- Water Architecture in South Asia: A Study of Types, Development and Meanings
This large book is descriptive in approach and the subject is organized on a typological rather than geographical basis. Its five core chapters cover ghats, tanks, kundas, wells, and water in palaces and gardens. There are also two introductory chapters and a conclusion. The book does not claim an exhaustive coverage of these types but attempts to present interesting examples of each. The author starts her survey from the premise that all architecture makes statements, and goes on to argue that the water architecture she presents functioned or functions to separate domains: to separate [End Page 399] "the sacred and profane, the public and the private, . . . men and women and . . . castes of various degrees of purity or pollution" (p. 8). The study progresses logically and clearly along the lines indicated. Each core chapter begins with a good map showing the locations of the type of water architecture discussed and also contains good line drawings of significant details observed in specific examples. The book is thus very much in the Handbuch tradition of Brill, but in the large format of Studies in South Asian Art and Archaeology, edited by Jan Fontein (itself the continuation of Studies in South Asian Culture, founding editor Johanna van Lohuizen [1969–1984; edited 1984–1993 by myself ]). It is perhaps pertinent to state what this book is not: the author recognizes that the endowment of water works was a vitally important area of royal patronage but excludes that dimension from her study on grounds of space. Disappointingly, the only work she cites on the socioeconomic aspects of water in India is Karl Wittvogel's much criticized Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973).
Nonetheless the book is the result of impressive travel and indefatigable photography, measurement, and drawing. It is handsomely produced on good quality paper with Brill's handsome typefaces, but alas with a sprinkling of typos, including one on the first page of the table of contents. All plates are on art paper, sixteen of which are in color. The book was printed in the Netherlands with a subsidy from the British Academy. [End Page 400]
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