Volume II, No. 1, Spring 2003


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Patronage and Authority:

Buddhist Monasteries in Early Medieval India

by Amit Jha

In the early period, before 500 CE, 'renunciation of the worldly materials' was the leitmotif of Buddhism. At this stage, Buddhist preachings were primarily concerned with addressing social problems, as socio-political developments were in an incipient stage. But later on, during the period under review, i.e., 500 to 1200 CE, we find that Buddhism had undergone a dramatic change. Out of the many changes, two developments are worth mentioning. During the early medieval period, Buddhism incorporated Tantra, which was of autochthonous origin. This development led to the rise of a new Buddhist sect called Vajrayana which, like its Hindu counterpart, was based on the concept of mystical power derived from ritual exercise in the form of siddhi, yogi, among others. Secondly, early medieval eastern India witnessed the efflorescence of Buddhist mahaviharas which led to firm institutionalisation of Buddhism as a religion. By then, these mahaviharas had become the centre of all sort of activities associated with 'worldly things'. The line of demarcation between Hinduism and Buddhism, as two distinct religions, was further weakened. Buddhist viharas, like South Indian temples, provided the necessary ideological support to the monarch/state in contemporary society. Some sort of mutually beneficial collaborative relationship existed between the head-monk (Upadhyaya) and the king, quite like the Brahmana-king relationship in the context of Hindu temples. They appear to be similar in content, but different in form. Firstly, the eastern Indian viharas enjoyed proper royal patronage for a brief period, as compared to the Hindu temples, which were recipients of such patronage for long periods in different parts of India. Secondly, the degree of the king's involvement in viharas seems to be miniscule as compared to their participation in the temple's affairs. This idea can be easily discerned from the differences in the dimensions of the two religious institutions in eastern India and south India, respectively[1]. Even the largest Buddhist vihara of Pahadpur appears to be of moderate size vis-à-vis the establishment of an ordinary south Indian temple. However, these differences do not lessen the ideological role played by the early medieval viharas of the eastern India. All the major mahaviharas[2] (viz. Nalanda, Vikramashila, Odantipura, Somapura, Ratnagiri, among others) served as catalysts for the growth of thriving religious and economic centres. Pala rule in Bengal and, to a lesser extent, the Bhaumakara period in Orissa are especially good examples of fruitful interaction of religious effervescence and royal patronage.

One may ask why did the eastern Indian rulers include among their major projects the sponsorship of mahaviharas in their kingdom? To find the answer, first we should analyse the epigraphic sources in the form of land grant charters issued by various kings' in favour of the viharas. These charters constitute the basic evidence for the kings' association with the viharas and the former's material contribution to the latter. In a few royal charters it has been explicitly mentioned that land grants to the Buddhist viharas were made merely for the increase of the religious merit of the donors. Ramapala copper plate of Sricandra mentions land grants to Santivarika Sri Pitavasa Gupta Sarman, the performer of one crore of sacrifices (ceremonies) by dedicating to God Buddha Bhattaraka, in order to increase the merit and fame of himself and his parents.[3] Several endowments were made for the provision of bali, caru, and sattra to a deity, whereas in other cases the donations were meant for a single purpose such as puja or naivedya. The Nalanda stone inscription of the time of Yasovarman[4]  (dated to the first half of the eighth century) mentions that a minister's son Malada (in Yasovarman's kingdom) donated one aksyayanivi (probably a money endowment) for the perpetual offering of various items to the monks. The maintenance of the sattra was one of the objects of the grant of the village Urdhvasringa as recorded in the copper plate of Lokavigraha of Orissa.[5] The Ambari stone inscription of Samudrapala (dated 1154 CE) mentions about land donated by king Samudrapala to a vihara for the establishment of sattara institution in Yogahali, where rituals were performed. Another Bodh Gaya stone inscription[6] of the Rastrakuta king, Tunga Dharmavaloka (dated tenth-eleventh century), found attached to the gate of the monastery at Bodh Gaya, mentions the dedication of a repository for aromatics and incense, or a well-scented (gandha-kuta) sceptre for the service of the Buddha by the king. In certain cases, donations were made for the purpose of writing texts. For example, one of the objects of the endowments mentioned in the Nalanda plate of Devapala was the writing of the Buddhist texts.[7] This copper plate of Devapala further mentions that the endowment recorded in the inscription was also for the maintenance of viharas built by the ruler of Suvarnadvipa. In the Nalanda inscription of Vipulasrimitra[8] (dated 12th century CE), land grants were made for the execution of the tank and repair of a Pitamaha viharas. The Bodh Gaya inscription[9] of Jayacandra (Gahadavala king-1170 CE) opens with an invocation to the Buddha, the Bodhisattva, and the king's own religious preceptor, a monk named Srimitra, and records the construction of a Guha (cave-dwelling) at a place called Jayapur. In Jagjivanpur copper plate[10] of Mahendrapala (Malwa, West Bengal, dated 840-846 CE), Vajradeva, a member of the royal family, is said to have built a vihara and granted tax-free land of Nandadirghika, for its maintenance. The Bodh Gaya inscription[11] of Dharmapala mentions the excavation of a deep lake at a cost of three thousand drammas for the benefit of the Mahabodhi vihara. Another Bodh Gaya stone inscription of Mahanaman-II (dated 588 CE) mentions the construction of a Buddhist mansion at Bodhimanda. The Janibigha stone inscription[12] (dated 1202 CE) mentions the grant of a village named Kotthala, in the district Saptaghatta, for the maintenance of the Diamond Throne and the monastery attached there, to the Ceylonese monk, Mangalasvamin, by the king Jayasena, lord of Pithi.

There are also few land grants made by the king to the viharas, which comprised uncultivated tracts of lands, marshy land, and lands with no natural boundaries or forestland. The Gunaighar inscription (dated 506 CE) describes five plots of land donated to the Buddhist viharas as water logged and uncultivated.[13] According to the Tippera copper plate of Lokanatha (dated to second half of the seventh century), the king granted a forest region (atavi-bhukhanda) without any natural boundaries to a vihara.[14] In the Gauhati inscription of Indrapala (dated tenth century CE), king Indrapala donated a tract of land (whose boundaries were not mentioned) for the upkeep of a Buddhist caitya. From these land grant charters it appears that new settlements were expected to be set up there. As R. S. Sharma and B. D. Chattopadhyaya[15] have pointed out these land grants to Buddhist viharas and other religious institutions led to the creation of mathas and monastic establishments in the early medieval period. The establishment of viharas and the settlements of monks would no doubt have attracted settlers such as cultivators, artisans, among others, whose services the institution required. As B. D. Chattopadhyaya16 suggests these developments of the early medieval period when looked at from the perspective of the region, may be identified as crucial to the emergence of political or exchange centres. Actually, by donating uncultivated land the kings apparently expected the viharas to take the initiative in opening new areas for settlement and production. The viharas had developed to the point at which they seem to have the capabilities to assume such responsibilities. Monasteries could disseminate agricultural and scientific knowledge, articulate a value system and requirements of social order and thus help economic and social consolidation. Eaton[17] has analysed these developments from a regional perspective and has pointed out that except for Bihar, the rest of the eastern Indian regions comprising Bengal, Orissa, and Assam witnessed late detribalisation and peasantisation (beginning from the seventh century). It was the period of state formation and land grants to both brahmanas and monks was intended to strengthen and consolidates the king's position. Both of these religious institutions acted as pacemakers in the process. Pushpa Niyogi[18] contends that from the fifth century CE onwards, it was brahmana priests (despite being castigated by the mainstream brahmanas), who took the lead in settling amidst Bengal's aboriginals.  According to D. D. Kosambi[19], brahmanas became acceptable to autochthons due to the agricultural knowledge they imparted to a society, which was yet to be peasantised. The Buddhist monks, as the pace makers, were comparatively a late entrant and got established during the Pala period in Bengal (seventh-eighth century CE). But later, the brahmanas, due to their better knowledge of agriculture (especially rice cultivation), the calendar, and their ingenuity in constructing origin myths and enormous capacity for legitimation, obtained an advantage over their Buddhist counterparts. This advance was manifested in the shift of royal patronage from Buddhism to Brahmanical sects, which became more visible by the end of the eleventh century. These shifts are especially evident in the artistic record of the period.[20] Ronald Inden[21] attributes this to the better adaptability and resilience of the brahmanas to the situation, in terms of their transformation from a sacrificial cult to a gift-receiving sect, i.e., emphasis on the concept of Mahadana. N. Lahiri[22], in his analysis of neighbouring Assam has noted a similar process. On the basis of the epigraphic evidence and a study of the present social structure in Assam, Lahiri believes that brahmanical social stratification had a greater appeal among the autochthons due to practical reasons; it was more suitable for an agrarian economy based on division of labour. However, the role of Buddhist viharas as harbingers of change in society in early medieval eastern India should not be underestimated. The monasteries could disseminate agricultural and scientific knowledge, articulate requirements of social order, and help integrate communities economically and socially. These were in many ways a continuation of its role in early historic times.[23]

If we study the excavated mounds at major sites like Nalanda, Vikramashila, Somapura and Ratnagiri it appears that the construction of these mahaviharas was an outcome of several mega-projects, most likely sponsored by the contemporary rulers. All the above-mentioned sites are called mahaviharas or 'great monastery' because it consisted of several smaller viharas.[24] In other words, a mahavihara was a great university or research institute consisting of several colleges; as such they were in their time, the academic centres of India. Most of the mahaviharas generally have two kinds of buildings: viharas and shrines. At Nalanda, archaeological remains of the university and edifice is 1600 feet long from north to south and 800 feet long from east to west. Eleven monasteries have been excavated thus far. A number of temples and stupas of various sizes and forms are found on the western flank of the main monastery. Ratnagiri comprises two magnificient monasteries, also rebuilt more than once. One of them was double-storeyed and had an extensive courtyard with two-sides of it having a number of cells for habitation of monks. Besides, we have archaeological remains of six temples, thousands of small stupas, 1386 seals, myriad sculptural relics and architectural pieces of daily use. The largest stupa was 47 feet square and 17 feet high surrounded by four minor stupas. There are hundreds of miniature votive stupas decorated with lotus, petal and beaded tassels. Of all these sites, Somapura appears to be the largest established Buddhist institution. It was well planned and homogeneous in the layout-the residential cells for the monks and the temples were situated in a single well-defined compound. I-tsing who stayed at Nalanda mahavihara for ten years (635-645 CE), has mentioned in his account that "there were eight halls and three hundred apartments resided by three thousand monks, and lands in its possession, contain more than two hundred villages. They might have been bestowed (upon the viharas) by kings of many generations."[25] Taranath[26] in his account says that Dharmapala built the Vikramashila viharas near the bank of Ganga, on the top of a hillock. The Central temple rose in three traces and it was pancaratha on the plan in all side except the northern side, which was saptaratha. The central temple had a human size statue of Buddha. Around it were 53 smaller temples of Guhyasamaja and 54 common temples. Therefore, he built in total 108 temples and the boundary walls. One hundred and fourteen persons were provided with food and clothes-namely 108 panditas and the bali-acarya, homa-acarya, musikapala-acarya, kapotapala-acarya, and the supervisor of the devadasas. For each of them, he made provisions that was sufficient for four." Taranath has also mentioned that "during Ramapala's time, at Vikramasila viharas, one hundred sixty panditas and one thousand monks permanently resided and five thousand monks assembled for occasional offerings. And in Vajrasana (Bodh Gaya) forty Mahayanis and two hundred Sravaka bhiksus were maintained; occasionally ten thousand sravak bhiksus congregated. In Odantipuri one thousand monks lived and occasionally, twelve thousand monks assembled for ritual exercises."[27] Taranath[28]has mentioned that during the last phase of the 12th century CE, Cingalaraja renovated all the temples at Vajrasana (Bodh Gaya) and rebuilt the upper four storeys of the nine storeyed mahagandola, which was destroyed by the Turuska's army. These evidences clearly indicate that mahaviharas were of massive size and they involved an elaborate infrastructure for the support of the Buddhist rituals.

Keeping in mind the prevalent socio-economic and political conditions in eastern India, during the early medieval period, these monastic establishments, which were initially developed and maintained by royal patronage were too important to be ignored by the kings of later generations.

As far as the funding of the early medieval viharas are concerned, we have a total of 21 land grant charters the rulers donated tracts of land and villages to the monasteries for their upkeep. Only one inscription mentions monetary endowments made by the king to some Baladitya vihara. These charters describe in great detail the royal expenditure on various Buddhist viharas and the ramified networks of interactions with the countryside that supported the viharas' extensive ritual activity.


On an administrative level, the parts of the transactional network concerned with the funding and staffing of the viharas entailed only one-sided material transactions bringing services, agricultural produce and money into the viharas.  In return, the viharas gave honour and legitimacy to the ruler on account of the goodwill they enjoyed among the masses.

So far we have discussed how Buddhist viharas were massive institutions and in some cases several hundred villages were attached to them for their maintenance.[30] Since these viharas encompassed vast regions comprising several villages, it became practically impossible for the early medieval kings to ignore the eastern Indian viharas from administrative point of view. We should analyse these viharas at the organisational and administrative levels. At the intra-vihara level we find that each vihara had its own administrative arrangement, as an important prerequisite for funding and staffing of the viharas on permanent basis. And at the inter-vihara level, we get a picture of complex relationship between several categories of viharas, which were to some extent hierarchical in nature. For an example,[31] Nalanda mahavihara had a number of regional monasteries under its control. At the same time it is seen that Nalanda had conferred upon the village councils, known as janapadas, some authority over the administration of villages.[32] It is quite likely that the viharas, for administrative reasons, became invaluable for the rulers. In other words, the king's control of viharas meant control over vast parts of its kingdom. Like the corporate bodies of south India (Sabha or Ur), the viharas emerge as significant power centres within different political structures.


