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The Thief Who Stole My Heart

Vidya Dehejia, Columbia University

September 28, 2023 · 4:30 pm5:30 pm · A71 Louis A. Simpson Building

Department of Art and Archaeology

This talk commences by introducing the audience to the sacred bronzes created by a master sculptor around the year 1000, and suggests that his inspiration may well have been child-saint Sambandar’s opening hymn that hails god Shiva as “the thief who stole my heart.” Vidya Dehejia then moves beyond this sensuous imagery to ask questions of this material that have not been asked before, treating the bronzes as material objects that interacted in meaningful ways with human activities, and with socioeconomic and religious practices. Where did the Cholas acquire the copper required to cast the many temple bronzes that are solid and heavy pieces of metal? Why were the Cholas obsessed with island Sri Lanka? What were the circumstances that permitted the creation of so many temples and such large numbers of exquisite bronzes despite the constant warfare that the Chola monarchs undertook to retain and expand their empire? What was the source of the pearls, and also of coral, rubies and diamonds, that were embedded in gold jewelry gifted to adorn temple bronzes? Why did the Cholas cover the walls of their temple walls with inscriptions– some 13,000 in total – using them the walls almost as if they were the public records office?

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