Catherine B. Asher | The Qutb Complex: India and the Persianate World

Lecture | April 12 | 5-7 p.m. | Stephens Hall, 10 (ISAS Conf. Room)

 Catherine Asher, Professor, Department of Art History, University of Minnesota

 Sugata Ray, Associate Professor, History of Art Department

 Institute for South Asia Studies, Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies, South Asia Art Initiative, The Berkeley Urdu Initiative, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Department of History of Art

The South Asia Art Initiative at UC Berkeley is delighted to welcome Catherine Asher, Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Minnesota, to UC Berkeley.

Talk Abstract
This presentation will examine the famous Qutb mosque complex in Delhi that commenced in the late 12 th century and remains today a major attraction for locals and tourists alike. Components of the mosque complex derive from Iranian and Persianate traditions brought by the Ghurids such as Aibak’s arched screen, the towering Qutb minar and its tombs as well as style of its epigraphy. Other features are more Indic in nature, for example, the naturalistic carving on the screen and the use of stone in lieu of brick. A goal of this presentation is to think about this well-known site in new ways that contextualize its place in both India and the larger Persianate world. The motivations for the construction of Delhi’s mosque, originally from spolia, are examined as are the multiple new components of this complex that spanned the first several hundred years of Muslim rule. Included in this complex are the world’s tallest brick/stone constructed minaret, an early tomb and a magnificent arched stone screen in front of the original mosque. Issues to be addressed include: the possible reasons for radical changes in visual aesthetics at the complex, the messages of the inscriptions including graffiti on the monuments and the political aspirations of the patrons responsible for complex’s growth.

Speaker Bio
Catherine Asher is a professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Minnesota. She is a specialist in Islamic and Indian art from 1200 to the present. She’s well known for her work on the Mughal dynasty (1526-1858), but increasingly is working on the patronage of their successors and predecessors, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Current work focuses on architecture provided by Hindus, Jains, Muslims and Sikhs in cities across north India. Exploring not only architecture but also painting as well as luxury arts, she shows that contrary to common belief these communities were more often in harmony with one another than in adversarial relationships. In addition to urban formations and developments, Catherine Asher is also interested in the shrines that develop around deceased Muslim saints, that is, Sufis, examining the appeal such complexes have for devotees. Those in south India that focus on miraculous healing have much in common with nearby churches and Hindu temples, thus suggesting the development of pan-Indian cultures that transcend religious affiliations. In addition to courses on India, she teaches a wide range of courses on Islamic art and culture. To develop these courses, Catherine Asher has traveled extensively to areas with sizable Muslim populations from Spain to China. Her books include a co-authored book (with Cynthia Talbot), India before Europe (2006), a co-edited volume (with Thomas Metcalf), Perceptions of South Asia’s Visual Past (1994), and The Architecture of Mughal India (1992). Currently Catherine Asher is working on the built environment of Jaipur from its foundation in the 18th century to the present.

The South Asia Art Initiative, inaugurated in Spring 2018, is the culmination of a comprehensive art program, built over the past several years, that promoted conversation around the visual cultures of South Asia through talks, conferences, and exhibitions. The goal of the Initiative is to move onto the next level with local, national, and international collaborations that combine creative energies with insights drawn from scholarly research. To read more about the Initiative or to help support its various fundraising goals, please click HERE.

Event made possible with the support of the Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies

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PARKING INFORMATION: Please note that parking is not always easily available in Berkeley. Take public transportation if possible or arrive early to secure your spot.

The event is FREE and OPEN to the public., 510-642-3608