[excerpt] It is little wonder that the historical phenomenon of architectural and sculptural reuse has attracted the attention of scholars investigating many regions and time periods. The late Roman empire and its immediate cultural diaspora (4th–5th c. CE), the Byzantine and Islamic worlds (6th–11th c. CE), and medieval Europe (12th–14th c. CE) are among the geographies and time periods known in scholarly ambits for reuse of architectural and sculptural fragments. Reuse of older elements to create new buildings or other composites is an eminently pragmatic human activity, with, additionally imaginative, allusory, and less tangible implications. To modern scholars and other viewers, historical instances of the integration of older and sometimes non-local elements into new works seems to signal, at least at first sight, the physical bringing together of different cultures and eras. Where scholars and/or the public have defined religions, states, or communities as mutually antagonistic, one group's reuse of its rivals' creations—whether wholesale or in part—seems to promise especially rich historical insight, indicating either the ultimate triumph of one over the other, or alternatively, their ultimate resolution of differences.

The promise of greater historical understanding is surely one of the reasons that many scholars of South Asian art and architectural history have investigated instances of visible reuse ever since the first systematic surveys of physical remains during the nineteenth century. In keeping with the particular interest of periods of confrontation between supposedly opposing forces, a majority of scholarly as well as general attention has been directed toward the late twelfth century and onward. In nineteenth-century scholarship, the successful Ghurid campaigns of conquest during the 1190s, east of the Indus in modern north India, and the subsequent Islamic states of the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries, were collectively cast as adversaries of "Hindu" civilization. In recent years, though the binary narrative pre-supposing "Hindu" and "Muslim" societies as monolithic and inherently opposed has been superseded in scholarship by more nuanced approaches, historians, art and architectural historians, scholars of South Asian religions, and non-specialists have continued to be fascinated by instances of architectural reuse dating from this span of five centuries.