Deities, Devotion and the arts of Hinduism

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Any
Duration
Term 2
Module code
15PARH103
FHEQ Level
7
Credits
15

Module overview

The creation of sacred images and sacred spaces has been a major feature of the Hindu tradition for the last two thousand years. This module examines key themes and issues in the study of Hindu art and visual culture. The material discussed may include images, sculptures, paintings and/or prints from the early centuries CE through to the 14th century in South and/or Southeast Asia, and/or c.1500 to the present in South Asia. Central issues addressed include: anthropomorphism and the Hindu image; iconography, aesthetics and Hindu imagery; body, gender and Hindu images; narratives in sculpture and painting; materials, media and methods; image, ritual and performance; art and pilgrimage; the historiography of Hindu art. Class teaching will be complemented by visits to museum collections. Students will acquire not only a wide-ranging knowledge of approaches to Asian religious art in general, but also a deep understanding of the role of the visual arts in the Hindu tradition.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, a student will be able to demonstrate:

  • Evaluate the political, social and religious contexts for the production and use of art.
  • Assess key themes in the study of Hinduism and Hindu art.
  • Understand how and why religious images have been made and used in South and/or Southeast Asia.
  • Critically analyse Hindu images in a variety of media from South and/or Southeast Asia using appropriate vocabulary.

Workload

  • One hour lecture, one hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

The material discussed may include images, sculptures, paintings and/or prints from the early centuries CE through to the 14th century and/or c.1500 to the present. Students will acquire not only a wide-ranging knowledge of approaches to South Asian religious art in general, but also a deep understanding of the role of the visual arts in the Hindu tradition. The syllabus may vary from year to year given that it may primarily address images, sculptures, paintings and/or prints from (i) the early centuries CE through to the 14th century in South and/or Southeast Asia and/or (ii) c.1500 to the present, primarily in South Asia.

Topics that may be addressed include:

  • Anthropomorphism and the origins of Indian iconography
  • Shiva, Vishnu and Devi in art, myth and narrative
  • Caves of Shiva: Elephanta and Ellora
  • Seeing the divine image: darshan and Hindu ritual
  • Architecture, pilgrimage and sacred landscape
  • Processions and prescence: bronze images in south India and Cambodia
  • Materials and methods of Hindu sculpture
     
  • Bhakti, Braj and the Mughals
  • Rama and the Ramayana 1: painting the epic in Mewar
  • Rama and the Ramayana 2. temple and landscape at Vijayanagara
  • Krishna in painting, poetry and performance
  • Scroll-painting and performance in Bengal and Rajasthan
  • Colonialism, Ravi Varma and the printed Hindu image
  • Neotantra and 1960s counterculture
  • Nationalism, Hindutva and the Hindu image

Method of assessment

  • One 1,000-word critical analysis of image (worth 30% of marks)
  • One 2,000-word essay (worth 60%)
  • One weekly logbook (worth 10%)

Suggested reading

  • Molly Emma Aitken, The Intelligence of Tradition in Rajput Court Painting (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010).
  • Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997).
  • Vidya Dehejia, The Body Adorned: Dissolving Boundaries between Sacred and Profane in India’s Art (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).
  • Vidya Dehejia, The Thief Who Stole My Heart: The Material Life of Sacred Bronzes from Chola India, 855–1280 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021).
  • Jessica Frazier, ed., The Bloomsbury Companion to Hindu Studies. (London ; New York: Bloomsbury, 2014).
  • John Guy, Indian Temple Sculpture (London: V&A Publications, 2007).
  • Susan L. Huntington and John Huntington, The Art of Ancient India: Hindu, Buddhist, Jain (New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1985).
  • Knut A. Jacobsen et al., eds., Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism, 5 vols (Leiden ; Boston: Brill, 2009).
  • Christopher Pinney, Photos of the Gods: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India (London: Reaktion, 2004).
  • Imma Ramos, Tantra : Enlightenment to Revolution (London: Thames and Hudson, 2020).

 

Convenor(s)

Dr Crispin Branfoot

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules