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Early Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka : a landscape approach

Early monasteries are popularly perceived as ‘otherworldly’, purposefully founded as isolated retreats far from human habitation. Such views were formed through the bias towards textual sources in early academic enquiry. Ethnographic (e.g. Gombrich 1971) and epigraphic (e.g. Schopen 1997a) research in South Asia has begun to challenge these traditional assumptions demonstrating the economic and social value of monastic communities. Recent AHRC-sponsored fieldwork in Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka), conducted by the Upper Malvatu-Oya Exploration Project (UMOEP), has identified similar discrepancies between traditional interpretations and archaeological evidence proposing that the Sri Lankan landscape was administered through Buddhist monasteries rather than secular towns. It is also postulated that monastic communities may have led the colonisation of uninhabited regions, sometimes with or without government support (Coningham et al. 2007). In response to this research context, the aim of this thesis is to test the working hypothesis that early Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka performed core administrative and economic functions in the Anuradhapura hinterland. Such roles for monasteries will be determined through a multidisciplinary approach analysing the archaeological data of UMOEP, augmented and integrated with textual, epigraphic, architectural and ethnographic evidence. From such an analysis the roles and functions of Buddhist monasteries in the Anuradhapura hinterland in relation to craft production, irrigation and agriculture will be ascertained as well as defining the patronage that monasteries received. Further to this, once such roles have been determined for the Anuradhapura hinterland, the discussion will be broadened, entering into a comparative dialogue with selective case-studies from Christian medieval Europe to inform and challenge assumptions in the wider discussion of monasticism in a global context.
Date January 2013
CreatorsDavis, Christopher Edward
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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