UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The socio-economic basis of support for the Buddhist Religious Institutions of Western India : circa 200 B.C. to A.D. 200 Preston, Laurence Wade


This thesis is an analysis of the inscriptions, dating before the third century B.C., from the Buddhist cave excavations of Western India, The first chapter defines the inscriptions in terms of a corpus chronologically closely related, the period examined in general being that of the Sātavāhana dynasty. The corpus is also defined as being related in terms of language and alphabet. The purpose of the inscriptions is similar in that they are all donations to the Buddhist religious Institutions as represented by the cave excavations. These cave excavations, in their iconography, all belong to the Hīnayāna phase of Buddhism. The cave excavations and thus the corpus of inscriptions they contain are also related in terms of their spatial distribution. In the second chapter the spatial distribution of the cave excavations is examined in terms of the traditional interior to coast routes in Western India. The cave excavations are located close to important ancient towns located on these routes. The spatial distribution of the cave excavations is the basis on which the subsequent analysis of the types of donors and donations recorded in the Inscriptions is undertaken. The third chapter analyzes the types of donations recorded in the Inscriptions, gifts for the excavation of the caves and endowments for their maintenance. Four groups of donors are established: royal and administrative, commercial and landed, Saṅgha and 'others'. The fourth chapter is an examination of donations of endowments. These endowments are of two types, those of land and those of money. The distribution of these endowments is analyzed in terms of the spatial distribution of the cave excavations and related to the contemporary economic and political history of Western India. The analysis of donations and donors describes the general socio-economic basis of donations to the Buddhist religious institutions in the period under consideration. Certain sites, however, have relatively large numbers of certain types of donations and donors. This is explained in terms of the established spatial distribution of the cave excavations. The distribution of endowments is particularly used to show the contemporary dynasties' efforts to control the upland centers and passes associated with the cave excavations. Royal donations were then made to the cave excavations, particularly for example at Nasik, as a factor of the Sātavāhana-Kṣatrapa conflict of the first to second centuries A.D. The control of the upland centers and thus the traditional routes to the coast then created conditions favourable for trade, particularly the international seaborne trade with the Roman Empire. The numbers of commercial and landed donors and of endowments of money at coastal Kanheri are seen as a factor of the re-establishment of Sātavāhana rule in Western India. The thesis concludes with an examination of the inscriptions in terms of the historical development of the donative process in Buddhism. Particular emphasis is given to the specific local political and economic information such inscriptions can yield, as here summarized, when an analysis as presented in this thesis is undertaken.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.