The Sixty-Fifth A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts: The Thief Who Stole My Heart: The Material Life of Chola Bronzes from South India, c. 855–1280, Part 5: Chola Obsession with Sri Lanka and the Silk Route of the Sea in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries
Vidya Dehejia, Barbara Stoler Miller Professor of Indian Art, Columbia University. In this six-part lecture series entitled The Thief Who Stole My Heart: The Material Life of Chola Bronzes from South India, c. 855–1280, art historian Vidya Dehejia discusses the work of artists of Chola India who created exceptional bronzes of the god Shiva, invoked as “Thief Who Stole My Heart.” Graceful, luminous sculptures of high copper content portrayed the deities as sensuous figures of sacred import. Every bronze is a portable image, carried through temple and town to participate in celebrations that combined the sacred with the joyous atmosphere of carnival. In these lectures, Dehejia discusses the images as tangible objects that interact in a concrete way with human activities and socioeconomic practices. She asks questions of this body of material that have never been asked before, concerning the source of wealth that enabled the creation of bronzes, the origin of copper not available locally, the role of women patrons, the strategic position of the Chola empire at the center of a flourishing ocean trade route between Aden and China, and the manner in which the Cholas covered the walls of their temples with thousands of inscriptions, converting them into public records offices. These sensuous portrayals of the divine gain their full meaning with critical study of information captured through a variety of lenses. In this fifth lecture, entitled "Chola Obsession with Sri Lanka and the Silk Route of the Sea in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries," originally delivered at the National Gallery of Art on May 1, 2016, Professor Dehejia examines the bronze images of deities created in Buddhist Sri Lanka after it became a province of the Chola empire. Artists there, accustomed to creating relatively sedate forms of the Buddha, were baffled by a Dancing Lord whose very essence was movement. The lecture also reviews the Chola expeditions to southeast Asia in the context of the lucrative trade route between Aden and China.