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Richard S. Cohen
NAGA, YAKSINI, BUDDHA: LOCAL DEITIES AND LOCAL BUDDHISM AT AJANTA
INTRODUCTION: AN ELECTRONICDISCUSSION ON SPIRIT CULTS AND BUDDHISM
Several years ago, Dr. William Bodiford sent a message to the electronic discussion group Buddha-Iposing the following questions: "Is the worship of local spiritcults an essential partof Buddhisttraditionsin Asia?Or, in other words-Are there any Buddhist traditions in which local spirit cults do NOT play a major role?"1Bodiford's post generated a particularly stimulating threadof discussion. Indeed, the fact that this thread continued vigorously for the next month and one-half-through Christmas and the New Year, as well as the start of a new semester-testifies to the salient importance of Bodiford's query. The parametersof discussion were quickly set; every term came underscrutiny.Did Bodiford pose one question or two? Did Bodiford really intend to suggest that local spirit cults are essential to Buddhist traditions?Might such cults be simply normal, but contingent, parts of Buddhist traditions?What did Bodiford mean by "tradition"? What defines a spiritcult? What are the criteria for determiningwhethera spirit cult does or does not play a "majorrole"?
1 Posted by William Bodiford, associate professor, University of California, Los Angeles, to Buddhaemail@example.com on December 16, 1994. Messages to electronic distribution lists, like Buddha-i, are an informal medium of exchange between scholars. There is no expectation on the part of participantsin these discussions that their observations and opinions are, or should be, finely crafted and suitable for publication. For this reason, the following account of the discussion inspired by Bodiford'spost will be generalized and impressionistic. I will neither name names nor cite direct quotations.
? 1998 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0018-2710/98/3704-0003$02.00
History of Religions
When participantsceased problematizingthe terms of Bodiford's post and attempted to respond to it, they showed a striking reluctance to answer him in the affirmative.A significant proportionwere unwilling even to entertain the notion that local spirit cults may be as integral to Buddhist traditions in Asia as, for instance, the four noble truths. This response surprisedme, though it should not have. After all, Bodiford posted his query to Buddha-l precisely because, in his words, "most scholarly accounts of Buddhist life seem to either ignore Buddhist worship of local deities, dismissing it as 'folk religion,' or treat it as an example of syncretism."Presumably,they do so because they do not find such deities or their cults essential. Although nearly all respondents acknowledged that cults for local spirits are normal parts of Buddhist traditions in Asia, there was nevertheless broad agreement that such cults are contingent, cultural accretions to the religion, not necessarily identifiable with "Buddhism" as such. Bodiford's inquiry inspired so vibrant and sustained a discussion because its ramifications spiral beyond the lack of scholarship on spirit cults, folk religion, or syncretism-though these are lacunae that must be filled-to issues of central import for any scholarly study of Buddhism. Where do we locate Buddhism? What is normatively Buddhist? Almost no participantin the discussion was comfortable with Bodiford's use of the word "essential"; yet, almost every post attempted to pinpoint criteria for delimiting normativeBuddhism. Typically, these criteriadescribed a two-tier model, distinguishing a "true"Buddhism, founded in pure philosophy, the Buddha'sexact attitude, or the confronting of essentialisms, from a "lesser" Buddhism that involves supernatural powers, the worship of spirits or deities, ordinaryfolk, and indigenous beliefs. Scholars who divided Buddhism thus tended to represent the upper tier as normative, sociologically as well as ideologically, by associating it with the community of monks. There also were a few discussants who problematized Bodiford's suggestion that local spirit cults may be conceived as essential to Buddhist traditions in Asia, while refraining from positing universalized criteria for normativity. This is the position I take myself. In my reading, "local,"not "essential,"is the most importantterm in Bodiford'spost. In seeking a universally generalizable Buddhism, scholars have ignored "place." One aspiringto escape from normativedefinitions may find, however, that place, locality, provides a powerful category for analytic reconstructions of Buddhism. Place sets the idiosyncratic and indigenous on par with the translocal and universal, the here and there with the everywhere. This article will explore how a scholar of Indian Buddhism might take place seriously as a ground for interpretation.How does Buddhism come to be of a place? The answer that follows may be understood as a play
on Peter Brown's dictum that "the supernaturalbecomes the depository of the objectified values of the group."2That is, the "supernatural" is always emplaced for no better reason than that people live, work, study, meditate, and worship in places; if the term "Buddhism"is to be meaningful, it must be connected to people, to Buddhists, who lived their lives as Buddhists in places. In this case, the category place will be treated in terms of locale. In particular,my subject is Buddhism as located at the Ajantacaves, a fifthcentury C.E. rock-cut monastic "village" in western India renowned for its paintings, sculptures, and inscriptions. What deities lived at this locale? How were the deities emplaced within Ajanta'smonastic architectures? What do these deities' locations tell us about the constitution of Ajanta'sBuddhist community and its values? How might cultic activities for the deities located at Ajantabe viewed as contributingto a local Buddhism, Buddhism as a religion of place? My analysis will weave together four discursive threads.The first of these threadsis the explication of the theoretical assumptions that lead me to treat Buddhism in its local formation at Ajanta. The second threadis the actual materialevidence from the Ajanta caves themselves, which includes paintings, sculptures,architectural forms, and epigraphs.This Ajanta materialwill be set in broader contexts through my final two threads. The third is a consideration of models of patronagethat had an impact on local community formation; the fourth, a consideration of the political pressures that fostered the development of Ajanta as a site for patronageas well as for the establishment of a local community. The local deities to be considered below will include a ndga king, the yaksini Hariti, and the Buddha himself. The inclusion of the Buddha on this list, as a deity of place, may be surprising.However, it is a problematic conceit that the Buddha was a purely translocal religious figure, whose significance may be recovered exclusively through literary and doctrinal sources. For this site's patrons, visitors, and community, the Buddha at Ajanta was a translocal divinity with a specifically local identity, just as the Great Goddess is Vaisno Devi at her temple on Mount Trikft3 or Siva is Acalesvara in his temple at Tiuvarir.4As I shall show, at Ajanta the Buddha became of this place through his association with and resolution of indigenous and uniquely local problems. Though in nirvana, this Buddha was nevertheless present and active in the world.
2 Peter A Brown, "Society and the Supernatural: Medieval Change,"in his Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), p. 318. 3 Kathleen M. Erndl, Victory to the Mother: The Hindu Goddess of Northwest India in Myth, Ritual, and Symbols (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). 4 David Shulman, Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 50.
Being the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Sections of the Vinaya of the Malasarvastivadin (Rome: Instituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. these individuals "cut off their beards and hair. ultimately. At Ajanta this was certainly the case. One must throughout distinguish the exotic curiosities from the essentials of holy life. in turn. p. ed. yaksinis. given its premises. and the Buddha as well. he falls away from this norm. this localized Buddha. 7 Raniero Gnoli. and becomes physically or mentally caught up in mundane. to the degree that an individual does not segregate himself from the world. put on red robes. 1975). 157. conditional. Ortner. and with properfaith follow in renunciationthe Blessed One... 1978).. remembered as much for the strength of his opinions as that of his scholarship. p. an a priori logic to the argument that Buddhism.. Within the context of Asian Buddhism. will be antagonistic to social life."8 5 Edward Conze. 1978). social interests. nirvana. 53. distinguishing indigenous religious cultures from a translocal Buddhist norm. social relations almost invariably involve nagas. 8 Sherry B. The Gilgit Manuscript of the Sayandsanavastu and the Adhikaranavastu. Edward Conze. elucidated this model with characteristic aplomb.."5 Second.. 6 Ibid. p. Conze divided Buddhism into two opposing forms: "Much of what has been handed down as 'Buddhism'is not due to the exercise of wisdom. Social relations necessarily involve interactions among humanbeings.. they devote themselves to gaining spiritual power and spiritualinsight leading. Buddhism: Its Essence and Development (New York: Harper Torchbooks. Sherry Ortner explains the logic underlying this model: "It seems fairly safe to say that orthodox.This transition occurs ritually when. . 15. Separatedfrom the pressures of family and work. a religion of antisocial individualism. but to the social conditions in which the Buddhist community existed. First. Sherpas through Their Rituals (New York: Cambridge University Press.. THE DOMESTICATIONOF AN "ANTISOCIAL RELIGION" As I noted above. then.. who himself went forth from the home to the homeless life. p."7 Such Buddhists concern themselves little with social relations.History of Religions 363 As the satgha's head. They are the only Buddhists in the proper sense of the word. grounded the Buddhist satigha's participation in local social relations. proper Buddhists are individuals who reject indigenous acculturation. I have read the manuscript'sanagarad as dgdrad. There is. Conversely.to absolute social transcendence."6Here. scholars who responded negatively to Bodiford's queries often did so through recourse to a two-tier model. Conze associated these two forms of "Buddhism" with sociological and historical realities: "The monks are the Buddhist elite.. 12. canonical Buddhism was . as the stock description reads.
normalize it. as Conze admits. it is realized in mental cultivation."12 This. Fuller. and then apply it to the empirical evidence to try to divide what is actually united by common underlying themes and principles. 13 Ivan Strenski."14The history of the sahgha's dynamic interactionwith the laity suggests that these two groups naturallycame together to realize social goals. "whereverthe Dharmahas been a living. it then follows that social involvements are always somehow extrinsic to Buddhism proper. 12 C. p. The CamphorFlame: Popular Hinduismand Society in India (Princeton. it is surprising that she did not see the tautologous nature of this argument. and civilizations emerge out of this union. when they "convert an indigenous."13 Domestication occurs. societies. "wheneverthe sangha participates with the laity in institutions" through the mechanism of gift exchange. It is not Southeast Asian Buddhism that is "illogical" but the model that would valorize a single strand of Buddhist doctrine. 464-65. in short. 1992). 11Ibid. by unpacking "domestication of the sargha" one can account for why Ortner'sa priori 9 Conze. 14 Ibid. Yaksini. pp. . 27. p."9 Similarly. J. J. p.Buddha If one holds that Buddhism is a priori antisocial.J. "On Generalized Exchange and the Domestication of the Sangha. Buddhist cultures. simply does not hold". predicting conflict between Buddhism and society from the antisocial premises of the doctrine."1lGiven Ortner'susual acumen. Buddhist theory has combined lofty metaphysics with a willing acceptance of magical and mythological beliefs. is the matterat stake in Bodiford's question: How ought scholars to conceive of Buddhism as a social and cultural formation. Fuller. That which is properly Buddhist is universal."Man 18 (September 1983): 464. 159-60. never local. N. and seek a determinate logic therein. Buddhism is not a social construction but a discursive construction of and about the truth. 159. ideological distinction into an analytic concept. 72. social reality. "Above all.. it is preserved in texts. not bodily gesture. a religion? Ivan Strenski offers a solution with his thesis that the "domestication" of the Buddhist sahgha was "a fundamentalinternalfactor propelling Theravada along the path to a fully social religious status. In short. Ortner freely acknowledges that for Southeast Asian Buddhism "the a priori argument. Yet.364 Naga. not archaeological sites (except insofar as they reproduce textual paradigms). Both Ortnerand Conze make a "stock anthropological error. which measures a religion-a social and cultural formation-against the yardstick of an a priori argumentand then attributesa mismatch to socioculturalfactors.: Princeton University Press. the sangha is a ritual receiver of gifts.."in the words of C. pp.10 she attributesthis failure to follow "logic" to "historical facts" and "social structure. 10Ortner. Strenskiwrites.
