Lecture 7. The Cholas and Angkor: The Idea of Divine Kingship

This lecture focuses the relationship between Hindu temples and administrative systems. It begins with a discussion of the polity and architecture of the Rajputs of northern India, the ‘new’ kings, converted from first-societies practices into ‘caste’ Hindus. We study the new manuals of temple building – the Vastu-Shastras – and some of their famous architectural creations. The Bay of Bengal/SE Asian geo-sphere around the year 1000CE. The Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean was a long established coastal trade route linking China to India, with the intermediation of the SE Asian peninsula and islands. Around the year 1000 this connection received a major bump with the rise of the Cholas, an imperially minded dynasty of Tamil India. Their conquests, and the accompanying proliferation of governance systems and temples, transformed the SE Asian world, resulting, amongst other things, in the Khmer Empire.   The lecture begins with a discussion of the key concept of kovil¸ or divine kingship, which was used by the Cholas to establish a ‘corporation’ based model of governance throughout their realm. The Cholan temples at three different scales are then presented as inter-connected elements in the kovil order. The three scales: a small local village temple, a regional temple endowed by a Queen, and the main central temple of the Cholan world at their capital city.

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