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Temple and Society in South India

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Item Code: NAK206
Author: K. Mavali Rajan
Publisher: Kaveri Books
Language: English
Edition: 2016
ISBN: 9788174791887
Pages: 304
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 inch X 7.5 inch
Weight 720 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

This volume contains twenty articles covering different aspects of South Indian Temples and Society, which include the following facets like: Power and Legitimacy of Medieval South Indian Temples; Role of Religion in the Chola State and Society; Science behind Temple Worship; Cultural Aspects of Hindu Temples; Administrators and other Functionaries of the Hindu Temples; Temple Women; Socio-political Dimension of Early Kerala Temples; Religious Endowments; Role of Temple in Agrarian Expansions; Socio- cultural Facets of Vijayanagar Temples; Social Customs and Festivals in the Temple Art of Vijayanagar-Nayak Period; Early Buddhist Temples in East) Coast of South India; Folk Traditions of South India and other social and historical related aspects. These articles, with notes, references and bibliography are contributed by learned scholars on the wide range of aspects. It is hoped that the readers would be immensely benefited from the learned exposition of temple institutions as a centre of all social, economic and cultural activities.


About the Editor

Dr. K. Mavali Rajan is presently working as Assistant Professor in the Department of Ancient Indian History Culture and Archaeology, Visva- Bharati (A Central University), Santiniketan, West Bengal. He obtained his M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. degree with specialization of medieval South Indian History from the School of Historical Studies, Madurai Kamaraj University, Tamil Nadu and also got his Master of Tourism Management degree further from the same university. He has also completed a course on Epigraphy from the Archaeological Department of Tamil Nadu Government in 2000. He has to his credit of a book namely "Medieval Tamil Society and Agrarian Slavery" which has published from Kolkata in 2014. He is associated with many notable historical associations of the Indian History Congress, South Indian History Congress, Tamil Nadu History Congress, and the Institute of Historical Studies. He is also associated with the editorial board of the Journal of Social Science and Humanity Researches, International Journal of Cotemporary Research in Social Science, the International Journal of Social Science Review and the Research Journal 'Nilam' and he is also an Associate editor of the International Journal of Kamata Anusandhan. He specializes in various aspects of socio-economic history of early India and History of ancient and medieval South India. His various research works has been published in several reputed journals of national and international.



The place of temples in society is indeed pre-eminent. It played an important role in uniting people through the various ritual activities. All the social activities of villages in medieval south India centered around temple. Besides the resident of deity and place of worship, temples are the repositories of our tradition, centres of education (padasala), charitable institutions, hospitals, centres of preservation of the fine arts and historical records, governing body of local self-government, place of entertainment, meeting place and place of Justice. The temples were also the place of peaceful assembly of the society and resting place of arts like, vastu, silpa, natya, and other similar fine arts. Temples are also responsible for the origin and growth and preservation of many traditional arts like kuttu (dance drama), kummi, music and other performing arts.

The temple came to be more important in the lives of people of the southern India than in the lives and cultures of those of north. The temples of south India recognized as centuries old, and that each of the thousands of temples has a separate past. Burton Stein in his work "South Indian Temples: An Analytical Reconstruction" attest that the past of the temple begins with its being one sacred place (tirtha) among numerous others, a place of sacred performances, vows (vratas) and supplications for local people as well as, in many cases, for persons of distant places of those sacred places, some seized the interest of a powerful local atronage with the resources to build a modest or even magnificent shelter or place for the deity of the people. N. Venkata Ramanayya's "An Essay on the Origin of the Southern Temple" (Madras, 1930) emphasis that "the south Indian temple had, at the beginning, no connection with worship of any deity. The various gods and goddesses whom the indigenous population of the south India worshipped was not accustomed to dwell in the secluded atmosphere of the temple; they loved the life in the open air". The early society worshipped nature, and later started making images of deities and worshipped them, placed them in a beautiful and picturesque atmosphere like river and pool banks, fertile groves, tree shadows, caves and other places. The people also worshipped trees, symbols, animals and other forms which they believed that the nature protect them from the evils. Initially only nature worship was existed, there was no image worship in south India. In course of time, they raised the building to the divine images.

