ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Transcultural Building Traditions: Early Modern Transformations in South India.


Arfeen-Wegner Percy - Ruhr University Bochum, Centre for Religious Studies, Bochum, Germany


45 – South Asian–Portuguese relationships from the fifteenth century to the present: Colonialism, interactions, and identities


 Conventional accounts have projected a ‘break’ in architectural styles in Southern India with the coming of the Portuguese. Whilst it is true that the period witnessed significant socio-economic changes, particularly in the nature of trade in the Indian Ocean, aspects of cultural transformations were hardly as abrupt as is often led to believe. This paper will explore the issue of early modern transformations focusing on building traditions and practices of extant sacred spaces in South India. It will investigate aspects of building technologies, techniques of execution, and motifs of constructions, challenging the study of traditions through the conventional binaries of “east” versus “west” – where the west is often depicted as an ‘imposer’ and the east a ‘passive receiver’. This paper argues that the reception of building traditions was multifaceted, entailing prolonged experimentation of techniques and scopes for internalisation as well as rejection.