Padma Kaimal

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Padma Kaimal

Batza Professor of Art & Art History; Director of the Division of University Studies

Department/Office Information

Art and Art History

Padma Kaimal trained in the History of Indian Art under Joanna Williams at the University of California, Berkeley. She has taught at Colgate University since 1988. Her research questions common assumptions about art from the Tamil region. Did kings build the only architecture that matters? Did men? Are the boundaries of India’s modern states meaningful for understanding tenth-century architecture? How do narrative sculptures tell their stories? Are fierce goddesses demonic? Are museums the problem, the solution, or both to contentions over cultural property?  Her new book, Opening Kailasanatha: The Temple in Kanchipuram Revealed in Time and Space, reconstructs the aspirations, profound wisdom, Tantric secrets, and radically distinctive world view of ancient kings and queens of South India by closely analyzing the material forms of the elegant temple complex they built at the start of the eight century, and that has miraculously retained its form over the intervening centuries. Her previous book, Scattered Goddesses: Travels with the Yoginis (Ann Arbor: Association of Asian Studies, 2012) seeks to disrupt categories of East and West, victim and thief, as it traces the worship, ruination, dispersal, and re-enshrinement of nineteen sculptures from a tenth-century goddess temple.  Her essays have appeared in Third Text, Source, The Art Bulletin, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Artibus Asiae, Archives of Asian Art, and Ars Orientalis. Fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the J. Paul Getty Foundation, the American Institute for Indian Studies, the American Association of University Women, the Center for South Asian Studies at U. C. Berkeley, and Colgate University have generously supported her research.



  • BA, Art History, Swarthmore College, May, 1979
  • MA, Indian Art, University of California Berkeley, June, 1982
  • PhD, Indian Art, University of California, Berkeley, May, 1988

“Stone Portrait Sculpture at Pallava and Early Cola Temples: Kings, Patrons and Individual Identity,” with honors, University of California, Berkeley, 1988.

  • Tenured Professor (7/2012-present); Tenured Associate Professor (7/2004-7/2012); Associate Professor (7/2001- 2012); Assistant Professor (7/1988-6/2001); Lecturer (2/87-5/87), Dept. of Art & Art History, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York.
  • Director, Asian Studies (Fall, 2006; Fall, 2007-Spring 2010), Colgate University, Hamilton, New York.
  • Robert H. Ho Associate Professor of Asian Studies (2006-2009), Colgate University, Hamilton, New York.
  • Visiting Lecturer, Dept. of Fine Arts, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, 1/88-4/88 (Art of India).
  • Teaching Assistant, Dept. of History of Art, University of California, Berkeley, California, 9/83-12/83 (Survey of Asian Art), 9/82-12/82 (Survey of Classical Art).

The Kailasanatha temple complex in Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu, India; The history and ideologies of museums and collecting; the history of goddess worship in India; architecture and sculpture of the Pallava and Chola periods in India; history of the art of Asia; India (post-colonial studies, general education); art theory; cultural studies.

Sculpture and architecture of early India, portraiture, the impact of patronage upon style, semiotics and critical theory, the iconography of Shiva's dance, gender

In the winter of 2012 I helped lead a trip for 27 faculty members to India. The goal was to confront questions of identity, culture, and knowledge across intellectual boundaries, and to challenge all of us who teach in the Core to stretch beyond our academic specialties. Read more about our experiences on the blog we kept, Reflections from India.

Padma Kaimal sitting on stone steps with a local family
  • Tamil (3 years)
  • Sanskrit (2 years)
  • Hindi (1 year)
  • Italian (2 years)
  • French (2 years)
  • Latin (7 years)
  • Classical Greek (2 years)
  • Russian (1 year)


  • Louise and John Steffens Founders’ Circle Member and The Starr Foundation East Asian Studies Endowment Fund Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, “Gender and Other Metaphors at the Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchi,” in residence 2010-2011.

  • Summer Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities, “Collecting and Scattering,” 2007.

  • American Fellowship, American Association of University Women, “Learning to see the Goddess,” 2001-2002.

  • Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities, “Learning to see the Goddess,” 2001 (January – December).

  • J. Paul Getty Post- Doctoral Fellowship in the History of Art, “Patronage & Style in Early Cola temples,” 1990-91.

  • Fellow, “Patronage & Style in Early Cola Temples,” Center for South Asian Studies, UC Berkeley, spring,1991.

  • American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Fellowship, “Patronage & Style in Early Cola temple,” summer, 1990.

  • American Institute of Indian Studies, Junior Fellowship, Dissertation research in India, 1984-85.