The typical deity or image worship of the south Indian villages emerged through the worship of gramadevada or the village god or deity, who generally lodged in a small shrine construction on a primitive pattern. The shrine, however, marks a late stage in the development of cult of the gramadevada. In a large number of villages, gramadevada have no temples at all, they are lodged in the open air in the shadow of a big tree. In many of villages only tree is considered as the embodiment of the deity, which is considered sacred and it receives all acts of worship which are meant for the deity.

The beginning of the temple construction in south India is attributed to the Pallavas, who ruled the Tarnil country during the 6th and 7th century C.E. The Hindus and Jains of south India adopted the stone medium and started erecting rock-cut cave temples and rock-cut monolithic temple forms. From the Pallava times temple building in both rock- cut and structural forms began to flourish. During the Chola period massive yet artistically ornate and elegant structures were developed. Under the Vijayanagar and Nayak rule enormous temples with attractive mandapas, huge pillars, soaring towers (gopura) and large temple tanks (teppakulam) continued to be built. Rights from the Pallava period onwards these temples tended to became centres of political power, having a share in local administrations. The early cave temple of Tamil Nadu is Mandagapattu, belonging to the reign of Mahendravarman I, the Pallava ruler. The earliest structural temples in south India are those at Mahabalipuram in the Chingleput district which are generally known as the 'Seven Pagodas '. Many of the great temples that are observed in south India had their origin after the Bhakti cult had attained its importance in the Hindu religions.

During the emergence of Bhakti movement in south India, construction of temples and temple related institutions, propagation of religious ideas became prominent. Particularly the temple constructions became very spirited during the Chola, Pandya and Vijayanagar Periods. The number of temples increased day by day and it attained pinnacle during the Chola period; which is highly significant period both for its witness to religious developments and for its extraordinary artistic production that shaped the Saivism and Vaishnavism of later times. Mostly temples were built as acts of devotion, to mark significant victories, to commemorate the ancestors, and above all for the fulfilment of the desires of the people. An inscription of the early medieval period mentions that king causes the temple to be made for the fulfillment of the desires of subjects.

The Chola period is remarked for its administrative set up as well as tremendous changes in the agrarian structure which led for the agrarian expansion. The Cholamandalam became common place to credit the Chola kings with the direct or indirect patronage of much of the religious culture of the age. They constructed many magnificent temples and are celebrated as the premier patrons of religious art and architecture in medieval south India. There were close connections between cities, kings and temples. The background these links included the increasing power of the Chola states in the, and emergence of the temple as a prominent religious institutions in the urban centres (perunagar). As rightly said by Leslie C. Orr in his publication Donors, Devotees and Daughter of God: Temple Women in Medieval Tamilnad (New York, 2000), the temples, which were constructed in the capital cities (thalainagar) and other prominent centres of the Cholas; Tanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholapuram were the largest and most complex representatives of a model of relation among priests, kings, gods, and devotees and functionaries, that would be institutionalized in all other temples in the kingdom. The Cholas are held to be responsible for the incorporation of Tamil hymns in the temple liturgy.

We can find in every important political and commercial centers one or more temples were constructed in the medieval society. They grouped themselves as prominent institutions; number of spiritual groups was attached to the temples. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri (The Colas, Madras, 1937) emphasis that "in the long period of Cola rule the Hindu temple attained the zenith of its influence on the social life of the country .... The new idea of the stone temple found room for the employment of much skill and taste in its planning and decoration. With its rise, there came up also a varied and complex routine in each temple sustained by the rich accumulations in land and gold, the result of pious gifts, offered with a generosity and administered with a care to which we have long become strangers". In early Chola periods there was a significant shift of royal patronage from gifts to Brahmins towards the gifts to temples.

