Nataraja and Sivagami, c. 1780, Tanjore (now Thanjavur), Natural pigments, gold foil and gesso on paper, H. 38.5 cm, W. 49 cm, PTG.00072
The mediaeval era is largely understood as having been generally characterised by a pre-modern, feudal and patriarchal ethos. At the same time, inscriptions and monumental shrines in India associated with royal patronage point to the prevalence of large bustling cities, which traded far and wide across the seas contributing to certain elements of cosmopolitanism and varied synergies. Far from being restricted to roles defined by patriarchy, women in these metropolitan contexts played a major role in the patronage of art and architecture, as well as in the field of letters.
The Cholas were one of the most remarkable early mediaeval dynasties with a highly organised administrative, mercantile and maritime presence, and with numerous achievements in the artistic, sculptural, political and literary spheres as indicated by several thousand inscriptions. These provide an opportunity to explore aspects ranging from the representation of women, to issues of whether women contributed to the creation of artworks in a more active way rather than as passive muses. Through the depictions of female deities, the poetry of female saints, and records of prominent female patrons to whom temples or other public buildings are attributed, Sharada Srinivasan aims to explore these lesser known facets. In this illustrated talk, she highlights the ways in which distinctions between art and reality may be blurred; and how women may have played a more significant role than previously noted in pre-modern times.
This talk has been organised as part of the larger programming around MAP’s exhibition, Visible/Invisible: Representation of Women in Art Through the MAP Collection. And has been curated under Thinking Cities, MAP’s public programming theme for the quarter. Through this theme, we explore and reimagine cities through the lenses of space, identity, history, memory and more.