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Christian Luczanits. From Tabo to Alchi: Revisiting Early Western Himalayan Art

In 2004, I published a book on early western Himalayan monuments based on a consideration of the main sculptures in the temples, which are commonly made of clay (Luczanits, 2004). What distinguishes this work is the attempt to present a relative chronology of western Himalayan art relying primarily on an evaluation of the religious changes reflected in the decoration of the monuments covered. This approach supported the early 13th century date proposed by Roger Goepper for the Alchi Sumtsek (Three-Storeyed Temple) in Ladakh, India, which served as one of the two chronological benchmarks on which the study depended (Goepper and Poncar, 1996). The second, and less controversial, benchmark is the chronology of the Tabo Main Temple in Spiti, in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, particularly its renovation completed in 1042 (Klimburg-Salter, 1997). While the arguments presented in my book have never been contested, they continue to be ignored by some.

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September/October 2020
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