16Ibid. and social harmony prevails."16 Strenski's analysis went astray here." Here is a premise or logic to counter that promoted by Ortner and Conze. whereas social structures cannot credibly be read through the lens of doctrine. even those valorizing the monk as an antisocial individual. One can take account of place. generalized exchange "seeks an unbalanced condition 15Ibid. 473. 472.History of Religions 365 argumentdoes not hold for Southeast Asian Buddhism and why it makes little sense to delimit the participation of Buddhist monks in society as an illegitimate violation of Buddhist "premises. Strenski proposes that society is synthesized out of exchange relationships. restricted."Strenskiproposes that domestication "both avoids the appearanceand substance of reciprocity and expresses more durable and inclusive patterns of relationship.. by starting with this empirical social data. reciprocal relationships are fundamentalto Buddhism as a religion of place. p. he nevertheless tentatively accepts the ideological construction of the Buddhist monk as "a paradigmof non-reciprocity. For Strenski. "Restrictedexchange" involves what may be called a commercial element: two parties contract an equitable exchange of goods or services on a reciprocal basis. . it is not linear but complex in its configuration."15 In light of this "ideal." is domestication proper.. one is freed from Ortner'soverdetermined premises. for. The logic of domestication begins with the empirical observation that one always finds distinct links uniting the sangha with the laity. throughpatternsof exchange. We shall see such a mechanism clearly at work at Ajanta in the cult of a naga with whom the monks share their residence: the humans attend to his shrine/ home. as I shall discuss below. although Strenski rejects the premise that Buddhism is fundamentally antisocial. and in turnhe does not strike them dead. In Strenski's words. p. relationships of reciprocity between monks and the laity (or nagas) are problematic and play only a secondary role in the saigha's domestication. "generalized exchange. The second modality of exchange. Each party fulfills its part of the bargain. This is because. and that this relationship is almost invariably expressed through gestures of ritual giving. By subordinatingdoctrinal apologies for gift giving to the "bare"social fact of its occurrence. the full spectrumof Buddhist history and the fluidity of its local forms become available for consideration within a normalizing discourse. How does domestication work? Following the lead of Levi-Strauss's analysis of kinship. There are two basic patterns by which individuals become bound to one another and to a society through exchange: restrictedexchange and generalized exchange. we can read Buddhist ideologies. Indeed.
. The very natureof the archaeological evidence from Ajanta compels this evaluation.the first dilemma King Milinda poses to the monk Nagasena bears on the matterof gifts to the Buddhaafter his parinirvana: 17 19Ibid. . to their local residence in magnificent caves as well to their more general residence in a social system. p. see WalterM. so long as the monks attend to the local naga king's needs. the second from circa 462 and 480.. and civilization. 470."18 Here I lay a foundation for recovering Ajanta'slocal Buddhism.Buddha between exchange partners. like a lien. the problem of how Buddhist society was formed in the process of ritual giving"19then "domestication"provides an analytic concept of exceptional utility... the first of which lasted from approximately 100 B. "the problem of how domestication came about is. to 100 C.. As the mechanism of social solidarity. 20 18 Ibid. Ibid. the momentum of which tends to build up social solidarity. What we know of Buddhist life at Ajanta derives principally from physical remains that index past acts of giving. [Generalized exchange] thus links its members in a theoret- ically open system of indebtedness. typically by anothergroup or person than the original receiver of the first gift: A gives to B who gives to C .. This point can be clarified by way of an example. Spink. I will discuss Ajanta'shistory at greater length below. Ars Orientalis 21 For these dates. the wellsprings of Buddhist culture.E. Moreover. The institutionalization of a Buddhist community at Ajanta throughthe establishmentof a monastic "village" sets this sangha in a network of relationships that circulated obligation as a currency in the local sociopolitical economy.. If.E. it is possible to link this generalized-versus-restrictedexchange distinction to another opposition I play with in this article: translocal versus local.. In the Milindapafiha. until A finally receives his due. 'Domestication' simply names a process of the sangha's participation in a certain social solidarity.. society. benefiting lay society. which in turn supportsthe monks.366 Naga. 471.20 Our knowledge of Ajanta'sBuddhism is tied to gifts of monasteries. p. which requires repayment at some unspecified time. as Strenski claims. "The Archaeology of Ajanta."17 Again by reference to Ajanta. he provides steady and plentiful rains. Yaksini. Excavatory and decorative work at the site occurred in two phases." (1991): 67-94. Accordingly.. Strenski unpacks the term "domestication"as "the condition of the sangha within a system of generalized exchange. domestication provides a basic model for reconstructingthe social processes involved in the foundation of a Buddhist community at Ajanta.C. The monks' ritual interactionwith local divinities was one means by which they met the obligations attached.
. their fruits would not be as sweet. "the Blessed One accepts no gift. a shareholder in the things of the world. Rhys-Davids. 71). then he lacks value as an object of worship. The Buddha is like Johnny Appleseed of U. Such a set of equations may partially explain the apparent disjunction in the field of Buddhist studies between a scholarly interest in Buddhist nomos and one in local spirit cults. 146. .his is the ultimate in antisocial behavior. if the Buddha is not transcendentaland translocal. Paja is an exchange "made in connection with benefits for the worshiper. Nagasena holds that offerings to the Buddha are efficacious because in this case exchange does not require reciprocity. so why attempt to engage the Buddha in an exchange relationship? Yet. The Buddha (or his commemorative caitya) provides an occasion. ed.."22Nevertheless. 23 One finds a similar Abhidharmakosa:How can a gift question raised in Vasubandhu's to a caitya be meritorious if there is nobody there to enjoy it? The Kosa explains that a gift may be meritorious either because it is directly enjoyed by the recipient or because it is abandoned with no one to receive it and no expectation of recompense (Dwarika Das Shastri. 747.. W.S. then he cannot enjoy offerings.1987]. trans. the foundation of generalized community and social structures. 21 T. The Buddha is in nirvana.History of Religions 367 If the Buddha accepts gifts he cannot have passed entirely away. Adrian [Varanasi: mentaryof Acarya YaSomitra Mayer points out a similar distinction within Vaisnava devotionalism. escaped from all existence. The Questions of King Milinda (New York: Dover. In fact.sya of Acdrya Vasubandhuwith Sphiiutrtha ComBauddhaBharati. 12 above]. and any act done to him who accepts it not becomes empty and vain. Abhidharmako?aand Bh. Here we see a linkage between generalized processes of exchange. For he who is entirely set free accepts no honour. in the world. and therefore any honour paid to him becomes empty and vain."whereas seva is performed "without thought of benefit or return"(cited in Fuller [n. On the other hand if he be entirely passed away (from life). the community can still enjoy the fruit of their labors. for giving. then honours would not be offered to him.21 In other words. He must still be in union with the world. folklore: both broadcast seeds over fertile public land and then departed for points unknown. for such a network works through the displacement of presence and the postponement of profits. verse 4. p.23 In this way. 1963).and a valorization of translocality. p. 1:144-45. Even though these individuals are no longer present. the Buddha's translocality does not preclude his location within a network of generalized exchange. they would not have become the stuff of legends. unattached to the world. a context. p. so why participate with the Buddha in an exchange relationship?Nagasena'sresponse takes the same normative stance as that embraced by Conze and Ortner. 22 Ibid.121). having his being somewhere in it. if the Buddha is not present and local. if Johnny Appleseed or the Buddha did not travel to the beyond (obviously their actions have vastly different cosmological scopes).
two. The [monasteries] stood empty. fostering domestication through generalized exchange. p. even at the monks' inconvenience. this practice is acceptable because it makes the monks accessible to the laity. their presence functions as the direct reciprocationfor the gift of a dwelling. donors must unequivocally know that they will receive their spiritual due. and to satisfy their desire for spiritualmerit. or four [monks]." Strenski suggests that such a ploy had no role within orthodox Buddhist giving founded in generalized exchange. the Buddha disrupt the monks' own lives. is precisely what the Buddha's order precludes. in another during the afternoon. Nagasena explains: although it may seem contradictory for monks to accept fixed dwellings from the laity.. 'Count all [the monasteries]. The donor of a set of Buddhaimages in Ajanta'sCave 22 expresses the immediate results of giving in a verse 24 25 26 Strenski (n. locality. Strenski. which "liberatesgiftSacrigiving from petty calculation."26 fice. fostering domestication through restricted exchange. Yaksini. by appearing to be sacrifice. [and] should dwell in a different [monastery] at mid-day. According to this tale. 475. The Gilgit Manuscript of the Sayanasanavastu (n.Buddha As networks of generalized exchange find expression in metaphorsof translocality. Gnoli. 473.'"25Certain fruits of giving can only be had through monks' living presence. giving without a discernible guarantee of return. enjoining them to play "musical monasteries. one often finds that merit bears a "tangible" fruit and a this-worldly benefit. In addition. ed. the following story from the Milasarvastivada vinaya (MSV) illustrates the importof place and presence for restrictedexchange relationships between monks and donors: "The faithful erected many monasteries. 35. [but] few monks spent the rains retreat in Sravasti.. 7 above). Reciprocation is a normal and proper part of the monastic life. The Blessed One said. scoundrels took over [the monasteries]. three. reciprocal relationships find expression in those of place. and in [still] another at night. Instead. monks must do what is necessary to satisfy the laity. . 13 above). Similarly. p.. whereas the Milindapafiha set the Buddha's translocality as the basis for his absent involvement in acts of ritual exchange. Thus. In order to reciprocatethe faithful laity for their donations. so restricted. p.368 Naga. [A monk] should pass the morning in one [monastery]. The benefactors did not receive the spiritual merit that comes from [the monks'] use [of their donations]. this same text sets the monks' localization as the basis for their involvement in exchange relations. Depending upon the calculation.24Whether or not monks willfully intend to enter a restricted exchange relationship. despite Strenski'sdevaluation of spiritualmerit as a direct reciprocationfor gifts received. every [monastery] should be used personally by one. and presence.
both are normal. in short. the larger the palace. 1995). University of Michigan. 1995). Calif. ed. All translationshere are my own and are based on reconstructions of the Sanskrit that can be found in appendix A to my "Setting the Three Jewels. to recover a local Buddhism at Ajanta one has to problematize the Milindapafiha'spronouncement that the Buddha is absolutely translocal and does not enjoy worship himself. Domestication. How did Ajanta'spatrons. If one is to avoid Fuller's "stock anthropological error. Nor is this the case solely for monks. At the most basic level. in this [very life] become possessed of beauty. p. joy Sariputradeliberately increases Anathapindada's at building the Jetavana monastery by telling Anathapindadathat at the same time that he holds a cord to measure the monastery's foundation a golden palace comes into being in Tusita heaven: the larger the monastery.. Strong. and how did they diffuse that momentum throughoutthe broader society (and indeed the cosmos) to become domesticated through generalized exchange? 27 I reedited and retranslatedall Ajanta's inscriptions in my "Setting the Three Jewels: The Complex Cultureof Buddhism at the AjantaCaves" (doctoraldiss. and artisans make the Buddha present and use that presence to address mundane and local concerns? How did the Buddha and his community of monks gain institutional momentum in a particular place-Ajanta-through restricted exchange relationships. they become a delight to the eye. 29 Gnoli. dedicating the merit from that transaction to a group of ghosts haunting him. the creation of a Buddhist society."28Again.29Restricted exchange. at times I diverge widely from previous scholars. 80. p. At times my readings coincide with those previously published."27 Similarly. blazing like the sun in their faculties and sense. As a social phenomenon. works through both modes of exchange relationship. even though he is sometimes represented in doctrinal texts as utterly beyond samsara." 28 John S. The Experience of Buddhism: Sources and Interpretations (Belmont. in the MSV. too.History of Religions 369 included with this painting: "Those who have an image of the Conqueror made. In mythological terms. 24."one must entertainthe notion that the Buddha. and good qualities. works when the individuals involved are mutually present and when the fruits of the exchange are evident to the parties involved.: Wadsworth. Buddhism cannot be understood apart from its local manifestations. those ghosts instantaneously and visibly "were clothed in divine raiments. presence-for example. fortune. might participate in restricted exchange relationships. The Gilgit Manuscript of the Sayandsanavastu. . community of monks. nor solely through its local manifestations. the localization of a saiigha in a specific place-is itself the desired fruit.. the Pali commentary on the Dhammapada tells that when King Bimbisara made an offering of robes to the Buddha and community of monks.
