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3 Medieval India Temple Hinduism and Bhakti Sangit The medieval period of India (ca. fourth to seventeenth century c.e.) is characterized by the rise of Hindu temple worship and devotional music or Bhakti Sangit. The rapid spread of devotional Bhakti traditions, beginning in the south and extending to the north, stimulated many new forms of architectural, literary, and musical expression. In architecture there was the splendid rise of Hindu temple construction in honor of the great iconic deities, especially Siva and Vishnu. In terms of literature there was the emergence of Deshi Sahitya, literature in regional vernacular dialects of Prakrit or Apabhramsa, ranging from the time of Harshavardhana (seventh century c.e.) to Alauddin Khilji (thirteenth–fourteenth century c.e.). And as the Vedic system of fire sacrifice (Yajna) was gradually superseded by the worship of icons or images (Murti) in Puja rituals, religious music was separated from drama and became autonomous, subsequently integrating itself within Hindu temple liturgies that were established in service of the newer deities. This marks the next phase in the study of sonic liturgy in Hindu tradition. Generally referred to as Bhakti Sangit, the devotional music in the Hindu temples of this period may be more specifically labeled as Kirtan or Bhajan. Bhakti Sangit generally paralleled the evolving classical music traditions that also derived much of their structure from Gandharva Sangita. We differentiate the spelling of Sangita from Sangit with regard to the language of the texts. Whereas Sangita refers to the ancient classical music based on Sanskrit texts and utilizing the formal modes known as Jatis, Sangit, pronounced as such in the vernacular, refers here to the devotional music in the vernacular languages that is based on Deshi (regional) tunes and Ragas. The classical musical texts of the Brihaddesi (ca. 900 c.e.) of Matanga and the Sangita-Ratnakara (thirteenth century) of Sarngadeva , as well as the plays of India’s greatest literary figure Kalidasa, chronicle these modifications and developments. In the immediate post-Vedic period, the classical music known as Gandharva Sangita was heavily dependent on the drama tradition. By the time of the Smriti literature (ca. 200 b.c.e.), the negative response of the Smarta Brahmins served to estrange the theater and its music from the centers of religious orthodoxy. But as 104 • Sonic Liturgy the musical tradition began to build up a momentum by absorbing many regional and indigenous aspects, it gained in popularity among the masses and compelled recognition from the intelligentsia. After being co-equal with drama up until the time of Sarngadeva (thirteenth century), music as Sangita divorced itself from drama and took on a permanent life of its own. Shahab Sarmadee has explained this adaptive process: “By the opening centuries of the Christian era the art-music of India—whether in the wake of its own continuity or by evolving out a new dynamism—stood almost at par with Natya [drama]. It becomes as well evident that Gita and Vadya naturally combined to express in full the aesthesis of melody and rhythm—unaided even by Nritya [dance]. From now on to the time Sarngadeva testifies to the effect (early thirteenth century), and thence to the presentday , history establishes Gita as the Pradhana-anga [chief branch] of India’s folk and art-music alike.”1 Temple Hinduism As religious trends moved beyond the sacrificial Yajna, Puja rites ascended to center stage as successive kings and rulers of provinces in India patronized the worship of their favored deities through temple construction and the consecration of shrines. As a sequential phase in the unfolding Hindu tradition, Richard H. Davis describes this phenomenon as “temple Hinduism” and underscores the central role of temples in Hindu worship by the end of the first millennium c.e.: Temple Hinduism became “the dominant religious and political order of South Asia in the seventh and eighth centuries, and which remained so for five hundred years. . . . Though it drew upon earlier Indian formations such as the Vedic sacrificial system, medieval temple Hinduism clearly distinguished itself from Vedism in several fundamental respects.”2 One important difference was the consolidation and solidification of theistic worship around a lesser number of deities. The earlier Hindu tradition is often cited as hosting numerous divinities, sometimes figuratively calculated as 330 million gods and goddesses. While this phrase has become a cliché, it does indicate the enormous diversity within Hindu worship and mythology. Yet already in classical times there were trends that sought to consolidate deities into categories or “families...


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