image of Scholar Ashwini Lakshminarayan Unveils Insights into Gandhāran Relic Rituals and Veneration

Scholar Ashwini Lakshminarayan Unveils Insights into Gandhāran Relic Rituals and Veneration

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow Explores Ancient Buddhist Art and Gender

In a fascinating exploration of ancient Buddhist art and gender, Ashwini Lakshminarayan, a scholar with a rich academic background in Indian history and Classical Archaeology, will unveil insights into Gandhāran relic rituals and veneration. Driven by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship, this research project promises to shed light on the practices surrounding relic veneration in the Gandhāran region during the 1st to 4th centuries CE.

Having embarked on this scholarly journey in 2018 with a PhD in Gender in Gandhāran art at Sapienza Università di Roma, Ashwini Lakshminarayan completed her doctorate in 2022. Subsequently, she continued her research as a postdoctoral researcher at the École française d'Extrême-Orient, Paris. With over a decade of involvement in excavations in India and Europe, her expertise spans both the art and archaeology of religions.

The ambitious project, known as "Gandhāran Relic rituals And Veneration Explored" or GRAVE, delves deep into the visual representations of relic rituals and veneration in Gandhāra. While the focus is on this historical region, Ashwini Lakshminarayan also engages with Buddhist communities in India and China to understand how these practices were conveyed through visual sources. To achieve a holistic understanding, Ashwini Lakshminarayan plans to analyze contemporary Gāndhārī relic donative inscriptions, offering invaluable historical insights into the era. Furthermore, later Chinese accounts of relic veneration in the region will be scrutinized, providing a broader perspective on the subject.

At the heart of GRAVE is a collaboration with DiGA, led by Principal Investigator Jessie Pons, to build an image database identifying various types of relics, figures, actions, and ritual accoutrements. This database serves as the foundation for contextualizing the visual material within its socio-religious context. Ashwini Lakshminarayan is further guided by Stefan Baums from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and supervised by Max Deeg from Cardiff University, ensuring that GRAVE benefits from a wealth of expertise and guidance.

Excitingly, Ashwini Lakshminarayan is set to embark on a new chapter in her academic journey. At the beginning of 2024, she will closely collaborate with the Center for Religious Studies, further enriching her research and contributions to the field. Stay tuned for more revelations in the coming years as GRAVE uncovers the mysteries of the past.