  • Major Grant, Colgate University Research Council, “Gender and Other Metaphors at the Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchi,” 2010-2011.

  • Major Grant, Colgate University Research Council, “Goddesses in their homes,” fieldwork in India, 2006.

  • Picker Fellowship, Fieldwork on medieval south Indian temple patronage, 1999-2000.
Book cover of "Scattered Goddesses" by Padma Kaimal


  • Scattered Goddesses: Travels with the Yoginis (Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, 2013).

Edited Volumes

  • Themes, History and Interpretations: Indian Painting: Essays in Honour of B. N. Goswamy.  Co-edited with Mahesh Sharma. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing, 2013.
  • Ruins: Fabricating Histories of Time. Third Text (Special Issue) 112 (September, 2011). Volume co-edited and introduction co-authored with Janice Leoshko.
  • “’To my mind’: Essays for Joanna Gottfried Williams,” Artibus Asiae 69.2 (2009) and 70.1 (2010).


  • “Word Image Tango: Telling Stories with Words and Sculptures at the Kailāsanātha Temple Complex in Kāñcīpuram.” In Archaeology of Bhakti II: Royal Bhakti, Local Bhakti. Edited by Emmanuel Francis and Charlotte Schmid, pp. 159-207. Collection Indologie no 132. Pondicherry, India: École française d’Extrême Orient/Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2016.
  • “Lakṣmī and the Tigers: A Goddess in the Shadows,” in The Archaeology of Bhakti. Edited by Charlotte Schmid and Emmanuel Francis, 142-176. Pondichéry: Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient/Institut français de Pondichéry, 2014.
  • “The Inverted Gaze,” in Themes, History and Interpretations: Indian Painting: Essays in Honour of B. N. Goswamy.  Edited by Mahesh Sharma and Padma Kaimal, 12-16. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing, 2013.
  • “Interpreting Sculpture from the Tamil Region,” in Interpretation and Reflection: South Asian Art Historians Engage Vidya Dehejia. Edited by Annapurna Garimella with Molly Aitken, Debra Diamond and Dipti Khera. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2013.
  • “Yoginis in Stone: Auspicious and Inauspicious Power,” in Yoginī – History, Polysemy, Ritual. Edited by István Keul. Trondheim, Norway: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 2012.
  • “About Ruins,” with Janice Leoshko as an introduction to Third Text (Special Issue), Ruins: Fabricating Histories of Time 112 (September, 2011).
  • “Shiva Nataraja: Multiple Meanings of an Icon,” in A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture. Edited by Rebecca Brown and Debra Hutton, pp. 471-485. Blackwell Companions to Art History, series editor Dana Arnold. London: Blackwell, 2011.
  • “Color and Sculpture in South Asia,” Source: Notes in the History of Art 30.3 (Spring, 2011): 33-39.
  • “’To my mind’: Essays for Joanna Gottfried Williams,” introduction to a 12-essay Festschrift, Artibus Asiae 69.2 (2009): 7-11.
  • “South Indian Sculpture in the Ackland Art Museum,” in Fashioning the Divine: South Asian sculpture at the Ackland Art Museum, ed. Pika Ghosh, pp. 139-148. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Ackland Art Museum, 2006.
  • “Learning to see the Goddess,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 73.1 (2005): 45-87.
  • “Seductive and Repulsive: The deceptive contrasts of a South Indian goddess,” Rotunda 36.1 (2003): 28-35.
  • “A Man’s World? Gender, family and architectural patronage in medieval India,” Archives of Asian Art LIII (2002-2003): 26-53.
  • “The Problem of Portraiture in South India, 970-1000 CE,” Artibus Asiae 59, 3/4 (2000): 139-179.
  • “The Problem of Portraiture in South India, 870-970 CE,” Artibus Asiae 59, 1/2 (1999): 59-133.
  • “Shiva Nataraja: Shifting Meanings of an Icon,” Art Bulletin 81.3 (1999): 390-419.
  • “Early Cola Kings and ‘Early Cola Temples:’ Art and the Evolution of Kingship,” Artibus Asiae 56, 1/2 (1996): 33-66.
  • “Passionate Bodies: Constructions of the Self in South Indian Portraits,” Archives of Asian Art 48 (1995): 6-16.
  • “Playful Ambiguity and Political Authority in the Large Relief at Mamallapuram,” Ars Orientalis 24 (1994): 1-27; reprinted in Asian Art: An Anthology, Rebecca M. Brown and Deborah S. Hutton, eds., London: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 43-56.


