Footprints of Visvakarma - Studies in Indian Sculpture and Architecture
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Footprints of Visvakarma - Studies in Indian Sculpture and Architecture

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Item Code: NAY868
Author: M.A. Dhaky & Snehal Shah
Publisher: Akshaya Prakashan
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789353110505
Pages: 464 (Throughout B/w Illustrations)
Other Details: 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 2.09 kg
About the Book
Footprints of Visvakarma are the book that Prof. M A Dhaky (1927-2016, Scholar on Indian Temple Art and Architecture and Padma Bhushan awardees) had begun but was unable to complete before he died in 2016. The nine articles he selected for the book were previously published or given as papers. They span from 1961 when he was 34, to 2004 when he was 78. The journals that first published his articles are difficult to find now, even in specialized libraries.

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.

About the Authors
Madhusudan Amilal Dhaky, (31 July 1927-29 July 2016) Director (Emeritus). American Institute of Indian Studies (Center for Art and Archaeology). Gurgaon, Haryana. Prof. M A Dhaky was a historian and researcher of ancient and medieval Indian art, architecture and archaeology and of Sanskrit and Prakrit texts on the architecture of ancient buildings. He served at the Allis Varanasi Center from August 1966. initially seconded from the Department of Archaeology, Government of Gujarat: and from 1974 onwards, from the Lalbhai Dalpat bhai Institute of Indology. Ahmadabad, where he held the post as the Research Professor of Indian Art and Architecture until 1987. Among Dhaky's publications are short and long monographs, papers and chapters to the volumes of the Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture, in addition to many research articles in English, Gujarati and Hindi. He also wrote on the history and chronology of ancient and medieval Jaina literature (including the rigamas. their commentaries, and ancient and medieval hymns in Sanskrit and early Gujarati). He determined the dates of the famous authors of Nirgrantha-darana/Jainism. He published works of criticism and interpretation on art, architecture, musicology, horticulture and gemology. His texts number over 344. Dhaky participated in national and international seminars and delivered lectures in prestigious lecture series. He was an external PhD referee for the Universities of Gujarat, Baroda, Poona and Mysore, and a PhD adviser for students of history of Indian art for London and Berlin universities. He was madder the Padma Bhushan in 2010.

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.

Madhusudan Amilal Dhaky was born in 1927. He became a horticulturalist before he undertook the study of architecture and art history, and he was self-taught in both these disciplines.

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 and architecture.

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 concepts.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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