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Facets of Temple Culture (Perspectives on Religious and Social Traditions in Early Medieval India)

Facets of Temple Culture (Perspectives on Religious and Social Traditions in Early Medieval India)
Item Code: NAN388
Author: K. Mavali Rajan, Remya V.P. & Sarita Khettry
Publisher: Kaveri Books
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9789386463067
Pages: 372 (24 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.5 inch X 7.5 inch
weight of the book: 1 kg
About the Book

This book consists of twenty three research papers; afford a welcome enlargement of the scope of the religious, social and architectural discourse, which dealt with the some of the important issues like order of hierarchy in the realm of religions, religious patronage and reciprocity, temple-society interface, facets of temple culture and Buddhism and its cultural phase and other issues of the early medieval India.

The importance of this book lies that it would not only help the academic world but also all those who are interested in understanding of the early medieval temple, religion and society. Towards a fuller understanding of the religion and society in early medieval India, the present volume contributes in an enormous way and we hope that this will stimulate further research in the field of cultural and social history of early medieval India.

The strength of this edited volume spotlight on the wide range of aspects on the subject as well as projections of the learned scholar on the theme of this book. It is hoped that the readers would be immensely benefitted from the learned exposition of social hierarchy in the realm of religion and society during the early medieval period of Indian History.


About the Author

K. Mavali Rajan is presently teaching in the Department of Ancient Indian History Cultural and Archaeology, Visvas-Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal. He obtained M.A, M.Phil and Ph. D, degrees from the School of Historical Studies, Madurai Kamaraj University, Tamil Nadu. He has also completed a course on Epigraphy from the Archeological Department of Tamil Nadu. He is the author of two books “Medieval Tamil Society and Agarian Slavery” (Kolkata, 2014) and “Temple and Society in South India (New Delhi, 2016). He specializes in various aspects of socioeconomic history of early India and History of ancient and medieval South India. His Various research works has been published in several reputed journals.

Remya V.P. teachers at Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture & Archaeology at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. Her doctoral research was on the pre-modern temples of central Kerala, in which she analyzed the origin and development stages of temple architecture. She received masters in Ancient History and Architecture from University of Mysore, Karnataka with first rank and gold medal. She also has diplomas in Epigraphy and Linguitics. Remya’s research interests are in Indian art, political economy of temple, and socio-economic context of Indian art.

Sarita Khettry obtained her M.A. in Ancient Indian History and Culture from the University of Calcutta. She completed her Ph. D under the supervision of Prof. B.N. Mukherjee. In 1990 she was awarded ‘Raja Rajendralal Mitra Research Fellowship’ by the Asiatic Society (Kolkata). In the year 2002 she was awarded UK Visiting Fellowship by the Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum to work on a monograph entitled ‘Early Mahayana Iconography of Gandhara’. She is the author of the book-Buddhism in North-Western India (up to c.650 A.D.)’. She has written several articles which were published in reputed journals from time to time. At present she is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Ancient Indian History Culture and Archeology, Visva-Bharati. She is now engaged in Preparing a dictionary of Prakrit Inscriptions entitled’ Ashokan Lexicon.



The present book is outcome of a national seminar on "Order of Hierarchy in the Realm of Religion and Society: A Study of Temple Institutions in Early Medieval India", organized by the department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, Visva- Bharati University, Santiniketan held on February 20 & 21 2016. A number of eminent scholars and researchers from different parts of our country, particularly scholars from JNU, University of Delhi, Aligarh Muslim University, Visva-Bharati University, Madurai Kamaraj University, University of Calcutta, Jadavpur University and scholars from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, etc. has participated in the intensively deliberated discussion. As many as 30 research papers were presented which dealt with some of the important issues like order of hierarchy in the realm of religions, religious patronage and reciprocity, temple-society interface, facets of temple culture and Buddhism and its cultural phase and other issues of the seminar. We would like to express at first deep appreciation to all of them.