  • Review of La création d'une iconographie śivaïte narrative: Incarnations du dieu dans les temples pallava construits by Valérie Gillet, Journal of the American Oriental Society 131: 3 (July-September 2011).
  • Review of The Great Penance at Mamallapuram: Deciphering a Visual Text, by Michael Rabe, CAAReviews (2003) (
  • Review of Temple Architecture and Sculpture of the Nolambas, by Andrew Cohen, Journal of Asian Studies 59.3 (2000): 76-77.
  • Review of Lives of Indian Images, by Richard Davis, Journal of Ritual Studies (1997).
  • Review of Art of the Imperial Cholas by Vidya Dehejia and Rajarajesvaram: The Pinnacle of Chola Art by B. Venkataraman, Journal of Asian Studies 51.2 (1992): 414-416.

Accepted for Publication

  • “Muttaraiyar, Irukkuvel, Paluvettaraiyar and the Colas of Tanjavur,” in Art and Architecture in India, ed. M. A. Dhaky, in History of Indian Science, Philosophy, and Culture. New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 2010.

Scholarly Work in Progress

  • Many Paths to the Divine: Rereading the Kailasanath Temple in Kanchipuram (book ms. in progress)
  • “Mapping Artistic Space: The Kaveri Style” (essay)
  • “The infamous ‘Head Sacrifice to Durga’” (essay)
  • “The Sculptural Program of the Triple Temple in Kodumbalur: Two Missing Sculptures Rediscovered” (essay)


Opening Kailasanatha: The Temple in Kanchipuram Revealed in Time and Space. Seattle: University of Washington Press, forthcoming 2020.




  • Member, University Property Committee, 2018-2020
  • Co-chair, Middle States Self-Study Steering Committee, 1/2016-6/2018
  • Member, Faculty Affairs Committee, 1/2016-6/2018, 8/2019-12/2019
  • Member, Bridge Committee on the Performing Arts, 2017-present
  • Chair, Task Force on Performing Arts Facilities, 5/2014-4/2015
  • Search committee for the Dean/Provost, 2011-2012.
  • Search committee that hired President Herbst, 2009-2010.
  • Asian Studies Program, director, 2006-2010; member, 1988-present.
  • Advice and Planning Committee, 2006-09.
  • Search committee for Vice President for Communications, 2004-05.
  • Executive Committee, implementation of the Diversity strategy of the Strategic Plan, 2004-2007.
  • Women’s Studies Advisory Council, 2004-present.
  • Middle East and Islamic Studies, 2006-present.
  • Strategic Planning Steering Group, 2002-04.
  • Faculty Affirmative Action Oversight, chair, 2002-2003
  • Editorial Advisory Committee, Colgate Scene, 2002-2003.

Presentations at University Events

  • University Professor, Communities & Identities component of the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum, 2013-2019
  • Sophomore Residential Seminar, taught on ARTS 244: Temples, Caves & Stupas with extended study to India, 8/2016-1/2017
  • Middle East and Islamic Studies, On-campus coordinator, Spring 2016; Member, 2006-present.
  • “On linking Core courses,” White Eagle conference on the Core Curriculum, 2009.
  • “Religion and Art: Seeing and Believing -- Re-imagining Ritual from Architectural Remains,” Religion Department's luncheon series on Religious Literacy at Colgate, October 16, 2008.
  • “The Prefocus/Focus exercise,” White Eagle conference on the Core Curriculum, 2003, 2005.
  • “Dispersing the Kanchi Goddesses,” Reunion College, June 2005.
  • “What Makes a Temple Tantric?”, Brown Bag lunch series, Women’s Studies Center, February 3, 2004.
  • “What I wish I had known during my first five years,” panel presenter, Women’s Studies Center, November 2004.
  • “Teaching literature in Core Cultures as a non-specialist in the field,” Core Cultures Faculty Seminar, 2002.
  • “Learning to See the Goddess,” Humanities Colloquium, September 25, 2001.


  • Co-leader with Eliza Kent of a two-week study tour of India for 25 faculty who teach in the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum, January 2012.
  • Colgate liaison to the New York State Independent College Consortium For Study In India, 2008-2010
  • Year of Chinese Art in 2009
  • “Asian Art Study Day” at the Picker Art Gallery, April 12, 2008, co-presenter with Steve Greenberg of Hamilton College
  • Study tour of study options in India for Colgate students, August 2008 and December 2011.
  • Designed and served as first leader of the 2004 when ARTS study group in London, 2004-2006
  • Consulted on selection and exhibition of Chinese sculpture from the Sackler Foundation, Picker Art Gallery, Spring 2004.
  • Search for Intern for the Sophomore Year Experience, summer, 2003.
  • Search for tenure-track specialist in Hinduism, Department of Philosophy & Religion, non-voting consultant, 2003.
  • Advisor, Honors Project in Women’s Studies (Jaime Warsavage), 2003.
  • Affirmative Action Interviews with job candidates, 2002-2003.
  • Consulting with Colgate Development Office, fundraising, 2002-2003.
  • London Study Group (History), teaching and logistical support, 2002.
  • Search for Director of Research for Case Library, non-voting participant, summer, 2002.


