Tuesday, Dec 1: Indian Prehistory and Early History

Geographical and Prehistoric Cultural Subdivisions of the Indian Subcontinent

Dr Ravi Korisettar 

The presentation traces the history of  human settlements across the Indian subcontinent since the Lower Paleolithic times to the end of Neolithic-Iron Age time periods. Archaeological investigations spread over a span of 160 years have shown that prehistoric cultural evolution across the Indian subcontinent was not uniform in time and space. Distinctive cultural provinces are associated with a network of geographical environments which in turn are governed by the variation in the intensity of monsoon precipitation/rainfall  across the subcontinent. 

The focus of the presentation is on spatio-temporal variation in the way human settlements/early cultures have developed set in a geographical and environmental perspective. The last two decades have witnessed landmark archaeological investigations relating to the absolute chronology of Palaeolithic cultures, understanding  of man-land relationships and identification of indigenous development of early food producing way of life across the Indian subcontinent. Based on archaeobotanical and archaeozoological findings domesticated plants and animals   native to India and exotic crops from Africa, Southwest Asia and East Asia have been documented.

Tuesday, Dec 1: Indian Prehistory and Early History

The Script of the Indus Valley Civilization: Computational Analysis and Recent Interpretations

Dr Rajesh Rao

More than 4000 years ago, people living in the Indus valley in what is now Pakistan and northwestern India wrote short sequences of symbols on seals, tablets, pottery, and other artifacts. These short texts constitute the Indus script, one of the last major undeciphered scripts of the ancient world. Deciphering the Indus script could have significant ramifications for the way we view the pre-history of the Indian subcontinent today. 

In this talk, I will first describe research aimed at analyzing the Indus script using computational and statistical techniques. This analysis provides insights into the syntax of the script and allows a comparison with other scripts encoding natural languages. Such an analysis however does not address the issue of interpreting the symbols (the semantics of the script). 

The second part of the talk will focus on how the constraints imposed by syntax and artifact use could suggest possible interpretations. We first discuss competing interpretations for the class of "fish" symbols in the script. We then explore the potentially provocative hypothesis that rather than simply indicating names and ownership of property as traditionally believed, Indus seals may have been an integral part of a pre-coinage system for economic transactions, allowing rapid generation of tokens, tablets and sealings to facilitate exchange of canonical amounts of goods, grains, animals, and labor.

Wednesday, Dec 2nd: Ancient Indian Mathematics

The Magnificence of Brahmagupta’s Bhavana

Dr Amartya Kumar Datta

In mathematics, a law of composition combines (i.e., \composes") two mathematical objects of a certain type to produce a third object of the same type. For instance, it may combine two solutions of a given equation to generate a third solution of the equation, or to combine two expressions of a particular form to yield another expression of the same form. The principle of composition lies at the heart of modern (abstract) algebra and number theory. 

A great contribution of Brahmagupta (628 CE) is his introduction of the very idea of composition in early seventh century, through his result which is known by the Sanskrit name bhavana. In this talk we will try to give a historical perspective to help us appreciate the magnicence of Brahmagupta's composition law bhavana.

Brahmagupta's statement is equivalent to an important identity in algebra and number theory. But the presentation of his actual statement as a mere identity, as is often done by mathematicians, misses its real mathematical signicance. We shall discuss this caveat.

Brahmagupta's law is formulated as a principle of composition of solutions of a quadratic equation of the form Nx2+z = y2, where N is a fixed constant. We will present a few ancient and modern applications of his rule.

Brahmagupta's bhavana implies a principle of composition of certain quadratic polynomials called binary forms. We will make a brief reference to two subsequent landmarks: Gauss's composition law (1801) on binary quadratic forms and Manjul Bhargava's composition laws (2001) on polynomials of higher degree.

Thursday, Dec 3rd: Temple Architecture 


The Unfolding Universe of Nagara Temple Architecture

Dr Adam Hardy


This talk is about the tradition of temple architecture that predominated across the whole of northern India between the 6th and 12th centuries, continuing with periodical revivals until today. Rather than dwell on particular monuments, I shall try to put across an understanding of the architecture and its principles, in particular a sense of how it was created.

These are the main areas and themes of the talk:

·       The importance of typology, as an architectural principle, not merely for classification. Timber origins of early types. Aedicularity: temple composed of temples. 

·       Nagara and Dravida (northern and southern temple traditions) as architectural languages, underlying different temple forms (general ‘modes’, and specific ‘types’).

·       The architectural expression of downward an outward movement (emergence, expansion, proliferation); how this is paralleled by an emanatory pattern of development within the tradition, as the architects draw out one form from another; and how this pattern reflects perennial concepts of cosmogony and manifestation.

Theory and practice: the canonical Sanskrit texts (Vastushastras, Shilpashastras), and how temple designs ‘unfold’ in these texts. I shall focus on an important chapter of the 12th-century Aparjitaprccha, and show a worked example of how to proceed from the text to a temple design.

Thursday, Dec 3rd: Temple Architecture 

South Indian Temple Architecture: An Overview and a Comparison 

Dr G Sankaranarayanan


South Indian temples can be largely grouped under four sub-groups: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and a Andhra/Odisha one. While the first three are distinct, the Andhra temples display a mix of features from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Odisha. Odisha temples have a mix of North and South Indian features. This talk will explore the temples across these regions and present the commonalities and differences across these geographical regions.

Saturday, Dec 5th: Chola Bronzes

Masters of Fire: Hereditary Bronze Casters of South India - An Ethnoarchaeological Perspective

Dr Thomas E Levy

The talk is based on the book of the same name by Thomas E. Levy, Alina M. Levy, Radakrishna Sthapathy, Srikanda Sthapathy, and Swaminathan Sthapathy, an exploration of the age-old and still continuing traditions of the metal workers of Swamimalai and the techniques of lost-wax method.

Saturday, Dec 5th: Chola Bronzes

Dr Sharada Srinivasan

The Talk will distill Dr Sharada’s extensive research on the archaeometallurgical aspects of ancient mining and metallurgy in southern India as well as her nuanced understanding of the iconography of south Indian bronzes.

Sunday, Dec 6th : Preserving the past for the Future

The Conservation Praxis, Lessons from Ahmedabad and Agra

Dr Jigna Desai

Conservation in India is legally embedded through the actions of the Archeological Survey of India and has recently been strengthened through many new policies and institutional frameworks. In practice many organisations and individual citizens persevere to ensure its success. This talk would, through examples of Ahmedabad and Agra, illustrate the need for many simultaneous actions (international, national, local, personal) in order to initiate and execute the concern of preserving the past for the future.

Sunday, Dec 6th : Preserving the past for the Future

Project Sittannavasal Atyantakama: Proposals for Preservation and Appreciation of Heritage  

Prof S Swaminathan 

Prof Swaminathan will describe the importance of the monuments at places like Mahabalipuram and Sittannavasal and outline his ideas for not only their preservation but also to enhance the visitor’s experience of their heritage.