Women and Monastic Buddhism in Early South Asia : Rediscovering the invisible believers book cover
2nd Edition

Women and Monastic Buddhism in Early South Asia
Rediscovering the invisible believers

  • Available for pre-order on March 10, 2023. Item will ship after March 31, 2023
ISBN 9781032156187
March 31, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge India
280 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book presents gender as a framework to offer unique insights into the sociocultural foundations of Buddhism. Moving away from dominant discourses that discuss women as a single monolithic, homogenous category – thus rendering them invisible within the broader religious discourse – this monograph examines their sustained role in the larger context of South Asian Buddhism and reaffirms their agency. It highlights the multiple roles played by women as patrons, practitioners, lay and monastic members and the like within Buddhism. The volume also investigates the individual experiences of the members, and their equations and relationships at different levels – with the Samgha at large with their own respective Bhikşu or Bhikşunī Samgha, with the laity, and with members of the same gender (both lay and monastic).  It rereads, reconfigures, and reassesses historical data in order to arrive at a new understanding of Buddhism and the social matrix within which it developed and flourished.

This new edition draws on recent archaeological data from ancient Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka and recently compiled ethnographic data from convents in Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh, India. It assesses if the working model formulated for the identification of gendered structures at sites in India holds good for sites across South Asia and highlights the presence of women within the monastic circles in varied roles. 

Bringing together archaeological, epigraphic, art historical, literary as well as ethnographic data, this volume will be of interest to researchers and scholars of Buddhism, gender studies, ancient Indian history, religion, and South Asian studies.

Table of Contents

List of Map and Figures.  List of Plates.  Acknowledgements.  Preface.  List of diacritical marks.  Abbreviations.  Introduction.  1. Sacred Spaces and the Feminine in Buddhism  2. Locating the Bhiksuni: Identifying Nunneries  3. Exploring Women’s Space: Conflict between The Social and the Asocial Worlds  4. Women as Patrons  5. Gendered Survey of Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka. Conclusion. Bibliography.  Index

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Garima Kaushik is Assistant Superintending Archaeologist working with the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi. She has excavated at a number of important historic and protohistoric archaeological sites in the country including Sravasti, Dholavira, Govishana and Adi Badri. She was one of the founding faculties of the School for Buddhist Studies, Nalanda University, Nalanda where she worked for two years as Assistant Professor and has been actively involved in academic as well as field research on early Buddhist historical sites for over 20 years.