Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

Dr. Desai Endowment Art History Lecture Series

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya announces a Masterclass under the Dr. Devangana Desai Endowment Programme -
Masterclass on Apsara-Devangana Sculptures in Western and Central India


Abstract of the three lectures

This lecture series will discuss the iconographical, stylistic, architectural, and cultural matrix of the temples of western and central India between the 8th -12th centuries from the perspective of the representation of apsaras-devangana sculptures. It will explore the archaeological material employing Indian and western methodologies of interpretation expanding our understanding of patronage, and cultural identity in Pre-Modern Medieval India.

Note: The lectures are open to all, some prior knowledge or appreciation for Indian art history, architecture, sculpture, in general, would be beneficial.

Lecture 1: Architectural development of Apsara-Devangana sculptures on key western Indian monuments

This lecture will provide an overview of the temple architecture between the 8th-12th centuries from western and central India, how the architecture and sculpture have structurally and stylistically evolved, and their various typologies based on sculptural placement and symbolism. The discussion will revolve around the placement of the apsaras-devangana sculptures within the architectural framework and their evolution within spatial-temporal contexts. Examples of Maha Gurjara, Maha Maru, Maru-Gurjara, Chandela, Paramara, Gurjara Partihara to name a few will be discussed.

Lecture 2: Methodology of the Study and Interpretation of the Apsara-Devangana motif

The core concept of the “auspicious feminine” or the “archetypal mother” in Indian art will be explored through the development of the “woman and tree” motif across Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu monuments. It will further develop on the Yakshi-Shalabhanjika motifs and Nadi Devatas on pillars, lintels, doorframes, and walls of religious monuments. Analyses of these motifs from various methodological viewpoints will be explored such as semiotics, iconology, and feminism developing the understanding from the perspectives of cultural ethos, religious precepts, art practice, architecture, and aesthetics of the medieval period. Furthermore, Indian theories of meaning such as Dhvani and Alankara would be explored for unlocking the meaning and purpose of employing apsaras-devangana motifs on temples with consistency.

Lecture 3: Style and its Ramifications in the study of Sculptures of Apsaras-Devanganas in western India

This lecture will explore the stylistic development of sculpture in key sites of western and central India probing sources for possible influences and core indigenous elements which matured in different regions as contiguous styles of medieval western Indian form. Since western India is located at a strategic juncture, it has absorbed stylistic elements from both Konkan and Malwa along with influences from Marwar, Mewar, and other contiguous regions. While studying sculpture, how to understand form, style, and define it in words is a challenge taken up by many scholars. Here some of their writings will be critiqued and discussed.

About the Speaker

Dr. Gauri Parimoo Krishnan has dedicated 30 years to the arts and heritage sector in Singapore and India. At present, she teaches Museum Studies and Curatorship at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore aside from consulting museum projects such as the Pradhan Mantri Sangrahalaya in New Delhi among others.

She is an art historian, independent curator, and museum consultant. She conceptualised and developed the Indian Heritage Centre and the South Asian galleries of the Asian Civilisations Museum at their inception. She has curated major international exhibitions of Indian and Asian Art for the past 28 years. Her research and publications include Medieval Indian Sculpture, Asian Ramayana and Buddhist art, Indian Diaspora, and Indian Trade Textiles to Southeast Asia. She earned her MPA in Bharata Natyam (1986) and Ph.D. in Art History from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in 1995. Dr. Krishnan is a recipient of the Commendation Medal and Public Administration Medal (Bronze) for her contribution to the arts and heritage sector.