Customs of the Gods

In a work described as very scholarly, Michael Willis refreshingly provides a new treatment of the records both textual and epigraphical. His conclusions have a direct mooring both in the modern theoretical framework and in the ancient texts. The exhaustive footnotes and references add to the scholarship. In all, this book is a very erudite work in the field of ancient Indian history. It is quite true that such excellent works appear not too often. This is an extract of the charming review by T Satyamurthy, that appeared in this week's Hindu Book Review.

The Archaeology of Hindu Ritual - Temples and the Establishment of the Gods is a groundbreaking study wherein Michael Willis examines how the gods of early Hinduism came to be established in temples, how their cults were organized, and how the ruling elite supported their worship. Examining the emergence of these key historical developments in the fourth and fifth centuries, Willis combines Sanskrit textual evidence with archaeological data from inscriptions, sculptures, temples, and sacred sites. The centrepiece of this study is Udayagiri in central India, the only surviving imperial site of the Gupta dynasty. Through a judicious use of landscape archaeology and archaeo-astronomy, Willis reconstructs how Udayagiri was connected to the Festival of the Rainy Season and the Royal Consecration. Through his meticulous study of the site, its sculptures and its inscriptions, Willis shows how the Guptas presented themselves as universal sovereigns and how they advanced new systems of religious patronage that shaped the world of medieval India.

In our Archaeology and Religion sections, in hardcover, 390 Pages with 43 b/w illustrations and 4 maps, Rs.795. ISBN: 9780521765459

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