An in-depth study of south Indian palaces, their contents and their surroundings requires consideration of indigenous, pre-colonial perceptions of courtly material culture. Simply describing the surroundings of south Indian kings does not help to elucidate how these surroundings functioned. The unique tool of an art historian when looking at any group of buildings or objects is stylistic analysis. However, a straightforward comparative description of objects can lose sight of the broader context they existed within; when looking at objects in the world, one must ask how the world was perceived by the people who created, used and gazed upon the material culture of south Indian kingship.
This book has attempted to establish new frameworks though which the study of courtly material culture in south India can be elucidated. Three main findings, which have helped to connect south Indian kingship with its surroundings, have resulted. The first of these involves an alternative interpretation of the Manasara and other vastu shastra texts; alongside their descriptions of the proportioning, location and methods of constructing a wide array of objects, these writings describe how ownership of man-made objects denoted the social position of their owners. For example, the size of a house, its location and its contents all indicate the varna of the people who resided within it. The society of kings is described in the most detail. The Manasara outlines a nine-tiered hierarchy of rulers according to the scale, planning and decoration of towns, palaces and buildings, along with descriptions of other courtly paraphernalia such as thrones, crowns and a royal entourage. The elaborate grading of courtly material culture provided in the Manasara suggests that the role of kings was intimately connected with their material surroundings, and the pageantry connected with the display of these surroundings was the identifying feature of a king.
The second finding of this thesis is that south Indian courts are best understood as functioning in concentric layers, beginning at an exclusive, inner area reserved for the king's household, and then radiating outwards towards a blurred, chaotic fringe. Interiority and exteriority have been used to describe the zoning of royal space at several different levels, beginning