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H 245 x W 175 mm

144 pages

143 figures (colour throughout)

Published May 2022

Archaeopress Archaeology


Paperback: 9781803272542

Digital: 9781803272559

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Indian oil lamps; Kerala; Hindu; bronze sculpture; ritual art; ritual decorative art; Indian art history; South Asian Studies

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Light of Devotion: Oil Lamps of Kerala

By Carol Radcliffe Bolon

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This in-depth study of the medieval oil lamps of Kerala and beyond considers these art objects as primary sources for a broader discussion on the ritual use of Hindu oil lamps, their related and unique cultural history, their motifs, style and subject matter. From an understudied region, many of the pieces presented are previously unpublished.



List of Figures ;

Acknowledgements ;

Note on names of towns ;

Art of Devotion ;
Collections ;
Festivals ;
Bibliography ;
Inscriptions ;
Dating difficulties ;

Classification ;
Names of Some Oil Lamps ;
Suspension Lamps ;
Stationary Lamps ;
Portable Lamps ;

Suspension Lamps ;
Gaja/elephant-shaped lamps ;
Archaeological Museum, Dadigama, Sri Lanka, elephant-shaped oil lamp ;
CSMVS, Mumbai, elephant-shaped lamp found at Jogeshvari, Maharashtra ;
Thrissur State Museum elephant-shaped oil lamp from Thripunithura, Kerala ;
Kuthira Maliga Museum, Thiruvananthapuram, elephant-shaped oil lamp ;
Vimana vilakku/ Temple model-shaped lamps ;
Gaja Lakshmi ;
Mythic Depictions ;
Non-mythic suspension lamps ;

Stationary Lamps ;
Mada vilakku/wall niche lamps ;
Vriksha vilakku or Tree-shaped lamps ;
Kavara vilakku, branching lamp ;
Nila or Kuthu vilakku or stambha ;
Lakshmi Deepa/Fortune Lamp ;
Kindi, ritual water pot lamp ;

Portable Lamps ;
Arti/prayer ;
Changalavatta ;
Vanchi vilakku, boat-shaped processional torch ;

Extra Parts ;

Conclusion ;
Characteristics ;
South Indian bronze imagery ;
Production features of style ;
Iconography ;
Dynastic arts ;

Bibliography ;


About the Author

Carol Radcliffe Bolon is a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. She was Curator for South and Southeast Asian Art at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art and was Professor of South Asian Art and South Asian Studies at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Forms of the Goddess Lajja Gauri (Penn State Press, 1992) and co-editor of The Nature of Frank Lloyd Wright (University of Chicago Press, 1988). She has published extensively on early Chalukya sculpture and the architecture of South India.