Sheldon Pollock's 'Aestheticization of Power' Targets Tamil Pallavas

(shared by HemaC, forum member. Comment by Rajiv Malhotra at the end of this post)
Dear All,

Literary, Arts and Heritage Forum
Indian Institute of Science Campus,
Bengaluru - 560 012

is pleased to invite you to a talk on

“The Aesthetics of Power: Representations of Kingship within the Early Pallava Imperium”


​​Mekhola Gomes
Doctoral Scholar, Centre for Historical Studies,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Chairperson : Naresh Keerthi, NIAS

Date:               Monday, 21st March, 2016
Time:               4:30 pm
Venue:             Lecture Hall, NIAS

Abstract:   The period of Pallava rule in Tamil Nadu was a dynamic time in South Indian history, with innovations in several spheres. These included the construction of cave-shrines, structural temples, creation of new iconographies, and inscriptional encomiums. In this talk, I attend to the changing aesthetics of power in the Pallava kingdom through a juxtaposition of texts and images. Starting the 4th century CE, inscriptional genealogies praised Pallava kings in innovative ways. These innovations were elaborated within and through the construction of royal cave-shrines and structural temples beginning the 7th century CE.  Through inscriptional  panegyrics, the construction of cave-shrines, and structural temples, the Pallavas inaugurated a new aesthetics of power. This emergent aesthetics of power was created within and through a larger field of representation. I will compare representational strategies of kingship within inscriptions of the Early Pallavas with visual delineations of power in rock-cut cave- shrines and stone temples.  I suggest that the Pallavas created a new aesthetics of power in early south India, through both the textual and visual and it is only through the interpretation of text and image together that we can fully appreciate the emergence of this new aesthetic.

About the Speaker: Mekhola Gomes is a doctoral scholar in early Indian history at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her thesis, explores representations and practices of political power in the Deccan, between the 3rd and 8th centuries CE. She is co-editing a forthcoming volume on the epigraphical (re)turn in the study of ancient Indian history.

* * * * * * * *

All are cordially invited

For further information, please contact. Naresh Keerthi

K S Rama Krishna

N.I.A.S., I.I.Sc Campus
Bengaluru 560012
Ph:   2218 5000
Fax: 2218 5028

Rajiv Malhotra: Thanks for this post. It shows my claim that Pollock's thesis has spread far and wide, getting installed deep into our intellectual institutions. Yet our side has very few IKs bothering to read my response, as that entails serious study. Also, note that NIAS did not want to invite me whereas the Pollock side gets hosted there. I would love to debate this fellow whose job seems to be to implement Pollock's theory by supplying Indian examples.


  1. Is there a live web telecast of this? If so, Would like to attend that go see how they present this point of view...

  2. Via RM forum:
    Visit of Mekhola Gomes
    06 JANUARY 16
    Mekhola Gomes, doctoral student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and scholar of the EFEO, is visiting the Pondicherry Centre for 3 months to pursue her studies for her thesis: “The Aesthetics of Power: Representations of Kingship within the Pallava Imperium, c.300 CE-c. 900 century CE”.

  3. If you go through her website, AOP is her basis for her research:
    Her thesis title is "Expressions of Power: Representations and Practices of Power beyond the Vindhyas, c. 3rd century CE-c. 8th century CE."
    Apart from that she already completed the title "Kinship/Kingship: A Reading of Donative Inscriptions from Nagarjunakonda, c. 3rd century- c. 4th century CE"

    And she looks like Wendy's child because she is sympathetic towards pulping of Wendy's book "The Hindus: An Alternative History".