did not extend beyond the village. At the next level we often find subregional
gods who were sometimes the tutelary deities of local princes. Then come the
regional gods whose rise to that position was often due to their being the
‘family gods’ (kula devata) and later the ‘gods of the realm’ (rashtra devata)
of a royal dynasty. Sometimes such a god was even considered to be the
territory’s actual overlord.
There was a great variety of ways and means by which regional,
subregional and local gods could be associated with each other. Like great
kings the regional gods held court surrounded by subregional gods, who were
family gods of the king’s samantas. The subregional gods again rallied the
village gods around them, just as headmen were occasionally invited to
attend the court of a prince.
The institution of pilgrimage has remained a central and most vital
element of Hinduism. It links holy places of the local, regional and
national level. The early Vedic term for such a holy place was tirtha. With
the spread of Aryan culture, the number of such holy places increased.
However, they were usually visited only for special purposes, like a
sacrifice for ancestors. Longer pilgrimages (tirthayatras) to several holy
places became known only during the early period of the Christian era
with the rise of great temples and the belief in the divine presence in the
icons. From the end of the first millennium AD onwards particularly, India
was crisscrossed by many routes of pilgrimage.
Philosophical Synthesis and New Hinduism
Sankara’s monism had reconciled non-theist and theist claims—the Brahman,
as universal essence, is identical with the individual soul and encompasses
both the impersonal law and the divine manifestation which may appeal to
the individual believer. Thus Sankara had established a peaceful coexistence
between a highly abstract philosophical system and a variety of faiths. While
earlier analogous philosophical debates had not been conducted along
sectarian lines, medieval Indian