Patterns of Ritual Engagements between Buddhist Religious Centres and Their Non-monastic Devotees in the Religious Space of Some Excavated Buddhist Sites of Early medieval Bihar and Bengal: A Study with Particular Reference to the Cult of Votive...

Birenda Nath Prasad

Abstract


Patterns of Ritual Engagements between Buddhist Religious Centres and Their Non-monastic Devotees in the Religious Space of Some Excavated Buddhist Sites of Early medieval Bihar and Bengal: A Study with Particular Reference to the Cult of Votive Stūpas, Votive Terracotta Plaques and Votive Tablets.

 

 

Through an analysis of the spatial distribution pattern of the published corpus of votive stūpas, votive terracotta plaques and tablets in the religious space of excavated Buddhist religious centres of early medieval Bihar and Bengal, this paper attempts to analyse the patterns of ritual engagements between Buddhist religious centres of this area and their non-monastic non-aristocratic devotees. We have argued that Buddhist religious centres of Magadha made determined efforts of attracting and retaining pilgrimage by non-monastic non-aristocratic devotees by offering the most sacred spots within their religious space to non-monastic devotees for ritual activities. The pattern was fundamentally different in Bengal, where most of the excavated monastic centres largely functioned as political institutions, established and patronized by their political patrons, who established them for political motives. These monastic centres of Bengal did not feel the need of entering into ritual engagements with nonaristocratic devotees. With different kinds of support systems, the process of the decline of Buddhism in early medieval Bihar and Bengal could not have been the same.


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