as they came to be associated with the names of dynasties and of the local
groups in control. Land became ethnically marked by traditions of group
control. Dominant castes usually identified themselves with dynastic
territories that became their homelands, while brahmins were the only people
who could be equally “at home” in all the lands of dharma. Till today,
brahmins have a high status in all Hindu societies, but other high castes
generally have regional identities, according to territories of traditional
residence and stature.
Sanctification of Social Ranking by Temples The numerous temple
inscriptions of early medieval India clearly reflect the activity that dramatised
emerging social identities. Rituals performed by brahmins were supposed to
bring cosmic spiritual powers down to earth to sanctify a caste social order.
Temples were perceived as divine sites for enacting social rank among
worshippers who protected dharma and paid for rituals. It was the rituals that
brought a variety of local, regional, and imperial gods together. Medieval
societies witnessed many kinds of rituals, by all kinds of spiritualists and
officiates, from all kinds of social backgrounds, in all manner of locations,
which brought rain, secured crops, drove away disease, delivered healthy
babies and bolstered dynasties. But, medieval Indian inscriptions only treat
rituals conducted by brahmin priests for Shiva, Vishnu and their Puranic
relatives. Temples to these great sovereign gods came up as towering sacred
landmarks and monuments to political power.
Elaboration of Temple by Incorporating Local Cults The elaboration
and spread of the Hindu temple from the seventh to the seventeenth century
provide a glorious medieval legacy, from Mahaballipuram to Khajuraho. The
assimilation of local deities, rituals, symbols and spiritualism into Puranic
literature and related myth, folklore and artistic representation comprised
Hindu worship by enhancing the cultural potency of local deities, their
devotees and their patrons. Local cults were woven into Puranic traditions
and temple rituals as local communities came under royal authority.
ROYAL PATRONAGE OF TEMPLES AND PRIESTS
The greatness of the gods increased the glamour of royal patrons. Building
a great temple attracted brahmins and established a theatre of royal