Courtly culture and political life in early medieval India


Courtly culture and political life in early medieval India

Daud Ali

(Cambridge studies in Indian history and society, 10)

Cambridge University Press, 2004

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Bibliography: p. 272-289

Includes index



Scholars have long studied classical Sanskrit culture in almost total isolation from its courtly context. This book focuses exclusively on the royal court as a social and cultural institution. Using both literary and inscriptional sources, it begins with the rise and spread of royal households and political hierarchies from the Gupta period (c.350-750), and traces the emergence of a coherent courtly worldview which would remain stable for almost a millennium to 1200. Later chapters examine key features of courtly life such as: manners, ethics, concepts of personal beauty, and theories of disposition. The book ends with a sustained examination of the theory and practice of erotic love in the context of the wider social dynamics and anxieties which faced the people of the court.


  • Introduction
  • Part I. The Rise and Structure of Courtly Life in Early Medieval India: 1. The people of the court
  • 2. The culture of the court
  • 3. The protocol of the court
  • Part II. Aesthetics and the Courtly Sensibility: 4. Beauty and refinement
  • 5. The education of disposition
  • Part III. Anxiety and Romance: 6. Courtship and the royal household
  • 7. The battle of love
  • Postscript.

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