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Postgraduate Research

Fiona Buckee gained a First Class Honours degree in Philosophy and a Masters degree with Distinction in Comparative Religion from Manchester University. At the British Museum she took the Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art for which she was awarded a Distinction. She completed her PhD thesis, which was funded by the AHRC, in 2010. The thesis focuses on North Indian temple architecture and was supervised by Prof. Adam Hardy at Cardiff University. Fiona is an Associate Editor of South Asian Studies, and lectures on Asian Art courses run by SOAS, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Reconstructing a Latina Temple Spire: Temple 45, Sanchi
(Abstract of PhD Thesis, completed 2010)

The initial aim of this thesis is to reconstruct, through drawings, the original design of the spire from Temple 45, a ruined Latina temple from the World Heritage Site of Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh. The hundreds of un-analysed architectural fragments from the temple that survive on site are the primary data for this project: a veritable three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of pieces waiting to be measured, identified and reassembled.

In order to turn the mass of architectural data collected at Sanchi during this research into a virtual reconstruction of the spire from Temple 45, an authentic and detailed method of Latina spire design must be used. Finding such a method, one ratified by the Vastusaśāstras, by the shape of surviving Latina superstructures, and by the proportions of Temple 45 and its spire courses, forms the second, broader research question of the thesis. Although Latina temples are a seminal feature of North Indian temple architecture, scholars’ explanations of how they were designed are inconsistent, incomplete and often unconvincing.

In pursuit of this design method, therefore, the thesis explores the origination and development of the Latina temple form across Central India. It interrogates contemporary scholars’ theories of Latina spire design and investigates the role that the Vastusaśāstras may have played in the practises of early temple architects. Vastusaśāstric descriptions of Latina spire design are turned into drawings of spire elevations in order to assess their credibility, and in doing so a particular method of spire design is ratified and additional design details are suggested in order to provide a working explanation. Using this method, four sets of spire proportions given in a West Indian textcalled theDīpārṇava are validated. These are shown to create convincing Latina elevations with proportions that are borne out by surviving Central Indian Latina temples, by an engraving of a half Latina spire carved into the hallway of the Harihara 2 Temple in Osian, and by the proportions of Temple 45 its fragmented remains. Drawing from these findings, and returning to the initial aim of the thesis, the thesis proposes a detailed and convincing elevation of the spire from Temple 45.