Yaksini. 1). ninety minutes to the north. 1. Report on the Buddhist Cave Temples and Their Inscriptions (Varanasi: Bharatiya. approximatelythirty miles to the east. The nearest population centers to receive sustained attention from Indian archaeologists would have been a strenuous day's journey from Ajanta: Buldana. Buddha I I ' I26 Scale of i1 _900 100 00oo oo 600 600 .when the caves were excavated into a sheer scarp overhanging the Waghora River (fig.io . In 1992 a helipad was cleared to expedite the visit of a Japaneseprince.the same . and shrinelets. the rest of us ride the bus from the nearestrail link. pl. Jalgaon.-General plan of the Ajanta caves. caitya halls..ooo fee FIG. and Bhokardan.oo . 14. very cursorily. 1975).370 Naga. Even today the Ajanta caves are difficult to access. or from Aurangabad. they were equally isolated. the geophysical and historicoculturalenvironments that had an impact on Ajanta's establishment. A BRIEF DIVERSION: INTRODUCING AJANTA Before I localize the Buddha at Ajanta or explore the mechanisms of domestication as they pertain to patronage at the site. In the late fifth century C.E. Archaeological investigations of the district have uncovered no evidence of villages or towns located in the immediate vicinity of Ajanta's thirty-six monasteries. Source: James Burgess. I will set forth.three hours to the south.
31 These courtiersincluded Varahadeva. For Buddhabhadra'sinscription see my "Setting the Three Jewels. 57-62. 367-71. 1989.32 Further.Walter Spink's chronology and history of Ajanta binds the caves explicitly to the fortunes and social programof the Vakatakapolity." pp. no evidence links any of Ajanta's rock-cut buildings. circa 480. 119-21. one hundred linear miles to the east-southeast of Ajanta (fig. pp. or the paintings and sculptures for which they are renowned. 1974). Williams (New Delhi: Oxford and IBH in collaboration with the American Institute of Indian Studies. see my "Setting the Three Jewels. 69.responsible for Cave 16. and an unnamed feudatory raja subordinate to Harisena was responsible for Caves 17. who ruled from the city of Vatsagulma (now known as Washim). 378-81. see ShantaramBhalchandraDeo and Ramesh ShankarGupte. perhaps one of Harisena's wives. programmaticwork at Ajanta patronized 30 For a survey of the few archaeological remains from the Buldana district dating to Vakataka times. 357-62. 33 Walter M. my sole interest here lies in donors and donations belonging to the second phase.a minister of Harisena's. to 100 C. . sculptures. In actuality. personal communication with author.33 and that the neighboring Cave 2 may have been patronized by a close relative.History of Religions 371 distance to the south. a Vakataka ruler named Harisena inherited his father's throne in approximately 460 C. Ajanta's architecture. 2).1989).34 Approximately twenty years after the site's efflorescence."in Kaladarsana. "Ajanta'sChronology: Politics and Patronage. the second from circa 462 to 480. patronized Cave 26.30In any event. 34 Walter M. the first stretching from approximately 100 B.C. and epigraphs are representative of a complex and vibrant form of local Buddhism and provide a witness to Buddhism as a constituent of Indian society in the late fifth century.. According to Spink. who tells us that he was "bound in friendship with a minister of the mighty King of Asmaka over the course of many lifetimes" (elsewhere I have shown this Asmakan king was likely Harisena). epigraphs found on site associate Ajanta's various patrons with an emperor of the Vakataka dynasty named Harisena. Spink has argued that Ajanta's Cave 1 was the dedication of Harisena himself. Excavations at Bhokardan (Bhogavardhana) 1973 (Nagpur and Aurangabad: Nagpur University and MarathwadaUniversity." pp. Ajanta was created in two phases of patronage. 32 For Varahadeva's inscription see my "Setting the Three Jewels.E. For a survey of the few archaeological remains from Bhokardandistrict dating to Viakataka times." pp. paintings.Rather.a noble-becomemonk. 18." pp. and 19. All evidence points to these fifth-century patronsas being closely affiliatedwith the Harisena. Archaeological Remains in WesternIndia (Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan.E. see Ramesh ChandraAgrawal. Spink. 31 Spink. ed. Spink. Joanna G. to either Buldana or Bhokardan. Almost immediately thereafter "a consortium of the emperor's richest and most powerful courtiers"hired architects and artisans to realize this great project.E. 1981). For the Cave 17 inscription see my "Setting the Three Jewels. On the identification of Harisena as the mighty king of Asmaka referredto in Buddhabhadra's inscription. "Archaeology of Ajanta. Buddhabhadra."p.
. saKarakara K.:: :.2.ER GoRUCd SUA .-Vakataka India (not to scale).*a. :: muu: b^hatikapadra uvaoaragrata OBTk.::::::: withth C ave sites assoakakagratd Vakataka l urnaraasav ka at ak at l Cavesites asociated withthe Vakatakas inme Harisena of i Sahyadr Range (approximately) FIG. Map generated by author using Micros . :' URT B :: :.
tentative reconstruction. here I will set forth a general pattern for localization. At Ajanta.35 The following study of localization and domestication of Buddhism at Ajanta will proceed through a number of case studies. the monks soon left this narrowchasm at the head of the WaghoraRiver for points unknown. accomplished both the emplacement of Vkat. the Buddha was assimilated in body and role to Harisena. no. See my "Problems in the Writing of Ajanta'sHistory: The EpigraphicEvidence. . certain patronage. jataka tales. a patchwork of monastic regulations. sutras." Indo-Iranian Journal 40.aka society within that cave and the transformationof its resident monks into priests. the data found therein do not speak for themselves. 36 On the pros and cons of using the MSV for discussions of Ajanta. 63-77. For the reasons explained above. as a king's principal duty is to maintain the social and cosmic orders. I will show how the displacement of this yaksini from her original home in Rajagrha. by investigating the incorporation of a shrine to a naga king. mediators between the lay and spirit worlds. both physically and mythologically. I will discuss a pillared chapel dedicated to Hariti-a yaksini whose personal story was known to all the Buddhist world-excavated inside Cave 2.36I will supplement the 35 Although I have accepted the general outline of Spink'schronology for Ajanta'sVakataka phase. and retellings of the Buddha's life well known to Ajanta's community. so Ajanta's local Buddhas fulfilled this task in the place of Harisena. for a discussion of where Spink has gone wrong in his historical reconstruction. The second study will treat a "translocallocal" deity." pp. and doctrine. who lived in distant Vatsagulma. Although Ajanta is the richest of India's Buddhist archaeological sites for reconstructing a temporally and spatially localized Buddhism.History of Religions 373 by Vatsagulma's luminaries crashed to a halt with the destruction of the Vakatakafamily. in Cave 16. my own reconstructionof Vakatakahistory differs radically from the one Spink proposes. In this way. keeper of this Waghora chasm. and my "Setting the Three Jewels. in the rear wall beside the Buddha shrine. and her relocation within Cave 2. see my "Setting the Three Jewels. Due to the loss of sustained. for an alternative. The third study will explore the Buddha as a "local translocal" deity. First. Moving into a more "normative"Buddhist space. these three studies will not be "completed" by a fourth that treats the Buddha as a purely translocal deity: such studies are plentiful. 2 (April 1997): 125-48. The studies that follow are worked out througha reading of the evidence local to Ajanta through broaderpatternsof mythology. I will treat a "local" deity." pp. folklore. 122-27. these Buddhas' local presence played on translocal valences of Buddha as the Unexcelled King of Dharma to incorporate Ajanta and its community into the Vakataka social world. My principal literary source for this contextualizing materialwill be the MSV.
The ndga needed a new place to live. 362. Strong. Varahadeva'sdedicatory inscription describes this cave as "a splendid dwelling for the ascetic Indra (i.J. 1992). 26.374 Naiga. Being the Seventeenth and Last Section of the Vinaya of the Mulasarvistivddin (Rome: InstitutoItaliano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente.. ed. Once pacified. Varahadeva'sclaims have two important ramifications for interpreting the site.: Princeton University Press.two involve in the subduing of the nagas Apalala and Gopala."37 of great import: this place became the Buddha's home after formerly having been the abode of a naga king. and in Buddhist stories they protecttheirturf fiercely. First. 39 Raniero Gnoli. Nagas play an ambiguous role in Buddhist mythology. Varahadeva'sdedicatory inscription tells that he also excavated a new dwelling for the naga king located immediately inside the cave's entrance. N. Powerful creatures who dwell in a glorious but debased existence undergroundor in rivers. And so.among the naga and taming the beast without causing it harm. by designating Cave 16 as the Buddha'sdwelling. in addition to creating a home for Buddha. Nagas' power is distinctly localized. as well as with the eyewitness accounts of Chinese pilgrims who visited India between the fifth and seventh centuries. NAGA: LOCALIZING BUDDHISM IN CAVE 16 Cave 16 at Ajanta was a monastic residence dominated by a huge. Second.Buddha MSV with other literatureassociated with Ajanta. Sakyamuni proved his power to a group of ascetics by spending the night in the lair of a fire-breathing Similarly. the Buddha) excavated on the finest Here Varahadevaelucidates two facts mountain. which may be sweetly life-giving or torrential and deadly. 40 See John S. this mountain scarp's original inhabitant. p. 4). however. near river level (figs. Yaksini.. its naga king. nagas control patterns of fertility and destruction through their power over rains. 1:217-18. fierce and stormy battles precede the Buddha's inevitable triumph.Indeed. 38 Ibid. p. nagas become the staunchest guardiansof the Buddha and his 37 Ibid. The Legend and Cult of Upagupta: Sanskrit Buddhism in North India and Southeast Asia (Princeton.38 The entryway in front of this shrine had no provision for a door: Cave 16's naga king sat as an unblinking guardian over the entrance to this monastery and the Waghora River before it. Varahadevasuggests that in some as yet unspecified way the Buddhawas "alive" there. . 3.ndgas were amongthe Buddha'sstaunchest adversaries: soon after the awakening... The Gilgit Manuscript of the Sanghabhedavastu.e. was rendered homeless when the Vakatakas began to institute a Buddhist community at the site.40 both cases.39 tales the MSV tells of the Buddha'svisit to India'snorthwest. 1977). pp. 28. home to a ndga king. 361. monolithic representationof Buddha cut in a shrine room in the back.
ed.India: Mithila Institute of Post-GraduateStudies and Research in SanskritLearning. 43 Gnoli.: Princeton University Gnoli.History of Religions 375 FIG. doctrine.44 The following tale from the MSV allows a more detailed look at the subduing of ndgas. Bagchi. eds. 7 above). these two were members of the "gang of six" (sadvdrgika). 126. p. ed. 1987).. Strong.. Mulasarvastivadavinayavastu (Darbhanga. as well as the lesser-known example of a naga who. a version preservedin his watery world. . The Gilgit Manuscript of the Saighabhedavastu. p. 3.J.43 This latter belief possibly underlies the well-known story of Nagarjuna'sretrieval of the Perfection of Wisdom Sitras from the ndgas. is locatedjust insidethe doorwayflankedby the elephants.-A view of Cave 16 from across the Waghora River. When human. 44 S. The naga king Photoby author. Here we meet Asvaka and Punarvasuka. when a The ndstorm threatenedhis blissful meditation soon after awakening. A. preached a "corrupt version" of the Ekottaraagama.41 gas in Ramagramaare remembered as preserving and revering one portion of the Buddha'srelics. The Gilgit Manuscript of the Sayanasanavastu (n. having taken the guise of an old monk. Naga king Mucalinda provided a refuge to the Buddha. The Divydvadana. the MSV tells us that the Buddha established his sutras among the nagas. 2:86. N. A Collection of Early Buddhist Legends (Delhi: Indological Book House. Press. p. 1970). p.disciples who 41 42 John S. The Legend of King Asoka (Princeton. Neil. The same tale is told in EdwardByles Cowell and R. 1983).. 329.42In addition.two nagas who had been Sakyamuni'sdisciples in their former birth.. 24. ed. 219.
" The Blessed One then deliberated: "Because these ndgas. caused trouble in the sahgha by violating all rules of propriety. along with his courtiers.In Nandivardhana. Yaksini. the candali's seven sons. and the earth-dwellingyaksas were well established in the Holy Truths. So.King Bhavadeva.-Cave 16's naga king. let's destroy his religion. they said: "Because the Blessed One didn't teach us the Dharma. [The Blessed One] went to Nandivardhana. Twelve years passed and [Asvaka and Punarvasuka]rose to the [lake's] surface. As one might expect of such students. Buddha FIG. Angrily. Asvaka and Punarvasuka. Photo by author. we're now debased. born as nagas.376 Naga. they blame their benevolent teacher for their own failings and vow revenge.There was a great lake in that place in which Asvaka and Punarvasukahad both been reborn as ndgas.4.are very mighty and have ex- .
his body. sinkbackdown. his teachings.they certainlycould grindmy teachingsto dust after my Afterconsidering [point]. The Buddha enters into a restricted-exchange relationship with Asvaka and Punarvasuka.'Learnit well!" "Areverend Who is he?"Wondering this. Second. they will not destroy his religion out of anger that he passed them by.gaze at the [reflection. [monk]teachesus the Holy Dharma.We do not know whether. catalog number KD0001B."TheBlessed One himself they but taughtus the Dharma. addressed in thereis a teaching knownas 'TheDharma-discourse fourlines. Sakyamuni establishes his definitive presence in these naga's territoryby fixing his image at the entrance to their lair. if so. First. we didn't recognizehim. I am working with the text as reproduced by the Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP). sank [backinto the lake]. it tells how Buddhists make use of local deities in order to emplace themselves within a local society.a shrine to these nagas coexisted with that of the Buddha and. Those two realized.the BlessedOnewentto Asvakaand this parinirvana. "is the patronof this body of priests. he gives them a Dharma-discourse:a waste of words considering that these two failed to comprehend his teachings even when human. Under the guise of making restitution to these ndgas for whatever slight they felt. The Buddha makes two offerings to these powerful creaturesof dim intellect: first.] believe that the and BlessedOneremains present. In the end. second. The MSV does not represent Nandivardhana'sking or populace as particularly concerned with Asvaka and Punarvasuka.Againandagain. and Punarvasuka.a relationship based on presence.History of Religions 377 traordinary powers.This local ndga. Although tantalizing."TheBlessedOnethenfixed his reflection the surface[of the water]. this is not a story about the syncretic appropriationof a local naga cult into Buddhism." them:"Asvaka Punarvasuka. Here Fa Hien describes a naga cult as it was instituted in a Buddhist monastery within the town of Samkas'ya. What did the institutionalized presence of that naga mean for Ajanta's community? The following account from the fifth-centuryChinese pilgrim Fa Hien shows one pattern for a sahgha's ritual interactionwith a local naga. this text is incomplete: it does not tell us "what happened next" to Asvaka and Punarvasuka. 120B4-121A3. Fa Hien writes. corporeally as well as dharmically. . a shrine for the ndga king was placed within the precincts of Cave 16. in Nandivardhana. as the MSV tells us. he Havingapproached.AsvakaandPunaron vasuka [rise up towardthe surface]. He causes fertilising and seasonable showers of rain to fall 45 Derge Kha. Rather. At Ajanta. the Buddha fixed his presence in that very place. The Buddha gives the nagas these things so that. how Asvaka and Punarvasuka would have been integrated into monastic life.45 The Buddha subdues Asvaka and Punarvasukain stages. It is the Buddha who worries about them and Buddhism that needs them.
Yaksini.and at the doorway. 51). Inin the courtyard. the ndga reciprocates in two ways. and strike down the monks. one sees that the presence of a local naga presents the Buddha and his monks with an opportunity to fix their own presence in the same spot. Si-YuKi: Buddhist Records of the Western World.similarly. 1981). Enraged.and preserves it from plagues and calamities. and once a year they "place in the midst of [the ndga's] lair a copper vessel full of cream. Fa Hien uses a language of direct presence: this snake deity is a patron who enables the monks to dwell in peace. Every day three monks bring the ndga a religious offering. farts. they walk past This may be him in procession as if to pay him greeting all around. Second. or dwelling. who is identified with the earth and with all that is indigenous and unique in the site of the shrine or monastery. 49 Here I paraphraseShulman'sdefinition of this phenomenon ([n. p. . The relationship has discernible local effects: nagas. as well as on the promenade. the ndgas stand at the dwelling and at the path to the dwelling. p.. a certain foolish. the ndga favors the monks by not harming them. Translated Chinese of Hiuen Tsiang (A. there is a monastery established in a place inhabited by nagas.The monks and ndga are both present."46 return for the naga's good graces. The Buddhists enter into a restricted-exchangerelationship with a local ndga." Just as the Buddha gave his presence to Asvaka and Punarvasuka. xlii."48 sofar as this relationship works at the level of restricted exchange.49 Throughthis relationbased on shared presence. undeveloped. from the highest to the lowest. blows out snot. and then.. xli. 48 Bagchi. 4 above]. stupid. p. This is what David Shulman has called the "phenomenon of localization" within his study of Tamil temple myths.378 Naga. who might 46 Samuel from the Beal."47 what Conze meant by an "exotic curiosity. p. The following story from the MSV-in which a local monastic community shares its home with several nagas. local monks provide the naga a place to live and offer it worship in that place. and so In causes the priesthood to dwell in tranquility. the fruits of their interactions are immediate and apparent. The ndga supports them. First. coughs phlegm. natureof the relationshipbetween monks and their coresident nagas: "In this case. 629) (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. it is primarilya matterof promoting local harmony. Samkasya's monks provide Samkasya'snaga with a chapel and a seat.Buddha within their country. proximate.D. or path to a dwelling. the Buddhists establish their local legitiship macy. and clumsy old [monk] either shits. 47 Ibid. In an inappropriatespot. mistreats those ndgas. in Fa Hien's story about the goings-on in Samkasya. and is terrorizedby those nagas-helps to clarify this dimension of the restricted. ed. or scatters befouled bedding about. In the above examples. 134.
"domestication"is "the condition of the [Buddha or] sangha within a system of [generalized exchange]. For the Buddhism local to this spot. as Strenski observes. in Strenski'swords. examples that could be multiplied. To reprise my broaderprogrammaticagenda: insofar as actual social interactionson the part of the Buddha or sahgha take the form of restricted as well as of generalized exchange. Fa Hien's characterizationof the local monastic cult for the naga in Sarmkasya reveals it to be a paradigmatic example of generalized exchange. And we do not know whether local rains were timely and sufficient or whether floods and epidemics touched the monks' and Vakatakas'slives. Buddhists. The monks propitiatethe naga. each of whom haunts a specific locale. from these various accounts found in the MSV and Fa Hien. We do not know how the local monks may have treated this snake king. who might otherwise be strangers. which in turn enriches the monks. neither can be valorized as more essential or normal. At the same time. the circulation of benefits and obligations from agent to agent constructs a working society and a domesticated sangha. local data is as essential (to recall Bodiford) as translocal to the nuanced reconstructionof Buddhist life. Such a system would. we see a distinct patternof interaction that is crucial for reconstructing Buddhist life at Ajanta. enriching the local laity." then "localization" is the condition of the Buddha or saigha within a system of restricted exchange. so the domestication of a satigha cannot take place unless that sahgha is emplaced within local society. or through some other means not specified in the stories I cite-these local 50 Strenski (n.History of Religions 379 otherwise cause harm. are pacified. The interaction of the Buddha or his monks with local spirits is a primary means by which such localization occurs. This is a neat. p. 471. "an indefinite number of members. Nagas are ambivalent and dangerous beings. An interpretation of Buddhist life at Ajanta's Cave 16 necessitates consideration of the ndga shrine excavated at this monastery'spublic entrance as certainly as it does consideration of the Buddha deep within the cave's recess. When pacified-through the continuing presence of the Buddha in the form of an image. throughthe performanceof propitiatoryrites by the sargha. Yet. are neighbors. 51 Ibid. This is a decentralized and dynamic network of exchange. in fact. 13 above).51 And just as generalized patterns of exchange do not occur apart from dyadic restricted interactions. who in turncauses a good monsoon."50 If. We do not actually know what anybody did at Cave 16's naga shrine. have been open ended and inclusive of. idealized example of a generalized exchange relationship. .
Indeed. 53 Ibid. where a dwelling for the ascetic Indra was incorporatedwith the home of a niga king. light. the Buddha and sahgha become localized insofar as they share their dwellings with the deities who are indigenous and unique to the sites of the monasteries. as performed in India with offerings of food.Buddha deities become benefactors for the humans who share their locale. and water. These restrictedexchange relationshipsbetween Buddha. and local deities. 18.. Sakyamuni adjudicates their grievance: if these local devotees will construct a monasteryfor the local community of monks and dedicate it in Gardabha's honor.53 by telling that the faithful of Mathuratamed a full twenty-five hundred yaksas throughbuilding twenty-five hundredBuddhistmonasteriesin their honor. ed. .380 Naga. it was dedicated to his worship. who steals Mathura'sfaithful Brahmanasand children as soon as they are born. they must themselves become local as well. The following story from the MSV shows that this pattern also worked for yaksas. In this tale. The same holds true for Varahadeva'sBuddha in Cave 16. Sakyamuni Buddha visits the northern Indian city of Mathuraat a time when a yaksa named Gardabhalives as "an enemy to friends. lay folk. an adversaryto allies. like Cave 16's naga king. Yaksini. like those told of nagas above. monks. an institutionalized social solidarity inclusive of. this local The MSV concludes Gardabha's story yaksa will cause no more harm. YAKSINI: DISPLACING HARITI AND EMPLACING THE LAITY IN CAVE 2 Nagas were not the only local deities whose pacification by the Buddha and his sahgha enabled localization and domestication. For the Buddha or sahgha to have an effective role in the control of local deities. The Mathuransaspire to live in harmonywith their chthonic deities. typically occurs somewhere. The people of Mathurado not want to get rid of their yaksas. In the above story of Gardabha. monks. One may imagine that Gardabhastood somewhere inside the monastic precinct receiving devotion. The Buddha fulfills these lay followers' wishes by mastering the yaksas and harnessing their power for social good. an antagonist to well-wishers."52 householders implore the Buddha to assist them. chthonic deities typically associated with terrestrial and human fertility.the monks live in the monastery.but it was constructedfor the yaksa. Worship. and yaksas serve as the bases for the broaderproject of domestication. In this story. p. at least. they present themselves as the yaksas' friends and well-wishers. the Milindapanihaaccepts the fact that offerings to 52 Bagchi.
but it was placed outside the living quarters. at the very least. The placement of this ndga king transforms him into a guardian deity for the cave. for instance. I will explore these factors in the next section. murals depicting devotees performingpiija were painted on the side walls (figs. Indeed. was excavated within the precincts of his monastery. 6). Like Asvaka. one difference between Hariti and Cave 16's naga is attributable to the fact that Hariti functioned within several semantic contexts simultaneously.her conversion story ties her to a locale. located on either side of the entrance to the central Buddha shrine (fig. and outside the courtyard. Punarvasuka. is a chapel holding monolithic images of Padmanidhi and Safikhanidhi. near the river. Rather.embodiments of the wealth and power controlled by Paficika. Rajagrha. Localization contributesto domestication:the Buddha and monks are meaningfully placed within a society when whatever is most particular to that society is placed within their monastic space. to the antechamber'sleft. but his continuing significance has little to do with that specific relationship. 5). This is not to say that this naga does not assist in the localization of Cave 16's Buddha or satgha. To the right of the Buddha. Cave 2's Hariti shrine is one of two subsidiary chapels cut into the back wall of the monastery. Yet. unlike . A shrine to the yaksini Hariti found inside Ajanta's Cave 2 presents a very different model. 7. the proximity and presence of the worshiped. 8). the Hariti shrine holds monolithic carved images of Hariti and her consort Panicika(fig. outside the veranda. Balancing Hariti's shrine. He falls within the Buddha'ssphere. Varahadeva'sshrine for the naga king. this spatial dynamic suggests that additional factors may have been at work in the establishment of this monastery. at the furthestreach from the Buddha who lives inside. Hariti fits the model of an ambivalent local spirit. Hariti is an insider.which she first terrorizes and then protects.or Gardabha.down a flight of stairs. These are the only two chapels dedicated to deities other than Buddha that were excavated within an Ajanta monastery.History of Religions 381 the Buddha will be made somewhere-at a caitya-even if the Buddha is not there to receive them. The establishment of a shrine (or monastery) is the precondition for a stable and predictable restricted exchange relationship in which offerings are reciprocated through. As a sangha becomes geographically localized through the incorporation of a local divinity within its domicile. so a divinity's actual emplacement within the monastic plan might suggest its role or function in the mechanisms of domestication. The creation of a specific place for the worship of local nagas or yaksas or Buddhas within a Buddhist monastery is the physical means through which localization occurs.
of theseother figures. Manoharlal. Hiriti also became a translocal for the Buddeity dhists. 23."54 Iconographically. who according to some accounts attainedthe stage of g'rotapatti. Hariti was an upsikd.382 Plan of Cave II Naga. her identity was in the eye of the be54 Noel Peri. Hdritiwas an upasika. Source: of JamesFergusson JamesBurgess. FIG.pl. 44. Buddha wherever Buddhist monks traveled. .the and TheCave Temples India(Delhi:Munshiram 1988)."Bulletin de l'tcole Francaise d'ExtremeOrient 17 (1917): 20.la Mere-de-Demons. a lay devotee. 32. Hfiriti looks like any other yaksini. a lay devotee. Shrines to this yaksini were not to be found in Rdjagrhaalone but wherever Buddhist monks traveled. thereby entering the direct path to liberation. Yaksini. an early Mahdyfinatreatise even calls Hdriti a "great bodhisattva. "Hariti. dFloor plan Cave2. 5. iconologically.
a translocal Buddhist protector. suggests that at some level Hariti may have served to limit local impact on Buddhist life. at the same time that Hariti may have insulated monks from local religious pressures. In a sense. he deserved worship even though he had no direct spatial relationship with the Buddha inside the cave. By contrast. The story of Hariti's taming has been recorded throughout the Buddhist world.-Cave 2: HaritiandPancika. 66. see ibid. The Legend and Cult of Upagupta (n. Hariti's presence inside Cave 2 also brought the local lay society right into this monastic home as a permanentresident. but "really" is not.. 303. she also aided in localizing a saigha. . p.55Here I reproduce the version told by the seventh-century 55 For the most detailed account of Hariti.or even a great bodhisattva. Photocourtesyof Leela Wood. Hariti was neither specifically local nor specifically translocal. coupled with her widespread inclusion within monastic architectures. as I shall show below. pp. translocal basis for localization. see Strong. institutionalized. Hariti was a portable local deity. Yet.her presence in Buddhist monasteries was required by the direct order of the Buddha.History of Religions 383 FIG. For further references. n. Yet. a ready-made. The possibility that Hariti could be taken prima facie for a local yaksini. Cave 16's ndga was truly of the place. holder. 1-102. and her placement in Cave 2's architecturereflects this relationship. 40 above). The apologetic was always available: she looks like a local yaksini. 6.
.. "O. a I7S i I Is*4. ' 1 M I . b~~~~~i . FIG. 384 .~~~~~~ ~~ ~ .-Painting on Hariti shrine'sright wall: a puja for Hariti.I e .s. 7. Photocourtesyof LeelaWood. - A -E ?.
-Painting on Hariti shrine's left wall: Hariti grants darsan.I\ f. Photo courtesy of Leela Wood.8.3 * I 1 F .4 r ) k I. . '. 32 FIG. ^T '1 C IR=? -lt / i 2 '. -. 385 .fl a k " A .
she from some cause or other.9. 10). Photo by author. thy family shall partakeof sufficient food.-Harit! attacks the Buddha.In consequence of this wicked vow. Although I Tsing never visited Ajanta.and the people informed Buddha of this fact. depictions of Hariti's conversion sculpted in Cave 2 correspond to the story as he tells it (figs. Hariti is one of the subjects of the four heavenly kings."replied the Buddha. "How shall my five hundred children subsist hereafter?"the new convert asked the Buddha. She sought it from place to place. "In every monastery.386 Naga. and gave birth to five hundredchildren. Buddha !t i -~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ - FIG. and round her knees three or five children. which she called Her Beloved Child. "Artthou so sorry. Chinese pilgrim I Tsing. He took and concealed one of her own children. Yaksini. 9. how much more grieved are those who have lost their only one or two children on account of thy cruel vow?" Soon converted by the Buddha. "for thy lost child. the image of Hariti is found either in the porch or in a corner of the dining-hall of all Indian monasteries depicting her as holding a babe in her arms. At the former birth of this mother. She has a power . Every day she ate some babes at Rajagrha."For this reason. thy beloved? Thou lamentest for only one lost out of five hundred. and at last happened to find it near the Buddha. and was reborn as a Yakshi. she received the five precepts and became an Upasika. Every day an abundant offering of food is made before this image. she forfeited her life. "where Bhikshus dwell. offered by them every day. made a vow to devour all babes at Rajagrha."said the World-honouredOne to her.
This is significant for interpretingthe shrine in Ajanta'sCave 2. A.57 56 I Tsing. A Record of the Buddhist Religion as Practiced in India and the Malay Archipelago. In the same vein.10. after Hariti converted she gave her demon children to Rajagrha's satigha for safekeeping because the other yaksas mocked them for their new religion. In other words. making offerings of food. 13-14. 106). playing with toy rams. p. since this story warrantsthe incorporationof youngsters into the monastic community. I Tsing presents the great Buddhist monastic universities at Nalanda and Valabhi as institutions that prepare young men to enter courtly life and advance to a high rank through the skills they learn therein (pp. 177-78).56 According to the MSV. 671-695. 6): a school room in which the good students sit in the front of the class. .D. whom they instructed in secular literature. trans. telling that when the women of Rajagrha saw Hariti give her sons to the Buddhist monks they did the same. Photo by author of giving wealth.J. Indeed. If those who are childless on account of their bodily weakness (pray to her for children). Later. 37. 57 Peri. and the poor students hang to the rear of the class. their wish is always fulfilled. Takakusu(Delhi: MunshiramManoharlal. paying attention to their teacher.-Hariti pays homage to the Buddha. One sees precisely this on the base of Cave 2's sculpted image of Hariti (seen at the bottom of fig. The MSV story continues. pp. without requiring that these children become formally ordained. these women paid compensation for the children's upkeep and still later "redeemed" their children and brought them home. this is a myth that chartersBuddhist monasteries to act as schools.these students had to live at their own or their parents'expense (p.History of Religions 387 FIG. the monks took on many students. I Tsing notes that in India.1982).
