Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia. Himanshu Prabha Ray. New Delhi: Routledge India, 2018. 140 pp., 12 figures, bibliography, index. Hardback £95, US $150, ISBN 978-1-138-30489-5; eBook £36, US $49, ISBN: 978-0-203-72854-3. With Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia, Himanshu Prabha Ray h

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2019-10-04
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Fogelin,Lars
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With Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia, Himanshu Prabha Ray has produced the first modern introduction to the field intended for an audience of non-specialists. Coming in at a brief 140 pages, Ray has provided an excellent primer for anyone who is seeking to gain an understanding of the basic outlines of Buddhist archaeology in South Asia. To accomplish this, Ray jettisoned the traditional ways of presenting Buddhism that have dominated scholarship for the last century. Where earlier works would almost invariably begin with the biography of the Buddha, the archaeological sites he is believed to have visited, and a survey of the role of Buddhism in the development of urbanism from mid- to late first millennium B.C.E., Ray centers her book on the lived practice of Buddhists in the first millennium C.E.—the first period in which abundant archaeological remains are available to understand the growth, transformation, and eventual decline of Buddhism in South Asia. It is difficult to think of a better scholar to write this concise introduction to South Asian Buddhism. Since the publication of Monastery and Guild: Commerce under the Satavahanas (1986), Ray has been among the most important and prolific scholars working in ancient Indian history and archaeology. Through her work at Jawaharlal Nehru University and as Chair of the National Monuments Authority, she has helped shift the focus on Buddhist history and archaeology from one that concentrated on Buddhist theology and philosophy, primarily through close readings of [End Page 404] Buddhist texts, to a perspective on the daily lived practices of Buddhist monks and nuns (collectively known as the sangha) and the elite and non-elite lay people who supported them. This new perspective, one that Ray helped create, permeates the whole of Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia.
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