International conference

Temple Cultures & Premodern Worlds (Part 1)

First half of the interdisciplinary conference organized by Subhashini Kaligotla (History of Art, Yale) and Hannah Baader (KHI) on premodern temple cultures in and around South Asia.

Kailasa Temple (Cave 16), Ellora, India. Picture: Subhashini Kaligotla

Temple Cultures & Premodern Worlds across South Asia and the Indian Ocean is an inter-disciplinary conference presenting new research on Brahmanical, Buddhist, Islamic, and Jain built spaces as well as their intersections and interstices—in South and Southeast Asia. With a focus on the premodern period, papers conceive of “temple” in the broadest possible terms, to encompass basadi, chaitya, masjid, and prasada. The range of themes include: issues of temple spaces as material and cultural palimpsests, cross-fertilizations across architectural and cosmological models, problems of access to temple spaces, the role of esoteric religious practices in activating temple environments, the imaginative resources of temple sculptors, temple rituals and ritual objects, access to food, shelter, and even alcohol in quotidian temple life, and the long-distance land and maritime networks that sustained temples. In addressing these dimensions, scholars reanalyze current categories for understanding temple cultures, reassess the state of the field, and indicate developing fields of inquiry.

The event is supported by the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institute and the Yale Macmillan Center South Asian Studies Council.

The conference is open to the public upon previous registration. For more information and to register, please visit the conference website or contact Lara Scaiola (Research Assistant) at

Conference Poster

Conference Program (pt. 1):

Please note: the times indicated refer to EST (Eastern Standard Time).

Wednesday, September 1

9:30–11:00 AM (EST) 
Roundtable and Book Forum
Vidya Dehejia, The Thief Who Stole My Heart: The Material Life of Sacred Bronzes from Chola India, 855-1280 (Princeton, 2021).

Daud Ali (U-Penn), Nachiket Chanchani (U-Michigan), and Sugata Ray (UC Berkeley) in conversation with Vidya Dehejia (Columbia) on Temple Cultures in Premodern Worlds.

Thursday, September 2

9:30 AM (EST) 
Welcome and Introduction
Subhashini Kaligotla and Hannah Baader

10:00 AM (EST) 
Alcohol Culture and Indian Temples
James McHugh (USC-Dornsife)

11:00 AM (EST) 
Yadava Temples, Before and After
Pushkar Sohoni (IISER Pune)

11:45 AM (EST) 
The Mughal Temple in Banaras
Madhuri Desai (Penn State)

Friday, September 3

9:00 AM (EST) 
A Buddhist Bhairava? Kṛtanagara’s Icons against the Backdrop of Pan-Asian Late Tantric Buddhism (13th–14th Centuries CE)
Andrea Acri (EPHE)

9:45 AM (EST) 
Self-Reflecting & Reflecting the Self in the Other: Mirrors in Hindu Iconography and Rituals
Naman Ahuja (JNU Delhi)

10:45 AM (EST) 
Temples and Urban Experience in Premodern South Asia: Monuments for the City
Katherine Kasdorf (DIA)

Conference Program (PDF)

Conference Program (pt. 2): 

Wednesday, September 15

9:00–10:30 AM (EST) 
Indian Textiles for Island Taste – Cloth in Early Indian Ocean Trade
Ruth Barnes, Thomas Jaffe Curator of Indo-Pacific Art
Yale University Art Gallery

10:45 AM–12:15 PM (EST) 
Digital Approaches to Temple Environments
Divya Kumar-Dumas (ISAW), Mohit Manohar (Yale), Pushkar Sohoni (IISER-Pune)

Thursday, September 16

9:00 AM (EST) 
Commensurable Cosmologies and Cosmographies in Sultanate Deccan
Emma Flatt (UNC)

9:45 AM (EST) 
Seeing Double: The Tantrāloka, the Bṛhadīśvara Temple and the History of Medieval Śaivism
Whitney Cox (U-Chicago)

10:45 AM (EST) 
Heaven is a Gopura
Anna Seastrand (U-Minnesota) 

11:30 AM (EST) 
Written in Stone: Negotiating Space and Religious Identity
Julie Hanlon (U-Chicago)

Friday, September 17

9:00 AM (EST) 
The Stupa at Sopara: Looking Beyond the Buddhist Remains
Pia Brancaccio (Drexel)

9:45 AM (EST) 
Landscape as Temple: Ideologies of Food, Water, and Irrigation in Middle Period Southern India
Kathleen Morrison (U-Penn)

10:45 AM (EST) 
Remaking Konark in the 20th Century: Postcolonial Revivalism and the Troubling Persistence of India’s Plastic Past
Tamara Sears (Rutgers)

11:30 AM (EST) 
Concluding Remarks and Discussion
Richard Davis (Bard)


Yale Macmillan Center South Asian Studies Council

01 – 03 September 2021

Online conference.

Please find the registration form here.


This event will be documented photographically and/or recorded on video. Please let us know if you do not agree with the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz using images in which you might be recognizable for event documentation and public relation purposes (e.g. social media).


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