What is a temple? Who built or patronized such structures and why? Temples have always formed a crucial element of the cultural landscape of
South Asia. Combining textual analysis, archaeology, and archival research with contemporary anthropology, Archaeology and Text provides a
stimulating appraisal of religious life in the past.
Through detailed case studies from regions like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bengal, and Orissa, the book
examines both the religious architecture of the temples and the cultural practices surrounding them. the essays underscore the importance of the
temple in its interaction with diverse interest groups, such as worshippers, ritual specialists, ascetics, patrons, artisans, and others. They also
show how temples were not only expressions of political authority but also formed important centres of learning, popular devotion, and
The volume explores the development of bhakti and ascetic traditions in the subcontinent in relation to temples. It investigates the
relationship between sacrificial rituals and devotional practices, emergent religious cultures and older traditions, and temples and renouncers.
The collection also questions the notion of boundaries surrounding religious traditions underlining the fact that present categories do not fit
neatly in those of a bygone era. The introduction provides a succinct account of sacred spaces as they came to be defined in archaeological
records from the first millennium BCE onwards.
Illustrated with photographs, ground plans, and line drawings, this interdisciplinary volume will be invaluable for scholars and students
of history, archaeology, art history, anthropology, and archaeology, art history, anthropology, and sociology. It will particularly interest those
concerned with temples, religious architecture, and rituals and observances.
Himanshu Prabha Ray is Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
The study of the long history of religions is complex and multifaceted, and different disciplines have approached this history in different ways.
When Indian traditions, which had already formed their own intellectual reflection, came to the attention of western scholars, particularly the
Sanskrit tradition, scholarly inquiry was focused almost exclusively on text rather than practice, written word rather than temple. In recent years,
however, there has been an important shift away from purely textual study towards an emphasis on material culture and practice. Archaeology,
anthropology, and political history have given us new insights and angles from which to view the history of religions, and scholars have shown us
the importance of material evidence from inscriptions, coins, and archaeological remains in our reconstructions of earlier cultures. Philology
alone, while being necessary, is not sufficient to build a picture of a complex past, and we need other tools.
The temple is a major source for understanding the history of Indian culture and religion and through the study of inscriptions we now
understand more clearly the importance of patronage in the development of religious institutions and the rise of particular traditions over others.
A combination of textual study, archaeology, and insights from contemporary anthropology, allows us to form a more accurate picture of
religious life in the past and shows us the importance of cultural politics, royal patronage, and the region. Large regional temples in what we
might call the medieval period, such as Srirangam and Thanjavur, were political centres and symbols of sovereign power. But these regional
temples were not only the expression of political power, they were also centres of learning, popular devotion, and pilgrimage might see them as
symbols of power and oppression. This book seeks to understand the temple through history and archaeology; to understand both the hard
material aspects of the temple, and the cultural practices that went on in, and around them. This methodology is an example of the need to
understand the history of religions in an inter-disciplinary way. The first section, focusing on the ‘Archaeology of the Temple’, provides some
detailed examples of what precisely a temple comprises. The second section, ‘Asceticism and the Bhakti Tradition’, shows the development of
religious traditions in relation to the temple. As Patrick Olivelle observes in this volume, the temple is fairly late in coming onto the Indian
religious scene; before the Common Era, Brahmanical and non-Brahmanical traditions had existed for hundreds of years without temples.
