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Architecture: the temple


Admission requirements

For students South and Southeast Asia Studies: propaedeuse completed.

Course description

How can you tell a Hindu from a Buddhist or a Jain temple? Are modern temples different from those that were built in earlier times? What were important criteria for the building of a Buddhist stūpa? In which ways did sculpture and painting contribute to the meaning and fucntion of Indian architecture?

In this lecture series we study specific features of monuments that define the South and Southeast Asian architectural landscape. We examine to what extent a well-considered placement of imagery of deities, world protectors, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, narratives and auspicious motives optimize the architectural and ritual functionality of built space.

This course is a vital component in a BA-programme of students focusing on arts and material culture of South and Southeast Asia, but may be equally relevant for those studying Asian religions, cultural history, history or archaeology. Student of western art may consider to join and focus on a comparative approach. Students from other departments and a-la-carte students are most welcome to join as well.

Students are expected to prepare each week’s classes via written assignments related to the literature read (graded, 2 EC). Most of the literature is made digitally available. Several image databases are also used frequently, including the Digital Special Collections of the University Library.
The classes are offered in a thematical sequence. At the start of the second half of the semester the students present a case study (selected from a pre-arranged list of subjects, 1 EC). To round off the series, the students write a small paper related to the themes discussed (2 EC).

Course objectives

  • Deepening the student’s knowledge of Asia’s religious architecture;

  • Creating an awareness of the application of specific visual and ritually relevant formats

  • Creating an awareness of the relevance of iconographic programmes

  • Creating insight into inherent symbolism and ritual relevance of architectural design of temples and stupas

  • Capacity building in the presentation of a case study by means of Powerpoint

  • Developing skills in handling digital image databases

  • Developing skills in reporting in writing on the results of research

Time table

See the website

Mode of instruction

Seminar (hoor/werkcollege). Participation is obligatory.

140 hours in total for 5 EC:
seminar (12×2 = 24 h);
preparing the presentation (16 h);
reading for and preparing the weekly assignment (11× 5=60 h);
writing the paper (40 h)

Assessment method

  • participation and weekly assignments (2 EC)

  • presentation (1 EC)

  • paper (2 EC)


Used for providing pdfs of presentations, guidelines, links to literature and other relevant weblinks, announcements.

Reading list

  • G. Michell, The Hindu temple. Chicago, 1988 (or a later edition)

  • Selected reading materials (offered via BB)


Registration via uSis is obligatory.

Registration A la carte and contractonderwijs

Registration for A la Carte
Registration as Contractonderwijs


Dr. E.M. Raven