Lecture 5. The Guptas and the Invention of the Hindu Temple

This lecture is dedicated to the development of Hinduism in the Guptan period in South Asia. This development took place in the context of the ongoing spread of Buddhism throughout Asia, which has been covered in other lectures. Usually, the Guptans are held responsible for the ‘demise’ of Buddhism in India, its home of origin. By contrast this lecture will argue that the Guptas, who were generous patrons of the Buddhists in their realms, sought to revive Hinduism, in harmony with and learning from Buddhist practices and institutions, leading to what can be interpreted as Buddhism 2.0 The lecture begins with a critique of the colonial historiographic concept of the Guptan period as India’s ‘golden age’. In its place it offers a reading of the rich urban culture of the time. This is followed by an exposition on the invention of the Hindu temple, understood as a response and reinterpretation of Buddhist institutions and ideas, accompanied by a sense of revival of old Arya practices. The formal characteristics of the basic Hindu temple are discussed presented as a reading of chthonic mass, sacred geography, fractal geometries and the old Arya atmos.

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