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Through the Woods and to the Sea: The Architecture of Inland Travel in Precolonial Central India

Through the Woods and to the Sea: The Architecture of Inland Travel in Precolonial Central India
170 St. George Street, JHB Room 100
Time: Feb 25th, 4:00 pm End: Feb 25th, 6:00 pm
Interest Categories: South Asian, Religion, Study of (FAS), Humanities, Arts, Culture and Media (UTSC), Art (FAS), 1200-1500
Lecture by Tamara Sears, Yale

The John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures on Religious Materiality in the Indian Ocean World, 1300-1800 is pleased to present:

Through the Woods and to the Sea: The Architecture of Inland Travel in Precolonial Central India


In the early 1340s, the Sultan Muhammad Tughluq entrusted the famed Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta with the task of accompanying a group of foreign emissaries on their return voyage to China. Departing from Delhi with a caravan laden with gifts of fine cloths, perfumes, slaves, and swords, they journeyed through central India, moving southwards towards the Deccan before finally arriving at the coastal seaport at Cambay. Along the way, they made stops at well-known centers--such as Kannauj, Gwalior, and Ujjain--as well as at many smaller places in-between. Taking Ibn Battuta's path through central India as a point of departure, this lecture examines the ways in which long-distance routes left distinctive material traces within broader architectural landscapes. My focus is on the inland routes that ran through the forested regions located primarily in the present-day state of Madhya Pradesh. In addition to facilitating trade and military conquest across the Narmada River and into the Deccan, these routes led to the seacoasts that connected the subcontinent with the larger Indian Ocean world. Along the way, I consider the relationship between natural landscape (e.g. topography and hydrology) and the built environment (e.g. architecture and urban form), and I look at how the mobility of religious communities was marked in forms that were variously ephemeral and of a long duration.

Tamara Sears teaches art history at Yale University. Her first book, on Hindu monasteries, received the 2014 PROSE award in Architecture and Urban Planning. She is currently completing a second book examining the relationships among landscape, architecture, ecology, and travel. Her essays have appeared in over a dozen volumes and journals, and she has received fellowships from Fulbright, the Getty, the Society of Architectural Historians, and Dumbarton Oaks.

This event is free and open to all. Registration is not required. For further information, please contact the Sawyer Seminar.

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