  • External Review Committee, Art History Department, Skidmore College, 2016.
  • Editorial Board, Archives of Asian Art, 2010-present.
  • Editorial Board, Global South Asia series, University of Washington Press, 2013-present
  • Reviewer for grant proposals, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton NJ
  • Editorial Board, Archives of Asian Art, 2010-present.
  • Advisory Committee (on manuscripts for publication), Institut Français de Pondichéry and École française d’Extrême-Orient, Pondichery, India, 2006-present. 
  • Executive Committee Member (2006-2008) and Trustee (2004-present), the American Institute of Indian Studies, Chicago.
  • President, American Council on Southern Asian Art, 1999-2004
  • Fellowship Selection Committee, American Institute for Indian Studies, 2001-2003 
  • Dissertation committee member for Preeti Bahadur, Chandigarh University, 2003.
  • Mentor, Career Development Workshop, College Art Association, 1998, 2000, 2005.
  • Reviewer for submitted manuscripts; Artibus Asiae, Art Bulletin, Ars Orientalis, South Asian Studies, AIIS Dissertation Prize/Indiana University Press, Oxford University Press, Simon & Schuster; 1996-2009.
  • Reviewer for fellowship applications to: Getty Fellowship Program (1997); Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (2000); National Endowment for the Humanities (2003).
  • Board of Directors, Earlville Opera House, 2003-2006.
  • Chair, Gallery Selection Committee, Earlville Opera House, 2003-2006.
  • Education Unlimited, 2001, “Reading The Meanings In Indian Art: Sculpture And Architecture In South India, 600-900 C.E.”.
  • High School Seminar, 2002, “Temples, Caves and Tombs: Highlights of Indian Art”.

On Panels at National and International Conferences

“Getting the Band Back Together: Reuniting the Kanchi Yoginis,” co-chaired with Katherine Kasdorf, Half-day symposium at the Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, October 17, 2019.

“Categories and culture: excavating thought from the sculptures of the Kailasanatha temple Kanchipuram,” in “The materiality of religion at Kailasanath: exploring the embodiment of religion at a Chola temple,” Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 13, 2018.

“Auspiciousness and Gender at the Kailasanatha temple in Kanchipuram,”in “Iconographic Riddles: Goddesses and the Ambiguity of Form,” Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 23, 2015.

“Sculptural themes and monastic principles at the Muvarkoyil temple comples in Kodumbalur,” Archaeology of Bhakti III: The Minor Dynasties, Kodumbalur, Tamilnadu, August 10, 2015.

Invited Lectures and Workshops

“Cosmic and Earthly Dance in the Arts of India and Its Neighbors,” Planning workshop for a large-scale exhibition, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, February 1-2, 2019.

“Reading ancient ritual and thought through material evidence,” in “Trace: Artisanal Intelligence, Material Agency, and Ritual Technology in South Asian Art,” Harvard University, Cambridge MA, December 7-8, 2018.

“How a building tells you to move: worship at the Kailasanatha temple in Kanchipuram,” Tufts University, September 14, 2017.

“Sanctified Spaces: Monumental Places and the Construction of Authority,” at "Materializing Sanctity, Enacting Authority: Text, Image, and Performance in India and China,” Colloquium organized by the departments of Religious Studies, Classics, and Art History at Brown University, March 14-15, 2016.

“Scattered Goddesses: Travels with the Yoginis,” Center for the Humanities, Temple University, Philadelphia, September 23, 2015.

“Scattered Goddesses: Travels with the Yoginis,” South Asian Religions Distinguished Lecture, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, Montreal, March 2015.

“Change and Persistence: The Kailasanatha Temple at Kanchi from the 8th-21st Centuries,” The Templeton Lecture in Art History, University of California at Davis, January 9, 2015.

Conference Sessions chaired

“Portraiture and the Human Figure in Orissa (Odisha), 8th -13th Century,” Annual Conference of the College Art Association, February 13, 2019.

“Unusual Iconographies of South Asian Deities,” Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 23, 2017.

“Ways around Sri Lanka in South Asian art history,” Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 27, 2016.