Ideological role of the viharas

The viharas were an alternative source of ideology and authority, which governed both social and religious life. When those in power were patrons of such institutions they were naturally seeking legitimation from the viharas apart from their personal piety. Such donations to monasteries in their nature were quite specific, while there could be others by the community, which were more general. The community could patronize such monuments to seek the protection of this alternative authority, as well as, to invoke it. Monuments were never only religious or artistic structures related merely to the domain of rituals. This notion was especially true in the case of monuments supporting religious institutions. Romila Thapar[33] argues that, "there were also levels of authority written into the symbolic understanding of the monuments." Kulke[34] and S. Bhattacharya in the context of Orissa and Bengal, respectively, have shown the links between the sacred domain, the temple in this case, and temporal power. However, it is Brahmanism and Brahmanical religion and deities, who were absorbed into Brahmanism that has been the real concern in the aforementioned studies. It may be interesting to investigate the role of the viharas in similar areas. The subtle ways in which patronage, authority and status are related to one another and operate their mutual interrelationship in society is an immensely fascinating area of study.

In early medieval history, the interplay between the kings/states and the viharas at large portrays a continuing awareness of the precariousness of order in every sense of the word: cosmic, social and personal.35 There is repeated testimony about the contagious nature of disorder, especially when manifested within the viharas or by the kings. Disorder breeds disorder, just as order can be promoted by order. In the Digha-Nikaya, there is extensive discussion of the theory of the "Great Chosen One" (Mahasammata) to support the centralisation of power in king's hands as a check to those who misappropriate power and in whose hand order becomes anarchy."[36]

A survey of the donative records suggests that most of the grants, especially that of land, came from the kings, members of the royal family and officials of the state. This emerging pattern of the grants warrants some explanation. In the context of the hectic temple building activities and the massive patronage extended to it by royalty in early medieval India, it can be said that the socio-political compulsions of the ruling dynasties were involved in such instances. Similarly, it can be argued that grants to brahmanas and temples in the post-Gupta period immensely helped in the extension and consolidation of the political and material foundations of the state.[37] The viharas appear to have played a similar role.[38] The desire on the part of the ruling dynasties to be perceived as being non-partisan, as seen in their patronage of different religions, brings out the inherent socio-political motives behind grants to religious institutions. Although, in most of the charters the stated purpose was merit or piety. However, when it emanates from royalty or influential sections of society one will have to read meanings beyond what is stated. In the context of early medieval grants to brahmanas, shrines and temples, it has been stated that the grants to such institutions drive home the nexus between political power and the sacred domain or its agents, involving patronage for one and legitimation for the other.[39]

As mentioned earlier, the normative ideology of Buddhism appears to be the manifestation of social reality. Like, Brahmanical institutions, Buddhist viharas thrived on lavish donations made by the rulers and in return, the viharas legitimised the latter's authority. The legitimising of authority rests not only with those who exercise power but also with the institutions, laws and values of the society, which sets criteria for legitimacy. While religious traditions are not unique in being engaged in the legitimation process, religion often invests social institutions with enduring significance, "bestowing upon them an ultimately valid cosmological status...by locating them within a sacred and cosmic frame of reference."[40]

Sociologically speaking, the royal donations were basically gift-exchange in which there was an element of reciprocity and it is not impersonal as it is linked to an individual or a group.[41] Gift-exchange would, therefore, tend to become less embedded in those primarily agricultural societies which experienced the gradual impinging of changing of attitudes to land and the ownership of land where land slowly emerges as the major economic unit.[42] And the accepted token of wealth is significant since wealth is a demonstration of status; it is a means of controlling others by winning followers and by playing those who accept the gift under obligation.[43] Though in theory all gifts are voluntary, disinterested and spontaneous, yet in practice, they are obligatory and interested.[44] If we study the epigraphic sources we find that majority of land grants portray the king's act as an altruistic measure primarily driven by religious consideration. The example of Pala rulers of early medieval Bengal illustrates this point. During this period four major mahaviharas were built. Keeping in mind the economic status of the Pala rulers, their disproportionate material support for monasteries does not appear to be driven by mere religious consideration. It appears that the king-monk relationship, during the Pala period, was based on a patron-client relationship. The Pala kings made immense material contributions to the viharas by sponsoring projects of vihara construction and also donating land for their upkeep. The rulers provided the monks stipends along with academic posts in the viharas, which were hierarchical in nature.  In return, the monks in eastern India legitmised the kings' rule in the society by tracing the kings' high-quality genealogies.[45] We have already discussed that various charters of land grants reflect lavish royal donations to the viharas. The increasing reliance of the viharas on lay society probably created changes in Buddhist ideology, which had to offer its patrons a distant ideal of soteriology with special reference to merit-making. For this purpose, the Buddhist viharas created a model of ideal kingship and eulogised the contemporary ruler by comparing him with the set of parameters. Contemporary literary sources indicate that Pala rulers' donations to the Buddhist viharas were also a pragmatic step to tap the support of these Buddhist viharas, as they exercised considerable influence in the early medieval society. The concept of Rastrapala or Dharmapala Buddha meant supplying justification for a Buddhist king's non-Buddhist policy, such as resort to violence. Taranath[46] believes that the royal title "Pala" was derived from Dharmapala (i.e., the protector of the Doctrine and the World Order). To the Buddhists, Dhammapala meant protection of the world order for the promotion of the Doctrine. It attributes legitimacy only to monarchs who perceive the Buddha dhamma as the essence of social order and harmony. Thus the king who internalises this kind of legitimacy becomes the Dhammaraja, the protector of men from worldly harm and privation of men and the active agent in founding social order upon the order of the cosmos.

