Welsh School of Architecture

Architectural History & Theory (AHTG)

Sona Datta

Sona, an art historian, currently works in the Department of Asia at the British Museum as the Tabor Foundation Research Assistant. When she graduated with a First Class Honours degree in the History of Western Art from King's College, Cambridge (1994), she already knew her real interest lay in the entirely different aesthetics of Indian art. She therefore enrolled for an MA in South Asian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Here she majored in the architectural history of the Indian city and took adjunct courses in the Indian philosophy as well as Tamil and Sanskrit. Her Master's dissertation was entitled Urban Patua: The Art of Jamini Roy (1996). Sona started her doctoral research at Sussex University and has joined PRASADA in order to complete it. She has been awarded AHRB funding throughout her postgraduate studies.

Sona Datta

PhD Research
Material Culture Under the Medieval Pandyan Kings of Tamil Nadu, ca.800-1200 CE

The subject of my thesis is temple construction under the Pandyan dynasty of the extreme South of India ca 800-1200 CE. My interest in the Pandyas stems from the fact that this particular southern dynasty has suffered most from scholarly neglect. Yet this is not for lack of empirical evidence. What I wish to show that the bias of scholarship has less to do with the purported insignificance of this dynasty, than with a reflection of limitations in the models thus far applied to the study of south Indian art.

My research involves assessing patterns of artistic production and patronage during the reign of the Pandyan kings. My underlying question is whether it is useful, or legitimate, to talk about a "Pandyan" - i.e. dynastic - art. It is not simply that this tradition has been understudied, but that it has been excluded from art historical surveys. My thesis therefore aims to challenge existing paradigms for the study of south Indian art. I hope to explore whether a more careful consideration of then framework provided by political history will provide new ways of reading the actual fabric of the temples themselves. I hope to elicit a marriage of archaeological and textual information, combining traditional art historical tools with a variety of interpretive strategies which have generally remained the domain of the historian.

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