This book uses gender as a framework to offer unique insights into the socio-cultural 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, etc. 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 Sangha, 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.
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.
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 Conclusion. Bibliography. Index
This Series, in association with the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, reflects on the complex relationship between religion and society through new perspectives and advances in archaeology. It looks at this critical interface to provide alternative understandings of communities, beliefs, cultural systems, sacred sites, ritual practices, food habits, dietary modifications, power, and agents of political legitimisation. The books in the Series underline the importance of archaeological evidence in the production of knowledge of the past. They also emphasise that a systematic study of religion requires engagement with a diverse range of sources such as inscriptions, iconography, numismatics and architectural remains.