Coexistence, Conflict and Calamity: Entangled Worlds of Hinduism and Islam in the Heart of India

01 October 2023 → 30 September 2026
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Architectural history and theory
    • History of art
Asia Middle Ages Arabic Hindi Oriental languages Sanskrit Comparative Geographic and map based Iconography and analysis of images Language and text analysis Field research Architectural Landscape Historical Ecology Hindu-Muslim encounters Ecology Hinduism India Islam Landscape archaeology Art Archaeology History Religion
Project description

The resurgence of identity politics in India has deeply polarised public discourse between a fundamental clash of cultures and a liberal, pluralistic view of society. Behind the present deadlock is a long, complex history of encounters between Hindu and Muslim civilisations mediated by their monuments. In the 11th-12th centuries, the expanding frontiers of the Islamic world overlapped with the culturally-charged landscape of temple Hinduism, which in turn became entangled with the piety and politics of mosques built under Sultanate rule in north India in the 13th-15th centuries. Recent scholarship on Hindu-Muslim interactions marks a paradigm shift, away from the crude stereotypes of confrontation in colonial and nationalist histories, towards sophisticated analyses of intercultural dialogue and exchange. However, these advances have not disrupted the renewed popularity of divided histories stirred by the violence of Muslim conquest and temple destruction. Fraught questions of how religious conflict unfolded historically are rarely anchored in the social life of specific places and how it intersected with climatic and seismic disruptions in the ecosystem. This project will develop a new interpretative model to answer these timely questions using an unprecedented range of archaeological, textual and environmental data from select medieval towns of central India, thus initiating a step-change in current perceptions of Hinduism and Islam in India’s cultural landscape.