The symbolism of the nagas and the yakshas in Buddhism may be given a temporal perspective and can be seen as a justification for the detribalisation of the autochthons. In the contemporary Buddhist sources, it appears that this process of detribalisation faced some local resistance in eastern India. According to a story in Taranath's[47] account "all the kings prior to Gopala were killed by the nagas. Since, Gopala was able to survive the nagas attack by the grace of goddess Cunda,[48] he was elected a permanent king." In the same source, it is shown that Devapala the successor of Gopala had Samudrapala, a naga, as his father and the youngest queen of Gopala, as his mother. So Devapala was not a natural son of Gopala and had a naga origin. Taranath further says,[49] that there were only seven 'real Palas' and "no Pala ruler after Ramapala could be called a king, which means that none after him, did much, if anything, for the Buddhist monasteries." Lama Taranath has given an exhaustive list[50] of the names of some of the Pala rulers, who were competent, but not virtuous enough, to be termed as the 'real Pala'. They were Rasapala, Sresthapala, Canaka, Bheyapala, Mahipala, Vanapala, among others. According to Taranath,[51] Buddhist institutions traced the origin of Pala dynasty to the Sun and that of the Senas to the moon. Therefore, in contemporary literature both the Buddhist dynasties of eastern India were attributed divine origin. Taranath mentions that in contemporary Buddhist sources, Dharmapala was described as the incarnation of acarya Kambal-pa, for the valuable service he rendered to this religion.  Some of the Pala rulers' failure to do something significant for the Buddhist monastery, however, deprived them of this honour.  For example, Canaka rendered great service to the Law, but since he did not belong to the line of Pala kings, he was excluded from the elite club of seven members. King Vanapala worshipped the Buddhist doctrine, but since they "left no mark of their hand"(i.e., they did not construct any new vihara), they were not considered the 'real Palas'. Actually, the real Pala title was completely the prerogative of the monks, as it is reflected from the fact that Bheyapala, one of the Pala king was not conferred with this title by the monks, just because he bestowed patras on only seventy panditas of Vikramasila viharas.[52] In Subhasitaratnakosa,[53] D.D. Kosambi finds the great monastic foundation at least as important as the royal court for locating Vidyakara, who represented the poetic tradition of Pala court. According to the author of this book, the royal court and the viharas were intimately connected. Bodh Gaya (Vajrasan) had older traditions but it came to days of its greatest glory under the Palas, as did the new Pala foundation of Vikramasila, Odantipura and Jagaddala. These viharas gave the title pandita (of the institution in question) by royal command.54 The official title pandita involved long study leading to a formal examination in the Buddhist scriptures by the leading scholars of the particular viharas. The successful candidate was granted a royal stipend along with the title. Taranath also mentions that Jitaripada  "a great Buddhist acarya" from Varendri, who was the priest of king Sanatana of Bengal (a vassal of Palas), was made the pandita of Vikramasila vihara by king Mahipala with a special residence. The date would be circa 940-980CE.[55] In Taranatha's account, we come across many titular terms like mahaupadhyaya, upadhyaya, pandita, yogi, central pillar of the viharas, six doorkeeper scholar, upasaka, patras and acaryas (like bali-acaryas, siddhi-acaryas, Pratisthana-acaryas, Vajracaryas, mahacarya). Some of these terms indicate hierarchical status bestowed upon the monks by the king as a mark of recognition of contribution to the Buddhist establishment. Stratification and hierarchy characterised the organisation of the viharas in early medieval times, very much in accordance with the contemporary social reality. It was not only Buddhist but Jaina and Brahmanical establishments that exhibited such tendencies.[56] Lama Taranatha mentions that acarya Bodhisattva first became a great pandita during Gopala's period and worked for the welfare of the living beings, especially during the period of Devapala and later became upadhyaya after making significant contribution to the Buddhist Doctrines (Madhyamalamakara).[57] In another instance, Taranath says "Ramapala invited acarya Abhayakaragupta to act as the upadhyaya of Vikramashila and Nalendra. At this time one hundred sixty panditas and one thousand acaryas permanently resided in Vikramashila."[58] Taranath describes Sataraksita as mahaupadhyaya, who was identical with acarya Bodhisattva. So it seems that the title of upadhyaya and mahaupadhyaya were associated with the head monks of the viharas. They were recognised by the king as the head of the sacred domain. Titles like central pillar of viharas, six-door keeper scholar (which were conferred upon outstanding scholars for a very brief period), all demonstrate close state and monastery relations. The titles of pandita, patras, upadhyayas were attached to some posts in the viharas and were granted by the king to the monks. Canaka introduced the title of six-door keeper-scholar and granted it to six prominent monks of Vikramashila viharas only. Bheyapala stopped this grant.[59] Similarly the title 'Central Pillar of the Vihara' was conferred upon scholars residing in Vikramashila viharas.[60] Title such as upasakas, acaryas, yogi, among others, were common in all the viharas and it was bestowed upon the monks by the institution itself, on account of their association with their respective viharas. In Lama Taranath's account we have several types of acaryas like bali-acarya, siddhi-acarya, pratisthana-acarya, siddhiacarya, and vajra-acarya, indicating their respective field of specialisation. We have several instances, where these religious institutions in their role as the legitimising authority became too powerful and posed a major challenge to the ruling class. For example, in Sri Lanka, the Buddhist viharas created major problem for the king Mahasena in the fourth century, due to his differences with the head of the sacred domain on the issue of interpretation of Uposattha.[61] However the king was able to save the situation by creating dissension among the rank and files of the vihara-members, which ultimately led to a schism. The Pala king's act of granting of titles and fellowships to numerous monks of various categories individually, therefore, must have enabled the king on the one hand to have a better contact with the viharas, and on the other it was tantamount to the decentralisation of authority in the viharas, as royal recognition of religious achievement was not confined to a single person. As already mentioned, though there was a post of head-monk in the form of maha-upadhyaya, his function was of a very limited nature. When Hsuan Tsang[62] was admitted to the Nalanda vihara the assembly of monks announced through the deputy incumbent, that Hsuan Tsang would be entitled to use all commodities used by priests and all appliances of religion, in common with the rest. The head monk was more concerned about the religious activity of the monastery and his deputy was in charge of the general affair. I-tsing[63] mentioned that when any business occurred, the assembly settled it. Thus, consciously or unconsciously Pala kings adopted a very pragmatic step for the monks in the viharas.

