Evolution of the Patterns of Cultic Encounters between Buddhism and Brahmanism in the Religious Space of Some Excavated Buddhist Religious Centres of Early Medieval Bihar and Bengal

A Study Based on an Analysis of the Published Archaeological Data

  • Birendra Nath Prasad Jawaharlal Nehru University
Keywords: Bengal, Bihar, Brahmanism, decline of Indian Buddhism, interreligious interactions

Abstract

Through an analysis of published archaeological data, this article attempts to understand the evolution of patterns of cultic encounters between Buddhism and Brahmanism in the religious space of Buddhist monastic centres of early medieval (c. 600–1200 ce) Bihar and Bengal. This article argues that the regular findings of sculptures of Brahmanical deities in the religious space of Buddhist monastic centres of this area was a manifestation of the attempts of the Buddhist Saṅgha to induce a subordinate integration of these deities to Buddhism. This attempt, however, did not evolve in the way desired by the Saṅgha. Brahmanical deities did not remain confined to the ‘outer mansions of the maṇḍalas’. They, rather, impacted the character of major Buddhist deities fundamentally. The non-monastic devotees, most of whom did not have any fixed religious identity, interpreted these developments as a blurring of ritual and institutional boundaries between Buddhism and Brahmanism. The end result was not the Buddhist integration of Brahmanical deities in a manner of subordinate union, but Brahmanical appropriation of Buddhism in the long run.

Author Biography

Birendra Nath Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Birendra Nath Prasad earned his MA, MPhil and PhD in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where he is Assistant Professor in the Centre for Historical Studies. His research interests include the social history of ancient Indian religions as gleaned through textual and archaeological sources, and Buddhist revival movements in colonial and post-colonial northern India. His two books Buddhism in a Poly-religious Context: An Archaeological History of Buddhist, Brahmanical and Jaina Religious Centres in Early Medieval Bihar and Bengal and Saṅgha in a Poly-religious Society: H istoriography of the Functional Dimensions of Indian Monastic Buddhism are in the process of publication.

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Published
2019-10-18
How to Cite
Prasad, B. N. (2019). Evolution of the Patterns of Cultic Encounters between Buddhism and Brahmanism in the Religious Space of Some Excavated Buddhist Religious Centres of Early Medieval Bihar and Bengal. Religions of South Asia, 12(3), 314-350. https://doi.org/10.1558/rosa.38544
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