History, Myth, and Maṭam in Southeast Indian Portraits





portrait, mural, Citamparam, green, maṭam, Tirupperuntuṟai


Portraiture emerged as a major interest in literature, sculpture, and painting in early modern southeastern India. While this may, on one hand, reflect an interest in historical documentation, it is also indicative of the wider significance of mimetic representation across the arts. Pursuing one avenue of implication, this essay elucidates the relationship between historical, mythic, and ideal representations of unique individuals through portraiture, focusing on the murals at the great temple of Citamparam.

PlumX Metrics of this article


Aitken, M. E. (ed.). 2016. A Magic World: New Visions of Indian Painting. Mumbai: Published by Radhika Sabavala for the Marg Foundation.

Branfoot, C. 2007. Gods on the Move: Architecture and Ritual in the South Indian Temple. London: Society for South Asian Studies, British Academy.

—. 2013. Remaking the Past: Tamil Sacred Landscape and Temple Renovations. In: Bulletin of the School of Oriental & African Studies, 76: 21–47. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0041977X12001462. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0041977X12001462

—. (ed.). 2018a. Portraiture in South Asia since the Mughals: Art, Representation and History. London: I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350987579. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350987579

—. 2018b. Heroic Rulers and Devoted Servants: Performing Kingship in the Tamil Temple. In: C. Branfoot (ed.). Portraiture in South Asia since the Mughals. London: I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.: 165–197. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350987579.ch-007. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350987579.ch-007

—. 2019 Temple Renovation and Chettiar Patronage in Colonial Madras Presidency. In: A. Garimella, Sh. Sridharan, and A. Srivathsan (eds). The Contemporary Hindu Temple: Fragments for a History. Mumbai: Marg Foundation: 22–35.

Cutler, N. 2003. Three Moments in the Genealogy of Tamil Literary Culture. In: S. Pollock (ed.). Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press: 271–322.

Dehejia, V. 2002 (1988). Slaves of the Lord: The Path of the Tamil Saints. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.

Irācu, C. 1994. Cētupati ceppēṭ ukaḷ. Tañcāvūr: Tamil̲p Palkalaik Kal̲akam.

Kaimal, P. 1999. The Problem of Portraiture in South India, Circa 870–970 A. D. In: Artibus Asiae, 59(1/2): 59–133. https://doi.org/10.2307/3249862. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/3249862

Khera, D. 2020. The Place of Many Moods Udaipur’s Painted Lands and India’s Eighteenth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvz938s7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvz938s7

Klöber, R. 2017. What Is Saiva Siddhanta? Tracing Modern Genealogies and Historicising a Classical Canon. In: The Journal of Hindu Studies, 10(2): 187–218. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhs/hix008. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jhs/hix008

Koppedrayer, K. I. 1990. The Sacred Presence of the Guru: The Velala Lineages of Tiruvavatuturai, Dharmapuram, and Tiruppanantal. Ph.D. McMaster University, http://hdl.handle.net/11375/8299, accessed on 3.04.2022.

Lefèvre, V. 2011. Portraiture in Early India: Between Transience and Eternity. Leiden: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004207356.i-219. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004207356.i-219

Madhavan, R. 2002. Religious Orders, Language Resurgence and Collective Identity in Tamil Nadu: A Sociological Study. Ph.D. Jawaharlal Nehru University, http://hdl.handle.net/10603/29308, accessed on 3.04.2022.

Narayana Rao, V., D. Shulman and S. Subrahmanyam. 1992. Symbols of Substance, Court and State in Nayaka Period Tamilnadu. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Natif, M. 2018. Mughal Occidentalism: Artistic Encounters between Europe and Asia at the Courts of India, 1580–1630 (Studies in Persian Cultural History 15). Leiden, Boston: Brill. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004374997

—. 2003. Textures of Time: Writing History in South India. New York: Other Press.

Narayana Rao, V., D. Shulman and S. Subrahmanyam; S. Pollock; C. Chekuri; R. Mantena. 2007. Forum: Textures of Time. History and Theory, 46(3): 366–427. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4502264, accessed on 3.04.2022.

Orr, L. 2020. Naming Rituals and Sharing Power in the Time and Space of the Tamil Temple. In: H. Albery et al. (eds). Power, Presence, and Space. London: Routledge India. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003083832-8. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003083832-8

Ramesh, J. 2020. Abodes of Śiva. PhD. Columbia University. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, accessed on 3.04.2022.

Seastrand, A. [Forthcoming]. The Kinaesthetic Temple: Materiality and Imagination in Early Modern Murals. [No place].

—. 2022. Narrative, Site, and Performance: Histories of Encountering the Temple Hall. In: D. Mason (ed.). A Temple within a Temple: The South Indian Mandapam in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. New Haven: Yale University Press: 148–161.

—. 2018. Text, Image, and Portrait in Early Modern South Indian Murals. In: Artibus Asiae, 78(1): 29–60.

Shulman, D. 2012. More than Real a History of the Imagination in South India. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674065123. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674065123

—. 1980. Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Śaiva Tradition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400856923. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400856923

Simmons, C. 2020. Devotional Sovereignty: Kingship and Religion in India. New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190088897.001.0001. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190088897.001.0001

Singh, K. 2018. Scent Upon a Southern Breeze: The Synaesthetic Arts of the Deccan. Mumbai: Marg Foundation.

Smith, D. 2004. Painting in the Shivakamasundari Shrine at Chidambaram. In: V. Nanda (ed.). Chidambaram: Home of Nataraja. Mumbai: Marg Publications on Behalf of the National Centre for the Performing Arts: 97–105.

Thomas, I. J. 1979. Painting in Tamil Nadu, A. D. 1350–1650. PhD, University of Michigan. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, accessed on 3.04.2022.

Tirumalainātar. 1905. Citamparapurāṇam. Pē. Irāmaliṅka Piḷḷ ai and A. Taṅkavēlup Piḷḷ ai. (eds.). Ceṉṉapaṭṭ aṇam: Makālakṣū mi Vilāca Acciyan-tiracālai.

Yocum, G. E. 1990. A Non-Brāhman Tamil Śaiva Mutt: A Field Study of the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam. In: A. B. Reel and V. Narayanan (eds). Monastic Life in the Christian and Hindu Traditions: A Comparative Study. Lewiston: Edwin Mellon Press: 247–279.

Younger, P. 1995. The Home of Dancing Śivaṉ: The Traditions of the Hindu Temple in Citamparam. New York: Oxford University Press.

Zvelebil, K. 1994. Lexicon of Tamil Literature. Leiden Netherlands–New York: E. J. Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004491731. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004491731




How to Cite

Seastrand, Anna Lise. 2022. “History, Myth, and Maṭam in Southeast Indian Portraits”. Cracow Indological Studies 24 (1):159-84. https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.24.2022.01.08.

Funding data