In Buddhist sources, viharas appear to be thoroughly organised to perform as centres of learning and as agencies of legitimising king's rule in the region. We have occasional references to similar other religious institutions, like Brahmanical temples and Jain temples, however, which posed themselves as competitors of the Buddhist viharas, in providing ideological support to the contemporary rulers because of their mass-support.[64] Taranath mentions that Kumarila, a Buddhist monk, defeated nirgrantha Rahuvrati, the mimamsaka Bhringaraguhya, the brahmana Kumararananda, the tirthika leader of debate Kanadaroru and all other rivals who lived in the Vindhyacala.[65] "Kumaralila's acarya Dharmakirti defeated Samkaracarya repeatedly in Varanasi and converted many of his (Samkara's) disciples into the followers of the Law of the Buddha, who by now were parivrajaka brahmacaris and others ran away."[66] During the period of Devapala a Magadhan tirthika yogi came in the tutelage of a Buddhist monk to attain true siddhi."[67] Taranath says, "according to the prediction of Mahakala, all the temples of the tirthikas automatically fell into ruins. Thus, in all about forty centres of the tirthikas were ruined. Some of these were in Bhamgala and Varendra." Devapala, inspired by a yogi Siromani, raised an army to attack Odivisa and other places, which were previously the centres of the insiders, but by this period it came under the influence of the tirthikas only."[68] According to Taranath, the Sravaka Sendhava misguided the people by preaching, "that which is called Mahayana is only a source of livelihood for those who follow the wrong view. Therefore, keep clear of these so-called preachers of the 'True Doctrine'. In this way, they used to draw people towards themselves."[69] These references reflect some degree of tension between the Buddhist viharas and other religious institutions, competing to gain primacy in society during the period. Viharas remained the dominant religious institution, especially during the reign of the Palas and Senas in Bengal and to a lesser extent in Orissa under the Bhaumakaras. However, their mass-base in eastern India, got gradually eroded by the rise of Brahmanical temples, owing to the latter's better knowledge of agriculture and seasons[70] and wider socio-political functions. Taranath also mentions that "already after the death of king Dharmapala, the number of tirthikas and mlechhas gradually increased in the kingdom of Bhamgala and Ayodhya, north of the Ganga. The number of tirthikas became numerous in Kamaru(pa), Tirahuti, and Odivisa.[71] He goes on to state that "during the time of four Senas, the number of tirthikas went on increasing even in Magadha. There also came many Persian followers of the mlechha view. To protect Odantipuri and Vikramashila, the king even converted these partially into fortresses and stationed some soldiers."[72]

The early medieval period witnessed the rise of Tantra, which led to intense ritual activities in the viharas. Gradually, ritual activities became the symbol and means of achieving authority. Pala rulers bestowed upon the monks various royal titles as a mark of recognition of the monks' religious achievements in the form of performing rituals in the viharas. Some of the Pala kings accepted those Buddhist monks as their preceptors, who acted as their (kings') guru. For an example, "Dharmapala accepted as his preceptor Haribhadra and Jnanapada and filled all direction with Prajña-paramita and the Sri-Guhya-samaja. These two panditas were offered the highest seat of honour." They provided religious justification for the rulers' policies, which carried weight in the society. In his accession to the throne, Devapala's Buddhist preceptor[73] had advised him to--"Prepare a wick from the clothes of the sramanas and obtain oil from the houses of kings and merchants and get a lamp from the hermitage, light it, put it before the tutelary deity and pray. After this you should build the monastery where the incarnation of the Protector of Doctrine (Dharmapala) will drop the lamp that will bring prosperity to the king and the blessedness all around." After the death of Haribhadra, the preceptor of Dharmapala, Haribhadra's disciple Buddhajnanapada became the king preceptor. Shortly after he consecrated the Vikramasila vihara and was appointed as the Vajracarya[74] Buddhajnanapada suggested to Dharmapala[75]--"There are indications of the ruin of the dynasty during the rule of your grandson. Perform the great homa so that the dynasty may last long." Accordingly Dharmapala got the homa performed for many years by the vajradharas with the acaryas as their chief and offered during this, articles worth nine lakh and two thousand tolas of silver. Then the acarya predicted to the king that "twelve of your successors will be king and up to your fifteenth descendant in particular, many countries will be under their rule and the Buddhist law also will be extensively spread." This prediction came true.[76] In Taranath's account there are several instances where the monks performed various types of rituals and Tantric exercises to help the monarch. Taranath[77] says that when Vikramashila vihara was attacked by Turuska (Turkish) army, Prajñaraksita, the Buddhist preceptor of king Bheyapala, made big offerings to Cakrasamvara and the army was struck by terrible famine four times, thus repelling the Turuska attack. In another instance, Taranath talks about Lilavajra, a scholar of Tantrika scripture who attained Yamari siddhi and defeated Turuska soldiers by drawing Yamari cakra.[78] In one fine instance, Taranath has mentioned that a Buddhist monk named Silakirti, made various preparation of elixir and gave these to others. By these one could reach the age of 150 and old men became young. In this way, he caused welfare to about 500 monks and "pious members" of the royal household. All these accounts are too conventional to be accepted at face value. However, they definitely give us an idea that the importance of rituals and their mystical power, which was very much in vogue at that time, drew the kings closer to the Buddhist viharas.

During the early medieval period all major eastern Indian viharas were the centres of ritual activities, which was an integral part of Vajrayana sect. Ritual popularised the dry ideologies of a limited number of renouncers, converting it into a mass-oriented system. Mahayana Buddhism succeeded in popularising itself with masses. It opened way for lay society's participation in the religion. The custom of monks and lay people coming together on the uposatha day helped to popularise religion and propagate it in the early medieval period. Both donors and donees needed more and more sumptuous and luxurious ritual performances which were thought to supply reciprocal merits to both sides. Rituals, which necessitated exotic and valuable goods, especially various kinds of incenses, in some respect played a role in intensifying social differences. The king and the elite class tried their best to show off and stabilise their social status by offering incenses as varied as possible. But the general masses simply could not afford them. Thus it helped the king to overawe the masses by the pomp and show of the rituals. In a way, it helped the ruler to draw some respect from the general people. I-tsing mentions Caitya-vandana or the worship of caitya in Tamralipti in his account. He saw the same ceremony in Nalanda in a different way.[79] He states that in India Uposattha became a colourful festival after the introduction of the ceremony of image-worship. It was a ritual worship of Buddha. The monks were invited by laymen to officiate as priests, winding up the worship with offerings of flowers, chanting of hymns and recital of holy legends.[80] This activity was followed by sumptuous feast given by the host to the invited monks. According to I-tsing, "the host approaches the priests and after the salutation, invites them to the festival and the ceremony of feasting monks by a householder is observed on a scale so grand that all the trays and plates are full of the cakes and rice left over, and melted butter and cream can be partaken of to one's hearts content."[81] Thus, through these rituals, the king was able to overawe the masses by its pomp and show, which in a way helped the ruler to draw some respect from the general people.

Finally, we will try to examine the relationship between the concept of kingship as evolved in viharas, and the exercise of legitimate authority by kings in early medieval eastern India. In the entire history of eastern India, during the early medieval period, no event is accorded more importance for the establishment of legitimate authority than the founding of Buddhist kingship during the reign of Dharmapala. "Immediately after ascending to the throne, the king invited the teachers of the Prajña-paramita. He accepted Haribhadra and Jnanapada as his preceptor and filled all directions with the Prajña-paramita and the Sriguhyasamaja. He built in all about fifty centres for the Doctrine, of which thirty-five were centres for the study of the Prajña-paramita. He also built the Vikramashila vihara. He was an incarnation of acarya Kambala-pa."[82] This episode constitutes the classical designing both of what kingship means and how it was to be regularised.[83]

