Ross Lee Bernhaut: The Making and Remaking of the Jain Rock-Cut Sculptures at Gwalior: Expressions in Text, Image, and Stone

Carved into the outcroppings of Gwalior hill in Madhya Pradesh are more than 1,500 Jain images, mainly Tirthankaras and their attendants. While some of the images were fashioned in the seventh century, the majority were completed in the mid-fifteenth century in a proliferation of Digambara Jain sculptural activity implicating the monastic community, lay patrons, and local rulers. This paper queries the ways in which these images have, since their initial fabrication, been continually made and remade at various moments in history by different communities. In order to analyze the discursive, pictorial, and literal reshaping of these Jain monuments Bernhaut will primarily examine three sorts of evidence: The written testimony originally composed in Chaghatay Turkish and recorded in the Baburnama, the corresponding painting from a late-sixteenth-century Persian manuscript translation of the Baburnama, and the material remains of the Jain sculptures themselves. This triangulation of textual, painted, and archaeological evidence complicates conventional synchronic and unidimensional scholarly accounts of image making and marring at Gwalior. He also considers the subsequent Jain replastering of the heads on many of the Jinas, the association of a miracle story with a colossal image of Parshvanatha, and the rock-hewn sculptures’ eventual transformation into an archaeological site in the colonial period.


Ross Lee Bernhaut is a second-year doctoral student in the History of Art at the University of Michigan. Bernhaut’s research focuses on the art and architecture of medieval South Asia. However, his interests are manifold and span from the Himalayas to Southeast Asia, and from premodern visual culture to modern art and historiography. He has worked as an intern and curatorial research assistant in the Department of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He has also presented research on the intersection of artistic and yogic influences in the Himalayan landscape paintings of Nicholas Roerich at the 46th Annual Conference on South Asia at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Ross holds an MA in the History of Art from the University of Pennsylvania (2018) and a BA in the History of Art from the University of Michigan (2016).

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