Buddha I Tsing traveled to India in order to observe and record the ritual life of Indian monks so that he might reform the Chinese sahgha. in I Tsing's telling. Like the ideal figures-arhat. bodhisattvas. During the posadha ceremony. pp. was placed an offering for the yaksini Hariti. and feasts the sangha.. but a complementarity between the figures in the side chapels and the central Buddha does. a binary opposition does not obtain. and perhapsthe Buddha and bodhisattvas. analogically expressed by the spatial dynamics instituted for the rite. listens to the Dharma. a biweekly ceremony in which a patron worships the Buddha (sometimes with dancing girls). Together with these epitomes of Dharma. not only of possible. the incorporationof a yaksini specifically in the guise of Hariti ensured that this chthonic presence fit within a translocal Buddhist cosmos as well. Indeed. Placed between these antipodes. sacrality was constructed through the binary opposition of potential harm and potential perfection. Hariti was mapped as the sacred opposite of the Buddha. . everyone in his or her place. Hariti fulfilled the structuralrole played by local deities in the localization of Buddhist safighaswithout herself necessarily being of the place at which the posadha was held. coalescing Buddhist communities into a social whole. the very constitution of sacred space for the posadha observance constructed a complete cosmos. Though scholars often have viewed the posadha as a preeminently monastic occasion. at the lowest end of the row. The geography of ritual in Ajanta'sCave 2 is not isomorphic with that of the posadha hall. such as the posadha meal. Hariti's presence served as the condition of possibility for the sahgha's domestication:one chaos that made acts of ordering. Buddhawho received offerings at a posadha hall's other end. This pilgrim's discussion of Hariti comes in the midst of a description of the posadha. 58 Ibid. a space mediated by the sahgha. and finally. between the Buddhist ideal and the all too socially real. she functioned to bracketthe ritual space.388 Naga. following that. the monks were defined spatially as mediators between transcendental and chthonic powers.58 One may see the posadha as a performative event that created a hierarchy of the sacred. In the latter. who were placed at the posadha hall's front. At the room's front was placed an offering for the arhats. in the hall's recess. In this way. but also necessary. I Tsing presents the posadha as the principal occasion at which exchange relationshipswere realized between monks and the laity. a time for the sahgha's ritual declaration of moral purity. bodhisattva. 35-37. Treatingthis cave's space as a programmatic whole. Yaksini. In Cave 2.The incorporation a yaksini in the posadha ceremony served to localize the sahgha being feted. the monks were seated in a row in orderof seniority. or arhats.
not in substance alone. this woman's hands appear to be held in positions characteristic . quite literally. Although there is a feeling of narrative continuity between the sculptured figures and those painted next to them on the wall. 7).yet naturally individual. the laity is brought into the picture. place them in a pile before her. perhapsfunctional. this incongruity between the certain knowledge that Hariti is potentially deadly and the portrayalof her as benign is the very basis of her ritual feeding. the spatially central Buddha never lost its ritual centrality. Here. one finds a scene in which laywomen and their children bear offerings to Hariti. Even though Hiriti's iconography represents her as a sweetly maternal figure. as a presence she is regal. 8) differs from the right in that there is no sense of a direct interplay between it and the sculpted figures. Of course. On the right (fig.History of Religions 389 one finds that no matterwhat the orderor direction of approacha devotee may have taken to the various icons. Here the yaksas and yaksini in the side chapels do not bracket the space so as to delimit a dualist cosmology. and then proceed to pay homage at her feet.Hariti'soccasional demonic naturewas recollected for the worshiper in the little carvings behind her monolithic image (figs. maternal.breaking the flow of action toward the chapel's rear is one disrespectful woman facing away from the sculpted image of Hariti. the surmise that Cave 2's inhabitants would nevertheless have fed her bespeaks a concern for her ever-present demonic appetites. this configurationsuggests a continuous. although Cave 2's space is configured differently than that of the posadha hall. 9. Granted. which are mannered. as well as between deity and laity. through murals painted on the shrine's walls. The left wall of this chapel (fig. Rather. This dynamic interplay of formal and informal figures within a continuing narrativesequence is particularlyevoked by the nonchalance with which a languid painted fly-whisk bearer seems about to step into the sculpture and take the place of the stolid stone attendantat Paicika's side. looking out from the shrine just as Hariti does. hierarchyof sacrality. identical to the posadha ritual described by I Tsing. 10). Unlike the other figures in these murals. She is in the Buddha's sphere and portrayed as if the monks living at this site have maintainedthe diurnalduties to her and her sons set on them by the Buddha: her icon is the ever-present and unchanging sign of the Buddha'spower and the saigha's performative success. and eminently approachable. The sculpted figures are hard. too. but also in spirit: they maintain a quasi-iconographic stoniness absent from the painted figures. Nevertheless. there is an artistic discrepancy. In point of fact. this shrine emplaces the local monastic community into the role of mediator between Buddha and deity. Instead. which would return in the absence of the Buddhist control mechanisms.
If this figure is Hariti. in which the great yaksini Hariti grants her devotees darsan and satisfies their hopes and desires in accord with their petitions. wealth. she has two children with her. also heading away from the sculpturalgroup. Yaksini. According to the paintings. in a sense the emplacement of this safigha within local society could not have been complete were the laity not explicitly implicated in the worship. the paintedfiguresproceed toward those in stone. but even gives her children to the monks for safekeeping according to the MSV. The sahgha become domesticated in a network of generalized exchange. Indeed. The frieze's composition also sets this woman apart. and royalty. the fact that it is also holding a child suggests the giving of children. babies. The fact that these images of lay folk performing a ritual to Hariti were painted in a place where monks would have been expected to feed her encapsulates in living color the ideological tensions involved in monastic localization and domestication. though in informal poses-the artist highlights her position as the focus of the scene. the action of this scene having no other direction than toward herself.Buddha of a divinity ratherthan a devotee. The left wall portraysthe desired outcome of that pujd. Such is precisely the ideal outcome of the monastic ritual. the gesture of gift giving. Cave 2's Hariti shrine is a unique text in that its murals confirm and problematize these exchange processes. thus. slimmed and beautified in accord with the mannerednaturalismof these friezes. Finally. then there is not a spatial but a temporal continuity between the scenes on the right and left walls of this chapel. come to speak with her constant devotees. The sahgha and the yaksini have a relationship based on restricted exchange. but the laity. By placing her to the extreme right of the group of four votaries-all of whom appear to be in attendanceon her. By appeasing this demoness and accepting her children. formed by the joining of the ring finger and thumb. the monks create a world in which security. The right wall depicts the performanceof a piij. The restricted exchange relationship between the monks and Hariti should bring lay society "into the picture". I would suggest that figure is Hariti herself. The monks live with Hariti and care for her physical needs. regardless of any individual'spersonal relationship with the sangha. signifying good fortune. Hariti is a translocal . Her left hand is in the sri-mudra. and ample crops are the norm for every member of a local society. the generalized exchange ramifications of this monastic cult should work as if the local laity performed a successful pujd for Hariti. it is not the monks who are in a restrictedexchange relationship with Hariti. health. she not only agrees to peaceably coexist with them. The sense that she is the center of attention is augmented by the placement of a stylized mountain scarp directly to her right: she becomes impassable.390 Naiga. Her right hand suggests the varadamudrd.
In the present section. Merely by living in the presence of Hariti. who lived in the presence of Buddha. As a translocal Buddhist divinity. This process of conversion. such as a naga. How did this figure enter into a restricted exchange relationship with Ajanta'spatrons?What roles did Buddha play within the generalized structuresof Vakatakasociety? What was it about Ajanta's Buddhas' locations and presence that induced members of the Vakataka court to create magnificent homes for them. is pacified by the Buddha'scontinuing presence. in turn. for the local community. A Buddha or community of monks becomes localized by entering into a restricted exchange relationship with a divinity intimately associated with a place. Hariti performedmany of the roles and took on many of the symbolic values associated with indigenous deities."in the words of Cave 17's donor?59 The model presented above suggests that the localization of Cave 2's Buddha within the ideological and ritual structures of Vakataka India would have been intimately associated with Hariti's specific place within those same structures.History of Religions 391 Buddhist yaksini. the Buddha himself is bound with the identity and characteristics of the ndga as well. As we have seen."Hariti was given local legitimacy at Ajanta through her spatial relationship with Cave 2's Buddha and her ritual relationship with the sangha. through its expression within a monastery'sarchitecturalplan. 27 above). but those values become coin only insofar as they are converted into a currency whose exchange is accepted in that locale. she was transformed into a particularlocal deity. . I will treat the Buddha at Ajanta. Buddhists do bring certain translocal. Cave 2's Hariti chapel is a remarkabletext through which to illustrate the processes of localization and domestication at Ajanta. monasteries "almost measureless and inconceivable to the mean-spirited. through the paintings of local laity performing her pujd.Accordingly. this in turn visibly brought the laity into the recesses of that 59 Cohen. The relationship works in both directions: an indigenous deity. intermediariesbetween the human and spirit worlds. Cave 2's monks were performativelytransformedinto priests. "Setting the Three Jewels" (n. The Buddhist monks become meaningfully placed within the local society as the society becomes visibly emplaced as a presence within the monastic space. By placing lay society inside Hariti's chapel. symbolically emplaces society at large within the monastic precincts: this is domestication. p. generalizable values into a local economy of belief. this relationship can be read. in part. As a typical "tooth mother. 371. I will returnto Hariti. BUDDHA: AJANTA IN THE SOCIAL LANDSCAPE OF VAKATAKA INDIA Localization is one moment in the domestication of a sahgha.
. Hariti had special meaning for the luminaries in Vatsagulmaresponsible for major patronage at Ajanta. 48. The association of PravarasenaI with Hariti was an importantsymbolic means by which the Vatsagulma Vakatakas. since Hariti'sfive hundredsons form the bulwarkof the yaksa army. 63 Fuller (n.. 50.62 their cousins in Nandivardhanadid not. Fuller observes that a significant proportionof such figures "are tutelary deities of specific social units . 300-500): A Study in VakdtakaInscriptions (Delhi: MunshiramManoharlal.Buddha Buddha's home. Rather. Parabrahma of VakatakaDevasena. "HyderabadPlates epigraphic sources. The Inscriptions of the Vakatakas. pp. KrishnaMohan Shrimali."There is no certainty whether Haritlputra was intended as a matronymic. Harisena took on the Vatsagulma Vakataka mantle. Harisena was the last known monarch from the Vakatakas. Year 5. Hariti seems to have functioned for the Vatsagulma Vakatakas in particularas a clan deity. Epigraphic and his puranic sources alike name Vindhyasakti as the family progenitor. pp. p. Hariti had associations beyond that of Buddhist divinity or chthonic divinity. Hariti was significant in the VatsagulmaVakatakas'conception of themselves as a royal family. or even an evocative epithet for military prowess. Six generations and the about two hundred years after Pravarasena I. p. 82-83. 60 For Sastry.Following son. Sastry. 72-73."63 been the Vatsagulma Vakataka ruling family. 74.No medieval Indian king ever called himself a Hdritlputra. beyond being a Buddhist divinity and a local yaksinl. 61 This is not the Nandivardhanain which Agvaka and Punarvasukalived. 1987). Vakatakasdistinguished themselves from the Nandivardhana Haritiputra translates literally as "the son of Hariti. was deemed the greatest of the Vakatakas. Writing on village goddesses.a literal genealogical claim. see ibid. 96. 62 Vasudev Vishnu Mirashi.Agrarian Structurein CentralIndia and the NorthernDeccan (c. a lineage of kings who ruled large swaths of central India following the dissolution of the Satavahanaempire in the mid-third century. V. this epithet was typically given to the founder of a royal dynasty or used to characterize the lineage as a whole. 1962). 82. see Frederick Eden Pargiter.392 Naga. whose boundaries define the Hariti's specific social unit would have spatial extent of their powers. 5 (Oocatamund:GovernmentEpigraphistfor India.60 PravarasenaI. his descendants in Vatsagulma bestowed the epithet Hdritiputra on him. p.61 other in Vatsagulma. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum. Consideredan ancestor of the VakatakaemperorHarisena. 1963).vol. P. Nevertheless. her domain. In Vakataka India. the Vakataka family split into two collateral lines: one based in Nandivardhana.D. The Purana Textof the Dynasties of the Kali Age (Varanasi:ChowkhambaSanskrit Series Office. 43.. Pravarasena I. Shrimali. For puranic sources. A. p. Yaksini. As a token of PravarasenaI's glory. coextensive with Harisena'sown."Journal of the Epigraphical Society of India 13 (1986): 7175. 361. 12 above). p. however.
