Lecture 3. The Buddhist Stupa and its Transformations

This lecture is the first of two parts that explore the forms of Buddhist architecture, their relationship to trade, and their proliferation in the Asian world. In this sequence, this lecture discusses the establishment of Buddhist architecture under Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BCE, and its spread in South Asia and south East Asia. The main architectural object of discussion is the ‘stupa’. The lecture begins with the rise of the Mauryan Empire and its relationship to the Acheamenids of Persia, and then focuses on the reign of Asoka and his establishment of the dhamma. From the dhamma come the pillars, the inscriptions, and the stupa. The stupa is discussed as a practical funerary object, a symbolic structure and as the locus of the Buddhist community, which is examined architecturally in several locations in South and central Asia. The ‘global’ export of the stupa is then discussed in Sri Lanka and SE Asia, culminating in a detailed discussion of the cosmic mountain at Borobodur.

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