Buddhism in Gandhāra

Jason Neelis

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Buddhism in Gandhāra

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Ancient Gandhāra was a major center for cultural production of early Buddhist art and literature. Located in a pivotal contact zone between the northwestern frontiers of the Indian subcontinent, the Iranian plateau, and Central Asia, Gandhāra served as a springboard for Buddhist transmission beyond South Asia in the early centuries ce. Interactions between regional inhabitants and exogenous migrants, including Greeks, Śakas (Scythians), Kushans, and Huns (Hūṇas) who vied to control important routes connecting Gandhāra with northern India, enriched its vibrant political and religious history. Gandhāra’s fertility and material prosperity generated surpluses to support the establishment and proliferation of seemingly innumerable Buddhist stūpas and monasteries, where the worship of relics and localization of narratives continued to attract East Asian pilgrims throughout the first millennium ce. Gandhāran Buddhists synthetically appropriated and transformed elements from multiple cultures (including Hellenistic features with long and complex afterlives). Distinctively hybrid and cosmopolitan styles are reflected in Gandhāran art, architecture, coins, and inscriptions. With recent discoveries of the earliest attested Buddhist manuscripts (in fact, the earliest South Asian manuscripts) written in Gāndhārī (the regional language of Gandhāra), it is now possible for the emerging Gandhāran Buddhist literary culture to shed new light on old questions about the special characteristics of Buddhism in Gandhāra and beyond. There is no single textbook treatment of Buddhism in Gandhāra, and a comprehensive treatment of the topic must be multidisciplinary. This article is intended to serve as a bibliographic guide to primary sources and secondary literature. The selection of annotated references is representative rather than comprehensive, although some areas (such as recent advances in the study of Gāndhārī Buddhist literature) receive more attention than fields which have traditionally received more scholarly attention (such as Gandhāran art history).

Article.  24855 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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