The temple signifies a new kind of understanding of religious life, an understanding closely linked with medieval political
developments and rise of powerful dynasties. Indeed, the temple marks the importance of the region during this time and was clearly a political
centre and expression of power. The building of temples is also accompanied by the formation of texts telling the story of a particular place, the
Sthala Puranas. A king who could fund the building of temples, particularly grand, regional temples such as Cidamabaram, Srirangam, Thanjavur,
and so on, was a powerful king and his power paralleled the power of the temple deity. The body of the god is the temple recapitulates the body
of the king in the palace, and as the kingdom in one sense, is an extension of the king’s body, so the temple is an extension of the god’s body. Yet
as we see in these essays, the temple was not simply about sovereignty but could also express popular devotionalism in which people perceived
the temple to be a centre of not only political but sacred power, a point at which the material and spiritual worlds met, a crossing over point at
which the material and spiritual worlds met, a crossing over point between two realms. The texts, such as devotional poetry of the Tamil Alvars
and Nayanars, tell us about religious sentiment and point to the kinds of subjectivity the temple evoked in devotees, while archaeology and
architectural study tell us about technological achievement and patronage. The temple is a complex place and no one approach can fully exhaust
its meaning; for devotees the temple is sacred and evokes devotional sentiments as the devotee is taken before the image of the deity, yet we
must also understand it in the context of regional politics as an expression of power: the more powerful the king, the more elaborate the temples
he could build. The essays in this volume take into consideration all of these factors and the book is an example of the ways in which people
from different disciplines need to interact with each other about areas of common concern.
Much work needs to be done not only at the particular, concrete level of regional temples but also at more abstract levels of argument
about the relationship between text and temple. There are texts which deal with the practicalities of temple design, building, and installation of
deities (such as the Rauravagama), and texts which present details of the rites to be performed (such as the Tantrasamuccaya). The silence and
simplicity of the centre of the temple where the deity resides, the ‘womb room’ or garbhagrha, has been contrasted with the rich abundance of
carvings on the outer walls of the temple; the stillness at the heart of the universe contrasted with the business of the manifest universe
represented by the sculpture on the temple sides. These carvings on the temple walls-especially the erotic ones-are difficult to interpret and
there is often no direct or clear narrative sequence. Some temples depict stories from the epics and Puranas and some depict events in history,
while for others there is no known narrative context. Arguably, we need to bring narrative to bear on representational sculpture in order to make
sense of it, but this is often lacking in South Asia. Many of these images are, then, open to varied interpretations and we can read into them both
a theological significance as well as signs of the socio-political reality in which they occurred. The erotic sculptures of Khajuraho (although not
restricted to these temples) for example, have been interpreted in various ways as tantric rituals, as representations of heavenly pleasure, as
depictions of the value of pleasure (kama), and as magical protection to reflect back the obscenity of the demons. We do not have all the
answers, although a better understanding of medieval Hindu polity has led to an appreciation of the historical and political contexts in which
temples were built. Contemporary concerns about gender have highlighted the meanings that we can find in temple sculpture and representations
of goddesses, and have also shown how some temple endowments were made by rich and powerful women.
Finally, focusing on the temple raises questions about the boundaries around religious traditions. Indeed, the temple questions the
very category ‘Hinduism’ and shows us that the lines of demarcation in the medieval period were not those of modernity. There was no Hinduism
during the flowering of temple building before modernity but rather, we have temples and traditions focused on the major deities Visnu, Siva,
and the goddess in all her forms. Alongside these were Buddhist and Jain temples as well. We see this at Khajuraho where Jain temples had equal
patronage with Vaisnava and Sakta temples. Indeed, the earliest temple architecture seems to have been Jain and Buddhist. Through studying the
temple we learn that our theoretical categories do not neatly fit the past, and our presuppositions are not those of the people who constructed
these marvelous monuments. These monuments bear witness to the skill and ingenuity of a bygone age and to a society with different values and
goals to our own modern world but whose values and goals we can recognize and re-interpret for our current needs and hopes. So much about the
temple resists closure that we can never have a complete understanding of these monuments. Like ancient texts themselves, temples are open to
new interpretations and to being re-read in the light of contemporary concerns. In raising questions about the temple and about the relation of
text to archaeology, this book travels towards answering some of our questions and presenting a comprehensive account of what a temple is, who
constructed these pieces of architectural brilliance, and why.
