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Guest Lecture: Ascetic Topographies of Ancient Gandhara: Buddhist Rebirth Narratives of Śyāma and Ekaśṛṅga


CERES Palais, room "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

Guest lecture in English given by Jason Neelis (Waterloo/Vienna)

This lecture will focus on two jātaka stories with ascetic characters (Śyāma and Ekaśṛṅga) which are widely distributed in Buddhist literary and visual cultures.  Images of these stories are included among the visual repertoire of at least 15 jātakas identified in a comprehensive global survey conducted between 2015-2017 as part of an interdisciplinary collaborative research project on ovelapping genres of Gandhāran rebirth narratives.  Localization of some of these stories reported by Chinese visitors to Gandhara and neighbouring regions between the fifth and seventh centuries CE reflects how these narratives of the Buddha’s previous births became embedded in regional landscapes. An examination of the textual versions and visual imagery of the stories of Śyāma and Ekaśṛṅga, which were emplaced near mountain passes connecting the Peshawar Basin with the Swat Valley, suggests that topographical patterns may have played a role in the selective emphasis on ascetic themes as rebirth narratives preserved in visual and literary media were domesticated in the northwestern borderlands.