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Localizing the Buddha’s Presence at Wayside Shrines in Northern Pakistan

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Chapter Summary

This chapter shows that the corporate Buddhist saṅgha and the early and medieval Christian church both depended upon and facilitated commercial ties in ongoing processes of institutional expansion and consolidation. The intertwining of trade routes with paths of Buddhist transmission was linked to practices of localizing the Buddha's presence by establishing his relics in stūpas and other types of shrines outside of his home region in northern India. Following a short discussion of categories of Buddhist relics and South Asian trade and travel networks, the focus of the chapter shifts to wayside shrines in northern Pakistan on long-distance pathways through the Karakorum mountains, where devotees marked the presence of the Buddha with rock drawings of stūpas and donative inscriptions. A deeply engrained symbiosis between religion and trade was a significant catalyst for contact, transfer and exchange.

Keywords: Buddhist Relics; Buddhist Saṅgha; Karakorum Mountains; Northern Pakistan; South Asian Trade Network; Stūpas; wayside shrines



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