The articles in this volume - presented with additional illustrations - range in subject from the seemingly bizarre bhuta (ghosts) and bhutanayika (leaders of ghosts and captains of the elementals) to Dhaka’s pioneering research into the genesis and development of Maru-Gurjara temple architecture (a distinct merged style of both Marwari Rajasthan - and Gurjar - Gujarat). There are articles on Chola sculpture and the great Nandi images of southern India; on the sculptures of Eldora; on vyala (composite fantastical animal mythical creature) and pranala (water chute, conduit) and the significance of these curious beast figures; and the pithika (image pedestal) of temples in Java, indicating the scope of Dhaky's research beyond India and into South-East Asia. The final article, 'Prasada (temple) as Cosmos', is the shortest and yet is full of meaningful observations regarding the metaphysical aspects of temples. Together, the nine articles represent a richness of research and insight into Indian temple architecture that continues to be vital to interested students and scholars.
Before he died, Prof. Dhaky bequeathed this unfinished project to Snehal Shah, who wrote an introduction to the volume along with a brief introduction to each of the selected articles. These short introductions include anecdotes Dhaky shared with Shah during the last nine years of his life while he worked on his research from a room in Shah's office in Ahmadabad. Dhaky's interest was not limited only to scholarship: temple architecture became his life: he read, thought, talked and worked on these subjects right to the end of his life. The introductions help the reader to understand Prof. Dhaky's intentions and views.
The bibliography lists all his published and unpublished works as well works published on Prof. Dhaky. Some articles written many decades ago remain relevant today, and form a significant part of understanding Indian temple architecture and sculpture.
Snehal Shah is a practicing architect based in Ahmadabad, India. He studied architecture at CEPT University. His thesis was supervised by B V Doshi. Ahmadabad and then architectural history and theory at the Architectural Association Graduate School in London. He worked with architect Mario Botta in Lugano, Switzerland for two years, after which he returned to India to start his own practice in Ahmadabad (1987). Snehal Shah has a deep interest in researching and studying historic Indian architecture. His published works include Ahmadabad (co-edited with George Michel, Marg Publications, 1988, reprinted 2003). edited Architectural Models - Works of Architect Balkrishna Doshi and The Water Structures of Western India (in production, a UME edition). A substantial publication of his studio showcasing 25 years of contemporary architecture edited by Haig Beck and Jackie Cooper was jointly published by Mapin and Akshara in 2014. He has written numerous articles on Indian architecture published in India and internationally. He is a visiting professor at CEPT University since his return, and has lectured in India and abroad. Snehal Shah is an ardent supporter of Prof. Dhaky's work and writings.
Dhaky had many strong interests: architecture; both Indian and Western music; sculpture;
gemology; art; horticulture; science fiction; food; Jainism; language; literature; and above
all, the highest pursuits of aesthetics.
He wrote 25 books and 337 research papers (in English, Hindi and Gujarati). (See the
complete bibliography of M.A. Dhakys writings.)
Dhaky was a pioneer of Indian scholarship, coming to the subject at a time when all
other scholars were foreigners. In the early 1960s, he read the Aparajitapraccha and
Samaranganasutradhara and many other treatises and made use of the glossary terms found
in the old treatises, the vastu shastra, in his own writing and explained them with their
context, both their origin and development. Empirically derived architectural elements had
their basis in these ancient documents, which were mainly in Sanskrit. Hence he considered
it appropriate to explain temple forms and sculpture in Sanskrit terminology. His decision to
include diacritically-marked Sanskrit was crucial, but it was new to academia.
Also new were Dhaky's deep observations and analyses of aspects of Indian temple
architecture not previously acknowledged? Without a formal training in art history, he could
freely perceive what no one else had noticed; and his authentic Indian perspective has
changed how we see Indian temple architecture and sculpture. He studied at Pune (then the
University of Bombay) in 1948 in the department of Geology and Chemistry.
He founded Porbandar Historical Society in 1953 and began discovering temples in and
around Surashtra (western Gujarat) and early on started reading great scholars on Indian art
His research has been greatly influential. Dhaky documented every temple of both the north
(Nagara) and south (Dravida) styles and established their classification. And his single-
handedly initiated the Encyclopedia on Indian Temple Architecture.
He was a natural researcher, equally at ease studying Indian temple architecture as the
Romanesque and Gothic. A research topic could engage him for decades of thinking and
writing, and he relied on his excellent memory for remembering details of temples he had
visited years earlier. An editorial adviser of Artibus Asia, Stella Kramrisch, so admired his
research on the Maitraka and Saindhava Temples of Gujarat that it was published in 1969,
and Dhaky was happy to see his work printed in Switzerland.
Dhaky's passion for languages and finding the appropriate word gave him great satisfaction.
He memorized a few words of each language he encountered, whether French, Italian, Tamil
or Telugu, and their dialects. He mainly wrote in three languages: English (self-taught),
It took Dhaky years to write well in English; he simply persisted. During the years he spent
in Varanasi, he learnt Hindi from the people he met, ordinary folk and scholars alike. He was
from Gujarat and knew the language well but also read literature widely. His Gujarati was
elevated: an ordinary person would be unable to understand the writing. Dhaky even wrote
fiction, inspired by science. He admired Andre Malraux, whom he read in the early 1960s,
and kept a photograph of Malraux on his study table as a reminder to emulate him.
His tenure at AIIS contributed many things. Among them were establishing a comprehensive
photographic archive, drawing plans of temples and compiling an exhaustive library. These
nine articles make use of this material from AIlS.
My association with Dhaky dates from my return to India from Europe in 1987. Each year
I spent several weeks at the American Institute of Indian Studies, and stayed at his Varanasi
house. After he retired, Dhaky came every afternoon to our office, where he worked with
his secretary, Mr. V K Venkata Varadhan, on his research and articles. The work included
the two glossary volumes, the culmination of his Indian Temple Encyclopedia that traces the
genesis and development of every element of the Indian temple. Unfortunately Dhaky did not
complete this final undertaking. However this volume of his selected writings, Footprints of
Visvakarma, he left in my care to be finished and published.
The collection highlights nine articles on Indian temple sculpture and architecture, written
between 1961 to 2010 that were especially significant to him.
The 50-year span of these writings was spent initially with the Archaeological Survey
of India, Gujarat State, then briefly with the Lalbhai Dalpat bhai Institute of Indology,
Ahmadabad, and then a long and fruitful period with the American Institute of Indian
Studies, and his final nine years in Ahmadabad at our office.
During the time I spent in his company - in the office, or sometimes in the evening at his
house or when he and his wife came to our house - we discussed many topics. Apart from
matters related to his research, including this book, we discussed mundane things such
as what he ate and how it affected his digestive system, what was in the newspaper (he
subscribed to about nine newspapers; some editions would come from Mumbai and Delhi).
I asked Dhaky how he could work so intensely and have such original ideas, and he would
deflect the questions, saying that other scholars had not yet thought of taking up those
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend