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Late Temple Architecture of India: 15th to 19th Centuries (Continuities, Revivals, Appropriations and Innovations)

Item Code: NAL606
Author: George Michell
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 9780199454679
Pages: 351 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 inch x 7.5 inch
Weight 870 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

From the Fifteenth century on, after a period of widespread destruction and demolition .India witnessed a resumption of temple of patronage and building activity. These ’late’ temples, However, are usually overlooked by architectural and art historians, who tend to privilege the earlier phases of Indian architecture and art the prevailing assumption being that India’s ‘Late ‘ temple are unworthy of serious attention. As illustrated in this volume, nothing could be further from the truth.

Accompanied by maps, photographs, as well as a selection of building plans, this book is the first wide-ranging accounts of temple architecture in the 500- year period that coincides with the rule of the sultanates, the mughals, and the British. Through a meticulous study of over 300 temples from 17 geographical zones, this book shows that, as far as temple architecture is concerned, these years were remarkably creative and vibrant.

The temple built during this period display a stating diversity of forms, structural diversity of forms, structural techniques, and aesthetic qualities. Rather than characterizing the appearance of domes, vaults, points arches, and other such ‘borrowing’ as inappropriately ‘christian’ as ‘Islamic’ this volume attempts to understand how such attributes came to be integrated a Hindu and Jain religious context.


About the Author

George Michell is professorial fellow at the School of Architecture, Building and Planning. University of Melbourne. His research has mainly concentrated on the Deccan, Bengal, Gujarat, and, most recently southern India. The projects have varied from surveys of town planning and Islamic buildings to detailed studies of temple architecture and sculpture. He has lectured at universities and museums throughout the USA Europe, India, and Australia



This volume is intended as an introduction to what is in effect an entirely new subjects: the temple architecture of India during a period that had in the past been labelled variously as ‘Late Medieval’, ‘Muslim’,’ Colonial’ and/or ‘British’ but which is here simply referred to as ‘late’ though defined by the actual time span to be covered, the 15th century makes a suitable moments to begin this investigation, since only from this time for the most part, did temple patronage and building construction resume to any extent after the 19th century serves as a convenient chronological limits to what is already an overambitious study; however , this cut-off date is not intended to imply that temple building activity in India abruptly ceased at this time.

A Personal Note
The author’s underlying concern in this volume has been to overcome a fundamental assumption only too common among art historians and architectural historians that India’s ‘late’ temples are unworthy of serious scholarly attention. In his understanding, this bias is mostly the result of an academic tendency to privilege the earlier phases of Indian art and architecture. Over the last years the author was encouraged to overcome such ‘prejudices’ due to a number of research projects with which he come to be associated. At the end of the 1970s, following in the footsteps of Davis McCutchion, a pioneer English researcher who died in Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1972, the author becomes acquainted with the brick temples of Bengal dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. Together with the archaeologist John M. Fritz and a team of dedicated young architects and archaeologists, he spent more than twenty years mapping and measuring the 14th-16th –century temples of southern India for the Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture issued by the American Institute of Indian Studies in New Delhi. He also contributed articles on Hindu religious monuments to monographs on southern India under vijayanagara, and on the Deccan region during sultanate and Mughal rule, both of which appeared in the New Cambridge History of India series, as well as chapters on 18th –and 19th –century Hindu shrines in Ahmadabad and Banaras (Varanasi) for illustrated volume published by the marg foundation in Mumbai. In a more recent Marg monograph dedicated to the great chola period monument at Thanjavur(Tanjore) in Tamil Nadu, the author considered the architectural additions commissioned by nayaka and Maratha patrons in the 17th -19th centuries.

