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The Indian Temple: Production, Place and Patronage

Dam near the temple at Bhojpur, central India, 11th century

Project leader: Michael Willis

Department: Asia

Project start: 2006
End date: 2010

External partners:
Dr Daud Ali (Department of History, SOAS),
Dr Adam Hardy (Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University),
Dr. O. P. Mishra, Bhopal, India, on research leave from the Department of Archaeology, Museum and Archives, Madhya Pradesh
Dr. Meera I. Dass, INTACH Bhopal, India

Project funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)


The Shiva linga in the unfinished temple at Bhojpur, central India, 11th centuryTemples dominated the landscape of India between the seventh and thirteenth centuries. Protected by kings and widely supported by endowments, temples enjoyed ascendancy as centres of religious life, socio-economic power and artistic production. This AHRC-funded project is exploring this important phenomenon.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, a team of three scholars – Dr. Adam Hardy, Dr. Michael Willis and Dr. Daud Ali – are seeking to explore how temples were designed and built, to explain the social and political role of temples in medieval society and to analyse the king’s role as a patron of temple architecture and Sanskrit letters.

Dr Adam Hardy (Cardiff University) will examine how medieval temples were designed and constructed through a careful study of the unfinished temple at Bhojapur in central India. Dr. Michael Willis (British Museum) will study the place of the temple in medieval polity through an examination of inscriptions and the distribution of temples in central India. Dr Daud Ali (SOAS, London) will study how the king constituted his identity as a patron of temple architecture and Sanskrit letters, taking King Bhoja Paramara as his prime example in view of Bhoja’s great reputation as an ideal ruler, polymath and patron.


The primary outputs of this project will be three books, one by each researcher in his special area. In addition the researchers have contributed to a major exhibition of Indian temple sculpture at  Fundació La Caixa, Barcelona, Madrid (2007), with exhibition catalogue.

At the British Museum, a catalogue of the medieval temple sculpture will be prepared with the help of Dr Anne Casile who joins the project as a research assistant and curatorial trainee. The team will also organise a seminar on the nature of the medieval at SOAS - the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London - (2009) and a volume of Puratan, the journal of the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Madhya Pradesh (2008-09). This volume will be dedicated to the art and culture of central India under the Paramara rulers.

More information:

Images (from top):

  • Dam near the temple at Bhojpur, central India, eleventh century
  • The Shiva linga in the unfinished temple at Bhojpur, central India, eleventh century

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council