SOAS University of London

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

Hindu Art in Medieval India

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This course examines the art and architecture of mediaeval India from c. 400 to 1300, with a focus on Hinduism, Hindu sculpture and temple architecture. 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.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, 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.
Learning Outcomes - Knowledge; Understanding; Skills:
  • Knowledge of the chronological framework for the arts of India from c. 400-1300
  • Knowledge of the political, social and religious contexts for the production and use of art in mediaeval India.
  • Understanding of key themes in the study of Hindu art in South Asia.
  • The ability to constructively criticise the approaches and methods of art historians.


1 hour Lecture per week. 1 hour Seminar/Tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

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.
  • Pilgrimage and sacred landscape.

The course may address material from across South Asia in this period, or focus on one region such as north and west India or the far south. This proposed half-unit encourages students to explore similar themes in the art and material culture of other regions, especially Southeast Asia, and to consider the complementary approaches to the study of Hinduism and mediaeval India taught by the Study of Religions department and History department. Classes will be complemented by visits to local museums.

Method of assessment

The written exam will count for 60%. 2 pieces of coursework will count for 40% (20% each) towards the final mark.

Suggested reading

  • Blurton, T. Richard. Hindu Art. London: British Museum Publications, 1992.
  • Dallapiccola, Anna. Hindu Myths. London: British Museum Press, 2003.
  • Eck, Diana L. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. 3rd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
  • Huntington, Susan L., and John Huntington. The Art of Ancient India: Hindu, Buddhist, Jain. New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1985.
  • Michell, George. Hindu Art and Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules