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Reimagining tradition: the Sompura hereditary temple architects of Gujarat

Chand Inglis, Megha 2016. Reimagining tradition: the Sompura hereditary temple architects of Gujarat. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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By examining the shifting working practices of the Sompura community of hereditary temple architects of western India my thesis argues that the nature of their work culture invested in their architectural and textual production is far more critical, innovative, heterogeneous and fluid than how it is portrayed in post-colonial knowledge located within the disciplinary bounds of architecture and art history. Through unchartered empirical investigation, which uses ‘cultural translation’ as a framework for analysis, the thesis highlights their creative negotiations and struggles with modernity between the late 19th and early 21st - century. Whether it is modern historical consciousness, notions of ‘antiquity’, nationalist ideas of hereditary craftsmen and tradition, changing patronage, global economy or technology, the Sompuras in their concrete and ‘present’ practices, translate all these as well as their long architectural lineage in specific inviolable modes. These query notions of a ‘fossilised’ tradition viewed through historical frameworks; the agency of ‘ritual’ untouched by capitalist processes and binary oppositions such as ‘east vs west’ or ‘traditional vs modern’. The publications of Narmadashankar M. Sompura (1883-1956) and P.O. Sompura (1896-1978), are analysed as transformations of both modern notions of antiquity and history and indigenous practices. The restoration of medieval ruins of Ranakpur and Dilwara temples in the early and mid-twentieth century by master builder Amritlal Mulshankar Trivedi (1910-2005) are explored as negotiations with western European ideas of history and conservation. The contingent relations between practice and codified knowledges are explored through oral histories concerning transnational case studies in the UK, whereas a variety of qualities and affects are seen as transforming capitalist processes and relations in modern carving factories, deploying a range of hand intensive, machine and digital technologies for a global dispersal. The thesis uses a variety of extra disciplinary methodologies such as oral history, close reading of family archives, along with a range of architecture and texts by the Sompuras and their medieval ancestors. It demonstrates that the Sompuras, believed to be carriers of a dynamic architectural tradition, have creatively and dynamically negotiated change by translating and transforming both their pre-existing cultures of work, as well as modern and global paradigms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Publication
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Architecture
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sompura hereditary temple architecture western India
Funders: Cardiff University President's Research Scholarship
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 September 2016
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 09:24

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