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Hegewald, Julia A. B. (1998) Water architecture in South Asia: A study of types, developments and meanings. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The collection, storage and distribution of water, managed by means of dams, reservoirs, tanks and wells, are activities central to life and religious ritual in South Asia, and occasion some of the subcontinent's most spectacular architectural conceptions and engineering achievements. This study is the first to address the subject of water architecture as a whole, to relate the structures of the various regions, contexts and types to each other, and to present a comprehensive interpretation of the history and meaning of South Asian water architecture. It draws attention to the architectural splendour and sacred associations of monuments, many of which have not been documented before, or which have been considered merely as technical constructions. As such, it is the first study to attribute to water architecture a central position within the corpus of South Asian architecture alongside and on equal rank with temple and residential architecture. The dissertation is a study of architectural structures relating to water in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, mainly between the ninth and the nineteenth centuries. The structures under examination are divided into five main types: ghats (steps into water), tanks, kundas (deep stepped basins), wells and ornamental pools in palaces and water gardens. The dissertation shows how water structures signify both practical and metaphysical importance; it investigates the various forms and parts of water monuments, and it traces their development from simple to more complex forms of architecture. In particular, it is concerned with the shapes of the structures, which favour both secular and religious activities, express sacred and royal meanings, and provide a setting for the re-enactment of mythical events. The brief general introduction summarises the present state of research, discusses the sources and explains the chosen approach to the material. This is followed by an introduction to the religious meanings and cultural associations connected with water in the main religious traditions of South Asia. The five following chapters each deal with one of the five types of water architecture, and contain the main findings of the author's field-work. It is argued that the architectural framework of each of the principal types of water architecture is common to the entire subcontinent, that regionalism has considerably less influence on them than has hitherto been assumed, and that no type is exclusive to any one context. Each chapter analyses the main characteristics and the constituent architectural parts of the type, its variations, the border cases, and developments. The final chapter summarises the main results, examines common themes in water architecture, and outlines modem continuity in South Asia.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:59

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