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The Tamil gopura: from temple gateway to global icon

Branfoot, Crispin (2015) 'The Tamil gopura: from temple gateway to global icon.' Ars Orientalis, 45. pp. 78-112.

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Abstract

The gopura is a tall pyramidal temple gateway that has been a distinctive feature of South Indian religious architecture for the past millennium. This essay examines the circumstances under which the gopura evolved within the Tamil country during the tenth to thirteenth century. Most gopuras were built for Hindu temples. A few are located in front of Jain temples, although none are known from Buddhist structures,despite the transmission of the Tamil Drāvi∂a language to neighboring Sri Lanka. An important juncture in the gopura’s development was the adoption of the Tamil Drāvi∂a language of temple architecture at the height of Vijayanagara authority across most of southern India in the fifteenth and especially sixteenth centuries. The subsequent fragmentation of the Vijayanagara Empire in the later sixteenth century resulted in the former governors or Nayakas (nāyakas) of Tamil Nadu overseeing the creation of the greatest number, scale, and prominence of the gopura in its Tamil birthplace during the seventeenth century. These developments established the foundation for the gopura’s global dissemination beginning in the nineteenth century under British colonial rule, a visual proclamation of South Indian identity and of the deep, historic roots of Tamil culture in the global diaspora.

Item Type: Articles
Keywords: architecture, art, temple, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Tamil, Tamilnadu, diaspora
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of History of Art and Archaeology
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
ISSN: 05711371
Depositing User: Crispin Branfoot
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2015 09:47
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/21449

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