maps medieval social geography. Lands rich with inscriptions are
concentrated in eastern and central Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat,
western Maharashtra, and along the coastal plains. Where we do not find
many medieval temple inscriptions—in Punjab, in Jat territories in the
western Ganga plains, and in mountainous regions—we can deduce that
brahmin influence was limited and cultures less Hinduised.
Appearance of Social Identities around Temples Social identities
appeared around temples as people and gods lived together. The more
popular a temple became, the greater became the value of its patronage and
the number of people whose identity attached to it. Growing bhakti
movements increased the virtue, volume and commercial value of pilgrimage.
Donations became more and more popular as a means and marker of social
mobility, as temples became commercial centres, landowners, employers and
manufacturing centres. Increasing participation in temple rituals made them
more effective sites for social ranking, as temple honours were distributed
according to rank and all worshippers were positioned in ranked proximity to
the deity. Popular bhakti movements made sovereign gods ever more vital in
everyday social life, even for the poorest people who did all the hardest
manual labour, but who were prohibited from ever setting foot in the temple
and whose exclusion marked them as the people of the lowest social rank.
Ironically, some of the most popular bhakti saints came from the lowest of
the low and whose devotion was so strong that gods came out of temples to
return their love.
Reaping of Benefits by Brahmins In course of time, kinship circles grew
around lineages and clans that fed gods and Brahmins. It is these kin groups
that became high-status, non-brahmin elite jatis, raised above others in ritual
and society. Brahmins undoubtedly reaped major benefits. A Rashtrakuta
inscription, for example, records a gift of 8,000 measures of land to 1,000
brahmins, and 4,000 measures to a single brahmin. Such inscriptions reflect
the efforts by non-Brahmin power blocks to enhance their status and that of
their local allies. However, some inscriptions record opposition to brahmin
settlements, to their collection of taxes, and to their claims on local resources
like pastures. Royal authority spread slowly—often violently—into the vast