The temple as a religious institution was patronized by the state as well as by other owning groups in different ways. As a result of frequent land endowments made to the temple on various occasions, the temple became a landed magnate of the early medieval time and acquired the central place in the realm of the agrarian economy and socio- religious life. These donated land to the temple were placed under the charge of temple administrators who were virtually enjoying the proprietary rights on it. A large number of residents who made dependent on the temple as functionaries and the tenant cultivators of the temple lands. Land were given to temple officials as remuneration for their services directly by the donor or provided for their subsistence in the donation itself. Temple also enjoyed lot of revenue from the land owned and controlled by it. These revenues reached the temple by way of dues exacted for the protection, it offered to the local people (raksabhoga), it imposed on the defaulters (dandam) and other ways. The economic strength of the temple was commendable enough to easily organize the local society into a stable system of institutions, groups, caste and communities and relations suitable for better production and management of temples.

The temples of medieval south India had been a great strengthening factor in keeping the people united and played a vital role as the centre of all social activities of particular village or region. The temples have given employment to a lot of people, as they needed people for the construction, maintenance and day to day functions. They also employed the architects for the construction of temples, the artisans for the art and craft activities, sculptors and many servants for the engaging in various activities of the temple. The temples were also a place of religious conversation and musical discussions. All these have facilitated the propagation of religion, music, dance and other fine arts in the society. Temple is also acted as the agent for developing, consolidating, transmitting and conserving the legacy of culture.

The temple is the focus for all aspects of everyday life in the Hindu community- religious, cultural, educational and social. The temple is also the place where one can transcend the world of man. Kesavan Veluthat in his work "The Early Medieval in South India" (New Delhi, 2(09) has highlighted the socio-economic role of the temples. According to him the temple served as an agency 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 course of such extension the temples speed up the process of disintegration of tribal society and its reorganization as a caste society. In the newly formed caste society, the temple served as an integrating player linking the high and low in service. The temples maintained the morality of the society and religious faith of the people. Burton Stein holds the views that the temples serve the moral order of medieval and modern south Indian Society. T.R. Vasantha Bai (History of Thanjavur through the Ages, 1976) also holds a similar view that "the temple, ostensibly a religious institution, was destined to become the centre of social activity". It also contributed to its economy and in turn by the benevolence of the spiritual society.

The south Indian temples has recognized as a main economic centre of the state. Historians of south India has been commented the varied economic functions of the temples. Renowned historian K.A. Nilakata Sastri speaks of temples as having the renewing economic function as land holder, employer, provider of law, consumer of goods and educational services, bank and place of entertainment. The temple has holding number of land as the property of the temples. The temple as an employer of large number of persons may be seen in the medieval Tamil inscriptions from the temples of Tanjavur and Madurai regions. For instance in the Chola temple of Tanjavur 609 temple servants are listed including the teachers and principal spiritual and secular officials. Similar to the above fact an inscription of the Vijayanagara period referred to a smallest temple with 370 temple servants. Temples were also major consumers of local products which were regularly purchased and used for the performance of rituals and sacrifices. Being a centre of learning, the temple helped in acquisition and propagation of knowledge. The temple granaries were used to feed the hungry and those unable to earn their livelihood due to disease and irregularity. Several disputes among the people of the society were also settled in the temples, which were acted as a court of law. During the war period, people used to take shelter in the temples.

Temple served as an educational institution. Number of south Indian inscriptions and literary evidences give us glimpses of educational services rendered by the temple. Besides the Buddhist and Jaina monasteries, the Hindu temple also played vital role in promotion of education. These temple institutions also played a prominent role is fostering the religious and cultural life of the people. The pupils of the temple school (kovil padasala) learned spiritual education from the religious gurus. Those who studied there were given both free food and education. In early days there was a system of repeating stories like tiruvaymoli, tiruvenbavai, Puranas like the Mahabharata and Ramayana and Bhakti literature like devaram, thiruvaasakam, naalayiradivya prapandam within the temple precincts. Those who well versed in Vedic and Puranic traditions were appointed as religious teacher in the temples and they looked after pupils and transmitted the spiritual knowledge to them.

