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  • Fortified Maṭhas and Fortress Mosques:The Transformation and Reuse of Hindu Monastic Sites in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries
  • Tamara I. Sears

Anyone familiar with the history of precolonial Southern Asia is well aware of Islamic narratives of conquest that describe the destruction of Indian temples and the erection of mosques in their place. Narratives about the conversion of major sacred centers, such as Somanātha and Ayodhyā, continue to be used to mobilize communal sentiments fueled by the colonialist idea of the Oriental despot.1 In recent years scholars have begun actively rethinking the historiography of many key encounters during the critical period of sultanate expansion in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries CE. Architectural historians, in particular, have been actively re-evaluating both the changes in built form brought about by conquest and the complicated cultural interactions that were fostered by the redistribution of authority and resettlement of people. Excellent studies of major political and trading centers have produced newly revised interpretive frameworks that transcend monolithic understandings of Hindu-Muslim interaction.2 Much less is known, however, about how sultanate expansions affected areas that were located in the periphery of the state—in places considered unworthy of mention in the courtly chronicles recording conquest, but that remained of critical importance for consolidating authority at the local level. The stretch of north and central India that was incorporated within Delhi's administrative state during this period was vast, and many remote sites remain undocumented and virtually unknown even among specialists in the field.

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Fig. 1.

Selected monastery, fort, and temple sites in Central India. Map by author.

This article examines how the expansion of political authority during this period resulted in the deliberate transformation and reuse of architectural materials in one such remote place, a village today known as Kadwāhā (Guna District, Madhya Pradesh), which falls within the southern edge of the ancient region of Gopakṣetra, to the south of Gwalior and west of Jhansi (Fig. 1). Although little known among scholars today, Kadwāhā was a site of local significance as a major religious center that was actively patronized by kings ruling at Chanderi and Narwar. Not only was Kadwāhā an important temple center containing the remains of no [End Page 7] fewer than fifteen temples built between the ninth and eleventh centuries CE, but it also served as the principal node in an expansive network of Śaiva maṭhas (monasteries) built by a group of powerful ācāryas (spiritual teachers) known as the Mattamayūras (Fig. 2).3 During the this earlier period, Mattamayūra ācāryas formed close alliances with their kings and became institutionalized within the larger structures of state as Rājagurus ("royal religious preceptors"). By the tenth and eleventh centuries the Mattamayūras had become the dominant religious order in the outlying area, and their maṭhas functioned as the hub of state-sponsored religious, political, and economic activities.4

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Fig. 2.

Overview of Maṭha, Śiva temple, and platform with miḥrā b in the fort at Kadwāhā. Photograph by author.

The inscriptional and architectural record from Kadwāhā indicates that the monastic community continued to thrive well into the thirteenth century, and that the town as a whole continued to serve as an important site of pilgrimage well into the sixteenth century. But significant architectural transformations in the built environment around the maṭha at Kadwāhā point to a moment of transition during Khalji (ca. 1290–1316) and Tughluq (ca. 1320–1398) ascendancy. At some point in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries the maṭha was transformed into a military garrison and a mosque was built in the place of the maṭha's accompanying temple. These developments at Kadwāhā were not unique, but rather point to a larger trend, apparent at other related sites. At least two other Matta-mayū ra sites, Surwāyā and Ranod, were similarly transformed during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (Fig. 1). Surwāyā was remade into a small yet stalwart fortress, and a mosque was added in the vicinity of the pre...


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