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Providing for the Buddha: monastic centres in Eastern India

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Providing for the Buddha: monastic centres in Eastern India

This paper attempts to address one of the issues of the series, viz. patronage, not just the relationship between Buddhist monastic centres and kings, but more significantly the lay community and its continuing support of monks and nuns and sponsorship of ritual activities, as well as maintenance of monastic structures. Eastern India is here defined as the state of Orissa, but includes contiguous coastal regions. The time period covered ranges from the 4th-3rd centuries BC when the earliest Buddhist sites are in evidence to 12th century AD after which few new constructions are known.

My approach to the study of early Buddhist monastic establishments departs from the traditional perspective that viewed these as retreats, away from society, where monks and nuns engaged in meditation and studies. In contrast, I suggest that there was an active engagement between Buddhist clergy and the lay community and this interaction can be understood through the archaeology of space as it was defined with reference to settlement sites and as it was configured and lived in by monks and nuns. Of crucial importance to my work is the social history of the monument, rather than an emphasis on architectural style and form. It is hoped that this contribution will reinvigorate the archaeological study of early Buddhist monuments.

Dr. Himanshu Prabha Ray is Professor at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She obtained her MPhil (Archaeology) from the University of Cambridge; her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University; and did post-graduate work in Sanskrit at Panjab University. She has held several visiting positions, including Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, Singapore July to September 2007; JNU Visiting Fellow in Arts, University of Sydney, Australia, June 2005; Shivdasani Fellow, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, October-December 2005; Visiting Professor: University of Lyon II, France May to July 2001; Fulbright Visiting Lecturer: Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, January to April, 2000.

Her recent publications include Colonial Archaeology in South Asia (1944-1948): The Legacy of Mortimer Wheeler, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007; Monuments, Wisdom Tree, New Delhi, 2007; The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia, Cambridge World Archaeology Series, Cambridge University Press, 2003 and edited volumes titled: Sacred Landscapes in Asia: Shared Traditions, Multiple Histories, IIC - Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 2007; co-edited with Daniel T. Potts, Memory as History: The Legacy of Alexander in Asia, Aryan Books International, 2007; co-edited with Edward A. Alpers, Cross Currents and Community Networks: The History of the Indian Ocean World, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007; and Coins in India: Power and Communication ,Marg Publications, volume 57, 3, March 2006.



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