it was argued. Buddha earned the utmost reverence. This may be more than mere metaphor.. 66 See my "Setting the Three Jewels. Such legitimation is a matter of both restricted and generalized exchange. and. in direct service to King Harisena'spolitical center.. Certainly as the guru of this Vakataka ancestor.History of Religions 393 Monastic rituals for Hariti at Ajanta would have introduced the satgha into a generalized. Given this expanded understandingof Hariti'ssignificance at Ajantaa site intimately tied to the fortunes and social plan of the Vatsagulma Vakatakas-one can better grasp the Buddha's local significance. The Sakyas' obligations to and relationship with Siddhartha did not alter 64 Gregory Schopen.. the establishment of a monastic "village" at Ajanta served to legitimate and strengthen Harisena's reign throughouthis kingdom. p. 191."65 the leader of a monastic community whose As rituals to Hariti legitimated Harisena's reign. But Ajanta's Buddhas were not merely figures from the past. Through the ritual appeasement of Hariti. "The Buddha as an Owner of Property and PermanentResident in Medieval Indian Monasteries. 67 As is the case with the Vatsagulma Vgkatakas' use of Hdritiputra for PravarasenaI. Had Siddharthabecome a universal emperor. Within the localized context of Vakataka concerns. in its most fundamental meaning. "were actually thought to live in these establishments. structuralsystem of exchange. In a remarkable study. .66I have shown elsewhere that this term. for a discussion of the evidence concerning the use of Sakyabhiksu at Ajanta and a fuller interpretation of this epithet's significance. the Buddha localized at Ajanta can be likened to a raja whose "troops"were mustered in the service of Harisena.67 And one finds within the MSV that Sakyamuni's relationship with his clan members was conceptualized through royal ideologies and martial metaphors. both the Buddha and the monastic community were thought to reside in the same monastery."Journal of Indian Philosophy 18 (1990): 203. 191-269. however. such as those found in the recesses of Ajanta's Caves 2 and 16. reinforcing whatever claims Harisena'sfamily made based on its association-genealogical or metaphoric-with this yaksini.ritually straddledthe one-hundred-miledistance." pp.Eighty percent of the monks who left literary records of their presence at Ajanta refer to themselves by the epithet Sakyabhiksu."64Indeed. "the Buddha was considered to be the legal head of the group. 65 Ibid. this ritual also would have served as a basis for political legitimation. located near the Vakataka kingdom's geographical periphery. the Sikyas would have been his army and followed him into war. identifies an individual as a member of Sakyamuni'sown family: Sakyabhiksusare bhiksus who are Sakyas. Gregory Schopen has demonstrated that stone Buddhas. Ajanta'ssahgha. one cannot determine whether the use of Sakyabhiksuis meant literally or metaphorically.
a clan. As the head of a family association. 71 Mirashi. n. but now as monks. Buddha became localized in Cave 2 through his relationships with Hariti. 39 above). 1982).but also stretchedto the south. Trikuta.68Indeed. Cave 16's Buddha was a double of Harisena himself. Nevertheless. Avanti. A copperplateinscription found in Thalner. 45 above). The Gilgit Manuscript of the Sahghabhedavastu(n. The Inscriptions of the Vdakitakas. the MSV's ordination formula highlights the Buddha's kingship over the Sakyas: "I follow in renunciation the Blessed One.Buddha when he instead became the Unsurpassed King of Dharma. 60 above). In Cave 16."69 turn. a celebration of territorial conquest. See also I. on the north bank of the Tapti River. Kosala. as well. without the customary four-month probationaryperiod. Epigraphic records show that Harisena's family colonized an empire that centered on Vatsagulma. the Buddha's local significance was intimately bound up with an attempt to legitimate Vakataka control over Ajanta through a local play on Buddhahood's translocal royal valences. and Andhra. Despite this uncertainty. Tathagata. p. Horner. vol. B. Sakyas were In entitled to be ordained as monks immediately.Arhat. Mahavagga (London: Pali Text Society. The Book of Discipline (Vinaya-Pitaka).394 Naga.Lata. 68 Gnoli. and the verb that delimits this relationship has been lost. ed. 60. according to one reading of Varahadeva's This hyperbole is certainly suspect. however. 35 above) for a more detailed discussion of this problem. 94-100. pp. Yaksini. Complete and Perfect Buddha Sakyamuni. Here the Buddha was not emplaced in the role of Harisena'sfamily member or ally.by reason of blood alone. See my "Problems in the Writing of Ajanta'sHistory" (n. it is probable that Varahadeva'sverse is a digvijaya praSasti. this Buddha performed as vital a service to Harisena as any military ally. 1977). 69 Anukul Chandra Texts in Sanskrit: Pratimoksa Sutra and Buddhist . Bhiksukarmavdkya 70 Derge Ka I. 4. we do know that Harisena began to colonize new lands early in his reign. the Lion of the Sakyas. Kalifiga. p.. 200. the Overlordof the Sakyas.72Harisena seems to have set his ambitions even wider: he created an empire stretching from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Cave 16 inscription.. 73 Varahadeva tells that Harisena had some relationship with the lands between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea: Kuntala. to Nanded71 and later Bidar. though the precise extent of Harisena'sempire cannot be certified.Varihadeva's inscription is damaged here. one must consider the historicopolitical context surroundingpatronageat the site. To grasp the role Cave 16's Buddha played as lord over Ajanta.73 Bengal. Unfortunately. 150B6-50B7 (ACIP catalog number KD001A. records that in the third year of Harisena'sreign he donated five villages to a numberof Vinaya Banerjee. Rather.70Eighty percent of the Ajanta monks whose identity we know representedthemselves as Sdakyabhiksus: members of Sakyamuni'sfamily and by extension the "army"of this Dharmaking. which maintained a righteous order through its interactions with the VatsagulmaVakatakas' own clan deity. 72 Sastry (n. trans. The Sakyas were still bound to follow Sakyamuni. (Calcutta:World Press. pp. 85-89.
not Gomikaraja's.75 The names of two of the villages Harisena donated. remained under the suzerainty of the Nizam of Hyderabad until Indian independence. Indological Research Papers (Nagpur: Vidarbha Samshodhan Mandal. Kamsakarakagrama (village of bronze workers) and Suvarnakaragrama (village of goldsmiths) suggest that artisanship and trade were also crucial to Vatsagulma's prosperity. marked the Nizam's northernborder. Ajay Mitra Shastri. This is notable. p. In Vakataka times. Ajanta was a crucial stage on this route. merchants. such as freedom from harassment by internal security police. Ajanta was the pass in the Sahyadri range favored by caravans.History of Religions 395 Brahmanas with the permission of Gomikaraja. although Ajanta was (and still is) geographically remote from major population centers and seats of power.77 74 Vasudev Vishnu Mirashi. Ajanta lay on a route that led from Vatsagulma to Harisena's Tapti River communities and out to the sea at the ancient port cities of Surat and Bharuch. and Banoti. freedom from corv6e labor. But whoever Gomikaraja may have been."Journal of the Epigraphical Society of India 11 (1984): 15-20. The granting of land and villages to Brahmana settlers is a well-attested means for the cultural. 26. according to Spink's chronology. armies. sending their profits back to Vatsagulma in the form of taxes. land grants release or freedom from taxation. In Vakataka times. . This region. for the majority of Vgkatiaka their grantees from these and other obligations to the central polity as an inducement for individuals to settle there. the same relationship holds between the Sutanda fort and the Vakatakacave at Banoti. this western colony's settlers could receive and process raw materials. Ajanta was a site of crucial strategic value for Harisena's expanded realm. Located at a pass along the road from Vatsagulma to the east. Located in an area with ready access to the sea. Harisena's. Ghatotkaca. 1982). Fardapur. 77 One millennium later the Mughals built forts in precisely the same locations that the Vakatakas excavated their Buddhist caves: the Fardapurand Ajanta forts guard the front and back of the Ajanta pass. the Abhasgash and Vetalwadi Forts protect the pass in which one finds Varahadeva'sGhatotkacacave. Indeed.at the head of the Ajanta pass.76 Struck in the third year of Harisena's reign.74 There are a number of interesting and puzzling details to the Thalner grant. Vakataka grants to Brahmanas typically fostered the colonization of farmlands necessary for an agricultural surplus to support the Vakataka court. 76 None of the villages named in Harisena's Thalner grant were given any privileges. it is clear that Harisena was concerned to consolidate this outlying area into his. none more so than the question of Gomikaraja's identity and role in the Thalner region. ritualistic. "ThalnerPlates of VakatakaHarishena: A Re-Appraisal. these Sahyadriforts were instrumentalin preventing the British from taking the Deccan plateau. the Thalner grant dates to approximately the same year that. 60 above). its spatial location did not translate into a similarly isolated social location. In short. 1:78-87. 75 Shrimali (n. and monks for crossing down from the Deccan plateau to the Tapti River valley (or vice versa). as now. members of the Vakataka court initiated patronage of the caves at Ajanta. political center at Vatsagulma. along with the Ajanta caves. and bureaucratic incorporation of newly acquired territory into a polity.
Varahadeva'spersonal endeavor to unmistakably associate Ajanta with its Vatsagulma Vakataka overlord also is seen in his dedicatory inscription. 81 Varahadeva's glorification of Vakatakaaccomplishments in his Cave 16 dedication is especially notable in light of a second inscription from Varahadeva. 80 For a similar strategy of geographical displacement.9 Varahadevathereby transmutesthe Waghora River into the Gafiga and the Vakataka kingdom into Aryavarta.which dedicates a cave . 9-10. 9. 79 My "Setting the Three Jewels" (n.Buddha I have characterized Ajanta as a monastic "village" several times because the Vakataka court's patronage of Buddhists at this site served many of the same social functions for the Vatsagulmapolity as Harisena's grantingof five Brahmanavillages nearThalner.80 tion of Ajanta with Mount Mandarafits within a larger set of rhetorical strategies for reinforcing the legitimation of Harisena's royal power." in his Kings and Cults: State Formation and Legitimation in India and Southeast Asia (Delhi: Manohar. see Ronald Inden. 1990). as used by the Rashtrakutas through their construction of the Kailash temple at Ellora. by whose foot runs the Ganges. 362. Although Varahadevatransferredthe spiritual merit accruing from his cave to his parents. Mass. quote on p. 256-62.The renaissanceof work at Ajanta in the early years of Harisena'sreign fits within a broaderstrategic program to secure cultural. Ajanta would have been a village of sorts. Indeed. and administrativecontrol over territories distant from Vatsagulma.78Ajanta can be loosely viewed as satisfying all three means. economic. Yaksini.and the construction of new "imperial temples" within the core of region of the kingdoms.81 78 Hermann Kulke. it all but ignores Varahadeva'sown family background. Intended as a onequarter-mile series of cave monasteries. Imagining India (Cambridge. and though not in the Vatsagulma Vakatakas'core region.396 Naga. Varahadeva'sinscription details and celebrates Harisena's imperial lineage." Vakataka support for Ajanta can be understoodto fall within the first of Kulke's three ritual means for a polity to establish hegemony over peripheral territories: the establishing of pilgrimage sites (tirtha).: Blackwell.the many shrines that were excavated into the scarp outside of the monasteries and accessible to the public reveal a markedconcern with satisfying transientpilgrims. Hermann Kulke has identified three means-in addition to a strong military-by which a "victorious conquerorsucceeded in unifying the newly conqueredareas permanently with his own homeland":royal patronageof importantplaces of pilgrimage. 27 above). the most revered tirtha of all. Varahadeva-"intent upon his duty" as a minister to Harisenalikens Ajanta to Mount Mandara. the This explicit equa"middle kingdom" in Brahmanicsacred geography. "Royal Temple Policy and the Structureof Medieval Hindu Kingdoms. p. Varahadevaunreservedly attempted to make Cave 16 an "imperial temple. albeit nonagrarian. pp. 1993). the granting of lands to Brahmanas. pp.
