University of Leicester
2021KaurRPhD_abridged.pdf (28.82 MB)

Inclusivity, Extended Messages and Religious Participation: A Re-Examination of South Asian Buddhist Donatory Inscriptions First Century BCE to Second Century CE

Download (28.82 MB)
posted on 2022-02-16, 22:28 authored by Raminder Kaur
Kharoṣṭhī Buddhist donatory inscriptions found in Pakistan and Afghanistan included additional messages beyond simpler votive inscriptions. Donors offered worship to others, wished for health, merit, happiness and welfare, and referred to the afterlife. The messages were partly Buddhist-inspired but had an element of pre-existing, non-Buddhist beliefs, such as ancestor worship and the afterlife. A limited number of Brāhmī inscriptions found at caves in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, India, also included similar messages. A statistical approach firstly determines that Buddhism did not attract equal patronage from different gender and status groups, contrary to beliefs that Buddhism was inclusive. There was male-dominance in the northwest and cave inscriptions in contrast to major stūpa sites in central and southern India, which were more egalitarian in representation. However, high status female donors had an important role in Buddhist patronage, in contrast to the negative portrayal of women in different religions. Moreover, the same families were involved in some donations, creating exclusive spaces for worship and subsequent patronage. Thus exclusive elements became a part of Buddhism. From the first to second centuries CE, extended messages were mainly found in conjunction with high value gifts and high status individuals. As such, the inscriptions became more complex because of access to literacy and the cultural backgrounds of donors.



Ruth Young

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



Usage metrics

    University of Leicester Theses