Art Histories Seminar
Mo 11 Apr 2016 | 17:00–19:00

Small Models of Large Buildings?: On the Miniature Temple in Medieval India

Subhashini Kaligotla (Art Histories Fellow 2015/16)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Kadamara Kalava, India, Miniature Shrine, 7th Century CE. Courtesy: American Institute of Indian Studies.
Kadamara Kalava, India, Miniature Shrine, 7th Century CE. Courtesy: American Institute of Indian Studies.

Miniature shrines and stupas abound at sacred sites in South Asia. Clustered around monumental principal shrines, they are found at historical places of interest across the entire subcontinent. Yet, despite a hundred and fifty years of systematic scholarship on the Indian temple the miniature shrine has not generated sustained attention. Little has been said about the miniature’s meaning, function, and form: scholars automatically classify little temples as “votive shrines” or understand them as “shrine models” with no apparent justification for this point of view. Adopting Kadamara Kalava, a temple cluster in the eastern Deccan region, as a pivot, and considering Hindu and Buddhist sites in the medieval Deccan and beyond, this paper will attempt to disaggregate at least three key functions of the miniature shrine: commemoration, donation, and funereal. It will also investigate the similarities of the miniature’s operation in the Hindu and Buddhist contexts, as well as the differences. Finally, it will seek to explore the various polarities the diminutive building raises: monumentality and miniaturization; original and copy; signifier and signified; real and imagined; real and representation; prototype and replica; model and instantiation; functional and defunct.

Subhashini Kaligotla received her PhD from Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archaeology. She is at work on a book project entitled Argument and Ornament in the Architecture of Deccan India, which historicizes architectural cosmopolitanism in the early medieval period in the Deccan region of India. By examining Deccan uses of miniature architecture, linguistic polyglossia, and reception of diverse architectural traditions, the book turns attention to the agency of makers in creating the region’s heterogeneous built spaces. Kaligotla’s research and writing have been supported by fellowships from the Fulbright Program, the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, Dumbarton Oaks, and the Getty Research Institute. She is a 2015-16 Art Histories Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien.

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