The Treasures of South Asia

Curious Minds Online Course


Hot Docs at Home Thu, Apr 22, 2021 12:00 AM
Streaming on Hot Docs at Home Mon, May 30, 2022 12:00 PM
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Display Category:Curious Minds Speaker Series


Back by popular demand! Discover (or re-discover) some of the most popular Curious Minds courses from the past year.

Take a journey through the fascinating history, art and architecture that flourished in the kingdoms of South Asia in the 16th through 18th centuries. Focusing on the Mughal, Rajput and Sikh kingdoms in modern day India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, this series will explore how the interactions and rivalries between these three dynasties produced a vibrant cosmopolitan culture—and some of the most opulent art, design and decorative objects the world has ever seen. As we survey the vivid colours and exuberant designs that beautified the region’s royal courts and palaces, we’ll take a whirlwind tour of the arts and cultures that dazzled the early modern world.

Sudharshan Durayappah

Led by Professor Sudharshan Durayappah, who teaches in the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto. A leading scholar of art history, religion and culture, he has also served as a lecturer at the Aga Khan Museum and a history teacher at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Course registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)

Curious Minds Speaker Series sponsored by

Hollywood Suite

The six lectures in this series are now available to stream. You can access each lecture at your leisure by clicking on links in your confirmation email, or by visiting your My Shows page.

Lecture 1: The prelude: The Delhi Sultanate
The Delhi Sultanate ushered in Islamic rule in South Asia, and a richly distinctive design aesthetic. As large domes and archways sprouted across the region, the rulers holding court beneath them oversaw the emergence of Indo-Islamic art and architecture.

Lecture 2: Akbar the Great and the Mughal Dynasty
When Akbar the Great conquered Northern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, he brought forth three hundred years of Mughal rule. Against a backdrop of religious tolerance and fair central control, the Mughal dynasty produced refined aesthetics in architecture, literature, fashion and cuisine that still has the power to astonish. 
Lecture 3: Shah Jahan: The Builder of the Taj Mahal
The fifth Mughl emperor, Shah Jahan, was a remarkable man. Born of a Hindu Rajput princess, he withstood challenges from the Sikh kingdoms, the Rajputs and the Portuguese, to oversee what is widely considered the golden age of Mughal architecture—a period crowned by the building of one of the world’s greatest aesthetic wonders, a tribute to his favourite wife: the Taj Mahal. 

Lecture 4: The Rajput Kingdoms: New Standards of Artistic Excellence
The Rajput Rulers, who occupied the North and North West part of India and Pakistan, had a keen sense of beauty. Amid periods of both conflict and detente with the neighbouring Mughal Empire, Rajput nobles upheld new standards of artistic excellence in their temples, forts and palaces, making vibrant use of brick red colouring, exquisite gardens and majestic rock carved ornamentation.

Lecture 5: The Zenana: The Women’s Court
The Zenana was the area of a house or palace where the women of the family lived. The epicenter of imperial power in the Mughal, Rajput and Sikh royal courts, where the kings practiced polygamy, the young brides who ran these sumptuously decorated inner apartments were the dynamic force behind many cultural innovations in their wider societies, including stunning mosques, tombs, gardens and water reservoirs.

Lecture 6: The Lion King: Ranjit Singh and the Sikh Kingdoms
When the one-eyed Sikh Ranjit Singh captured Lahore in 1799, he established an independent kingdom that encompassed the Punjab, Kashmir, and parts of modern-day Tibet and Afghanistan. Popularly known as the “Lion King,” this astute and generous ruler was also a great patron of the arts, attracting painters from many parts of India to his court and donating the gold for the exterior of the holy Sikh temple in Amritsar, a masterpiece widely considered the epitome of Sikh art and architecture.

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