IntroductionHimanshu Prabha Ray
Traditionally Sanskritists and other language specialists study religious texts, whereas art historians and archaeologists work on the architecture
and art of monuments. As inter-disciplinary dialogue seldom takes place, especially in the study of religions in India. This volume attempts to
traverse these disciplinary boundaries and present papers from a range of academic specializations, to lead the way, both in terms of developing
new research methodologies, but more significantly to initiate changes in pedagogy for studying a crucial element in the understanding of Indian
culture, that is, the temple. Writing more than two decades earlier in 1987, Schopen argued that if the history of religions, which was text-bound
had instead been archaeology of religions, ‘it would have been preoccupied not with what small, literate almost exclusively male and certainly
atypical professionalized subgroups wrote, but rather, with what religious people of all segments of a given community actually did and how hey
The interplay between temporal power and religious authority varied among the religions of Asia, but the unifying feature is that the
shrine formed an essential element of the cultural landscape. These shrines, however, have generally been studied in terms of the practice of
religion, iconography, or with regard to chronology and patronage, and more recently within debates of generation of colonial knowledge. A
distinction is often made between colonial and nationalist studies of Indian architecture, with the former based on accurate delineation and
documentation of architecture spearheaded by James Fergusson, while the latter took recourse to aesthetics and spirituality, as evident in the
writings of Ananda Coomaraswamy. Another perspective draws on the textual tradition to highlight theistic developments in Sanskrit literature
leading to devotion (bhakti) to deities mediated through icons and holy persons and the development of poetry and popular devotional
movements, particularly in Vrindavan and Bengal. The textual tradition itself has been interrogated, with scholars questioning the ways in which a
religious text pervades religious action and examining the importance of text for liturgical action.
Historians have, however, explained the origins of temple in terms of requirements of local political elite or landed intermediaries to
legitimize their newly emerging status in a period of urban decay, decline of trade and agrarian expansion. There is unity also in the association
of brahmanas with migrations and their role as priests in consolidating the new cults. The archaeological study of religious architecture provides
a counter-position to this view and indicates a diverse landscape and the involvement of Buddhist and Jain monastic centres as well as brahmanas
in social integration, rather than as agents of political legitimization.
The first issue relates to the beginnings of temple in South Asia and its antiquity as evident from archaeological records. The Siva
linga at Gudimallam in Chittoor district dates to the second-first centuries BCE and was enshrined in a brick shrine dated to the first century CE
while two phases of structural activity marked the construction of temples at Veerapuram in the Krishna valley. Intense archaeological
exploration at the confluence of the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers has brought to light a remarkable series of brick temples. Mostly square on
plan, these contained pebble lingas and have been dated between the second to sixth centuries CE.
An apsidal structure dedicated to the Naga cult was excavated at the site of Sonkh in Mathura district. The site was first settled in 800
BCE, but the earliest evidence for an apsidal shrine of baked brick in the habitation area dates to the first century CE. A second apsidal temple
(no. 2) was found 400 metres north of the main excavated area and dates to a somewhat earlier period in the first century BCE. Indisputable
evidence for worship at a shrine comes from a record on a pillar base at Jamalpur mound, which refers to a gift of Devile described as devakulika
or priest of Dandhikarna Naga. In addition to Mathura, another early centre known for the worship of the Naga cult is Rajgir. Excavations at the
site unearthed a brick shrine dated to the second-first centuries BCE and several terracotta figurines of Nagas.
Another local cult that gained prominence in the post-Mauryan period was the worship of lajja-gauri. This was, in all probability, a
fertility cult, which originated from the worship of a supine images, especially during childbirth. It is significant that shrines dedicated to
lajja-gauru are now known from excavated sites. One of these is the site of Padri in the Talaja tahsil of Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, hardly 2
kilometre from the Gulf of Cambay. The site has Harappan beginnings, but was again occupied around the first century BCE. The only structure
uncovered partially in the central part of the site comprised of stone construction, roughly rectangular on plan with rounded corners and with a
hardened floor of alternate layers of clay and gravel. On the southern side of this stone enclosure were two compact floors with post-holes
along the periphery suggesting some sort of a superstructure. There was no evidence of cooking or storage facilities on these floors, indicating
thereby non-domestic functions. Two terracotta plaques of lajja-gauri were found on the floor of the structure, while a square slate plaque with
the image of lajja-gauri was a surface find. Other images included sandstone figures of Ganesa and Visnu. It is significant that in spite of these
early archaeological finds, the temple first occurs in legal literature only around second century CE, as discussed by Olivelle in the volume.