One consequence of these varied assignments is that the author had the opportunity of exploring, and in the end appreciating, the architectural and artistic merits of India’s temple belonging to these ‘later’ centuries. Not that he was by any means the first to reach this position. A great many years ago James Fergusson (1876 and 1891) offered perceptive remark on Hindu and jain monument belongings to all periods of Indian architectural history. To be followed in this regard by Percy Brown (1956) and Klaus fischer (1974). More recently, dam hardy(2007) added a ‘What Happened Afterword’s epilogue to his analysis of Indian temple styles, while Crispin Branfoot (2007a) focused on architectural development in Tamil Nadu during the 16th and 17th centuries, and Julia A.B Hegewald(2009)extended her exhaustive survey of Jain temples well into the 19th and 20th centuries. In spite of such studies, as well as those of the author(Michel 1983,1988,1995a,1999,2001,and 2005, and Michell and Peterson 2010), there still exists a crucial lacunae in the scholarly literature on Indian religious architecture during the 15th -19th centuries; hence the present volume. In spite of the author’s efforts, he hopes that reader will accept his conclusion that a satisfactory, comprehensive treatment of the subject is not yet possible given the present limitation of available information, and will forgive the oversights and inaccuracies that are unavoidable in a work of this scope. Indeed the author will be pleased if this volume stimulates further research, and looks forward to learning about the endeavours of younger, more energetic generation of researchers.

Some Research Difficulties
One explanation for the inadequate scholarly literature on India’ a ‘late’ temple is the dearth of documentation. This situation contrasts markedly with Hindu and jain monuments prior to the 13th Century, the most important of which have been well described, measured, and photographed in an array of professional publication, most recently and systematically in successive volume of the Encyclopaedia of Indian temple Architecture just mentioned. The situation is altogether different for temple dating from the 15th century onwards, with a few notable exception, such as the monographs concentrating on particular religious monuments in vrindavan in Braj (Case 1996), Satrujaya in Gujarat (Burgess 1975), and Srirangam in Tamil Nadu ( Hari Rao 1967), in addition to the author’s own surveys. Otherwise, when temples of this era from the subjects of a particular study, scholarly attention tends to concentrate on religious beliefs and ritual practices rather then on architecture and art, as in the otherwise excellent monographs on the vishnupad temple in Gaya in Bihar(vidyarthi 1961), the shrines of Banaras(Varanasi) (Eck 1982), the Minakshi-sudareshvara complex in Madurai in Tamil Nadu(Fuller 1984), and the celebrated Kamakhya temple outside Gauhati in Assam (N.R Mishra 2004).The inadequate treatment of the architectural aspects of these and other ‘late’ temples has posed considerable difficulties to the survey attempted here, given the huge number of Hindu and Jain monuments belonging to these centuries scattered across the vast terrain of India, extending even into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Another problem facing any wide-ranging investigation of this type is that many temple lack inscribed records, Much historical data relevant to the religious monuments of these centuries are written on plam leaves or paper and still await professional scrutiny, such as the Marathi-language documents in the archives of pune, Indore, and Thanjvaur relevant to the Hindu sanctuaries commissioned by Maratha royal and military patrons. A further hindrance is that some significant Hindu edifices are now missing their original foundation records. The vitthala temple at Hampi, for instance ,was almost certainly provided with an imperial edict engraved onto a granite slab set up beside its entrance, but it is now lost. In contrast, shrines at popular pilgrimage destination, like those at Dwarka in Gujarat, Ellora in Maharashtra, and Srinagari in Malnad in western Karnataka, for instance, seem never to have been provided with foundation inscription. Possibly such omissions formed part of a conscious policy on the part of patrons to imbue these and other such religious endowments with a seemingly, timeless pedigree.

Another encumbrance to researcher is that many of the temple included here are ‘living’ monuments, crowded with priests and worshippers who do not necessarily welcome scholarly intrusion. The zeal manifested at some sites is certainly no aid to study and documents, as in Banaras, where cameras carried into the vicinity of the Vishvanatha (‘golden’) temple. A further restriction experienced by foreign scholars is that some temples are deemed inaccessible to non-Hindus, notably a number of significant Hindu monuments in Orissa, and virtually all of Kerala’s Hindu sanctuaries. In such circumstances, the author has had to rely on information generously provided by his Indian colleagues.