During the early medieval period, eastern Indian rulers were primarily concerned about the maintenance of social harmony, political stability and economic welfare of the kingdom. To fulfill such fundamental duties, the monarch had some rights like rights over land usage and superior ownership and, in a situation of graded land rights, privilege to levy various kinds of taxes, it was clear to kings that unless legitimation was rooted in effective response to the everyday needs of society, their claim to cosmic status was of small comfort. The converse was equally true, i.e., with the maintenance of these benefits royal authority was enhanced. The Neulpur charter[84] of Subhakara describes the king as a paramasaugata and 'upholder of the varnashrama dharma', who ''puts four varnas in their proper places''. The Bhagalpur plates[85] of Narayanapala also mention the king Narayanapala as an ardent Buddhist (Paramasaugata). According to Taranath, the Pala dynasty was Surya or solar dynasty and the Sena rulers of lunar (Candra) lineage. Some Pala rulers' failure to do something significant for the Buddhist monastery deprived them of this honour.[86]

Viharas acted as the most crucial factor in limiting royal power Because of the viharas’ closeness to the people and because of its role in lending cohesiveness to the realm, a monastic community was invaluable asset to effective kingship. As mentioned earlier, for legitimation, there is a need for reciprocity between key elements in the society. In the political field, power arrangements continuously shift and legitimation of authority needs regularly to be renewed. As P.L. Berger indicates, the legitimating formulae of any community need reaffirmation, even when no threat or challenge exists.

Because most of the available source material from early medieval eastern India comes either from the monks of the viharas or from kings in the form of royal inscriptions, one would expect notions of reciprocity to dwell frequently on the relationship between the viharas and monarchy. While this is true, one may read between the lines for some picture of what was actually a more pluralistic reciprocity, with various groups within society and the populace in general being the other two participants. Indeed, as reflected in contemporary literary evidence, a rich heritage of ideology, symbolism and rituals existed in eastern India during the early medieval period. The following discussion identifies three aspects of nurturing of legitimation, each involving the king, the viharas and the people in various ways: the normative quality of kingship, centring primarily on its responsibility to protect and further the Dhamma; and the role of ritual and ceremony in keeping alive not just the memory of the Buddha, but also faith in the doctrine's power.

The emphasis placed upon the vihara's purity has been central from the tradition's beginning, relating this to an ideology of merit. As mentioned earlier, later on merit became transferable among pious followers. The modern dynamics of this have been carefully discussed by S.J. Tambiah, who shows how the ascetic monk becomes "an intermediary who can reach up to mystical powers associated with the Buddha and the sacred text (in Thailand), and who can in turn transfer these powers to the layman in a form that can positively sacralize this life and the next."[87] As the king is ideally the mediator between the body politic and the cosmic realm, so the vihara's plenipotentiary role helps to provide sacral meaning to mundane existence and the human odyssey. In Heitzman's88 words, "religious institutions (like viharas) were crucial for linking local systems into larger organizational units; every person or group who controlled political power or economic power joined in patterns of religious patronage." The concept of ritual polity postulated by Heitzman puts forward a triangle of sacred kings, ideological cum religious systems, and localized productive relations as closely allied components in the growth of early states and economies. The role of the king as protector of the Dhamma was in direct correlation with his role as chief patron of the viharas, though it went beyond this role as well. Aside from the direct advantages of various land grants and other endowments which kings made available to monasteries, without which they could not have flourished, royal beneficence was also seen as a model for others, in spirit if not in kind. The importance attached by the compilers of the chronicles to the generosity of kings was not simply out of appreciation for what the viharas received materially. It was also recognition that monarchs well disposed toward the livelihood of the monks furthered Dhamma in a number of ways, beyond the maintaining of order and justice within society. In the process, not only was the Dhamma enhanced and nurtured; the whole process of legitimation was deepened through this internalisation.

The most standard and conspicuous way by which society's roots in the sacred realm underwent reaffirmation was through ceremonies, festivals and other forms of rituals. I-tsing mentions caitya-vandana or the worship of caitya in Tamralipti in his account. It is true that the performance of rituals had its less elevated dimensions. It became an instrument of mass participation in the religious affairs and also an important instrument of the process of reminding, again and again, as well as reaffirming and reassuring.[89] In conclusion, it should be emphasised that rituals became a means for seeking legitimacy by royal patrons during the early medieval period.


A major source of information for our work is the various excavated sites depicting ruins of early medieval sanghas. Although most of them are in highly dilapidated conditions, these sites throw ample light on our area of research. The discussion of these archaeological data will automatically better our understanding of early medieval sanghas in eastern India. As there are innumerable sites corresponding to our period, it is difficult to quantify their exact numbers. However, to have some idea about them we have worked out a list of some of the major as well as minor sites (with state-wise configuration) as follows: 

In Bengal—1. Somapura mahasangha (identified with Paharpur in Rajshahi district of Bangaladesh); 2. Jagaddala sangha  (Barind region of Bangladesh); 3. Raktamrittika sangha (in Murshidabad district of West Bengal); 4. Pattikera sangha  (identified with Mainamati-Lalmai Ridge in the Tippera district of Bangladesh); 5. Bhasur sangha (near Mahasthan, Bogra district in Bangladesh); 6. Tamralipti sangha  (identified with Tamluk in Midnapur district of West Bengal); 7. Sitakot sangha; 8. Jhewari (in Chittagong district of Bangladesh); 9.The minor sites include Halud sangha (near Paharpur), Pandita sangha (in Chittagong district, Bangladesh).

In Orissa—1. Ratnagiri mahasangha  (on a small stream called Keluaa in Cuttack district); 2. Puspagiri sangha (identified with the contiguous hills of Lalitagiri and Udayagiri in Cuttack district); 3.Achutrajpur (in Puri district); 4. Khiching (in Mayurbhanj district); 5.The minor sites are situated at Vajragiri (in Cuttack district), and Bhorasila sangha (Puri district).

In Bihar—1. Nalanda mahasangha (in Biharsharif district); 2.Vikramashila mahasangha (in Bhagalpur district); 3. Kurkihar (in Gaya district); 4. Minor sites at Taradih (Gaya district), Ghosrawan (Biharsharif district).

In Assam, not a single sangha has been excavated as yet, so we have only minor sites at Deo-Parvat, Dahparvatiya, and Tezpur (all in Golaghat subdivision).

There are a total of 59 inscriptions related with the Buddhist sanghas, in eastern India during the time span of 500-1200 CE. Twenty-one of these inscriptions are land grants ranging from small plots to vast areas covering several villages. The remaining 38 inscriptions record donations of other kinds made by various types of people to different Buddhist sanghas (monk as community) as well as to certain individual monks.   A regional analysis of these land grants indicates that the highest number of land grants came from Bengal (8) followed by Orissa (6), Bihar (5) and Assam (1). Chronologically speaking, the majority of land grants belong to the time span of seventh-eighth century CE, while few of them may be ascribed to the period tenth to twelfth century CE.

