Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

South Asia Regional Studies

First Advisor

Michael W. Meister


This dissertation argues for the presence of architectural design in the landscape in first millennium South Asia with two examples. Until now treated as archaeological sites containing art and architecture, both Sigiriya (Sri Lanka) and Mamallapuram (India) also contain evidence of architectonic and conceptual planning, readable as transformations to the terrain with built features circa 7th -8th centuries CE. These landscapes are archaeological gardens and were recognizable as such places in their day, with boundaries and plantings, and made at the scale of the walking human. Contemporary discourse considers both landscape architecture—a royal garden and a royal port of the past—by prioritizing certain layers of the archaeological landscape over others. However, it does not explain the design of these landscapes or their significance. An -emic vocabulary for parks, gardens, groves, forest retreats, etc., connects garden-making and planting practices with regular people and religious institutions as well as kings; both archaeological landscapes include temple or monastic architecture as well as donative inscriptions. I propose a new approach to these past places, borrowing from theories of landscape architectural reception and of the apprehension of cultural landscapes as material things. Material landscapes that were planned and built were also used and experienced. In South Asia, this record of use and experience is rich and contributes significantly to understanding how a designed landscape was planned and built. At Sigiriya, a landscape architectural feature called the Mirror Wall, attached to its monumental natural rock, was made to support a resistance to pan-South Asian literary norms through the transformation and collective cohesion of a new Sinhala literary community writing in eḷu. The patrons of this monastic pleasure ground celebrated their success as a royal achievement. At Mamallapuram, landscape architectural features cut into natural rocks re-present its geological landscape, which is a sub-tropical barrier island containing relict seafloor above sea-level in a special ecosystem by the sea. The elite patrons of this seaside retreat celebrated their investments in ascetic practices by creating a landscape architectural penance grove in stone as an experimental response to the proliferation of a new symbolic architecture.


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