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Child's Play: Materiality of Children's Shrines in Early Mathura


· Chandreyi Basu St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY, United States of America)


07/27 | 15:50-16:10 UTC+2/CEST


Dr. Chandreyi Basu Title: Child’s Play: Materiality of Children’s Shrines in Early Mathura Traditional art historical scholarship on early Mathura has mainly examined the region’s multi-layered religious landscape through the lens of Buddhist, Jain, and brahmanical iconography. Moving beyond broad sectarian classifications, this paper presents a gendered reading of the nature of ritual activities at sacred sites dedicated to children. While the exact location of these shrines within Mathura is hard to pin point due, in part, to the nature of colonial archaeology, the art historical records include a rich body of material evidence for cults related to childhood masculinity. The most prolific objects left at such shrines comprise striking stone images of mature female caregivers with newly born male children and adult male mentors of young boys. These stewards are often animal headed. Since the images visually emphasize adults, the figures of infants and children have remained peripheral in art historical discussions of religious iconography. Undoubtedly, these offerings were made by adult men and women in gratitude for safe pregnancies and protection of their progeny from illnesses. Consequently, while the male infants and boys, themselves, had no voice in their own representation, the images nevertheless played an important role in their socialization. What does it mean that children were consistently sexed male at these shrines? In addition to stone images, this paper also analyzes terracotta remains related to children’s lives (such as toys and rattles) to shed light on what it meant to be growing up male around early Mathura’s shrines.