Chapter

Introduction

Anne E. Monius

in Imagining a Place for Buddhism

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780195139990
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834501 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195139992.003.0001
 Introduction

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The modern religious landscape of Tamil‐speaking South India is dominated by the Hindu tradition, but as this introduction to the book explains, non‐Hindu religious communities played a significant role in shaping the religious history of the region. There are still minority populations of Muslims, Christians, and Jains, but the literary and historical record of the region tells a far more complex story, and includes Jains, Ajivikas, and Buddhists. There has been a recent study on the Tamil‐speaking Jains, but relatively little study of the Buddhists, who are little understood because of the scarcity of remnants of Tamil‐speaking Buddhist culture; this fragmentary Buddhist record is examined. The introduction goes on to discuss the two extant Buddhist texts in Tamil that are complete – the Maṇimēkalai, and the Vīracōliyam, which are the subject of the book, and provide, in very different ways, compelling evidence for the existence of Tamil‐speaking Buddhists in the region. The literary culture that they represent is used to reach an understanding of the (religious) Buddhist communities of the times.

Keywords: Ajivika; Buddhism; Buddhist culture; Christianity; Hinduism; history; India; Islam; Jainism; literary culture; Maṇimēkalai; minority religions; religious history; South India; Tamil; Vīracōliyam

Chapter.  5689 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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