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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Art and Empire in Early Modern South India

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Taught in:
Term 2
This course critically examines the art and architecture of southern India from c.1300 to 1800, a period dominated by the Vijayanagara empire and its successor states, and the neighbouring Deccan sultanates. The regional focus is on the arts of the modern Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Kerala. The sustained engagement with one region of South Asia over 500 years will enable students to acquire depth of knowledge, combined with breadth of methodological and disciplinary approach to a range of visual and material culture.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student will be able to:

  • Critically analyse sculpture, paintings, architecture and urban landscapes from South Asia using appropriate vocabulary
  • Examine a range of approaches to understanding works of art from South Asia, focussing on southern India 1300-1800.
Learning Outcomes - Knowledge; Understanding; Skills
  • Knowledge of the chronological framework for the arts of southern India from c. 1300-1800.
  • Knowledge of the political, social and religious contexts for the production and use of art from southern India from c. 1300-1800.
  • Understanding of key themes in the study of religious art in South Asia.
  • The ability to critically analyse sculpture, paintings, architecture and urban landscapes from southern India using appropriate vocabulary.
  • The ability to constructively criticise the approaches and methods of art historians.

Scope and syllabus

The main issues to be discussed include: 

  • kingship, state formation and temples;
  • temples and sacred landscape at Vijayanagara, the ‘City of Victory’;
  •  Vijayanagara imperial identity and material culture;
  •  Tamil temple cities and the sacred centre;
  •  Islamic architecture in the Deccan;
  •  festivals, processions and Hindu ritual arts;
  •  architecture and religious identity in ‘monsoon Asia’;
  •  paintings from court, palace and temple in south India.

Method of assessment

Coursework (40%), exam (60%)

Suggested reading

  • Asher, Catherine B, and Cynthia Talbot. India before Europe, 2006.
  • Fritz, John, and George Michell. City of Victory: Vijayanagara, The Medieval Hindu Capital of Southern India, 1991.
  • Haidar, Navina Najat, and Marika Sardar, eds. Sultans of the South: Arts of India's Deccan Courts, 1323-1687, 2011.
  • Hutton, Deborah S. Art of the Court at Bijapur, 2006.
  • Michell, George. Architecture and Art of Southern India: Vijayanagara and the successor states, 1995.
  • Michell, George, and Mark Zebrowski. Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanates, 1999.
  • Verghese, Anila, and Anna L. Dallapiccola, eds. South India under Vijayanagara: Art and Archaeology, 2011.