Early Indian coins further substantiate the data from archaeological excavations and are a valuable source of information. A depiction
of a temple may be seen on a square copper coin of the Audumbaras dated to second-first century BCE. It shows a pillared shrine with a
curvilinear spire flanked by pillars. The temple occurs on other issues of the Audumbaras, such as those of king Dharaghosa, Sivadasa, and
Rudradasa. Representations of multi-storeyed structure on a square plan are alone known on coins of the Trigartas and Yaudheyas from north
India. These illustration continue well into the medieval period as indicated by representations of the coins of Kushanas, Guptas, and later
dynasties. The diversity in the shrine-types illustrated indicates regions variations.
By the tenth-eleventh centuries CE, temple architecture in South Asia had acquired well-rounded from and meaning. This architectural
development was accompanied by conceptual complexity in the religio-philosophical systems with relation to the Supreme Being and its
manifestations. It is this conceptual complexity that was represented through the sculptural schema of the temples. Thus each temple presented
its own pantheon and its own view of the cosmos, which can only be comprehended through a ‘reading’ of the sculptures and an appreciation of
the ritual spaces.
Religious shrines were both consumers of a variety of commodities used in ritual, as well as important locales for trading activity as
indicated by shops and markets within or the vicinity of temple thereby transforming both the geographic and social landscapes of the region. At
the same time there are several instances of a differential tax on commodities required for religious purposes. More importantly, of course,
several commodities such as textiles were imbued with multiple meanings and were both items of common consumption as well as products for
elite and religious requirements. The post-tenth century marks a further change with shops and markets in the vicinity of temple contributing
materials to the performance of rituals and festivities. For example, the thirteenth century record, inscribed on a long slab of polished black
stone from one of the temples at Somnath, refers to the purchase of shops by the benefactor and their donation to the temple.
The essays are divided into two themes. The first relates to the archaeology of the temple and the second to asceticism and bhakti
traditions. Archaeological data encompasses not just religious structures and standing monuments, but more importantly it also includes an
analysis of the location of religious architecture within the social domain. Texts, which are most importantly acted-out or performed, exist as
cultural processes; they both articulate narratives and are themselves part of a narrative. Religious architecture is thus an important indicator of
interaction with diverse interest groups, such as worshippers, ritual specialists, patrons, artisans, and son on. No religious architecture can
survive without adequate maintenance and we do know that shrines and other sacred architecture far outlived their patrons. The role of
charismatic ascetics is crucial to the histories of temples and there are several instances of renouncers re-establishing worship in neglected
temples and also instituting rituals in keeping with Sastric traditions.
The first chapter focuses on the spectacular temple complexes of Aihole, Badami, and Pattadakal located also the 25 kilometre long
fertile valley of the Malaprabha river (a tributary of the Krishna), in Bagalkot district, which have long been admired for their distinctive Karnata
Dravida architectural tradition and sculptural exuberance. It was along the Malaprabha river in north Karnataka that Pulakesi on top of the
sandstone cliff in c. 543 CE. Thus the attempt by the early Chalukya rulers to establish a base in the fertile Malaprabha valley is undeniable. It is
also evident that in the seventh-eighth centuries CE, the Malaprabha valley acquired an identity that has continued to mould the lives of the
communities both within and outside it. This identity included the demarcation of a territorial boundary within the enclosed terrain of the valley,
adoption of a new mode of worship in the temple, the used on Kannada language on coins and inscriptions, and assumption of a sculptural
programme based on epics and Puranas. The issues are: how was the location of temples decided? How was religious unity achieved? Are the
rulers to be credited with enforcing religious hegemony?
