Of all the major periods of South Asian history considered in this atlas, the half- millennium covered by section IV is the one in which regionalism and political disunity were most clearly manifested. Although we have depicted the spatial limits of seventeen major states that arose or flourished in India from the 8th through the 12th century, most of those states were only loosely held together by political ar- rangements among overlords and lesser rulers that had much in common with European feudalism. Relatively few of these states were able to maintain their hegemony over very large parts of India for any protracted period, the principal exceptions being the Gurjara-Pratihāras, whose center of power lay in the Gangetic Plain, and the contemporaneous Deccan-based Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as. The spatial configura- tion of the opposition between the two recalled that between the Pu&stod;yabhūtis and the Cālukyas toward the end of the Classical Age and, to a lesser degree, the more uneven contest between the Gupta Empire and the Vākā&ttod;akas. But neither the Gurjara-Pratihāras nor the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as ever succeeded in forging an empire com- parable in extent to that of the Guptas, not to mention the mighty Mauryan Empire, the first to achieve pan-Indian hegemony. Nor did they achieve the extent of territorial control subsequently attained, albeit briefly, by the Khaljīs and Tughluqs during the following period of the Delhi Sultanate. Perhaps it was the very absence of any single clearly predominant power in South Asia that allowed regional powers scope to promote their individual regional cultures. As those cultures flourished and became more self-assertive during the period under review, the regional perspectives of the peoples who shared them were correspondingly altered.
Most important among the sources for reconstructing the history of South Asia during the period are the literally thousands of inscriptions, primarily on stone and copper plates, that have been studied by epigraphists since the early 19th century and translated and arranged, topographically and by dynasty, for many parts of the subcontinent. For reasons having to do with changes in Hindu kingship these inscriptions incorporate an increasing quantity of historical materials, a fact recognized in the poetic canons of the period, wherein they are regarded as a literary form. The data of the inscriptions have provided South Asian historians with the primary bases for determining the extent of political kingdoms, and in our own reconstructions of the core areas and limits of the states depicted on plates IV. 1 and 2 we have used them in a similar manner, with due regard also to many exceedingly valuable secondary sources.
Religious developments of the period generated similar mappable data, since most inscriptions record gifts to temples, whose locations can often be traced. Important literary sources pertaining to religious developments also lend themselves to mapping. Tamil hymnists celebrating the god Śiva, for example, created a litera- ture called the Tevāram, which includes an inventory of sacred places of Tamil Śaivites to about the 9th century. These sacred sites have been analyzed and mapped by Indian and western scholars. Other kinds of religious evidence drawn upon in the plates of this section pertain to temple architecture and iconography. These have been less fully studied than inscriptions but are still valuable sources for regional delineation, as shown in plate IV.4.
Apart from the importance of regions from an analytical point of view, one must bear in mind that they were also important cultural categories for peoples through- out the subcontinent. The existence of cultural productions like deśadharmaśāstras and cultural performances involving regional, or deśī, musical and ritual forms in contrast to mārga, or universal, forms are manifestations of such cultural categories. What are distinguished by such terms are those specific usages and traditions recog- nized as appropriate local variants of universal Hindu rules, and those principles that were supposed to guide the behavior and belief of all within the sphere of the broad and tolerant Indic civilization.
Among the many powers depicted on plates IV.1 and 2 most were Hindu monarchies that rose to prominence during the post-Gupta period. Some early names in the genealogies of the so-called Rajput dynasties, including the Gurjara- Pratihāras (Hindi, Parihāras), appear, however, to be non-Sanskritic. The Gur- jaras, who lent their name first to a large area of Rajasthan and later to Gujarat, also provide component elements of place names extending as far north as Swat in
The conception of kingship among the Hindu states of the period differs some- what from those of the Vedic kingdoms and of the Guptas. While kingship was still considered a divine institution, in that the king was regarded as a great, even cosmic, conqueror (digvijayin) and the wellspring for the nourishment and pro- tection of all in his realm, kings, like their subordinate rulers, including the sāmantas (loosely, vassals or feudatories), were seen as centers of collection and redistribution of resources drawn from a specific people and territory. Thus, the concept of janapada, connoting both people and land, continued as a guiding political principle. The dharmaśāstras (law books) of the time, however, modi- fied older notions by no longer insisting that rulers be of k&stod;atriya origin, yet con- tinuing to recognize the sacrificial element in the institution of kingship. While the king had the power to command within his own domains and directly admin- istered at least their core areas, as shown on the insets of plates IV.1 and 2, rāja- dharma (duties appropriate to a ruler) enjoined him to maintain self-government of the local caste groups, guilds, and religious bodies. Beyond the core areas of his state, the objective of the king's ambition was to gain and maintain recogni- tion of his overlordship, involving homage, tribute, and a variety of other obli- gations, including military service. This is what is normally suggested by the royal titles of the period: "Mahārājadhirāja" (Great King over Kings) and "Para- meśvara" (Supreme Lord). The great king was he who incorporated lesser kings; his god incorporated lesser gods; his capital city represented the world.
Buddhist kings, such as the Pālas of northeastern India, and Jaina kings, such as the Gujarati Caulukyan king Kumārapāla (1143–72), behaved in virtually the same manner as their Hindu counterparts. Muslim rulers, however, were differ- ent. Muslim sultanships established on the borders of the subcontinent proper during the 9th century and within the Punjab after 1018 were less encumbered by the dharmic constraints described above. Moreover, while the indigenous kingly conceptions always considered people and land as jointly constituting the basis for a political community or for a realm (i.e., the janapada), the Muslim conception of rule emphasized relations among people alone—the community of believers. Therefore, it becomes necessary to recognize an alternative, Muslim conception of kingship, though its impact upon South Asian society was a re- stricted one until after 1200.
The earliest military, economic, and cultural contacts between South Asia and the world of Islam, beginning shortly after the death of the Prophet and culmi- nating in the Arab conquest of Sind in 711–13, have already been traced in the text for plate III.C.2. It was there noted that the control of the caliphate (which state was the political embodiment of the Islamic community) had extended by that date over much of Afghanistan and well into Central Asia. Although a uni- fied Arab caliphate had ceased to exist during the 9th century and was replaced in the eastern portions of the then Muslim world by a number of competing states comprising a diversity of peoples who had embraced Islam, those states, in their dealings with India and other non-Muslim regions, were partially ani- mated by a common sense of historic mission, to do the will of Allah by spread- ing the revealed truth of his prophet, Muhammad. Regionally, the area of Islamic rule, politically unified or not, was conceived of as Dār-ul Islām (the "Abode of Islam"); the rest of the world became, by definition, Dār-ul Harb (the "Abode of War"), into which the message of Islam might be spread, if need be, by mili- tary conquest. By the 11th century, control over most of the area lying to the northwest of India had passed to various Turkic peoples. It was those peoples,