The aim of the seminar was to bring together the scholars those who are working in the novel facets of religion, temple culture and social hierarchy of early medieval Indian history. The discussion that took place provided an insight on the order of hierarchy in the realm of religion and society, religious patronage and portrayal of hierarchy through the endowments, temple-society interface in the context of early medieval period, temple, kingship and women and its cultural integration through the religious establishments and monastic culture and its impact on the social institutions and so on. The scholars using largely epigraphic and literary sources enhanced our understanding of the religion and society at this seminar through their research findings and we express our deep sense of gratefulness to all whose sincere efforts have included, enriched, embroidered and adorned in this volume.

This book consists of 23 research papers, which were presented in the seminar and few more papers that have been invited from individuals both for the seminar and present volume afford a welcome enlargement of the scope of the religious, social and architectural discourse. It is our pious and pleasant duty to express our indebtedness to all those who have contributed in this volume. They responded promptly to all our queries and furnished us with all complementary notes and information whenever required. We remain grateful for their co-operation and for having shared with us their own research work. Once again we thank them all.

The importance of the publication of this book lies in the fact that it would not only help the academic world but also all those who are interested in the understanding of the early medieval temple, religion and society. We hope the papers in this volume will make a contribution worthy ofIndian' s society in the past as a rich source of epigraphical, religious, social and architectural studies. Towards a fuller understanding of the religion and society in early medieval India, the present volume contributes in an enormous way and we hope that this will stimulate further research in the field of cultural and social history of early medieval India.

The volume would not have been possible without the support and co-operation from various persons and institutions. The seminar was sponsored by the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi. At first we thank them for the award of a generous grant in support of it. Our sincere thanks are also to the Visva-Bharati authority for their administrative approval for organizing this national seminar in our department.

We express our earnest gratitude to Prof. Swapan Kumar Dutta, the Honourable Vice Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University and Prof. Gautam Sengupta, Professor of our department for their kind present in the inaugural session of the seminar. In this juncture we express our sincere thanks to Prof. B. D. Chattopathyaya, retired Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi for his precious key note address. In his Key-note address Prof. Chattopathyaya emphasized some of the important issues like the ideology of Bhakti, relationship between deity and devotee, the institutionalization of hierarchy through the temple culture, role of different castes and communities in temple. affairs, temple administration, temple rituals and ceremonies. Once again we thank him for his valuable address in the inaugural occasion.

We also extent our heartfelt thanks to Prof. Ganapathy Subbiah, retired professor of our department and Prof. Kesavan Veluthat, Department of History, University of Delhi for their special lecture in the plenary session of the seminar. We also extent our special thanks to all faculty members, research scholars and students of our department for their kind cooperation and help rendered in the successful completion of the seminar.



Religion and society is deep rooted within human culture and it can help to understand the role of sacred institutions on profane society. So it has occupied an important place in the corpus of knowledge of the Indian cultural society. The early medieval Indian society cannot be examined, interpreted and explained without addressing the sacred institutions and its cultural base. It is the traditional faiths, believes which flow to Indian culture and heritage from generation to generation. The sacred institutions, religions and society were complementary to each other for the enrichment of culture and tradition in early medieval India. The sacred institutions and its religious establishment play a significant role in creating the greatest philosophical ideas in the society, which reflects Indian culture and civilization consisting of traditional beliefs and faith. The beliefs and faiths usually relates to the existence, nature and worship of a deity or deities and divine involvement in the universe and human life. In retaining the indigenous religious culture, the sacred institutions played vital role in early medieval Indian historical tradition.

The chief motives of the present seminar proceedings are to consider early medieval Indian society from new critical perspectives. The essential point of reference remained on religion and temple, i.e., to give away the idea of religion as part of polity or any other social phenomena, but as equally significant independent social factor. Numerous works have been produced in this field of study, yet our humble attempt here is to locate the hierarchy in Indian society that operates within any given social system, irrespective of its spatial-temporal location. How and why Indian society retained or remained being hierarchical is a riddle unsolved, and the seminar was held in view to address this issue. The seminar has brought out so many novel facets of temple culture and social hierarchy of early medieval India and this lead to understand the order of social hierarchy in the realm of religion and society in terms of the study of sacred institutions.