Parul Pandya Dhar examines the textual injunctions regarding worship in a temple when the main image of the deity in the sanctum is
lost, stolen, or damaged and attempts a biographical sketch of the monument to relate the received evidence to textual injunctions and the
iconological programme of the temple in addressing such concerns. The Ambika temple in Jagat village, about 50 kilometres southeast of
Udaipur in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, dates back to 961 CE. The temple has a simple but well-spelt iconological sheme. Its numerous
fine sculptures are in an excellent state of preservation. Ambika temple is a Devi (goddess) temple, with images of Durga, Saptamatrkas, and
other female divinities sculpted on its walls. As the red flag on the sikhara and the congregation of devotees indicate, the temple is still being
used for worship. The principal image of Ambika in the garbha-grha (sanctum-sanctorum) though is not of the same date as the temple’s
construction and consecration but is a more recent marble image installed on the earlier pedestal and in front of the original parikara
(image-frame). What are the upacaras (remedial measures) for resuming worship in such a temple? What could have been the motivating forces
for the local population to resume worship to the goddess in this temple?
The master architects (sutradharas) of Khajuraho in central India followed the Visvakarman School of Vastu tradition, as is evidenced
from inscriptions. There was prolific temple building activity at this site between 900-1150 CE under the patronage of the Chandella Rajput
princes and Jain merchants. About twenty-five temples now survive, constructed according to the Sastric tradition of central Indian Nagara style
of temple architecture. These are dedicated to Visnu, Siva, Surya, Yoginis, and Jain Tirthankaras. Hundreds of figures on temple walls hold
manuscripts in hand, but so far no actual manuscript has been discovered from this site. Devangana Desai discusses the textual tradition followed
by the Khajuraho architects in the context of the structural aspects of the temples, and the ornamentation of the wall and the door of the
sanctum. The essay examines some important sculptural motifs such as apsaras (celestial female figures) and vyalas (griffins) in the context of
texts as well as actual depiction. It presents some special features such as the juncture wall joining the hall the sanctum where the architects
express creative imageries. It surveys the placement of images in the two principal temples, namely the Laksmana sheltering an image of
Vaikuntha-Visnu, and the Kandariya Mahadeva, dedicated to Siva. The essay seeks to demonstrate that though the Khajuraho artists stayed within
the textual tradition, they made creative use of traditional motifs. They could go beyond texts and invent new images, new configurations, and
iconic schemes to convey concepts in visual language.
The next chapter also takes up the issue o text and sculptural representation. Kumud Kanitkar discusses a few panels inside the hall of
the Ambarnath temple, the oldest dated Bhumija temple in Maharashtra, and examines the extent to which these may represent some of the
rituals prescribed in the medieval texts on temple architecture.
Lisa N. Owen focuses on the worship of the Jina at the cave temples at Ellora and addresses a fundamental question: How does one
worship a liberated being who is technically inaccessible? In the early ninth through tenth century, temples with shrines containing a life-sized
Jina image were hewn out of rock. Among the earliest of these temples is a monument known today as the Chotra Kailasa. As its appellation
suggests, this temple resembles the site’s larger and more famous Kailasanatha temple in terms of its execution, architectural components, and
designation of sacred space. Although Ellora’s Kailasanatha temple has long been recognized as a divine residence for the Hindu god Siva,
similar ways of looking at the Chota Kailasa and its Jina image have not yet been conducted. One reason for this neglect may be the simple fact
that the liberated Jina is not considered to be ‘present’ within the main shrine image and so the temple is not thought of as a ‘residence’ per se.
