SOAS University of London

History of Art and Archaeology

Hindu Art in Medieval India

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

Images of Hindu gods, goddesses and divine beings, and the sacred spaces, temples and shrines in which they are located have been made for the past two thousand years. This course examines the Hindu temple architecture and sculpture produced in South Asia from the early centuries CE through to the 13th century. This period spans the earliest appearance of Hindu imagery, the development of monumental temples across the region through to the political transformation of the region by the expansion of the Delhi sultanate. Critical attention to key sites and material will be combined with breadth of methodological and disciplinary approach to a range of visual and material culture. Key themes addressed include: material religion and the study of Hinduism; kingship, politics and temple Hinduism; the language and symbolism of Hindu sacred architecture; Hindu visuality and temple ritual; political allegory and religious narratives; principles and practice of image-making; myth and iconography in Hindu sculpture; architecture and iconographic programmes. Classes will be complemented by visits to the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successfull completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Critically analyse sculpture and architecture from South Asia using appropriate vocabulary.
  • Examine a range of approaches to understanding works of art from South Asia, focussing on Hindu art and architecture in the period 400-1300.
  • Identify major historical sites dating from the period 400-1300.
  • Recognise the main images of Hindu deities.


One hour lecture, one hour seminar

Scope and syllabus

  1. Hinduism and Hindu art
  2. Temple Hinduism and the arts of the Gupta ‘golden age’
  3. Cave-temples of the Deccan
  4. Political allegory and the art of the Pallavas in southern India
  5. Materials and methods of Indian sculpture (V&A Museum)
  6. Reading Week
  7. Heavens on Earth: form and meaning in Hindu temple architecture
  8. Royal gods and sacred kings: the Chola temple
  9. Processions and presence in Tamil south India
  10. Khajuraho and the politics of temple building
  11. Gods, guardians and lovers in north Indian temples (British Museum)

Method of assessment

  • One 750 word object analysis - 20%
  • One 1,500-1,750 word essay - 30%
  • One two hour exam - 50%

Suggested reading

  • Asher, Frederick M., ed. Art of India: Prehistory to the Present. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2003.
  • Davis, Richard H. Lives of Indian Images. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997
  • Dehejia, Vidya. Indian Art. London: Phaidon, 1997
  • Dehejia, Vidya. The Body Adorned: Dissolving Boundaries between Sacred and Profane in India's Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
  • Eck, Diana L. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. 3rd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
  • Guy, John. Indian Temple Sculpture. London: V&A Publications, 2007
  • Hardy, Adam. The Temple Architecture of India. Chichester: Wiley Academy, 2007.
  • Huntington, Susan L., and John Huntington. The Art of Ancient India: Hindu, Buddhist, Jain. New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1985 (reprinted 2014)
  • Michell, George. Hindu Art and Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules