Sanchi and its archaeological landscape: Buddhist monasteries, settlements & irrigation works in Central India

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Date: Dec. 2000
From: Antiquity(Vol. 74, Issue 286)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 914 words

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The Buddhist monastic complex at Sanchi in Central India, a recently designated `UNESCO World-Heritage' site, was established during the 3rd century BC as part of the westerly expansion of Buddhism from its base In the middle Gangetic plains. The distribution of other stupas, monasteries and `Asokan' edicts throughout the Mauryan empire illustrates the degree to which early programmes of Buddhist propagation conflated with the expanding boundaries of the state. Although the link between Buddhism and ancient trade has been studied (Ray 1986), understanding of the socio-religious mechanisms which enabled early Buddhist monks to establish themselves in new areas has been hampered by the `monumental' bias of Buddhist archaeology. Despite a rich body of art-historical and epigraphical scholarship on Sanchi (notably Marshall 1940) and 4 neighbouring monastic complexes (Cunningham 1854; Agrawal 1997), little attempt has been made to relate these monuments to wider aspects of the landscape.

With the aim of articulating these relationships, an extensive archaeological survey was carried out in the Sanchi area in 1998-2000. Covering an area of c. 100 sq. km, this survey has enabled the first integrated study of settlement archaeology and Buddhist history in Central India (traditionally treated as disconnected currents of research). The area was surveyed on a `village to village' basis, whereby modern settlements occurring at a ratio of 2 per sq. km formed the foci for following up local leads...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A69200022