UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Buddhist Pilgrimage and the Ritual Ecology of Sacred Sites in the Indo-Gangetic Region Geary, David, 1976-; Shinde, Kiran


In contemporary India and Nepal, Buddhist pilgrimage spaces constitute a ritual ecology. Not only is pilgrimage a form of ritual practice that is central to placemaking and the construction of a Buddhist sacred geography, but the actions of religious adherents at sacred centers also involve a rich and diverse set of ritual observances and performances. Drawing on ethnographic research, this paper examines how the material and corporeal aspects of Buddhist ritual contribute to the distinctive religious sense of place that reinforce the memory of the Buddha’s life and the historical ties to the Indian subcontinent. It is found that at most Buddhist sites, pilgrim groups mostly travel with their own monks, nuns, and guides from their respective countries who facilitate devotion and reside in the monasteries and guest houses affiliated with their national community. Despite the differences across national, cultural–linguistic, and sectarian lines, the ritual practices associated with pilgrimage speak to certain patterns of religious motivation and behavior that contribute to a sense of shared identity that plays an important role in how Buddhists imagine themselves as part of a translocal religion in a globalizing age.

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