Though this is technically the case, similarities between these two monuments at Ellora, especially in some of their external imagery, suggest
more nuanced connections. In the essay, Owen examines the similarities and differences between these two monuments and address important
issues regarding ‘absence’, ‘presence’, and ‘residence’ in early medieval Hindu and Jaina religious art and practice. She suggests that Jaina visual
expressions of notions of ‘presence’ and worship are particular to its own religious tradition, as evident from a comparison of Ellora’s artistic
programmes and the articulation of Jina’s samavasarana with Jinasena’s Adipurana.
Paradoxically, in Bengal, most of the standing Hindu temples post-date the arrival of the Mughals, at the end of the sixteenth century.
What significance did these Hindu landmarks have in the social and historical context? Were they simply commemorative, vindictive, or did they
compromise with the ‘hostile’ rulers? How did these Hindu temples integrate landscapes with outstanding Muslim monuments? The archaeology
of the imposing Kantanagar temple in north Bengal, and many other shrines from different parts of Bengal provide a rich matter of thought, as
discussed in the chapter by Sandrine Gill. They are particularly interesting as they incorporate the traditional skills of local terracotta artisans
and brick builders into a variety of iconographical and architectural creations deeply rooted in a specific social background.
Numismatics and archaeology have always had a close relationship. Still, in the study of archaeology and archaeological concepts, the
discipline of numismatics is often relegated to a secondary importance. Though the use of religious tokens in India is not embedded in antiquity,
it forms a part of the living traditions. By highlighting religious tokens, Sanjay Garg aims at consolidating numismatic research done so far on
this topic and analyses this data in the context of other archaeological remains such as monuments and sculptures as well as religious texts. He
also re-emphasizes the importance of numismatic objects like religious tokens for studying the cultural and religious aspects of the social life
of the people.
Confronting, dealing with, and ‘managing’ sacred space was a task that the colonial Government of India had set for itself from the
early days of the rule of the English East India Company in Bengal and it continued to dominate official views of governing India down to the end
of British rule in 1947. At the root of this was the understanding, derived largely from a heavily text-based European Orientalist scholarship, of
India as an essentially religious culture, characterized by mutually antagonistic religious groups. Thus, establishing hegemony could not, among
other things, avoid negotiating space that was traditionally inhabited by monument-making and archaeological conservation, introduced by the
colonial state in India and enshrines in the government department of the Archaeological Survey of India (1861), by virtue of its claims as
upholder of India’s heritage and history almost automatically lent itself to such negotiations. Indra Sengupta’s essay focuses on archaeological
practice in temple restoration in colonial Orissa as one of the best examples of the negotiation of sacred space between the claims of colonial
archaeology as the final authority on the ‘monumental’ remains of India’s past and the various indigenous groups, who on the one hand, sought to
profit from the conservation of religious architecture and on the other, used sacred space to engage in confrontation and conflict, but also enter
into negotiations with colonial archaeology.
Devotion or bhakti mediated through icons is often seen as a critical element of Brahmanical religion. The second section
interrogates several aspects of devotional and ascetic practices. Natalia R. Lidova compares two important rituals, namely, yajna indicating ritual
associated with sacrifices, and puja arising from devotional practices. While yajna held pride of place as a solemn rite in the Vedic time, puja
became widespread in the post-Vedic era to become the central ritual of Hinduism. Attempts to compare yajna and puja have either emphasized
the similarities between the two, or brought out the differences. Irrespective of this, they all proceeded from comparisons between the outward
aspects of the ritual practice, with extremely vague results. Lidova suggests that a comparison of rituals appears to be destined for success only
if it proceeds from a specific methodological approach, which allows comparison not only of the outward aspects of rites but essential ritual
Patrick Olivelle examines the relationship between temples and the ideologies and practices underlying the mainstream Brahmanical
tradition and the ascetical institutions of ancient India. The ‘Hindu’ temple is a relatively new institution rising in the early centuries of the
Common Era. Brahmanical ritual both in its public and domestic expressions had existed without temples for over a millennium. Ascetic
institutions both within and outside the Brahmanical tradition developed in a temple-less religious landscape, and their ideologies were
anti-ritual and focused on wandering and mental cultivation. With the development of temple culture within ‘Hindu’ traditions, accommodations
and conflicts between the emergent religious culture and the older traditions were bound to occur. Focussing on the legal tradition, Olivelle
examines some of the conflicts and accommodations.
