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
Keywords:Bengal, Bihar, Brahmanism, decline of Indian Buddhism, interreligious interactions
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 Sangha to induce a subordinate integration of these deities to Buddhism. This attempt, however, did not evolve in the way desired by the Sangha. Brahmanical deities did not remain confined to the ‘outer mansions of the mandalas’. 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.
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