This introductory chapter begins with a description of The Mahotsavavidhi, or “Procedures for the Great Festival,” of the Śaiva preceptor Aghoraśiva, which offers a particularly rich depiction of south Indian temple festival practice from the Chola period. Composed by an eminent south Indian teacher of the mid-12th century, this work aims to convey clear and authoritative guidance for the Śaiva priests who would officiate at temple rites. It is argued that the Mahotsavavidhi is more than just a procedural guide for practicing priests. The text presents a vision of the mahotsava as a congregative event that brings together masses of human devotees and multitudes of gods. Some of the central categories and key themes in Aghoraśiva's prescriptions for the nine-day festival are discussed, as an orientation to the translation of his text.
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