Art 514: Proseminar in Indian Art Fall 2000


Hist. of Art Dept., Jaffe Building 113, Weds. 3-5

Professor Michael W. Meister, Jaffe 308

Archive: The University of Pennsylvania houses a photographic archive of Indian art and architecture (now over 100,000 photographs) as part of the W. Norman Brown South Asia Reference Room on the fifth floor west end of Van Pelt library. To gain access, contact the South Asia bibliographer, David Nelson, or his staff. This Archive should be an integral part of your work this semester.

Intention: This seminar will both introduce you in the remarkable variety of India's architectural accomplishments and encourage you to discuss the broader issues of how architecture can be designed to express meaning. In the past I have sometimes asked students to divide into groups to work together to frame one area of India's architecture. Categories have been: Early Indian architecture; South Indian architecture; North Indian architecture; early Islamic architecture in India.

This year, I propose to organize readings around a variety of approaches and methodologies: issues of construction, translation of architectural forms into new materials, architectural symbolism, typology and chronology, and praxis (the use and survival of buildings over time).

I will ask you to work collectively, but on different aspects or examples of the general area, reporting in class on the literature, issues, ideas, and substance appropriate to each.

Books: Four books have been ordered by the Penn Book Center (130 S. 34th St.):

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Essays in Early Indian Architecture, ed. Michael W. Meister, Oxford University Press, 1993. (This may now be out of print, but is available in the Fine Arts Library reserve.)

Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images, Princeton, 1997 (Princeton University Press paperback).

James C. Harle, The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent (Pelican History of Art). New York, 1986.

George Michell, The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms, New York, 1977 (Chicago University Press paperback).

Other books of interest will be placed on Reserve in the Fischer Fine Arts Library and the South Asia Reading Room in Van Pelt, near the photo archive.

Course assignments: In addition to participation in class discussion, students will be asked to prepareshort reports on reading for presentation in class and to choose an area for research leading to a final presentation and paper.


Brief Bibliography of General Surveys:

Batley, Claude. The Design Development of Indian Architecture, 3rd rev. enl. ed., London, 1973.

Brown, Percy. Indian Architecture, vol. 1. Buddhist and Hindu periods, vol. 2. Islamic period, 5th ed., Bombay, 1965-68.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon. London, 1913.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. History of Indian and Indonesian Art. New York, 1927.

Fergusson, James. History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, London, 1876; rev. and ed. by James Burgess, 2 vol., London, 1910.

Herdeg, Klaus. Formal Structure in Indian Architecture, preface by Balkrishna Doshi, New York: Rizzoli, 1990 (1978).

Mayamata. An Indian Treatise on Housing, Architecture, and Iconography, trans. by Bruno Dagens, Delhi, 1985.

Pereira, José. Elements of Indian Architecture, Delhi, 1987.

Tadgell, Christopher. The History of Architecture in India: From the Dawn of Civilization to the End of the Raj, London: Architecture Design and Technology Press, 1990.

Volwahsen, Andreas. Living Architecture: Indian and Living Architecture: Islamic Indian, New York, 1969-70.

Check out also the Grove Dictionary of Art in the Fine Arts Reference room, and on-line at

First general reading assignment: (Read for issues, not to get bogged down in the substance of these readings)

Riegl, Alois. "The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin," trans. by Kurt W. Foster and Diane Ghirardo, in Oppositions 25 (1982): 21-51.

Meister, Michael and Joseph Rykwert. "Adam's House and Hermits' Huts," in Coomaraswamy, Early Indian Architecture (above), pp. 125-31.

Renou, Louis. "The Vedic House." Res Anthropology and Aesthetics 34 (1998): 141-61. (University Museum library) The text of this translation is available at:


Brief Thematic Bibliography:

This list will be revised throughout the semester.

1. Introduction

Meister, Michael W. "An Essay in Indian Architecture," Roopa Lekha 41 (1973): 35-47.

----------, "De- and Re-constructing the Indian Temple," Art Journal 49 (1990): 395-400.

