We are pleased to announce that Professor Vidya Dehejia will give a lecture entitled ‘Riddles in Stone: Unfinished Mahabalipuram and Yogini Circles’, on Thursday 16 March 2023. Join us in the Graham Storey Room at 17:30 to learn about the mystery surrounding Mahabalipuram, and the circular temples of the Yoginis.

Professor Dehejia will be introduced by sculptor Stephen Cox RA, whose exhibition Encounters in Stone is currently on display in the College. The lecture will last approximately one hour and will be followed by a drinks reception. All are welcome. There is no charge to attend, however, booking is required.

Photograph: Unfinished Monoliths, Mahabalipuram, taken by Prasad Pawar for Professor Dehejia’s book The Unfinished. Indian Stone Carvers at Work (2016).

A series of irregular granite outcrops along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, some 30 miles south of Chennai (Madras), caught the imagination of 7th/8th century Indian sculptors. They transformed some boulders into monolithic temples, cut caves into others, and turned others into sculpted tableaux. And over half of these varied structures have been left incomplete. Why? Stephen Cox maintained a workshop at Mahabalipuram for over 30 years; was it this riddle in stone that captured his imagination?

A second mystery that appears to have captivated Stephen Cox are the circular temples of the yoginis, open to the sky, and totally unlike any standard Indian temple. Who worshipped these multiple female deities? And why do so many of the yoginis have the head of birds and animals?

Vidya Dehejia is Barbara Stoler Miller Professor Emerita of Indian Art at Columbia University in New York. Over the years, her writings have ranged from Buddhist art of the centuries BC to the esoteric temples of North India, and from the sacred bronzes of South India to Art under the British Raj. Between 1994-2002, she served as Chief Curator, Deputy Director, and Acting Director of the Smithsonian’s Freer & Sackler Galleries in Washington DC. In 2016, she presented the A.W. Mellon lectures in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery in Washington DC, and this study was published under the title The Thief Who Stole my Heart: The Material Life of Sacred Bronzes from Chola India, 855-1280 (2021). Vidya Dehejia’s many publications include India: A Story through 100 Objects (2021), The Unfinished. Indian Stone Carvers at Work (2016), The Body Adorned (2012), Yogini Cult & Temples: A Tantric Tradition (1986). In 2012, the President of India awarded her a Padma Bhushan for “Outstanding Contribution to Art & Education.”

How to register
Please book a seat via the online booking forms by midday on Thursday 16 March.

Once you have booked you will receive a booking confirmation, which you will be asked to present on arrival. Please either print a copy or display using a hand-held electronic device. You will not be issued paper tickets.

Please let us know as soon as possible if you find you are no longer able to attend, as we have limited capacity for this event. Please email the office or call +44 (0)1223 332555 at the earliest opportunity, if you need to cancel a booking.

We like to take photographs at our events to use in our digital and print communications. If you do not wish to have your photo taken, please let us know in advance or on the day.

If you have any questions, please email or contact the Alumni and Development Office on +44 (0)1223 332555. If you have any questions about events in general, they may be answered at