Historically the sacred institutions have remained an important part of Indian society. It has been a great strengthening factor in keeping the people united and played a vital role as the center of social activities of particular region. The temple as a sacred institution was patronized by the state as well as other owning groups in various ways. All these have facilitated the propagation of religion, music, dance and other fine arts in the society. The temples have provided employment to many people- like architects, sculptors, performing artists, artisans, craftsmen, and a variety of laborers. There were number of officers for temples' maintenance. The temple offices were held by persons of various castes, but in hierarchical order. All posts of any importance and especially those which confer profit and dignity, are always held by Brahmins. Among the many officials of the temples the Brahmin priests occupy first rank, and then come the consultative committees, organizers of the temple ceremonies, revenue collectors of the temple, and the accountants. Besides these there are hosts of subordinates who assist in the administration of the temple and in the supervision and direction of religious observances. The reciprocal relation between the religious and political establishments is also a significant development in early medieval society. In this process, the sacred institutions like Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries have become the nuclei of the society and, directly or indirectly, involved in the social relations, economic, political and cultural life of the people. This process involved creation of suitable ideological, economic and cultural premises. Thus, religious institutions of early medieval India were instrumental in hierarchical formations of society. The temple-society interface has been a theme of historical enquiry since middle of 20th century. This enquiry is put into new perspectives and methods of analysis in the following.

The papers presented in the volume deal with this issue from different cases and regions of India. Based on the themes addressed in the paper, the book is divided in to five sections. The first section on Order of Hierarchy has two papers. In the first paper, Prof. Ganapathy Subbiah addresses the issue of hierarchy as an inherent underlying feature of Indian society. Hierarchy is in a way changeless, yet other times manifest in different forms. Prof. Subbiah establishes continuity of the idea from early historic times to present day with the analysis of the phenomenon in Sangam society onwards. He locates the reason for this persistence in Indian attempt to negotiate the contradiction of social life and reclusion. The hierarchical order accordingly, creates a buffer space for coexistence of contradictions without mutually overriding. Surgically analyzing quotes from suicide note of Rohit Vemula, the most impacted incident of the year, the author illustrate how Indian society manifests its inherent differentiation till date. The paper is also fresh contribution to a new historiographic approach to analyze past society from the present and make sense of present from the past. Second paper by Satish Chandra is on the order of hierarchy in 12th century Karnataka under Saiva Bhakti movement. Religion being the determining social factor, he argues how the religious reform movement of Lingayats have emerged into a remarkable social revolution, resulting in significant changes in the social order. The approach of the author is historical and sociological. The paper uses translated historical texts to substantiate his arguments.

The second section is on the theme Patronage and Reciprocity. Temples gained relevance in society with its royal and influential connections. They were not just receivers of wealth but also restorers of merit as well as generators of cultural formations in the given settlement. This aspect is focused in papers of second section. Prof. Kesavan Veluthat critically analyzes the reciprocal relation shared by temples of early Kerala and Tamil Nadu under Cheras and Pandyas respectively with their contemporary socio-political structure. His basic argument is that in this region the emergence of temple was the result of several interrelated aspects. Among the more important ones of these was the unprecedented expansion of wet rice cultivation following the opening up of the fertile river valleys and tank: irrigation leading to create network of big and small brahmana settlements, which may also have been causally linked with it. The rise of large number of brahmanical temples, commanding vast extents of land as their property and all the entailing privileges, was a concomitant of this. The potential of temple institution was realized by early monarchs of south India, as temples turned to be agencies for easier and more efficient extraction of surplus from the peasants in the agrarian economy and this contributed to the extension of agriculture in the tribal areas and the consolidation of landlord domination. He argues that, thus, the temple accelerated the process of the disintegration of tribal society and its reorganization as a caste society. In the newly formed caste society, the temple served as an integrating factor linking the high and low in its service and a legitimizing agency of the political structure.