When attempts are made to position bhakti in relation to the historical formation of India as a cultural, religious, and even political
whole, the rubric most familiarly used has been ‘the bhakti movement’ or in Hindi and certain related languages, bhakti andolan. The choice of
the terms movement and andolan suggests that there is something about bhakti that resists its being firmly associated with the sorts of clearly
specifiable circumstances that lead to the construction of major temples, as documented in inscriptions that appear on the temples themselves
or in documents that concern them. John Stratton Hawley examines the ‘bhakti movement’ picture. Prioritizing Vaisnavism-the sometimes
unspoken point of reference for much ‘bhakti movement’ thinking-he begins by considering the text usually held to have exerted the greatest
force on Hindu bhakti generally, the Bhagavata Purana. Where, if at all, can it be seen in stone? He considers the mention of specific temples by
the Alavars and other Sri Vaisnava Tamil poets. His central concern relates to the striking absence-or at least paucity-of such references in the
Vaisnava bhakti poetry that emerged in Hindi beginning in the fifteenth century. Whey and how is this so? What about the depiction of certain
poets as having taken their inspiration from particular images of Krsna? What about the visual record that was created as Brindavan and Braj
came to be constructed in the sixteenth century? In this ‘built bhakti’? How does it relate to the official hostility to temple-building that is
enshrined in the theology of the Vallabha Sampradaya? And how does it relate to a broader spectrum of ‘vulgate Vaisnavism’ in roughly the same
period that would take account of poets such as Kabir? Certainly, Kabir is firmly ensconced in every influential ‘bhakti movement’ narrative, but
can he be associated in any way with a built canon?
The penultimate essay shifts the focus to Jainism. As part of his mendicant vows, a Jaina monk is committed to total non-possession.
He owns nothing. He is dependent upon the laity for even his robes (if he is a Svetambara monk), bowls, ‘loaned’ to him by the laity. In theory he
should not ask even for these, and if the laity choose not to provide, them, he should do without them. in contrast, Jaina temples are the sites of
great wealth and display. Wealthy patrons vie with each other to see who can spend the most money building and renovating the greatest number
of temples, and in other ways be seen as prominent supporters of Jainism. Jaina temples are grand architectural creations, filled with hundreds of
carved stone and cast bronze icons. In the Svetambara case, many of these icons are ornamented with expensive gold and jewellery. In both
Svetambara and Digambara temples one sees extensive and expensive ornamentation of the temple itself, as it is understood to be the divine
palace of the true king of kings, the true lord of lords. One might expect, therefore, that mendicancy and temples are two discrete realms of
Jaina practice, with little to connect the two. Surely the ritual, visual, material, and devotional culture of temples and icons is a lay creation,
grafted onto an original mendicant, renunciatory core of Jainism. As John E. Cort argues, this is not the case, however. Mendicancy and temples
are integrally intertwined, and the resistance to those few instances in Jaina history when critics have attempted to uncouple the two indicates
just how strong are the ties that bind the two together for the majority of Jainas.
While the Hindu temple is a religious site and signifies some ritual activity, the general perception of a samnyasin is not associated
with ritual activity as that is seen as perpetuating worldly existence or samsara. However, since this polarization is not evidenced in real life, this
is indeed a contested issue and the essay by T.S. Rukmani examines how far this relationship of a renouncer with the temples as seen in the
world can be justified based on the prescriptions given in ascetic (samnyasa) manuals like the Samnyasa Upanisads, the Yatidharmasamuccaya,
It is hoped that the volume arising out of inter-disciplinary dialogue on a crucial facet of South Asia’s religious history would open
out newer areas of teaching, research, and study.
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