Event — Webinar - IIAS Book Talks Series

Constructing Kanchi: City of Infinite Temples

Richly illustrated with photographs from fieldwork in South India, this book talk presents a historical picture of Kanchi, locating the city and its more than 100 spectacular multireligious temples at the heart of commercial and artistic exchange.

This webinar will take place from 14:00 - 15:30 p.m. Amsterdam Time (CET).

The book talk

Richly illustrated with photographs from fieldwork in South India, the monograph Constructing Kanchi: City of Infinite Temples traces the emergence of the South Indian city of Kanchi as a major royal capital and multireligious pilgrimage destination during the era of the Pallava and Chola dynasties (ca. seventh through thirteenth century). In the talk, Dr Emma Stein will discuss the book’s key arguments and her process of discovering Kanchi’s hidden urban plan, which determined the placement and orientation of temples around a central thoroughfare that was also a burgeoning pilgrimage route. Moving outwards from the city, she shows how the transportation networks, river systems, residential enclaves, and agrarian estates all contributed to the vibrancy of Kanchi’s temple life. The construction and ongoing renovation of temples in and around the city, she concludes, has enabled Kanchi to thrive continuously from at least the eighth century, through the colonial period, and up until the present. 

The speaker

Emma Natalya Stein (PhD, Yale 2017) is Assistant Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. Her research has been sponsored by the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Paul Mellon Centre, Yale University, and the Smithsonian. Her current projects include the monograph Constructing Kanchi: City of Infinite Temples, two exhibitions titled “Prehistoric Spirals: Earthenware from Thailand” and “Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain” (from the Cleveland Museum of Art), and ongoing work on a robust online resource for Southeast Asia resources. Her research is grounded in extensive fieldwork throughout India and Southeast Asia, where she documents and maps monuments in diverse landscapes. Dr Stein regularly lectures and teaches in Asia, Europe, and the USA. 


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