303 Saka (Balinese lunar calendar), corresponding to the year 1381 (Western calendar).

The image comprises a number of scenes, mostly depicting punishment in the afterlife. In the top-right corner, people are shown with two holy figures probably hanging from the trees. Yama, the Hindu god of the underworld, appears in the middle of the painting, holding a flaming club. He is placed within a scalloped nimbus which is the conventional depiction of deities in classical Balinese paintings. Yama supervises his demons, who inflict a variety of torments on humans, according to their earthly transgressions. The panel across the bottom of the painting consists of a leyak (female witch) on the left, a long scene of mishaps at sea with monsters attacking boats, and a man fishing on the right.