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Kerala PSC Indian History Book Study Materials Page 1122Book's First Page
illustrated by the history of the temple city of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. Chidambaram is identified with the cult of Siva as the ‘King of Dancers’ (Nataraja). The origin of the cult seems to have been the worship of a stone at a local pond. The stone was later identified as the Siva lingam and was worshipped as mlliasthana (place of origin). The identification of the local dancing god with Siva seems to have been done by the sixth century AD. In a similar fashion other local deities emerged as major figures of the Hindu pantheon. The incorporation of Minakshi, the ‘fish-eyed’ goddess of the Pandyas of Madurai, into the patriarchal Sanskrit tradition was achieved by identifying her with Siva’s wife, Parvati, and making the marriage of Siva and Parvati the central feature of the Minakshi cult. In south India, Vishnu, the other great god, has his major centres at Tirupati and Srirangam where he is worshipped as Lord Venkatesvara and Lord Ranganatha respectively. In the Deccan, the cult of Vithoba of Pandharpur is similarly associated with Vishnu, and attracts several pilgrims. In eastern India, Jagannatha of Puri is a striking example of the transformation of a tribal god into a respectable member of the Hindu pantheon. He has been identified with Vishnu and as such attracts pilgrims from all over India. The gods of the bhakti cult often also had a ‘territory’, a region in which their influence was particularly strong and with whose traditions they were intimately related. As incarnations of great gods, they were part and parcel of the ‘great tradition’. In their particular manifestation, however, their power (sakti) and sanctity (mahatmya) radiate only within certain limits. This power was most concentrated at their site (kshetra) or seat and the devotees could feel it almost as a physical sensation. Towards the periphery of the territory their power diminished and the power of neighbouring gods took over. This territorial radiation of regional gods can be compared with the territorial way of the early medieval kings of India. The latter were celebrated as chakravartins (conquerors of the whole world), but their actual power was limited; it was only near a realm’s border that the influence of the neighbouring chakravartin made itself felt.