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Art Historian Gift Siromoney

When Gift Siromoney arrived on the art history scene in the early nineteen sixties, it was pretty much a closed field following the unwritten rule that knowledge of Sanskrit is essential  to the study of art history. In institutions like Madras Museum, unless you had studied Sanskrit, you could not apply for gallery jobs such as Assistant Curator. Independent scholars were kept out of the field and their work was systematically discounted. There were very few journals or fora to present one's observations. Gift was one of the earliest to make inroads into this bastion.

Through unconventional methodology, he released South Indian art history from its dependence on inscriptions and turned the focus on the object be it a sculpture or a construction. This led him to seriation technique that he applied to date the sculptures, combined with the use of computers; this was totally new to art historians of the establishment. In the kind of art history Gift wrote,  the people behind the objects that he was observing came alive. If it was epigraphy, you realized how the language of the people evolved and if it was a Pallava sculpture, the artist was resurrected for you.

At the meetings of South Indian Society for Archaeology, he would present his observations on Pallava monument and stand his ground among professional archaeologists who looked upon him as a poacher in their reserve. While they approached art history with folded hands, as devotees, Gift's perspective was that of a dispassionate enquirer which gained him new insights into the subject. His knowledge of Tamil and epigraphy were added strengths. Given his familiarity with various disciplines, his approach demystified the subject of Indian Art History. He demonstrated that a discourse on art history could be possible in simple, reader-friendly language.

When I was a student, I had known him as the most sparkling teacher in the campus and as one of the few bilingual scholars there. But got to know him better when I got interested in South Indian art. For me and Job Thomas (now head of Asian Art History Department in Davidson, US), regulars at the archaeological society meetings, Gift was a major source of inspiration. We accompanied him to some of the field trips. The one I remember well was to the Jain caves around Madurai, where we had all gone for a seminar in the Tamilnadu Theological College. Jain caves and their history became one of my abiding passions.

-Theodore Baskeran S. (MCC. 1957 to 1960. History MA.)
Formerly,  Chief Postmaster General, Tamilnadu.

