In this groundbreaking study, 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.
• The 'archaeology of ritual,' a new method, unique combination of archaeology and archaeo-astronomy with textual sources describing Indian rituals and related mythologies • The 'establishment of the gods', an untouched subject, the first historically-grounded account of the transition from the sacrificial cults of ancient India to early Hinduism and the religion of temple • Wide-ranging reassessment of epigraphic texts (i.e. inscriptions) - the key source for the fourth and fifth centuries, especially important for understanding religious and cultural developments
1. The archaeology and politics of time at Udayagiri; 2. The establishment of the gods; 3. Ritual action and ritual actors.