Temple to Love

Temple to Love

Architecture and Devotion in Seventeenth-Century Bengal
Pika Ghosh
Distribution: World
Publication date: 3/28/2005
Format: cloth 280 pages, 88 b&w photos, 2 figures, 1 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
7 x 10
ISBN: 978-0-253-34487-8
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Edward C. Dimock, Jr. Prize in the Indian Humanities, American Institute of Indian Studies (2005)
“[A]n excellent analytical study of a sensationally beautiful type of temple. . . . This work is not just art historical but embraces . . . religious studies, anthropology, history, and literature.” —Catherine B. Asher

“[A]dvances our knowledge of . . . Bengali temple building practices, the complex inter-reliance between religion, state power, and art, and the ways in which Western colonial assumptions have distorted correct interpretation. . . . A splendid book.” —Rachel Fell McDermott

In the flux created by the Mughal conquest, Hindu landholders of eastern India began to build a spectacularly beautiful new style of brick temple, known as Ratna. This “bejeweled” style combined features of Sultanate mosques and thatched houses, and included second-story rooms conceived as the pleasure grounds of the gods, where Krishna and his beloved Radha could rekindle their passion. Pika Ghosh uses art historical, archaeological, textual, and ethnographic approaches to explore this innovation in the context of its times. Includes 82 stunning black-and-white images of rarely photographed structures.

Published in association with the American Institute of Indian Studies
Published in association with the American Institute of Indian Studies

Author Bio

Pika Ghosh is Associate Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is co-editor (with Michael W. Meister) of Cooking for the Gods: The Art of Home Ritual in Bengal.


"Ghosh offers an exceptional, much-needed study of the hybrid Hindu temples of Bengal, examining selected examples of so-called Ratna (Jewel) style religious architecture in eastern India during the Mughal Imperium. Idiosyncratic in configuration and unique in the use of materials, substantial brick structures sheathed in terra-cotta plaques create the format for jeweled effects appropriate to newly developing religious practices of Gaudiya Vaishnavism centered on Radha/Krishna Hinduism. Complex ritual modes of Gaudiya devotional religion determined the spatial organization of Ratna temples and the structural formats of buildings and courtyards as well. More than 100 of these temples in a new style dotted modern West Bengal and Bangladesh during the 17th and 18th centuries, but this study sharply focuses on a smaller group of 30 or more still standing at Vishnupur, built during the 17th and 18th centuries. This study examines ten of these 30 Vishnupur temples, framed within the religious, political, and social contexts of late-17th and early-18th-century life in Bengal. The discourse intelligently offers small details that speak of much larger historical factors, and primary ideas are clearly defined in language that brings to life the temples and their usage. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students; faculty." —D. K. Dohanian, emeritus, University of Rochester , 2005dec CHOICE

Pika Ghosh’s Temple to Love: Architecture and Devotion in Seventeenth-Century Bengal breaks new ground in its exploration of Hindu temple architecture. This deeply researched, well-argued work considers a radically new form of temple design that was first consolidated in mid-seventeenth century Vishnupur, capital of the Malla dynasty of western Bengal. Ghosh weaves together histories of architecture, religion, culture, and sacred poetic literature to explore the genesis and early development of the temple form proclaimed by its patrons navaratna ratnam—in her translation, 'new bejeweled temple'—in an inscription on the mid-seventeenth-century Shyam Ray Temple at Vishnupur." —caa.reviews

"This remarkably bold, insightful, and challenging study of regional architecture and worship in late medieval Bengal offers food for further thought about the complex negotiations of world systems in local cultural formations of South Asia." —Journal of the American Oriental Society

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Note on Transliteration

1. Desire, Devotion, and the Double-Storied Temple
2. A Paradigm Shift
3. Acts of Accommodation
4. Axes and the Mediation of Worship
Epilogue: A New Sacred Center

Glossary of Architectural Terms