attendantsbearing fly whisks. his chapel set behind a shrine antechamber. Spink. By contrast with the Cave 16 commemoration of Harisena and the Vakatakas. details Varahadeva'sown genealogical line of descent. more typically. attached to a single cave in a lonely pass. Ann Arbor. . in the central shrine but changed his plan midway through the site's brief history. one experiences the Buddha'ssocial presIn ence as an awesome fact. sculpturalrendering of this iconographic form in western India. "Ajanta'sChronology: The Crucial Cave. Moreover. in the wake of a regional war that may have placed Harisena'scontrol over Ajanta in jeopardy. 1977). Rosenfield. his legs pendant "Europeanstyle" (also called pralambapidasana). this Ghatotkaca inscription. typescript)."83This majestic presentation of the body is bolstered by accompanying details. and looming directly above the devotee. "A Scholar's Guide to the Ajanta Caves" (University of Michigan. Harisena receives only a brief mention. and so on. The Dynastic Arts of the Kushans (Delhi: MunshiramManoharlal. the piece de resistance of Varahadeva'slegitimatory enterprise is seen in the iconology of the Cave 16 Buddha.82Stronger ritual medicine was needed! Introduced to India through the tradition of Kusana royal portraiture. 82 WalterM.All other central Buddha figures within Ajanta's viharas were carved in shrines set apartfrom their monasteries'principal space. 83 John M. In some caves. according to Spink's analysis.the bhadrasana has been interpretedas iconologically "imbuing sacred images with a majesty and presence lacking in the rathercompressed outline of the regular ascetic seated pose. In Cave 16. p. 85 Sheila Weiner. 1-16. not bhadrasana. authoritatively posed. pls. this Buddha'sunique placement within the cave complemented the iconography. 84 Walter M. Ajanta: Its Place in Buddhist Art (Berkeley: University of California Press. Cave 16's Buddha was separated from this vihara's main space by only a pair of pillars. rather than set back within a conventional shrine. p. Thus."Ars Orientalis 10 (1975): 143-69. Cave 16's massive central image was the very first fully plastic. Spink."85 temple at Ghatotkaca. seated on a royal throne. in a way not matched anywhere else at Ajanta. that is. "Comparedwith the other shrine images at Ajanta. the Buddha was twice removed. which also bespeak royalty: a lion throne with a wheel of law at its base. At Ghatotkaca. 98. the Buddha was sculpted in an iconographic form known as bhadrasana. 186. Varahadeva originally intended to place a Buddha seated in the cross-legged lotus position. "there is a prepossessing and overbearing majesty to this figure that sets it apartconceptually.History of Religions 397 However. In fact."Sheila Weiner observes. This contrastbetween Varahadeva's Ajantaand Ghatotkacainscriptions highlights that Varahadeva'srole as the good minister was central to his undertakingat Ajanta."84 Cave 16. the Buddha was placed within a separate chamber attached to the main pavilion. Spink describes Cave 16's as "a revolutionary new Buddha.By contrast. 1993).
p. 361-62. this emplacement was crucial. a position associated with royalty and worldly action.398 Naga. Yaksini. 362. Just as Ajanta is at a far remove from the center of Vakataka power. Above we saw that the murals in Cave 2's Hariti shrine gave Vakataka society a symbolic presence at Ajanta. so the naga. 11. "one of the characteristicfeatures of the cults at these centers of pilgrimage [which functioned to legitimize a ruler'shegemony] was an increasing process of a ritual 'royalization' of these deities. the naga has the privilege of having its shrine located within this sacred domain. In return for its own pacified presence. it may have allegorized Harisena as Buddha.."88 Indeed. . Buddha/Indra/ Harisena is present in this cave and this presence is itself sufficient basis for a restricted exchange relationship between him and the local naga.Buddha Cave 16's massive centralBuddhaimage is uniquely large and uniquely regal at Ajanta.Lord of the Gods. 89 Ibid. the chthonic embodiment of this place. in turn. this is a Buddha who is not only operative in the world but acts therein as a king. for the mutual presence of exchange partners is a prerequisite for the restricted-exchangerelationships whose emergent outcome is a generalized social structure. Kulke. the Cave 16 Buddha would fit into a patternobserved by Kulke.Were Cave 2's monks truly antisocial individuals. and also calls the Buddha the "ascetic Indra. and Buddha/Indra/Harisena the naga become accessible to the humansof that place. Given Varahadeva'sproject of glorifying Harisena through this cave." p."86 so. they would not have entered into institutionalized relationships with the members of Vakataka society. redound throughoutall Vakataka society. My "Setting the Three Jewels. they would not have become domesti86 87 88 My "Setting the Three Jewels. Those humans'ritual actions. Varahadeva's inscription likens Harisenato Indra. [attained]by If eradicating the many faults." eponymous with Indra'sdivine palace in the Heaven of Thirty-ThreeGods. is at a remove from the double for Harisena inside Cave 16. seated with legs pendant. whom Varahadevalikens epigraphicallyto an ideal king who "extinguishes the flames of wickedness" and enables the world to "enter that peaceful and noble state free from sorrow and disease. p.89 Above I argued that Cave 16's shrine for the naga king assisted the Buddha's localization at Ajanta. Varahadevacarries the identification to its logical conclusion: Cave 16 is characterizedas the and "home"of "ascetic Indra" is given the name "Vaijayanta."87Making such a homology complete." pp. 361. and that the spatial disconnection between the naga and the Buddha indexed the nature of their relationship. Sharing a place. this image may have functioned as something of a "portrait sculpture". As he notes.
he made no attempt to hide it."90 Applying this logic to his own involvement at Ajanta.donor of Cave 26. he does not characterize one as essentially Buddhist. the Vakatakas'establishment of Ajanta was a means of consolidating their rightful presence in this territory. Devaraja. he does not portray one as a precursorto the other. have an obligation to commission cave monasteries. Yet at the same time. Buddhabhadra also intended his donation to meet a universalized Mahayanist concern: that all living beings might attain Buddhahood. Buddhabhadraholds that "powerful and affluent bodhisattvas who are desirous of mundane pleasures as well as liberation. For Harisena."like himself. Bhavviraja. 380. Buddhabhadradoes not set the mundane and supermundanein a hierarchy. Similarly. this Buddha played the role of a local deity. CONCLUSION The monk Buddhabhadra. In using the donation of a cave monastery to address local concerns alongside the translocal.a minister "intent upon his duty."since "even a single flower" offered to them causes the attainment "heaven and final emancipation. the local significance of Cave 16's Buddha is tied to his social function. Varahadevasymbolically placed Harisena in a restricted exchange relationship with this Buddha. Indeed.History of Religions 399 cated. Nor does one have to read too closely between the lines to learn that Buddhabhadraalso used this donation as a means of currying favor with Bhavviraja'sson.a minister of the mighty king of Asmaka. a relationship of shared presence. . to enjoy himself in heaven. he was public and unabashed about this. Worship and giving are acts of the wise that result in both worldly and transcendentalboons.. Buddhabhadra publicly acknowledges that one of the motivations for undertakingthis cave was to enable his recently deceased friend. Just as the establishment of Brahmana villages. who took his father's position in the Asmaka court. The monk Buddhabhadraintended his patronage of Cave 26 to meet personal and political concerns. the other as an accommodation to laity or indigenous concerns.Varahadeva. and imperial temples are all ritual means for multiplying royal presence.If Buddhabhadra for this. thereby legitimating the Vakataka emperor's local control over the Ajanta pass."ensured that Cave 16's Buddha played an explicit role in this local process. p. the monk Buddhabhadradoes not differ from Varamakes no apology hadeva or Cave 2's anonymousdonor. why should we? 90 Ibid. pilgrimage sites. proclaims that the wise "perform devotion intensively to the Tathagatas. He dedicates the merit from this act accordingly.
presence. Varahadeva'sbuilding of a home for the naga king or Samkas'ya's monks' worship of a ndga must be viewed as properly. Fourth. I looked at how local deities' participationin exchange relationships served to form. I have attemptedto do so here by exploring patronage at Ajanta through a dual filter. and the immediate satisfaction of desires-do not come from outside Buddhism. bodhisattvas. Present happiness was valued at least as much as ultimate perfection.400 Naga. and a king. however wide-ranging the consequences. overlay." That is. Second. One cannot know whether this mattered much to Harisena or Varahadeva. a yaksini. translocal goals. Buddhism in India was as much a means for meeting personal local concerns as it was a means for meeting generalized. the Buddha's reign was cosmologically limitless. The reciprocity of restricted exchanges was a normal dimension of Buddhism as a religion of place. University of California. is a local matter. one must begin by considering the lives and actions of Buddhists. legitimate. This study led to a series of conclusions. or arhats. nagas and yaksinis-superhuman figures whose principal values are associated with reciprocalrelationships. except insofar as the Buddha's translocal glory served Vakataka interests in governing the Ajanta pass. First. and fundamentally Buddhist practices. As the Unexcelled King of Dharma. or appropriationany more than such language would clarify shrines to the Buddha. in existential terms." the Buddha brought the sangha and Vakatakas together in an institutional relationship. the dharmic harmony resulting from this localized presence legitimated both the saigha's and Harisena's presence at Ajanta. San Diego . with no indication that the latter was deemed normative for Buddhists. One takes place seriously as an analytic category only to the extent that one accepts reciprocity as a factor in Buddhist life. Generalized and displaced.fully. Yaksini. restricted exchange works to build local systems of social solidarity througha valorization of direct and presentparticipationby the exchange partners. The reasons for the incorporationof shrines to the ndga king and Hariti in Ajanta's architecture are not clarified through the rhetorics of syncretism. As a "local deity. The Buddha was at Ajanta: his presence was indexed by his restricted exchange relationships with a ndga. domesticating Ajanta'ssahgha within Vakataka society. and give meaning to a local Buddhist community at Ajanta. laying Strenski's treatmentof exchange relationships over Peter Brown's dictum that "the supernaturalbecomes depository of the objectified values of the group. Third. worship. like politics.Buddha To gain a nuanced and dynamic grasp of Buddhism as a living religion in ancient India.
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