K. V. Raman, well known historian of south India studied the multiple role of the Sri Varadharaja Swami Temple of Kanchipuram (New Delhi, 1975). When he mentions about the role of different social groups in temple affairs, he clearly pointed out the significant role of Brahmins, landed groups, artisans and servants of the temple. A. Appadorai's Economic Condition in South India (Madras, 1990) highlights the daily routine of the temples, especially of the larger temples, gave constant employment to number of priests, chariots, musicians, dancing girls, floweriest, cooks and many other classes of servants. The periodical festivals were occasions marked by fairs, contents of learning, wrestling matches and every other form of popular entertainment. Schools and hospitals were often located in the temple precincts, and it also served often as the town hall, where people assembled to consider local affairs or to hear the expression of sacred literature.

People in early medieval south India considered that a place without a temple is not fit for human habitation. From the hoary past the land of south India had its temple. Early literary texts of south India also bear witness to this fact. The temples of the villages were the nerve-centre of south Indian culture. Everywhere in homes, streets, villages we can find temple. All most every village of south India has its temple, round which centres in a very large measure the corporative civic life of the community which live in it. The construction of temple is integral part of the social life of the people. These institutions linked the people for the maintenance, festivals and poojas. Thus the temple of medieval south India played a very important role going far beyond a mere religious institution. It had functions of a social, economic, political and cultural nature and they were interrelated in a multifaceted way.

The temple-society interface has been a theme of historical enquiry since middle of 20'h century. This enquiry needs to be emphasized from different perspectives and methods. The present volume is a modest attempt to highlighting the south Indian temple and its social and economic aspects in historical perspectives.

This edited volume contains twenty research papers covers different aspects of South Indian Temple and Society, which include the following facets like: Power and Legitimacy of Medieval South Indian Temples; Role of Religion in the Chola State and Society; Science behind Temple Worship; Cultural Aspects of Hindu Temples; Administrators and other Functionaries of the Hindu Temples; Temple Women; Socio- political Dimension of Early Kerala Temples; Religious Endowments; Role of Temple in Agrarian Expansions; Socio-cultural Facets of Vijayanagar Temples, Social Customs and Festivals in the Temple Art of Vijayanagar-Nayak Period, Early Buddhist Temples in East Coast of South India and Folk Traditions of South India. The strength of this volume spotlight on the wide ranges of aspects on the subject as well as projections of the learned scholars on the theme of this book. It is hoped that the readers would be immensely benefitted from the learned exposition of temple institutions as a centre of all social, economic and cultural activities.




  Acknowledgement vii
  Abbreviations viii
  List of Contributors xi
  Introduction xiii
1 Power and Legitimacy of Medieval South Indian Temples in the socoety 1
2 Chidambaram Temple: Tracing the Role of Religion in the Chola State and Society 19
3 Science Behind Temple Worship 45
4 Cultural Aspects of Hindu Temples in Medieval Tamil Country 54
5 The Medieval Tamil Society and Temple management 61
6 Administrators, Artisans and Servants: Temple's Functionaries in Medieval Soth India 72
7 Temple and Earning Women in Medieval South India 102
8 Terrotories of the Divine: Temple Sanketams and their Socio-political Dimensions in Early Kerala Society 120
9 Temple and Religious Endowments during the Pandayas 130
10 Horizontal Expansion of temple Institutions and its Role to the Agrarian changes: Study on Early medieval south India 151
11 The socio - cultural Facet of Temples with Reference to vijayanagara Period 163
12 Social customs and Festivals in the Temple Art of the Vijayanagara - Nayak Period in Tamilnadu 179
13 The Renowned Inscriptions of Sri Ninra Narayana Perumal Temple at Thiruttangal: A Historical Cram 188
14 Early Buddhist Temples in the East Coast of South India 197
15 Religious Status of Paraiyas in Medieval Hindu Tamilagam 217
16 Discourses of Policies of 'Widthdrawal',' Non- Intervention' and' Protection'" A colonial State's Perspective on Hindu Religious Institutions in Madras Presidency 226
17 Migration: An aspect of the Burden of Taxation under the Cholas 234
18 Villupattu Tradition: A Performing Art of Propitiation of Deities in Kanyakumari district 244
19 The Origins of Social Insurance for the Labouring Classes 258
20 Palm-leaf Manuscripts of Tamil Nadu: A Panoramic view 274


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