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Lecture | Friends of the Kern Institute Lecture

Fortune-tellers, Kings and the Dancing Lord: Sculpture from temple and court in early modern Tamil South India

Date
Thursday 20 June 2019
Time
Address
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 3
2311 BZ Leiden
Room
1.04 (Verbarium)

Fortune-tellers, Kings and the Dancing Lord

The late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Tamil south India was a period of political instability and cultural vitality. The gradual fragmentation of the Vijayanagara empire that had dominated southern India for two centuries until the 1560s resulted in several Nayaka courts ruling the Tamil region until the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Contemporary with the better-known arts of the Mughals, Rajputs and the sultanates of the Deccan further north, the visual arts of Nayaka-period south India have often been overlooked or subsumed into a broader category of ‘Vijayanagara period’ or simply later south Indian art and architecture. Yet many of the great temple cities in Kanchipuram, Srirangam or Madurai that remain in use today were substantially built in this period. In the nineteenth century, the major temples built in the early modern period from 1500-1800 were the subjects of early photography and surveys, but by around 1900 scholarly attention had shifted to the archaeological remains of the earliest temples in the region. The arts of the Pallavas and Cholas between the seventh and twelfth centuries have continued to receive the most detailed study over the past century of scholarship, but in the last thirty years there has been renewed interest in the art and visual culture of early modern south India. In this lecture, I will examine the festival halls and corridors built in the monumental temple-cities of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, the dramatic architectural sculptures of gods and kings, and the ivories and textiles consumed at court in order to demonstrate the vitality and artistic distinction of Nayaka-period south India.

About the speaker

Dr Crispin Branfoot is Reader in the History of South Asian Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London. His main research interests address the architecture, sculpture and paintings in the Hindu temples of southern India, especially the Tamil region. Among his publications are Gods on the Move: architecture and ritual in the south Indian temple (2007), with Roger Taylor, Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860 (2014) and with Archana Venkatesan, In Andal’s Garden: Art, Ornamentation and Devotion in Srivilliputtur (Marg, 2015). He is also the editor of Pilgrimage: The Sacred Journey (2006) with Ruth Barnes, Traditional Arts of South Asia: Continuity in Contemporary Patronage & Practice (2015) and Portraiture in South Asia since the Mughals: Art, Representation and History (2018).

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