In the second paper on Brahmadeyas verses Yellanvagai Villages, Prof. Chandni Bi, has critically presented the socio-economic implications of land and other donations made to Brahmins and temples in early medieval Tamil Nadu. The author has made a comparative analysis of Brahmin and non-Brahmin donated settlements and finds out how their very establishment caused hierarchy. She also enumerates comparative qualitative differences between the two types of settlements. K. Mavali Rajan in his paper looks into the case of Chola royal patronage. He focuses on the merchant communities and guilds like Manigriimam, Ayyavoie, Nanadesi, Anjuvannam, etc. and how they were impacted by the temple institutions. The nexus of polity, religion, economy and commerce and its implications on the Chola society is elaborated in this paper, adding new understanding of the issue.

The case of patronage and reciprocity in Orissa temples is very freshly analyzed by Sujata Rakshit. She bases herself on inscriptional sources and borrow theoretical framework from modem European historians to establish the links. The presence of rulers and non-ruling members of royal families, the other nobles or well to do individuals as patrons in inscriptions point to the significance of making donations to temples, its material benefits and legitimate sanctioning in return. She establishes based on epigraphical sources how reciprocity with political benefits of patronage leads to formation of hierarchic structure with the lord at the apex as characteristic of early medieval Odisha society. Similar analysis of the case in early medieval Bengal is made by Srabani Chatterjee. Srabani focuses on land transactions with religious institutions of Bengal under Pala and Sena monarchs. She has made elaborate attempts to classify the land type, methods and scales of land measuring based on epigraphs. She boldly tries to elucidate the issue of land ownership in early medieval Bengal. The inscriptions are largely depended on to solve the riddle and finds that land was largely state owned; however, private ownership was not absent. The paper illustrates how unequal landholding resulted in socio-economic hierarchy in early medieval Bengal. The women and religious endowments during the Chola period are very intensely discussed by Chitrita Mondal in her paper. She explained her thoughts of royal patronage based on the epigraphic evidences of the Imperial Chola period. These religious patronages made by women which developed a devout turn of mind and spent large amount of money on renovating ruined temples and constructing new ones in stone, provided the images of deities with valuable gold ornaments and silver utensils to several temples to get the religious merits. In these ways the temple received patronage not only from the men folk but also from the women folk of the medieval Tamil society for the charitable purposes through its economic prosperity.

The third section dealing with Temple-Society Interface has five papers. The temple-society interface discourse is the framework employed by many historians. This section exclusively deals with the role of Brahmanic temple as social institution and its operation in the given social order. In her paper, Remya analyze the Kerala society under the Chera Perumals and immediately following its downfall. The paper trace the hierarchical formations of Kerala society in the given temple centred society. Land being primary form and source of wealth, its holding patterns and redistribution is taken as parameter to trace the course of hierarchic developments and her analysis focus on how this form of wealth was utilized by different stakeholders in society with the involvement of temple. The temple-society interface in early medieval Bengal is the focus of Sayantani Pal's paper. She develops her arguments based on epigraphical evidences. It is placed here that temples as a permanent abode of the god was present in the society in North Bengal in the fifth-sixth centuries, though their structural evidences are wanting. Temples were markers of the influence a person could exercise in the society.

