GRAVE: Gandharan Relic rituals And Veneration Explored

Lead Research Organisation: CARDIFF UNIVERSITY
Department Name: Sch of History, Archaeology & Religion


Relics of the Buddha and prominent renunciates were at the heart of Buddhism. The religion, introduced from Central India in the third century BCE to parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, became strongly embedded in the socio-political fabric of the Kushan kingdom from the first till the fourth century CE. Through the synergies between art history, religious studies, philology and archaeology, GRAVE proposes to provide a comprehensive understanding of the conceptualization of relic veneration in Gandhara art between the 1st and the 4th centuries CE. Building an image database identifying the types of relics, figures, actions and ritual accoutrements as a basis, GRAVE contextualises the visual material in its socio-religious context by analysing contemporary Gandhari relic donative inscriptions and later Chinese accounts of relic veneration in the region. GRAVE is timely as it moves beyond traditional analysis of forms that end in an aesthetic interplay of artistic styles and towards the connection between art and socio-religious praxis. GRAVE will also survey Buddhist practitioners and visitors of leading UK museum collections of Gandharan art to understand their perception of relic rituals. For the first time, GRAVE will explore repetition, performativity, and ritual communication related to Gandharan relics in a systematic way while simultaneously understanding the perception of Buddhist relics by modern followers.
The training of Ashwini Lakshminarayanan as an experienced researcher at Cardiff University will ensue along these interdisciplinary lines in tune with the objectives of GRAVE. The detailed scientific and career development objectives with a complete integration within the School of History, Archaeology and Religion (SHARE at CU) and a secondment at the DiGA project (Center for Religious Studies at Ruhr-Universität Bochum) will guarantee mutual beneficial success for the host and the partner organisations and ensure high employability for the researcher.


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