Set in Stone

Robert DeCaroli

in Haunting the Buddha

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780195168389
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835133 | DOI:
Set in Stone

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Images of popular demigods and minor deities are shown to dominate the decoration of early Buddhist sites to the exclusion of almost any other subject matter. In particular, an iconographic study of the remains of the monastery from Bharhut reveals a process of superimposition wherein the spirit‐deities have been moved to the periphery of the sacred space and the center is reserved for the Buddhist relic alone. When this information is coupled with new evidence demonstrating that these monasteries were largely built over locations (like cemeteries and hills) that were understood as being the abodes of specific minor deities, it becomes clear that the Buddhist community is making a potent statement of religious authority though its architecture. Significantly, this hierarchy expressed in sculpture parallels the claims of authority made in the legendary literature.

Keywords: Images; Sculpture; Iconography; Bharhut; Minor deities; Buddhist

Chapter.  9247 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Buddhism

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