Riegl, Alois, "The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin," trans. Kurt Forster and Diane Ghirardo, Oppositions 25 (1982): 21-51.

Rykwert, Joseph and Michael W. Meister. "On Adam's House and Hermits' Huts," in Coomaraswamy, Essays in Early Indian Architecture.

2. Architectural vocabulary of early India

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. Essays in Early Indian Architecture. [Introduction, plates, and the categories and analysis (not the terms) in the text.]

Dehejia, Vidya. Early Buddhist Rock Temples, Ithaca, N.Y., 1972.

Meister, Michael W., "Asceticism and Monasticism as Reflected in Indian Art." In Monastic Life in the Christian and Hindu Traditions, ed. A. Creel and V. Narayanan. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990, pp. 219-44.

--------, "Sub-Urban Planning and Rock-Cut Architecture in India," in Madhu, Recent Researches in Indian Archaeology and Art History, ed. M. S. Nagaraja Rao, Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan, 1981, pp. 157-64.

Mitra, Debala. Buddhist Monuments. Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad, 1971.

Renou, Louis. "The Vedic House." Res Anthropology and Aesthetics 34 (1998): 141-61.

3. Symbolism

John Irwin, "'Asokan Pillars: A Reassessment of the Evidence, Part IV: Symbolism," Burlington Magazine 118 (November 1976): 734-753.

Meister, Michael W. "Altars and Shelters in India," aarp (Art and Archaeology Research Papers) 16 (1979): 39.

--------, "Construction and Conception: Mandapika Shrines of Central India," East and West, new series 26 (1978): 409-18.

--------, "Symbol and Surface: Masonic and Pillared Wall-Structures in North India," Artibus Asiae 46 (1985): 129-48.

--------, "Symbology and Architectural Practice in India." In Sacred Architecture in the Traditions of India, China, Judaism and Islam, ed. Emily Lyle, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1992, pp. 5-24.

4. Form

Meister, Michael W. "De- and re-constructing the Indian temple." Art Journal 49 (1990): 395-400.

--------, "Fragments From a Divine Cosmology: Unfolding Forms on India's Temple Walls." In Vishakha N. Desai and Darielle Mason (eds.), Gods, Guardians, and Lovers: Temple Sculptures from North India A.D. 700-1200, New York: The Asia Society Galleries, 1993, pp. 94-115.

--------,"Prasada as Palace: Kutina Origins of the Nagara Temple," Artibus Asiae 49 (1989): 254-80.

Sinha, Ajay J. "Architectural Invention in Sacred Structures: the Case of Vesara Temples of Southern India." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 55 (1996): 382-99.

5. Measurement and Mapping

Bafna, Sonit. "On the Idea of the Mandala as a Governing Device in Indian Architectural Tradition." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 59 (2000): 26-49.

Meister, Michael W. "Mandala and Practice in Nâgara Architecture in North India." Journal of the American Oriental Society 99 (1979): 204- 19.

--------, "Measurement and Proportion in Hindu Temple Architecture," Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 10 (1985): 248-58.

[for other articles on measurement, see my CV]

6. Transformation/translation

Mason, Darielle. "A Sense of Time and Place, Style and architectural Disposition of Images on the North Indian Temple," in Gods, Guardians, and Lovers, pp. 116-37.

--------, "Juncture and Conjunction: Punning and Temple Architecture." Artibus Asiae 41 (1979): 226-34.

7. Re-formation

Meister, Michael W. "Indian Islam's Lotus Throne: Kaman and Khatu Kalan." In Islam and Indian Regions, ed. Anna Libera Dallapiccola and Stephanie Lallemant. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, pp. 445-52.

-------, "The Two-and-a-Half Day Mosque." Oriental Art, new series, 18 (1972): 57-63.

8. Praxis

Meister, Michael W. "Sweetmeats or Corpses? Art History and Ethnohistory." Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics 27 (1995).

Davis,Richard H. Lives of Indian Images, Princeton, 1997 (selected reading).