This anthology represents papers most characteristic of the author’s investigative strengths and methods in the domains of Indian art history and Indology. The selected papers were published between 1979 and 2015. In numerous case, the large time span covered by these papers has been brought up-to-date. New information reflects developments in the field or in the author’s thinking, and it is field or in the author’s thinking, and it is noted by an asterisk at the end of a given paper.
The sixteen papers in Volume I fall within four main themes: Saiva, Vaisnava, Secular and Folk Themes as well as Narrative Art. Within these broad categories, analyses and interpretations range across a wide spectrum: Indus Valley material, early sectarian sculpture, temple architecture, miniature paintings, Vedic ritual construction. Most of the topics treat the art in the context of the culture of the Indo-Gangetic Plains, that is, India above the Vindhya Mountains. The author’s studies on the arts beyond this region, comprising the arts from Gandhara, will form the contents of Volume II.
Some specific topics advanced in this volume are: the likely Vedic origin of Rudra- Siva; the meaning and significance of Saiva and Vaisanva icons with the multiplicity convention; Krsna’s Pre- Puranic imagery from Mathura; a new attribute associated with Samkarsana/Balarama; the importance of courtesans in ancient India and a newly recognized statue of one beauty; icons attesting to ancient Snake cults; understanding the artistic consequences of Mathura’s emphasis on the oral transmission of sacred knowledge.
Scholars and students alike will be stimulated by the findings and methodology found in this volume.
Doris Meth Srinivasan is Research Professor, Department of Asian and Asian- American Studies/Center of India Studies, State University of New York at Stony Brook.
A Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania, she authored nearly ninety publications including a documentary film on the Hindu Ritual Sandhya. Her books include: On the Cusp of an Era: Art in the Pre- Kusana Word ( Editor, Brill, 2007); Many Heads, Arms and Eyes. Origin, Meaning and Form of Multiplicity in Indian Art (Brill, 1997); Urban Form and Meaning in South Asia: The Shaping of Cities from Prehistoric to Precolonial Times (Studies in the History of Art, No. 31, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, London and Hanover, 1993); Mathura: The Cultural Heritage (Editor, Sponsored by The American Institute of Indian Studies, Delhi, 1989); Concept of Cow in the Rig Veda (Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, 1979). Her papers and reviews are mainly in the areas of specializations: early Hindu and Buddhist art of South Asia; Brahmanic religion and culture.
A Getty Scholar in 1999, She held the Hohenberg Chair of Excellence in Art History at the University of Memphis, 2001-2002. Some of her awards include: National Endowment for the Humanities grant (twice); American Institute of Indian Studies Fellow (twice); ACLS Fellow; President: American Committee for South Asian Art, 1984-1987.
She taught at Columbia University; George Washington University; Haverford College; George Mason University; and was the curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
I first met Doris Srinivasan when she visited the Varanasi Center of AIIS; it was sometime in 1979. I was present at the Planning Sessions she had arranged for the Seminar on Mathura with the title "The Cultural History of Ancient Mathura". The Seminar was sponsored by the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), Varanasi, for eight days, precisely from 7th to 15th January, 1980. The venues were Mathura and the AIIS, New Delhi. The learned papers, 36 in number, that covered eight different disciplines, read at the Seminar were compiled in categories that were carefully edited and next published in a monumental volume with the title "Mathura: The Cultural Heritage", New Delhi, 1989. Doris was the General Editor of those contributions at the Seminar she conceived and convened. Qualitatively and from the research point of view, it is a long lasting achievement for which art and cultural historians will long be grateful to her.
She is now getting published 16 learned articles which reflect a high level of scholarship and profound erudition. At the base of it is the very rigorous methology she employs. Using a multidisciplinary approach, she attempts to understand why an image was made and what it meant at the time it was made to persons worshipping the image (which may or may not be the same as what it meant to craftsmen who fashioned the image). In pursuit of this central concern, she tries to place the icon into its historical and cultural orbit.
The result is seen in these insightful research articles which have appeared in reputed journals, or read in seminars and congresses, or have appeared in different kinds of monographs. Most of these publications are not known nor readily available in India. In numerous cases, the author has brought information up-to-date by attaching addenda to some papers. So her compilation-Listening to Icons, Volume I: Indian Iconographic and Iconological Studies-will prove a most useful volume for reference and study for the art historians in India, and of course the world over.
The studies fall into four main categories: Saiva Themes, Vaisnava Themes, Secular and Folk, and lastly, Narrative Themes. They represent in-depth analyses covering as they do a broad range of topics from Indus seals to Gupta and post- Gupta icons. The author's aim is to allow the objects to define their meaning. That aim is highlighted in the title of Volume I, and Volume II, forthcoming. The researches of this distinguished scholar will impress the reader for the thoroughness and originality of approach and for the sophistication of her inimitable style.
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