In the paper on Vijayanagara, Priya Thakur elucidates the role of temples in the socio-economic contour of contemporary times. She establishes the political implications of settlement patterns and division of territories centered around temples. Division of capital into four independent quarters, each dominated by a walled temple complex further crystallize the authority of temples. The specific sections on social and economic role of temples discuss the phenomena in detail. This paper is another valuable contribution as society under Vijayanagara is yet not adequately researched. Sabarni Pramanick Nayak's paper on role of agriculturalists and pastoralists in temples of Srikakulam present the issue in remarkable depth and vastness. Based on epigraphic evidences, Sabarni brought forward that the local herdsmen, agriculturists also had been patrons of the temples and they too shared a reciprocal relation. Their involvement in temple affairs determined by the articles they dealt with and their demand by temple. Depending on this criterion, the social position of the community also varied. This information provides scope for fresh investigation against popular held view of patronage and reciprocity exclusively for political legitimation and benefit. The paper is made all the more interesting with substantial data of donations and interpretation of inscriptional terms related to individual, communities, occupation, their products, etc. Sangeeta Mishra addresses the process of social hierarchy under monastic and ecclesiastic institutions, mathas of Brahmanic order. The paper deals with the early medieval society under the Kalachuris of Tripuri and focus specifically on Golaki mathas. She presents that it was not only temples but also these mathas that functioned as agents of social integration and hierarchical order of society.

Fourth section of the book contains six papers dealing with Facets of Temple Culture. Prof. Nupur Dasgupta's paper is on the idea of sacred known from early medieval Karnataka inscriptions. She argues that temples emerged as centres of empowerment and social integration transcending the political affiliation and association. The sacred had many attributes at different contexts as evident from inscriptions. The paper touches upon the unique cultural milieu of early medieval Deccan. S. Jeevanandam has taken up to discuss the institution of devadasis prevalent in Tamil country from Pallavas through Chera, Pandya, Chola and Vijayanagara. He analyzes the involvement of polity in keeping up the devadiisi system, its changing role over centuries under different rulers and finds that there did exist hierarchy within the fold of devadasis. The practice overtime had been shifting its realm from sacred temples to profane centers, thus changing its social role, yet, never got detached from temple institution. This paper elaborates devadasi system in the context of temple and society.

Ritual performances, plays and recitals are also part of temple culture. Swamp Ray's paper on 'Mattavilasa Prahasana' is an analysis of Pallava period satirical drama Mattavilasa Prahasana, attributed to royal authorship. The paper presents how the satire indirectly address the conflict of two contemporary antagonistic religions, narrated in absolutely profane manner has been part of temple culture. He expresses the irony of a drama with religious satirical content finding popularity in temple performance. The parallel development of literature and performing arts with temple patronage is remarkable point in focus. Sreebarna Ghosh's paper looks into another aspect of temple building activity of post-Gupta Deccan and south India, i.e., motivation behind temple construction. With correlating the sequence of Chalukya-Pallava conflicts and coinciding temple building with inscriptions, she argues that, the constructions were not merely for religious purpose or political symbol, rather symbols of cultural hegemony over one another. The arguments are substantiated with contextualized analysis of epigraphic evidences. This paper provides a fresh perspective into the proliferation of temples and emergence of competing temple styles of the period.

An iconographic analysis of Sapta-matrika sculptures from Kushana period is presented by Krishnakoli's paper. She enquires into its origins, stylistic formations and evolutionary processes. Significance of this group of divine forms in contemporary religious developments is discussed by Krishnakoli. The formation of Bishnupur as a region is the focus of Sharmishta Chatterjee's work. She has presented the emergence and further functioning of Bishnupur as a socio-cultural region in eastern India. The role of political formations in the site is also discussed in causation. With employment of new methodologies and addressing regional history the paper is also a valuable addition to the present book.

The final section of the book is on Buddhism and Culture. The ancient and early medieval Indian society had significant contribution and involvement by non-Brahmanical religions like Jainism and Buddhism also. In this section, we present four papers relating to Buddhism from north western India, Tibet and Myanmar. Sarita Khettry's paper has the case with early historic north western India, where Buddhism underwent drastic influences and fundamental modifications. The political connections of the religion and its results are very well narrated by Sarita Khettry. Sonam Zangpo has made remarkable study on the development of Tibetan monastic order and its impact on society. The paper elaborates on modifications Buddhism underwent in the process and how that contributed to the religious practices of society centered around the monasteries. Shedup Tenzin has contributed an illustrious paper on development of Buddhist art in Tibet. He presents an elaborate account of its origins, how the art work is done, the stages, about artists, etc. The Thangka paintings from Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are studied in detailed manner. The illustrations complement the text very well. Lastly, its Manotosh Mandal's efforts that bring to fore the Indo-Myanmar phase of Maha-Bodhi temple. The temple with its history largely shrouded in legends, is yet inadequately addressed by historians. Manotosh presents the temple's historical phase from a religious and anthropological perspective, with details on the religious practices and rituals.

The book has contributors from diverse backgrounds and trainings. This collaboration has helped in bringing in varied approaches, methodologies and views to perceive Indian society. The endeavor has achieved to include most of India in its discussions. The book has five papers on Tamil Nadu, three each on Kamataka, Tibet and Bengal, two each on Kerala and North western India, one each on Andhra and Odisha. The editors have maintained to include various approaches on similar issues. Historiographically, new trends of analysis, employing scientific techniques, comparative analysis and integration of multi-disciplinary approaches have been part of this book. Thus, consciously attempting to break the compartments of social sciences is humble attempt of the present book. The book is just a stepping stone towards that endeavor and has a long path to tread ahead. If it helps aspirants in the field of historical studies in some ways, we consider ourselves successful. We take the responsibility of any discrepancies and errors that entered in, despite our sincere efforts.

So this volume has emerged as the product of research work, presented in the national seminar with a holistic approach to sacred institutions, religions and society in early medieval India and it may be a useful reading for those scholars who are working in this area. We present here the book for the pleasure of academic engagements and passion for the past, to live the present for a meaningful future.




  Preface v
  Abbreviations vii
  Transliteration ix
  Introduction xiii
Section I Order of Hierarchy in the Realm of Religion  
1 Order of Hierarchy in the Realm of Religion and Society: An Introspective View from Back and Forth in Indian History 3
2 Kalyana Kranti and Order of Hierarchy: Analysis of 12th Century Lingayat Movement 14
Section II Patronage and Reciprocity  
3 Patronage and Reciprocity: the Temple and State in Medieval South India 27
4 Brahmadeyas verses Vellanvagai Villages: Socio Cultural Hierarchy in Medieval South India 37
5 Religious Patronage: the Temple and Merchant Community in Medieval South India 49
6 The Portrayal of Hierarchy through Patronages: Early Medieval Temples of Odisha 72
7 Land Grants to Religious Institutions: A Study of Land Transaction in Early Medieval Bengal 84
8 Women and Religious Endowments during the Chola Period 95
Section III Temple-Society Interface  
9 Early Temple Institute and Augmentation of Social Hierarchy in Kerala 113
10 Temple-Society Interface in Early Bengal: Gleanings from Epigraphic Records 125
11 The Temples' Role in Socio-Economic Contour of the Vijayanagar Period 136
12 Agriculturists and Herdsmen in the Contexts of the Temples of Srikakulam-Vishakhapatnam Region 147
13 Supremacy of Mathas over Society and Polity in Early Medieval India: A Study of Golaki Mathas 164
Section IV Facets of Temple Culture  
14 The Idea of the Sacred in Inscriptions related to Temple and Religious Establishments in Ancient Karnataka 177
15 Kingship, Temple and Women: A Cultural Integration of the Devadasi System in South India 193
16 Staging Religious Satire: Temple Performances of Mattavilasa Prahasana 222
17 Temple: The Abode of God and the Pride of the King 232
18 Understanding the Identity of Saptamatrika in the Light of the Kushana Matrike Sculptures 248
19 Bishnupur (Bankura) as 'Region': Re-evaluating the Prospects and Problems 269
Section V Buddhism and Culture  
20 Buddhism and Contemporary Religions of the North-West: Syncretism, Conversion and Conflict 283
21 Tibetan Monastic Culture and Its Impact on Social Institutions: 298
22 Development of Buddhist Art in Tibet: An Overview 306
23 The Mahabodhi Temple: An Aesthetic Indo-Myanmar Collaboration Culture Design 326
  Contributors 343
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