ARTH 512/SARS 511: Proseminar in Indian Art, Spring 2003
Symbolic Architecture: The Indian Temple
History of Art Department, Jaffe 212, W 3-5
Professor Michael W. Meister
Jaffe 308; Williams 820

This proseminar will address readings on the development of architecture in South Asia with symbolic value. I propose to have the class organize readings around a variety of approaches and methodologies: issues of construction, translation of architectural forms into new materials, architectural symbolism, typologies and chronology, and the use and survival of buildings over time.

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 the Van Pelt library. To gain access, contact the South Asia bibliographer, David Nelson, or his staff.

Intention: This seminar will introduce you to the remarkable variety of India's architectural accomplishments and encourage you to discuss t broader issues of how architecture can be designed to express meaning. This year a particular agenda for the class will be to develop a reader of essays from past scholarship to represent how the field has developed and what approaches it takes today. This reader has been solicited by the publisher Permanent Black in a series on "South Asian History: Readings and Interpretations" (as was the Juneja volume below).

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

Books: One basic book has been ordered at the Penn Book Center on 34th street:

George Michell, The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms, 2nd ed., Chicago: Chicago University Press (paperback).

On Reserve in the Fine Arts Library:

Pramod Chandra, On the Study of Indian Art . Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Essays in Early Indian Architecture and Essays in Architectural Theory, ed. Michael W. Meister, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992, 1995.

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.

Monica Juneja, ed. Architecture in Medieval India, Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001.

Further readings will be assigned.

You may wish to refer to a previous reference bibliography prepared for an earlier version of this class:

and to a bibliography prepared previously for a course on "readings in the history of Indian art history":

We will, however, be developing a somewhat different bibliography throughout the semester.

A preliminary listing of some of the older material suggested for inclusion in the Permanent Black volume follows:


Bhattacharya, Tarapada. The Canons of Indian Art, Calcutta: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 2nd ed., 1963, pp.1-10: "Origin of Architecture in India."

Codrington, K. de B. Ancient India, London, 1926, pp. 58-59: restatement of Cunningham's thesis.

Cunningham, Alexander, on "flat-roofed" Gupta temples, Archaeological Survey of India Reports 10 (1873-74): 62.

Dhaky, M. A. "Pr~s~da as Cosmos," The Adyar Library Bulletin 35 (1971).

Fergusson, James. Selections from Rude Stone Monuments, etc.

Kosambi, D. D. The Culture & Civilization of Ancient India in Historical Outline, Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1970, pp. 193-198.

Kramrisch, Stella. "The Four-Cornered Citadel of the Gods," Journal of the American Oriental Society 75 (1955): 184-187.

Kramrisch, Stella. "The Superstructure of the Hindu Temple," Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art 12 (1944): 175-207.

Meister, Michael W. "Measurement and Proportion in Hindu Temple Architecture." Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 10 (1885): 248-258.

Meister, Michael W. "Temple Building in South Asia: Science as Technology's Constraint." In Science and Technology in India, ed. Peter Gaeffke and David A. Utz. Philadelphia: Department of South Asia Regional Studies, 1985, pp. 31-36.

Meister, Michael W. "Temples, T§rthas, and Pilgrimage: The Case of Osi~ñ." In Ratna-Chandrik~, ed. D. Handa & A. Agrawal, New Delhi: Harman Publishing House, 1989, pp. 275-282.

Meister, Michael W. "On the Development of a Morphology for a Symbolic Architecture: India," Res, Anthropology and Aesthetics 12 (1986): 33-50.

Meister, Michael W. "Construction and Conception: Mandap§ka Shrines of Central India," East and West, n. s. 26 (1978): 409-418.

Misra, R.N. pp. 65-72, "Artists in the Early Middle Ages."

Ram Raz. Some part from Essay on the Architecture of the Hindus, 1834.

Renou, Louis. "La maison védique," Journal Asiatique 231 (1939): 481-504 [trans. as 'The Vedic House'." Res Anthropology and Aesthetics 34 (1998): 141-161].

Sarkar, H. Studies in Early Buddhist Architecture in India, Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1966, pp. 3-14: "The Beginning."

Shulman, David Dean. Tamil Temple Myths, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980, pp. 40-55: "The Shrine as Center."

Stein, Burton. South Indian Temples, New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1978, pp. 1-3: selections from his "Introduction."

Simpson, William, "Origin and Mutation in Indian and Eastern Architecture," Transactions, Royal Institute of British Architects 8 (1891): 221-276.


Assignments: Please prepare a ca. 3-page response for each reading assignment directed at issues and ideas for discussion.

First week’s reading: Read the introductory section of George Michell’s The Hindu Temple and my essay, "Fragments From a Divine Cosmology: Unfolding Forms on India's Temple Walls," in Gods, Guardians, and Lovers in order to discuss the nature of the temple as architecture and current approaches to it. I am also handing out a brief essay, "Regions and Indian Architecture" [Nirgrantha 2(1997): 87-91] as an example of raising methodological questions.

Second week’s reading: Begin to assess Juneja’s introduction to Architecture in Medieval India (insofar as she touches on the study of pre-Islamic architecture in India) and compare it to Pramod Chandra’s essay on the study architecture. Outline the major figures they identify in the scholarship of the past century.

Third week’s reading: Coomaraswamy’s essay on "Huts and Related Temple Types" [Res, Anthropology and Aesthetics, 15 (1988): 5-26, reprinted in Essays in Early Indian Architecture) and Louis Renou’s essay on "The Vedic House" (Res 34 [1998]: 141-61) (the text is available at ) in order to introduce yourself to architectural traditions before temples began to be designed.