Creating Religious Identities: Buddhist Monuments in Colonial and Post-Colonial India

Himanshu Prabha Ray

Abstract


This paper draws on my work on the maritime history of early South and Southeast Asia and the use of sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean by pilgrims for visits to sites associated with the life of the Buddha. A second perspective is provided by the rediscovery of Buddhism in Europe coinciding with the development of new disciplines, including archaeology. These disciplines were introduced into India with the government-sponsored Archaeological Survey of India, founded in 1871. Alexander Cunningham, the first Director-General, brought Buddhism to the forefront and established its study as a separate sub-discipline. This had far-reaching implications for the demarcation and archaeological investigation of many of the monuments linked to Buddhism, especially Bodh Gaya and Sanchi. This paper addresses the issue of the manifestation of a Buddhist identity in colonial India. It is often suggested that this identity owed its origins to the formation of the Mahabodhi Society and the emergence of nationalism in Sri Lanka. This paper examines political developments in India in the context of the Navayana or the Neo-Buddhist path, forged by B.R. Ambedkar on the 2500th anniversary of Buddha’s parinirvana, or demise, in 1956. To what extent did this newly formed identity become interlinked with the identification and control of archaeological sites in India and their redefinition? How did the renegotiation of Buddhist identity affect India’s relationship with Thailand?

Full Text:

PDF

References


Ahir, D.C. (1995) Asoka the Great, Delhi: B.R. Publishing. Archaeological Survey of India Annual Reports.

Bapat, P.V. (ed.) (1956) 2500 Years of Buddhism (New Delhi: Publications Division.

Bayly, Susan (2000) 'French Anthropology and the Durkheimians in Colonial Indochina', Modern Asian Studies, 34(3): 581-622.

Blackburn, Anne M. (1993) 'Kinship and Buddhism: Ambedkar's Vision of a Moral Community', Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 16(1): 1-23.

Bose, Sugata (2006) A Hundred Horizons, New Delhi: Permanent Black. https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674028579

Brekke, Torkel (2002) Makers of Modern Indian Religion in the Late Nineteenth Century, Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/019925236X.001.0001

Castro Gómez, Santiago (2007) 'The Missing Chapter of Empire: Post-modern Reorganization of Coloniality and post-Fordist Capitalism', Cultural Studies, 21(2-3): 428-448. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380601162639

Chattopadyaya, B.D. (1993) "Historiography, History and Religious Centers" in Vishakha N. Desai and Darielle Mason (eds.) Gods, Guardians and Lovers (New York.

Cunningham, A. (1966) The Bhilsa Topes, Varanasi: Indological Book House.

Desai, D. (1989-90) "Social Dimensions of Art in Early India", Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Gorakhpur.

Edwards, Penny (2004) 'Relocating the interlocutor: Taw Sein Ko (1864-1930) and the itinerancy of knowledge in British Burma', South East Asia Research, 12 (3): 277-335. https://doi.org/10.5367/0000000042690144

Edwards, Penny (2005) Taj Angkor: Enshrining L'Inde in le Cambodge' in Kathryn Robson and Jennifer Lee (eds) France and "Indochina": Cultural Representations, Oxford: Lexington Books.

Epigraphia Birmanica.

Epigraphia Indica.

Epigraphia Zeylanica.

Fitzgerald, Timothy (1999) 'Ambedkar, Buddhism and the Concept of Religion' in S. M. Michael, (ed.) Untouchable: Dalits in Modern India (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Guha-Thakurta, Tapati (2004) Monuments, Objects, Histories (New Delhi: Permanent Black. Guy, John (1991) 'The Mahabodhi Temple: Pilgrim Souvenirs of Buddhist India', The Burlington Magazine, CXXXIII, no. 1059, June: 356-67.

Huntington, John C. (1985) 'Sowing the Seeds of the Lotus: A Journey to the Great Pilgrimage Sites of Buddhism', Orientations, 16 (11): 46-61.

Lahiri, N. (1999) 'Bodh Gaya: an ancient Buddhist Shrine and its Modern History (1891-1904)', in Timothy Insoll (ed.) Case Studies in Archaeology and World Religion (Oxford: BAR International Series 755. Leider, Jacques P. (2004) 'Text, Lineage and Tradition in Burma: the struggle for norms and religious legitimacy under King Bodawphaya (1782-1819)', Paper presented at Exploring Theravada Studies: Intellectual Trends And The Future Of A Field Of Study, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, 12-14 August.

Leoshko, Janice (ed.) (1988) Bodhgaya, the site of enlightenment (Bombay: Marg Publications.

Leoshko, Janice (2003) Sacred Traces: British Explorations of Buddhism in South Asia, London: Ashgate.

Lueders, H. (1963) Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Ootacamund.

Malandra, G.H. (1996) 'The Mandala at Ellora/ Ellora in the Mandala', Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 19(2): 181-208.

Mitra, D. (1980) Buddhist Monuments, Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad.

Mitra, Rajendralala (1878) Buddha Gaya: The Hermitage of Sakya Muni, Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press.

Mookerji, Radha Kumud (1912) Indian Shipping: A History of the Sea-borne Trade and Maritime Activity of the Indians from the Earliest Times (London: Longmans Green and Company.

Nandi, R.N. (1986) Social Roots of Religion in Ancient India (Calcutta, K.P. Bagchi and Company.

Omvedt, Gail (2003) Buddhism in India: Challenging Brahmanism and Caste, New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Pearson, M.N. (2003) The Indian Ocean, London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203414132

Prabha Ray, Himanshu (2003) The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Prabha Ray, Himanshu (2004) 'The Archaeology of Sacred Space: an Introduction', in Himanshu Prabha Ray and Carla Sinopoli (eds) Archaeology as History in Early South Asia, New Delhi: Indian Council for Historical Research and Aryan Books International.

Quilty, Mary Catherine (1998) Textual Empires: A Reading of Early British Histories of Southeast Asia, Clayton: Monash Asia Institute.

Reynolds, Craig J. (2006) Seditious Histories: Contesting Thai and Southeast Asian Pasts, Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.

Sahai, S. (2000) Journey to India in 1872 of King Chulalongkorn, Bangkok: River Books.

Sahai, S. (2002) India in 1872: As Seen by the Siamese, Delhi: BR Publishing Corporation.

Schopen, Gregory (1997) Bones, Stones and Buddhist Monks (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Sharma, R.S. (1987) Urban Decay in India (New Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal. Stephens, Harold (2005) 'Flying Visit to the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha,' Bangkok Post, 23 February.

Shaw, Julia (2001) 'Ancient Irrigation Works in the Sanchi Area: an archaeological and hydrological investigation', South Asian Studies, 17: 55-68. https://doi.org/10.1080/02666030.2001.9628592

Tagore, Rabindranath (1957) Java Jatrir Patra (Letters of a Traveller to Java) in Rabindra Rachnabali (Collected Works of Rabindranath Tagore) (Calcutta: Vishwabharati. Tartakov, Gary M. (1996) 'New Paths to Sanchi' in V. Dehejia, (ed.) Unseen Presence: The Buddha and Sanchi, Bombay: Marg Publications.

Trevithick, Alan (1999) 'British archaeologists, Hindu abbots, and Burmese Buddhists: The Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya, 1811-1877', Modern Asian Studies 33:635-656. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X99003406




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/tfc.v3i2.926