Climate Change and the Art of Devotion
Geoaesthetics in the Land of Krishna, 1550-1850
- PUBLISHED: July 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Art History / Asian Art, Asian Studies / South Asia, Nature and Environment
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 264 Pages, 7 x 10 in, 111 color illus., 3 maps
- SERIES: Global South Asia
- ISBN: 9780295745374
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
In the enchanted world of Braj, the primary pilgrimage center in north India for worshippers of Krishna, each stone, river, and tree is considered sacred. In Climate Change and the Art of Devotion, Sugata Ray shows how this place-centered theology emerged in the wake of the Little Ice Age (ca. 1550–1850), an epoch marked by climatic catastrophes across the globe. Using the frame of geoaesthetics, he compares early modern conceptions of the environment and current assumptions about nature and culture.
A groundbreaking contribution to the emerging field of eco–art history, the book examines architecture, paintings, photography, and prints created in Braj alongside theological treatises and devotional poetry to foreground seepages between the natural ecosystem and cultural production. The paintings of deified rivers, temples that emulate fragrant groves, and talismanic bleeding rocks that Ray discusses will captivate readers interested in environmental humanities and South Asian art history.
Art History Publication Initiative. For more information, visit http://arthistorypi.org/books/climate-change-and-the-art-of-devotion
Authors & Contributors
Sugata Ray is associate professor of South and Southeast Asian Art at the University of California, Berkeley.
A ground-breaking contribution to the emerging field of eco–art history, the book examines architecture, paintings, photography, and prints created in Braj alongside theological treatises and devotional poetry to foreground seepages between the natural ecosystem and cultural production. The paintings of deified rivers, temples that emulate fragrant groves, and talismanic bleeding rocks that Ray discusses will captivate readers interested in environmental humanities and South Asian art history.- South Asia Research Note
A wonderfully imaginative addition to the growing body of literature on the Little Ice Age. Sugata Ray traces the influence of climatic variations on South Asian art, architecture and devotional practices with extraordinary interpretive skill. This book is a must read for everyone with an interest in human responses to climate variability.- Amitav Ghosh, author blog
By opening art history to questions about how humans have thought about the earth, and how art and religion have been shaped by human changes and natural disruptions to the earth, Ray’s brilliant book guides us to new problems, and to new ways of thinking about art- H-Asia (H-Net)
This is an excellent book that is well worth reading. Sugata Ray is a very good writer, and Climate Change and the Art of Devotion was impressively researched.- Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR) / Reading Religion
This is a thought-provoking work whose greatest contribution is that it carves a path for new studies that may extend our understanding of the deep and complex interrelationships among geoaesthetics, ecology, spiritual practice, and the built environment in early modern India.- Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
[E]nchanting and compelling. Ray musters visual and textual evidence for an original approach to representations of the natural environment in art and temple architecture devoted to the god Krishna during a three-hundred-year time span, 1550-1850.- The Middle Ground
[T]he methodologies entailed in geoaesthetics and eco art history open up new avenues for understanding the history of Braj religion and art in particular, and the cultural dynamics of climate change more broadly. As we enter ever more deeply into the Anthropocene, scholarship such as Ray’s will be increasingly important.- Journal of Religion
A wonderfully imaginative addition to the growing body of literature on the Little Ice Age. Sugata Ray traces the influence of climatic variations on South Asian art, architecture, and devotional practices with extraordinary interpretive skill.- Amitav Ghosh, Author, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable
The rocks, rivers, forests, plants, animals, and even the skies of the Mathura-Vrindavan region in north India come alive as historical agents acting alongside humans in Ray's pioneering and imaginative attempt to develop a geoaesthetic approach to the study of Hindu religious art and architecture over a period ranging from the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. His impressive ability to connect events in the realm of aesthetics and religious devotion with the climatic impact of the Little Ice Age in South Asia, is bound to influence debates in art history in South Asia and beyond. A brilliant achievement.- Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
A bold and ambitious project that takes on a sweeping range of issues across both the humanities and social sciences. Ray brings core Indian material into dialogue with current conversations about the relationship between the human and nonhuman, between materiality and immateriality, and climate change and visual culture. The book serves as a challenge to future scholars to expand the range of their own conversations.- Tamara Sears, author of Worldly Gurus and Spiritual Kings: Architecture and Asceticism in Medieval India
Sugata Ray’s Climate Change and the Art of Devotion draws an unexpected and strikingly original connection between the catastrophic consequences of the Little Ice Age (c.1550-1850) and the rise of a site-specific theology at the pilgrim centre of Braj in India. This scholarly, elegantly written art historical monograph that skilfully combines archival scholarship with theoretical sophistication, makes a powerful contribution to recent debates on the environmental crisis in the present anthropocene epoch.- Partha Mitter, author of The Triumph of Modernism: India’s Artists and the Avant-Garde – 1922-1947