The historiography of the State in Early medieval India has a long trajectory with many models proposed with their relative strengths and weaknesses. While most models tend to be universalizing, recent research has moved to theorizing the conception of the premodern State and indeed the early medieval state in India in more specific, less universalizing terms, and instead, focus on local socio-cultural and political developments. Situating my broad research interests in to the nature of the early medieval State within this frame, this paper examines sacred and religious practices during the reign of the Early Chalukyas at Aihole. I argue, 1) that Early Chalukya presence in Karnataka--known mostly from their standing religious constructions-- was not without architectural precedents and may have incorporated local, non-ruling elite idioms of sacred and religious expressions, and thus may not have been articulated exclusively by Chalukya architects, and 2) nor was their rule an arbitrary imposition of new social, religious and political orders on their landscapes. My arguments stem from within broader anthropological research in to elite identity formation and re-use of landscapes. I examine archaeological, architectural and iconographic evidence at Aihole, along with ethnographic evidence of narrative imagery from pastoral mythology in North Karnataka and Southern Maharashtra to substantiate my thesis. In conclusion, I present recent thoughts to take this research forward in exciting new directions, especially highlighting the need for a more integrated approach bringing together archaeological and ecological studies using remote sensing techniques, ethno-historic studies, alongside epigraphical and archival research. These, I hope, will enable better understandings of the dynamics of the study of the early medieval State.
Dr. Hemanth Kadambi received his Ph.D. in Anthropological Archaeology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, USA in December 2011. His doctoral dissertation titled Sacred Landscapes in early medieval South India: the Chalukya state and society (ca. 550-750 AD), investigated the material manifestations through which the early medieval empire of theChalukyas of Vatapi were able to create and maintain their expansive territorial domain. He has published some of this work in Norman Yoffee’s edited book ‘Negotiating the Past in the Past’, published by the University of Arizona Press (2007). He is working on a book-length manuscript based on his revised dissertation.