Event — IIAS/Leiden University Masterclass

Seventeenth-century depictions of sacred sites in the Kailasanathar Temple at Nattam, Tamil Nadu

This masterclass for students is taught by Professor of Indian Art Anna L. Dallapiccola. 

We warmly invite students from the Leiden Institute of Area Studies (LIAS) and other students with a particular interest in the topic to join this masterclass free of charge.

The masterclass is followed on 7 October by a (free) public lecture in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam by the same speaker, 'Piety and devotion. 16th-century murals in the Virabhadra Temple in Lepakshi, India'.

Please note that both are in-person events only (not online).


The Masterclass

The sacred landscape of the Tamil region, with its intricate network of temples was created  by the poet-saints -the Vaishnava alvars and the Shaiva nayanmars-  who wandered through the region in the 6th-9th cent. CE, singing the praises of Shaiva and Vaishnava sacred sites. The travels of the saints as expressed in their songs bring together in one framework the isolated shrines and local mythologies of the region. Although well-known in the Tamil devotional literature, pilgrimages to these sacred sites became popular only from the mid-fourteenth century. The iconography of a sacred site is based on four elements all of which may, or may not, be present in any one representation: the murti, or the representation of another form of the god who dwells in the temple, the geographical aspect of the site, the sacred tree and the tirtha or important water source associated with it. The depiction of holy sites, the myths and religious personalities connected with them is one of the major sources of artistic inspiration during the Nayaka period. This tradition continues up to the present.

The Speaker

Professor Anna L. Dallapiccola has a PhD in Indian Art History, from the University of Heidelberg, Germany.  Formerly Professor of Indian Art at the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University, she was appointed Honorary Professor at Edinburgh University in 1991, and has regularly lectured at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. From 2000 to 2004 she was Visiting Professor at De Montfort University Leicester. She participated in the Vijayanagara Research Project from 1984 to 2001 writing mainly on sculpture and iconography. At present, she works in India, with Dr Anila Verghese on a research project concerning the development of the sacred sites during the Vijayanagara and Nayaka periods.

Among her publications are: Catalogue of South Indian Paintings in the collection of the British Museum (2010); Kalamkari Temple Hangings (2015); Indian Reverse Glass Paintings (2017); Thanjavur Gilded Gods, co-authored with Kuldip Singh and R.G. Singh (2018) and Lepakshi, Architecture, Sculpture, Painting (2019) co-authored with G. Michell and B. Majlis-Khan.


This masterclass is intended for students from the Leiden Institute of Area Studies (LIAS) and other students with a special interest in the topic. 

Please register for this masterclass using the web form on the right-hand side of this page. To prepare for the masterclass, we will send you a digital syllabus, including some background readings.


Piety and devotion. 16th-century murals in the Virabhadra Temple in Lepakshi, India, free public lecture by Professor Anna L. Dallapiccola, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 7 October 2022, 15:30 – 17:00 p.m.