About the Book:
The book locates monuments in their social and cultural context and views them as religious architecture. The shrine was not only a place of ritual, but also a centre for religious festivities and discourses on ethics and moral values. The temple or the mosque thus evolved as a crucial link between the ruling elite and the community and through its wider networks extended the religious domain beyond political frontiers.
With the establishment of colonial rule in Sough Asia during the 19th and 20th centuries, the relationship between the shrine and its community was radically transformed. This book takes the reader through the gradual metamorphosis in the character of religious sites from being culturally pluralistic to a monotheistic religious identity. This interesting book highlights the genesis of the multi-religious identify of monuments in India.
About the Author:
Himanshu Prabha Ray has degrees in archaeology, Sanskrit and ancient Indian history and has taught at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University since 1980. in her research, she adopts an inter disciplinary approach for the study of archaeology of religion in South Asia, seafaring activity in the Indian Ocean and history of archaeology in the sub-continent. She also has several outstanding books to her credit.
At present, she is studying early temples in peninsular India.
Amit Pasricha, renowned Indian photographer, has done some path-breaking work in capturing exotic Indian landscapes and rare monuments.
Monuments of India have been an abiding research interest since I joined the Archaeological Survey of India as a student at their School of Archaeology many years ago. It was there that I learnt skills and techniques to appreciate the many-faceted histories of these architectural marvels. My tour of India, Bharat Darshan, to archaeological sites towards the end of the course further enriched my knowledge. I owe a deep sense of gratitude to stalwarts of architectural history, such as the late Mr Krishna Deva, Mr M. N. Deshpande and Dr K. V. Soundara Rajan who taught me the basics of art and architecture and instilled a sense of admiration, but more significantly, of enquiry.
As a doctoral student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, working with Professor Romila 'Thapar, I learnt how to read histories of these monuments and to locate them within the social millieu. My focus at that time was on the early Buddhist monastic establishments of the Deccan, but since then the scope of my work has broadened.
Dr Kapila Vatsyayan is a constant source of inspiration and her writings as well as my association with her has deepened my knowledge to investigate the philosophic and ritual underpinnings of monuments and to examine narrative depictions on monuments as indicators of the vibrant traditions of the performing arts, which preserve memory and the cultural ethos of the time. Thus at one level, religious edifices show continuity in terms of adherence to underlying principles, while at another, they indicate the interrelationship amongst different art forms in a region. In contrast to the European intellectual tradition, the distinction between Kala, arts, and silpa, crafts, was non-existent in India and the 64 Kala included weaving, making garlands, decorations and so on. The term silpa designates a 'ceremonial act' and Visvakarma is said to have created things from dhaatu, raw materials. Visvakarma is a powerful progenitor of craft groups and this mythical origin continues to be repeated in the literature and inscriptions of South Asia.
Finally, it is through the efforts of Dr Varsha Das and Mr Shobir Arya of Wisdom Tree that my research took shape and form and I am thankful to them for transforming my ideas and thoughts into an elegantly produced volume.
India, home to one of the most ancient civilisations, is a unique example of cultural and geographical diversities. Dissimilar cultural practices are deeply rooted in people's daily lives even in the 21st century. India history is the fruit of geography, and geography the root of history. The history of several millennia has merged with phenomenal geographical variations to create the incredible India of today.
India is incredible in its landscapes, and the people who adorn her. Its rituals and traditions; sculptures and paintings; dance, music and theatre; handicrafts, fairs and festivals; monuments and manuscripts; and its varied cuisine-each is a definite statement that only India can proudly pronounce.
Myriad streams and rivers have been flowing for centuries in their own special terrain, sometimes forceful, sometimes gentle. Despite all kinds of obstacles, they flow on. When these waters reach the ocean, they mingle, and become one huge ocean. Similarly, these diverse, astonishingly rich and colourful cultural currents create a harmonious hymn known as India, even as they retain their unique individual identity.
This series of incredible India presents 10 books on different cultural aspects of the country, written by well-known experts of the subject. This book on Monuments written by Dr Himanshu Prabha Ray is one of the finest examples of the most readable texts presented by a scholar on the subject. Her first chapter is on sacred architecture in India, in which she covers temples and integrates communities. In the next one she describes archaeology and art history through shrines as monuments. Then she comes to an impressive era of Indo-Islamic architecture. Here she deals with Imperial architecture. Her last chapter is on the world heritage sites in India and covers the most magnificent monuments of India that are now placed on the world map.
Throughout the book the author has beautifully woven the threads of dynasties, prevalent social setups, unadorned and embellished architectural arts and religious beliefs in an intricate attractive fabric.
Most of the photographs in this book have been taken by Debadutta Ray. He has covered those monuments, which one seldom finds on picture postcards meant for tourists. Ray's photographs provide a rare peep into the world of architectural glory of India.
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