These inscriptions constitute the major source for our study, and the majority of them in the form of royal land grants. This type of grant was often engraved on the copper plates, but a few written on stone have also been found. The royal charters were not only the king’s announcement of the endowment, but were also official orders decreed upon the government officers and the villagers concerned. Though the contents of the royal land grants of our period show considerable variety, the general pattern of the charters was almost similar. Some grants begin with the genealogy of the rulers and then enumerate the details of the grant. The records are concluded with some imprecatory verses and mention the name of the scribes and the engravers. The section giving the details of the grant contains valuable information for the study of land system, taxation as well as the privileges and immunities transferred to the donees. Moreover, it provides the details concerning the type of land, nature of cultivation and sometimes the exact area of land donated. Although some land grants that are not in the form of the above pattern, they too often provide details of the types of land, boundaries, cultivation, among other details.  Almost all the donatory inscriptions contain information pertaining to the nature of endowment and the donee. Sometimes they mention the purpose for which the benefaction was made. These details furnish valuable information for studying the extent of property held by the Buddhist sanghas and their involvement in economic activities. Besides, they help determine the type of property donated, the nature of the patronage, which the institution received. The inscriptions have the unique importance of being contemporary sources. Moreover, in many cases, they can definitely be dated and located; hence, their information can be useful in determining the chronology of development of sanghas in various parts of eastern India during the early medieval period.

Apart from the donatory inscriptions, we have used a large number of inscriptions on seals and sealings found at the site of great monastery of Nalanda and Ratnagiri (1386 in number). Though many religious institutions used seals for administrative purposes, only Nalanda has yielded a large number of seals and sealings containing valuable information. Most of the legends on the Nalanda seals and sealings have been deciphered and translated; yet some of them need more careful reading and interpretation. The value of the information, which can be gathered from the seals, depends largely upon the interpretation of terms used in legends. Their information can be used mainly for the study of the administrative organisation of the Nalanda Mahasangha and also of its relations with regional monasteries and various outside bodies. The unique importance of the seals and sealings lies in the valuable light they throw on certain aspects of the internal administration of the institution and also the way in which it exercised its authority over the villages under its control, aspects which are not brought to light by other sources.

In addition, the inscriptions are not evenly spread over the region under consideration. Thus, Orissa has yielded the largest number of inscriptions, whereas only a few have come to light from Assam. Hence, it becomes extremely difficult to study the various stages of development of certain aspects of the economic functions of sanghas. Moreover, the value of inscriptions as a source for a study of this type largely depends upon the possibility of explaining various terms and expressions mentioned in them. One has to rely on etymology, though it is not always a satisfactory method. On the other hand, certain terms, though clear by themselves, do not enlighten us as to their specific relevance to the subject. Therefore one has, for the interpretation of such terms, to consider evidence from other regions. Yet, the accuracy of any interpretation based on evidence from other regions, may be questionable on the ground of possible regional variations.

Among the literary sources, we have used for the present study the most important information comes from the records of the Chinese travellers. The Chinese monk Hsuan Tsang, who travelled in India in the first half of the seventh century CE, has recorded his experience and impressions of various institutions and individuals. I-tsing, who went to India a few decades after Hsuan Tsang, has also recorded an account of his visit. Although Hsuan Tsang visited many places in both north and south India, I-tsing’s associations were limited to eastern India. Both of them spent much of their time studying and copying Buddhist scriptures and they have left valuable memoirs of several Buddhist monasteries in eastern India. However, their information is largely limited to the function and organisation of larger monasteries such as Nalanda, and therefore very little is revealed about the management of affairs of other monasteries. Yet, theirs is the only available information on certain aspects of economic function of Buddhist monasteries. In this respect, I-tsing’s records contain more details than the account of Hsuan Tsang. I-tsing presents a full discussion of various problems arising from disciplinary matters within the sanghas and that out of organisation and function of the sanghas. Fa-hsien’s record as compared to Hsuan Tsang’s and I-tsing’s records, is less informative on the aforesaid issues. Of all these sources, the inscriptions, though remaining the most important source for our study, are necessarily limited in number for our period of about 650 years.

As regards the accounts of Chinese travellers, their evidence is entirely limited to the affairs and organisation of the Buddhist institutions. Even that information is based largely on the larger monasteries, where the travellers spent most of their time. Besides, the travellers were not interested in recording any possible difference in the conditions and organisation of the establishments belonging to various Buddhist schools. Above all, their main concern was to record the condition of Buddhism in India and to study how the Buddhist Vinaya was practised by the Indian monks, and therefore, any information on the social and economic functions of the Buddhist monasteries are found only in incidental references. Owing to these limitations, it is inevitable that many questions would remain unanswered.


[1] For South Indian temples, see Spencer, G.W.  'Temple money lending and livestock redistribution in early Tanjore', Indian Economic and Social History Review, V, 1968, 277-294.

[2] A.K. Narain, Studies in History of Buddhism, 197.

[3] Epigraphia Indica [hereafter EI], XII, 106.

[4] Ibid., XX, 43-44.

[5] Ibid, XXVIII, 321.

[6] Archaeological Survey of India Review [hereafter ASR], III, 126.

[7] EI, XVII (1923-24), 321-322,1133-37.

[8] Ibid., XXI, 98-99.

[9] S. Dutt, Buddhist Monks and Monasteries, London, 1962; rep. Delhi, 1982, 209.

[10] P.C. Dasgupta, Studies in Archaeology, 309-315.

[11] Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh [hereafter JASB], IV, 1908, 101.

[12] Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Society [hereafter JBORS], IV, pt. III, 1918, 266-80.

[13] Indian Historical Quarterly [hereafter IHQ], VI, 1930, 45-57.

[14] EI, XV, 306-309.

[15] B. D. Chattopadhyaya, Article in R. Thapar (ed) Recent perspective...; R. S. Sharma, chapter 'Medieval Monastic Settlement' in Urban Decay in Ancient India, Delhi, 1987.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Richard M. Eaton, Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1706, Berkeley, 1993, 3-21.

[18] Puspa Niyogi, Brahmanic Settlements in Different Subdivisions of Ancient Bengal, 4, 19-20.

[19] D. D. Kosambi, "The Basis of Ancient Indian History," Journal of American Oriental Studies 75, pt.1, 1955, 36.

[20] Susan L Huntington, The Pala-Senas School of Sculpture- Studies in South Asian Culture, Leiden, 1984, 179-201.

[21] Ronald Inden, "The Ceremony of the Great Gift (Mahadana): Structure and Historical Context in Indian Ritual and Society," in Marc Gaborieau and Alice Thorner, Asie du sud: Traditions et changements (Paris: Centre national de la recherché scientifique, 1979), 131-136.

[22] Nayanjot Lahiri, "Landholding and Peasantry in the Brahmaputra Valley 5th-13th centuries CE," Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 33, no. 2 (June 1990): 166.

