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Buddhism and Donation: Rock-cut Monasteries of the Western Ghats

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The presentation examines the relationship between Buddhist monastic communities and wider society in Early Historic South Asia. The role of donation in this relationship is assessed through a case study of the rock-cut monasteries of the Western Ghats. Scholarly attention has focused on monasteries that accommodated large monastic communities and incorporated ostentatious architectural features and sculptures. These monasteries have been prioritised at the expense of many smaller monasteries that accommodated fewer monks and nuns, and which were plain in design. The development of these diverse monasteries is examined here using texts, inscriptions, rock-cut monasteries and landscape archaeology. These data are integrated in a Geographical Information System, allowing the relationship between rock-cut monasteries, urban centres, trade routes and ports to be elucidated. Analysis indicates that donations had an important impact on the distribution and scale of monasteries. The presentation re-evaluates the importance of trade that passed through the Western Ghats and provides a framework for examining Buddhist monasteries located throughout South Asia. The study of Buddhism is taken beyond art, inscriptions and texts by the examination of religious interaction as a process.

This talk is part of the Asian Archaeology Group series.

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