This book is the crowning achievement of scholar Dennis Hudson, the result of a lifetime of interdisciplinary study of south Indian Hinduism. The book is a finely detailed examination of a virtually unstudied Tamil Hindu temple, the Vaikuntha Perumal (ca. 770 AD) and offers a sustained reading of the temple as a coherent, organized, minutely conceptualized mandala. Hudson takes the reader step by step on a tour of the temple, telling the stories suggested by each of the 56 sculpted panels and showing how their relationship to one another brings out layers of meaning.
"The Body of God is a magnum opus in every sense—the product of decades of thought and research; huge in its physical and mental bulk; and a new sort of fulcrum for balancing architectural and textual studies in India. It is a daring work. If Hudson is right, the magnificent and mysterious temple of Vaikuntha Perumal affords a vision of how the Bhagavata tradition—the worship of Vishnu—stayed vibrant over the course of centuries, through its intellectual sophistication and its engagement with royal power. Fittingly, Hudson's findings have already had an impact on how that temple is revered today."—John Stratton Hawley