Complexity and Economy in Pilgrimage Centers
of the Vijayangara Period

Alexandra Mack
Department of Anthropology
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-2401

( ) Economy is often overlooked as an element that is essential to the complex system of pilgrimage. The exchange of goods and information plays a fundamental role in integrating the overall structure. Pilgrims must be fed and housed at the pilgrimage center, and may return home with ritual objects or souvenirs. The economic establishment is then perpetuated by the return of pilgrims each year. Spatial arrangement of medieval temple centers indicate that the economic aspects of pilgrimage are inextricable from the ritual and cosmological aspects. Archaeological studies of the temple district of Vitthalapuram at Vijayangara show that the physical layout and distribution of activities, while undeniably centered around ritualized geometries, were also focused on the services provided to pilgrims. Temple districts were thus primary loci for both the ideological and economic transactions that are engendered by pilgrimage, creating a complex dyanamic which underlay the organization of the larger system.

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