Publications on Archaeology

  1. The evolution of the gopuram and the vimanam
    MCC Mag., xxxlx pp.78-80, 1962. READ
  2. Some new light on stringed instruments of the ancient Tamil Country
    MCC Mag, Vol.XXXIV, No.2, March 1965.  READ
  3. Early history of Tambaram area
    MCC Mag,. xxxvi, pp. 47-49, 1967  READ
  4. Ancient iron-smelting site near Tambaram
    MCC Mag., xxxviii, No.1, pp. 41-44, 1968.  READ
  5. Polished stone axes: two new records
    MCC Mag., xxxvii, No.2, pp. 22-24, 1968  READ
  6. Maha'balipuram.
    MCC , Manuscript July 20, 1968. READ
  7. A brief history of Chingleput district
    In Socio-Economic Survey of Chingleput District, Proceedings of the Seminar on Regional Development Madras Christian College, Tambaram, March 24 and March 25, 1969, 8-10;  READ
  8. Mahabalipuram costumes and jewellery
    MCC Mag., xxxix, pp.76-83, 1970. READ
  9. Pallava Dvarapalakas and the Mahishasuramardini cave at Mahabalipuram
    paper read at a meeting of the Archaelogical Society of South India in April 4, 1970, (with Lockwood, M) READ
  10. Costumes and jewellery in Mahabalipuram sculptures
    The Weekly Mail, January 16, 1971. READ
  11. Guardians of  Pallava cave temples
    The Sunday Standard (Madras), Feb. 14, 1971.(with Lockwood, M) READ
  12. Changing fashions in the Pallava art
    The Sunday Standard (Madras), Feb. 28, 1971. READ
  13. Pallava Somaskanda
    paper read at a meeting of the Achaelogical Society of South India on September 9, 1971
    Modified  version appeared in two parts in The Sunday Standard, Madras on the 19th and 26th of November, 1972(with Lockwood, M and Dayanandan, P) READ
  14. A unique image of Chamundi
    The Sunday Standard (Madras), October 4, 1972.(with Lockwood, M) READ
  15. Pallava Somaskanda, Part I
    The Sunday Standard (Madras), February 12, 1972 (with Lockwood, M. and Dayanandan, P) 
  16. Pallava Somaskanda, Part II
    The Sunday Standard (Madras), November 26, 1972 (with Lockwood, M. and Dayanandan, P) 
  17. Thondaimandalam: Costumes and Jewellery
    paper read at a seminar on "Thondaimandalam" October 4, 1973,organizedby the
    Archaeological Society of South India., also in Mahabalipuram Studies, Michael Lockwood, P.Dayanandan, Gift Siromoneym P.Dayanandan, The Christian Literature Society, Madras 1974, pp. 87-105. READ
  18. Studies on Mahabalipuram Monuments - A review
    a paper read at a meeting of the Historical Society on September 3, 1975 ,
    Madras Christian College History Series 75-2 (with Lockwood, M) READ
  19. Pallava paintings of Kanchipuram
    The Indian Express, Madras, September 20, 1975, (with Lockwood, M) READ
  20. Depiction of animals in Mahabalipuram sculptures
    The Ethological Society of India, Souvenir of the Fifth Annual Conference, The Ethological Society of India, Dec 31-January 2, 1976, pp. 3-5, 1976 READ
  21. The riding Balakrishna
    Indian Express, 13 November, 1976 (with Lockwood, M) READ
  22. Earliest Sculpture of Kannappan
    Indian Express, Thursday, March 3, 1977 (with Lockwood, M) READ
  23. Kalyana Mandapas of the sixteenth century
    MCC Mag., xlvi, pp.14-19, 1977. READ
  24. South Indian Art and Craft Guilds
    August 19, 1977 (with Lockwood, M) READ
  25. Iconometry of Pallava sculptures
    The Sunday Standard, September 3, 1978. READ
  26. A Pallava musical instrument
    The Sunday Standard, January 28, 1979. READ
  27. Musical instruments from Pallava sculptures
    Kalakshetra quarterly, Vol.2 No.4, pp. 11-20, 1979. READ
  28. Computer analysis of Pallava sculptures: an iconometric study
    A paper presented at a meeting of the Archaeological Society of South India on May 15, 1978. Also Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference-Seminar on Tamil Studies, Madurai, pp.3.7-3.16.1981 and STAT-42/80,January 1980(with Bagavandas, M and Govindaraju, S). READ
  29. Computer analysis of early Chola and Pandya sculptures: An iconometric study
    STAT-42/80, Proceedings of the Fifth International Tamil Conference held at Madurai in January 1981,pp. 3-7 to 3-16, (with Govindaraju, S. and Bagavandas, M). READ
  30. An iconometric study of Pallava sculptures
    Kalakshetra Quarterly, Vol. 3 No.2, pp.7-15, 1982.
    (with Bagavandas, M and Govindaraju, S) READ
  31. Iconometric analysis of the sculptures of the Dharmaraja Ratha
    in K.V. Raman et al (Eds.), in SRINIDHIH, perspectives in Indian archaeology and Culture,  Shri K. R. Srinivasan Felicitation Volume, New Era Publications,  pp. 137-150 Madras,1983
    (with Bagavandas, M and Govindaraju, S) 
  32. Computer Analysis of bronze images of South India: An iconometric study
    paper presented at the Seminar on History and archaeology of Tamil Nadu during the Chola Period 850-1250 A.D., Thanjavur, 1984
    (with Bagavandas, M and Govindaraju, S) 
  33. Cluster Analysis of facial proportions of South Indian sculptures
    Advances in Information Sciences and Technology, Calcutta (Ed Dutta Majumder), Vol. I,pp. 137-146, 1984,
    (with Govindaraju, S and Bagavandas, M and Chandrasekaran, R) 
  34. Computer analysis of a sample of stone age implements from Madras region
    STAT - 56/85, (with Govindaraju, S. and Bagavandas, M)  READ
  35. Computer analysis of bronze images of South India: an iconometric study
    Tamil Civilization, vol. 3.nos. 2 and 3 pp. 83-100, 1985
    (with Bagavandas, M and Govindaraju, S) 
  36. Science and archaeology
    MCC Mag., Vol 54, pp.116, 1985. READ
  37. Arjunas penance panel and Trichy cave temple - an iconometric study
    (with Govindaraju S and Bagavandas M.) STAT 64 August 1987. 
  38. Painting and Sculptures
    Manuscript. READ
  39. South Indian Sculptures READ
  40. The Mamalla Pillars of Manimangalm (with Lockwood, M) READ

Related Publications

  1. Mamallapuram, A Guide to the Monuments
    Michael Lockwood
    Tambaram Research Associates, Madras Christian College,1993 READ
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