Plan of Volume
The volume is divided into three parts. The first part, consisting of two chapters, is conceived as a general background to the subject. Chapter 1 surveys the board patterns of temple construction in the approximately 500-year period covered in this volume, beginning with a prologue that considers the widespread desecration and demolition of its Hindu and Jain monuments at the hands of the Afghan and Central Asian conquerors. The author believes that it is important to acknowledge the profound break in building activity caused by the invading troops, and to investigate how this hiatus was eventually overcome by repairing earlier damaged temples and commissioning entirely new projects .The chapter ends with an epilogue briefly reviewing projects initiated after the end of the 19th century. Chapter 2 summarizes the principal devotional cults associated with the restoration and expansion of earlier temple, as well as the construction of entirely new religious monuments for both Hindu and Jain worshippers. Designed to accommodate the ritual requirements of a wide diversity of religious practise, these temple owed much to the investment on the part of powerful patrons, many belonging to ruling lineages, their family members, military commanders, and prime ministers. But temple building was also much stimulated by popular devotional movements, like those focusing on the worship of Krishna and Rama, as well as the cults of venerable saints and teachers. In such cases, temple construction was often financed by private sponsors, or by the money accumulated in the treasuries of Hindu and Jain religious institutions.

The second part of the volume is in the nature of an analysis of architectural style. The chapters here scrutinize the formal aspects of the temples, as expressed through their plans, elevations, and interiors, together with their sculpted and painted details. Here the author allocates three chapters to the dominant stylistic trends as isolated developments, but rather as interrelated processes, sometimes even present within a single monument. Chapter 3 explores architectural continuities and revivals of past practices in those parts of the country that experienced only minimal disruption in building activities. In Orissa, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu, for instance, this led to a resuscitation of earlier traditions, in which freshly repaired or newly founded temple more or less faithfully imitated their predecessors. Where local building practise had altogether been lost, or for some reason were deemed inappropriate for revival, styles from other zones were sometimes adopted, as in Karnataka and Rayalaseema under Vijayanagara, where an imported, earlier Tamil mode becomes the norm. As for the masters actually involved in designing and executing such revivalist projects, virtually no information is available. Some idea of their thinking, however, may be gleaned from the prescriptive texts, known as vastushastras, compiled during these centuries, as in Orissa, Gujarat, and Kerala, three zone with conspicuously conservative building traditions.

Though temple architects often relied on earlier building practice, they did not hesitate to appropriate attributes from contemporary sultanate, Mughal, and even European architecture. How else to explain the appearance of domes, vaults, and pointed arches, let alone Neo-Classic mouldings, cornices, and turrets? Chapter 4 avoids characterizing such ‘borrowings’ as inappropriately ‘Islamic’ or ‘Christian’, but instead attempts to understand how such non-indigenous attributes came to be integrated into a Hindu and Jain religious context. Combining revived from with elements from non-temple tradition led to numerous instance of invention, a process that is dealt with in a separate chapter. The author can only hope that the numerous instance of genuine architectural innovation that are identified in chapter 5 will offer a corrective to the long-held dismissal of such monuments as repetitive in from and uninspiring in spirit. Chapter 6, which is in the nature of a conclusion, attempts to view these diverse stylistic tendencies under the complementary heading of regionalism and pluralism, leading to a complex hybridism that may be considered a fundamental characteristic of the period.




  Note on Dates, spellings, maps, and bibliogaraphic References 7
  Preface 9
  Acknowledgements 15
Part One: Historical and Religious Background
1 Patterns of Building Activity 19
2 Devotional Cults and Temple patrons 43
  Part Two: Stylistic Trends  
3 Continuities and Revivals 65
4 Appropriations 87
5 Innovation 105
6 Overview 121
  Part Three: Key Monuments  
  The Extreme North  
7 Himachal Pradesh and Jammu 130
  Central India  
8 Braj 137
9 Bundelkhand 142
10 Avadh 151
  Eastern India  
11 Bihar and Jharkhand 160
12 Orissa 167
13 Bengal 180
14 Assam and Tripura 197
  Western India  
15 Rajasthan 204
16 Gujarat 229
  Malwa and the Deccan  
17 Malwa 246
18 Maharashtra 251
  The Western Coast  
19 Goa 264
20 Kanara and Malnad 267
21 Kerala 278
  Southern India  
22 Karnataka and Rayalaseema 289
23 Tamil Nadu 304
  Glossary of Architectural Terms 325
  Bibligraphy 328
  Illustration Credits 341
  Index of temples by site 342
  Index of Building Patrons 348
  About the Author 351


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