My current project focuses on a substantial and fascinating group of narrative Gupta period terracotta panels dispersed across museum and private collections in North America, Canada, Europe and India. Many of the panels depict scenes from the great Hindu epic, the Rāmāyaṇa, and some bear short Brāhmī inscriptions dating to the early fifth century CE, which Professor Peter Bisschop (Leiden University Institute for Area Studies) has been helping me to decipher. Although the panels share a bold, idiosyncratic style and a likeness in scale and finish, they have never been acknowledged as having a single origin. Instead, most of them have been loosely described as hailing from Uttar Pradesh. The obscure provenance suggests that the panels were not unearthed during the course of a legal excavation.
The central aims of my research paper are to draw together this remarkable collection of panels and to put forward an argument for their place of origin being a small archaeological site near the village of Katingara, located in the alluvial plains beside the Kali Nadi river (a tributary of the Ganges) in district Etah, Uttar Pradesh. Katingara will also be positioned within the context of recorded early archaeological sites in the region – a region often overlooked in studies on Gupta art, architecture and archaeology despite being in the heartland of the empire. Importantly, the panels constitute one of the earliest and most extensive collections of terracotta Rāmāyaṇa images surviving from the Gupta period and this is the first time since their illicit removal from Katingara that they have been ‘re-assembled’.
Period of stay at IIAS
A hoard of Gupta period terracotta temple panels from Katingara, Etah district, Uttar Pradesh