Laxshmi Greaves is currently working on an AHRC funded PhD collaborative project between the Welsh School of Architecture and the British Museum.
The aim of this thesis is to understand the nature and development of brick temple architecture and terracotta art in the Gupta period, bringing to light the importance of the 'terraced' temple type. The main case study for the thesis is a monumental pyramidal brick Śiva temple belonging to the ancient fortress city of Ahichhatra.
The extensive archaeological site of Ahichhatra adjoins the village of Ramnagar in the Aonla Tehsil of the Bareilly district, Uttar Pradesh, and was once the capital of northern Pañcāla. The ruined Śiva temple situated at the heart of the citadel is composed of several tiered platforms with a massive stone linga balancing precariously at the apex. The shrine that once crowned the terraces is lost, but Alexander Cunningham drew a plan of the foundations that were still extant in the late nineteenth century. The landscape beyond the fortress walls is fairly flat and the monument dominates the skyline for miles around. In this thesis the formal qualities of the architecture will be explored, and the obscure and fascinating terracotta figurative plaques belonging to the temple will be re-interpreted. The temple will be situated within the context of its geography and landscape, archaeological surroundings, and excavation history.
The Śiva temple will be compared with a terraced brick Visnu temple at Pawāyā in Madhya Pradesh, and with the only extant standing Gupta period brick temple at Bhītargāon. Moreover, a summary of over forty monumental Hindu and Buddhist terraced structures which still survive in the subcontinent, spanning a period of about fourteen hundred years, will be compiled for the first time. It is hoped that this thesis will further our understanding of this genre of architecture as well as providing a sound scholarly foundation for future studies.