The Indian Temple

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1 or Year 2
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This course adopts a thematic approach to the temple in South Asia from the earliest examples in around 400 CE through to the present. The Hindu temple and its images will be the focus of the course, but Buddhist and Jain examples will also be examined. Core thematic issues include: religious change and artistic practice; art and identity; art and politics; kingship and temples; temple destruction and re-use; forms, symbolism, textual theory and artistic practice; image, ritual, iconography and iconographic programmes; sacred landscape, urbanism, pilgrimage and festivals; historiography. This course will appeal to students studying other areas of Asian and African art and archaeology with an interest in religious art and architecture, and students of South Asian history and religions.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Critically analyse sculpture, architecture and urban landscapes from South Asia using appropriate vocabulary.
  • Examine a range of approaches to understanding sacred architecture and its images from South Asia.
Learning Outcomes - Knowledge; Understanding; Skills
  • Knowledge of the chronological framework for the development of the art and architecture of South Asia from c. 400 to the present, with an emphasis on sacred architecture and sculpture.
  • Knowledge of the political, social and religious contexts for the production and use of art in South Asia in this period.
  • Understanding of key themes and approaches to the study of religious art in South Asia.
  • The ability to critically analyse sculpture, architecture and urban landscapes from South Asia using appropriate vocabulary.
  • The ability to constructively criticise the approaches and methods of art historians.


One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Method of assessment

  • One 1 500 words essay/review (worth 20%)
  • One 1 500 words object analysis and discussion (worth 30%)
  • One 3 000 words essay (worth 50%)

Suggested reading

  • Davis, Richard H. Lives of Indian Images. Princeton 1997.
  • Dehejia, Vidya, ed. The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola bronzes from South India. New York, Seattle and London 2002.
  • Desai, Vishakha, and Darielle Mason, eds. Gods, Guardians and Lovers: Temple Sculptures from North India AD 700-1200. New York 1993.
  • Eck, Diana L. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. New York 1998 (3rd ed.).
  • Guha-Thakurta, Tapati. Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India. New York and Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2004.
  • Hardy, Adam. The Temple Architecture of India. Chichester 2007.
  • Michell, George. The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms. Chicago and London 1988.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules