Motivated Reading: Text and Image in the Expanded Temple

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While generations of scholars have recorded the rock-cut inscriptions found on the walls of southeast Indian temples, not until recently has attention been given to the inclusion of text in murals of the same region and locations. Epigraphists and historians of all stripes have focused mainly on the semantic content of text, largely ignoring the materiality, placement, and legibility of the inscriptions themselves. However, a more recent turn to the study of materiality has refocused attention on these issues. Emerging from an art historical perspective, this essay argues that the study of murals can methodologically enrich a reading of inscriptions, no matter their medium. This essay argues that the images and texts that adorn temple walls, both carved in stone and painted in murals, may be best understood within a larger matrix of aesthetic experience that neither reduces them to their materiality nor removes them from a contextually-specific reading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-219
Number of pages14
JournalSouth Asian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 3 2019


  • Inscriptions
  • Murals
  • South India
  • Text and Image
  • Visibility


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