23 See for example H. P. Ray, The Winds Of Change: Buddhism and The Maritime Links of South Asia, Delhi, 1986.

[24] A.K. Narain, op.cit., 197.

[25] J. Takakusu, A Record of the Buddhist religion as practiced in India and Malaya Archipelago by I-tsing, Oxford, 1896, reprint, Delhi, 1966, 65.  

[26] Taranath, History of Buddhism in India, Potala edition (1946); tr. Lama Chimpa and Alka Chattopadhyaya, ed. Debi Prasad Chattopadhyaya from Tibetan, Simla, 1970, 274.

[27] Ibid., 313.

[28] Ibid., op. cit., 320.

[29] Based on Heitzman's model.

[30] A large number of seals and sealings found at Nalanda, and Ratnagiri provide valuable data for the study of certain aspects of monastic administration, which are not mentioned in the accounts of the Chinese travelers. The majority of the seals bear the legend Sri Nalanda mahavihara caturdisya bhikshusanghasya) which may be translated as [the seal] of the samgha of venerable Bhikshus of the four quarters at the Nalanda, mahavihara. (H. Sastri, 'Nalanda and its Epigraphic Material', MASI, 1942, 39-40). Similarly in Ratnagiri mahavihara, 1386 seals have been found, out of which majority of them were issued by the mahavihara with the legend depicted on it as Sri-Ratnagiri-mahavihariya a(a)rya-bhikshu-sa(m)ghasya. As these seals refer to the entire community of monks at Nalanda, and Ratnagiri respectively, it is evident they were used to denote the authority of the general assembly of monks.  One of the seals refers to a monastery in the mahavihara; this seal bears the legend [Nalanda,] yam sri-sakraditya-krita-[vi]hare catur ddisi-arya ma(ma)-ha bhikshu-sanghasya. (H. Sastri, op.cit. p.38, no. s-1 848.) If the reading of this inscription is accepted, the legend may be translated as [the seal] of the samgha of the four quarters in the monastery caused to be built by Sri Sakraditya, at Nalanda. Obviously, there were several other monasteries or viharas of this kind on the premises of the Nalanda mahavihara.

[31] Nalanda and its Epigraphic Materials, 37, seal no. 455, 40. A few other sealings, found at Nalanda, though referring to various other monasteries, bear the Dhamacakra symbol of the Nalanda mahavihara. The use of the Dharmacakra symbol on the seals of other monasteries seems to indicate that those monasteries were either subordinate to Nalanda or were subsidiary institutions. Thus it is evident that the Nalanda mahavihara had a network of subordinate monasteries in different areas.

[32] A. Ghosh, Nalanda and its Epigraphic Materials, Delhi, 1939, 47, seal no. s. 9 r.144 (pl. V, a)--In one instance, one of the janapadas was associated with the monastery of the villages.

[33] R. Thapar, 'Patronage And Community', ed. Recent Perspectives of Early Indian History, Bombay, 1995, 23.

[34] H. Kulke, 'Early State Formation and Royal Legitimation inTribal Areas of Eastern India', in R. Moser and M. K. Gautam (ed.), Aspects of Tribal Life in South Asia I: Strategy and Survival, Berne, 1978, 29-38.

[35] B.S. Miller, The Powers of Arts, Delhi, 1992.

[36] Dialogues of Buddha, Tr. T. W. and C. A. F. Rhys Davis, 1921, London, III, 77-94.

[37] H. Kulke, "Fragmentation, Segmentation versus Integration," Studies in History, vol. IV, 1982.

[38] B. D. Chattopadhyaya, 'Historiography, History and Religious Centres: Early Medieval North India circa CE 700-1200', in Vishakha N. Desai (ed.) Gods, Guardians and Lovers, North Indian Temple Sculptures, c .CE 700-1200, Ahmedabad, 1993, 34-46.

[39] See for example B. D. Chattopadhyaya, "Political process and the Structure of Polity in Early medieval India-Problems of Perspective" in Making of Early Medieval India, New Delhi, 1994. Also see H. Kulke, processural model in The State in India, 1000-1700, New Delhi, 1992.

[40] Peter L.Berger,The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, New York, 1969, 33.

[41] Marcel Mauss, The Gift (New York, 1967), 45 ff.

[42] Romilla Thapar, Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations, New Delhi, 1987, 107.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Cf. Marcel Mauss, op. cit., 1.

[45] Taranath, op. cit.,  271-310 ff.

[46] Ibid., 257-300.

[47] Ibid., 279.

[48] Ibid., 257.

[49] Ibid., 252.

[50] Ibid.,  271-310.

[51] Ibid., 252.

[52] Ibid., 304.

[53] Subhasitaratnakosa, ed. D.D. Kosambi and V.V. Gokhale, Harvard Oriental Series, vol. 42, 1957, XXXVI.

[54] See Taranatha, 243, 247, 250.

[55] Taranath, op. cit., 230.

[56] R. S. Sharma, "The Feudal Mind," in Social Science Probings, vol. V.

[57] Ibid., 257-330 ff.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid., 304.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Tilak Hettiarchchy, History of Kingship in Ceylon up to the fourth century CE, 143, esp. Ch. on "The Relationship between the King and the Sangha," 116-143.

[62] S. Beal, tr. Si-Yu-Ki, Buddhist Records of the Western World: Chinese Accounts of India, London, 1881, 106.

[63] J. Takakusu, op. cit., 63.

[64] Taranath, op.cit., 262.

[65] Ibid., 232.

[66] Ibid., 233.

[67] Ibid., 262.

[68] Ibid., 267.

[69] Ibid., 279.

[70] R. Eaton, op. cit., 3-21.

[71] Taranath, op. cit., 314.

[72] Ibid., 318.

[73] Ibid., 206. 

[74] Ibid., 278.

[75] Ibid., 279

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid., 307.

[78] Ibid., 326.

[79] J. Takakusu, op. cit., 41-42.

[80] Ibid., 35-42.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Taranath, op. cit., 274-75.

[83] Contemporary rulers in Orissa believed in and patronised Buddhism and its institutions, but they do not seem to have engaged in anything similar to this. The Buddhist complexes at Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udasyagiri are good examples of regional patronage

[84] EI, XV, 1-8.

[85] Indian Antiquary, XV, 304 ff.

[86] Taranath, op. cit., 271-310.

[87] Stanley J. Tambiah, 'The Ideology of Merit', in E. R. Leach (ed). Dialectic in Practical Religion, 116.

[88] James Hitzman, Ritual, 24; "Polity and economy: the transactional network of an imperial temple in medieval South India," Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. XXXIV.

[89] For a general theoretical discussion of the role of religious observances, see B. L. Smith, Religion and Legitimation of Power in Sri Lanka, Chambersburg, 1978, 74-80.

Amit Jha is a lecturer in the Department of History at Sri Aurobindo College, Delhi University, India.

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