Lecture tag: Archaeology

Archaeologies of power: materialization of imperial ideology on the Aśoka horizon

Archaeologists have conceptualized power either as personal potency or something structural, but more comprehensively as nothing but the dialectical relationship between the two. Comparatively in Indic philosophy, both the normative knowledge of statecraft and personal experience of the ruler were considered as integral to the exercise of overlordship. I will thus archaeologically investigate the role of A?oka the Great in exploiting sources of power especially (but not exclusively) ideology through the archaeological theory of materialization. It has been argued that ideology can be materialized: in ancient South Asia, ideology assumed its materialized forms as royal orders on permanent materials, monuments/monumental art, coins, rituals, distributions of imperial art/architecture/artifacts or settlement patterns/hierarchies. The contents, contexts and locations of A?okan edicts best manifest the modes of power of the Indic world. I will first challenge the discrepancy between A?oka’s proselytization of Buddhism and religious tolerance as well as the long-held dichotomy of the Buddhist and Brahmanical models of his kingship. Secularization of certain technical terms in A?okan edicts and their geopolitical locations rather support such imperial strategies as universal pacification and compartmentalization. The collective evidence of the royal orders of A?oka, Kh?ravera, Rudrad?man and Samudragupta will further illuminate the cakravartin kingship of the Indo-European origin. I will hypothesize that A?oka as cakravartin materialized his power by marking his symbolic circumambulation of his empire with his Major and Minor Rock Edicts located on Mauryan borderlands.

The biography of temple complexes

The distribution of Buddhist and early temple sites shows that they overlap in the lower Krishna basin. But more noticeable is the clustering of early temple sites in the two interior districts of Mahboobnagar and Kurnool in Andhra where no Buddhist sites have been found, for example temple sites such as Keesaragutta and Alampur. The most ornate of the early temples located in the Eastern Deccan are those at the site of Alampur situated at the confluence of the rivers Tungabhadra and Krishna. The sites of Aihole, Badami and Patadakal formed the core area of temple construction in central Deccan. Inscriptions dating from 8th to 12th centuries from these temple sites, especially Aihole provide valuable information on the operations of the merchant guild Ayyavole and donations made by them to the temple complex. The importance of the sites of Aihole-Pattadakal-Badami in the development of multi-layered sacred space in central Deccan is undeniable and this presentation locates these temple complexes within their social domains.

Narratives in stone: The Ramayana in early deccan

Recitation from sacred texts including the Epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata was a crucial part of ritual activities at temples further reinforced by representations of themes from literature in narrative panels on temple walls. The most sustained visual narrative based on the Valmiki Ramayana dates from 5th to 8th centuries and is to be found on the Visnu temple at Deogarh dated to 425 AD, the contemporary temple at Nachna, as well as in the Deccan on the Durga, Papanatha and Virupaksa temples at Aihole – Pattadakal and at the Kailasa temple at Ellora. The Ramayana travelled to Southeast Asia towards the end of the first millennium AD, but the selection of themes and episodes to be depicted on monuments varied from place to place. This presentation analyses the Ramayana panels with a view to understanding the religious and cultural milieu of these shrines.

Colonial knowledge, archaeological reconstructions: The discovery of the Hindu temple in 19th-20th century India

The first lecture in the series traces the beginnings of the archaeology of religion in 19th-20th century India and highlights the trends that emerged in the study of the Hindu temple as a result of this intervention. Perhaps the most salient is the disjunction between religious praxis and theory and the study of architecture divorced from its ritual and philosophical moorings. A second is the change in the character of religious sites in the subcontinent from a culturally pluralistic personality to a monotheistic religious identity as a result of early archaeological legislation in the 19th century and more specifically from the early years of the 20th century onwards. This is best achieved by contrasting the ‘discovery’ of the site of Amaravati (1798-1867) with that of Nagarjunakonda (1920-1938) – both located along the river Krishna in the Guntur district of Andhra.