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Center for Asian Studies to Host Professor Pia Brancaccio | October 29

Tuesday, June 1, 2021 - 12:30pm
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Pia Brancaccio is Professor in the Department of Art and Art History where she teaches courses in the arts of South Asia and is responsible for the Asian Art Curriculum. Her research focuses on early Buddhist art and cross-cultural exchange in South Asia with a regional emphasis on the visual cultures of ancient Gandhara (Pakistan) and the Deccan Plateau (India). She has published extensively on the Buddhist caves in Western Deccan, including a monograph on The Buddhist Caves at Aurangabad (2010) and the edited volume Living Rock (2013), and has recently expanded her interests to ancient Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean exchange networks. She has been also a longstanding collaborator of the ISMEO-Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan and has written on architecture, visual narratives, artistic workshops and the multicultural fabric of Buddhism in Gandhara, and co-edited the book Gandharan Buddhism: Art, Archaeology (2006). Her research is published internationally, she serves on editorial boards of academic journals based in Europe and Asia, and is frequently invited as a speaker, panelist and collaborator by institutions across the globe.

Prior to joining Drexel University, she was Research Associate at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and was a Whitney Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Her research, publications and extensive field work carried out in South Asia have been supported by a variety of national and international grants.

Brancaccio will be visiting the University of Georgia to present the talk Views from the Black Mountain: The Rock-Cut Mahāvihāra at Kānheri/Kṛṣṇagiri in Konkan.

The Buddhist complex of Kānheri/Kṛṣṇagiri (Black Mountain), today situated within the metropolitan area of Mumbai, is the largest and longest lasting rock-cut monastery in the Western Deccan. It is comprised of over one hundred excavations and numerous inscriptions spanning a thousand years, from the beginning of the Common Era to the 11th century CE. In an important 5th century copper plate inscription found at the site, the monastery is identified for the first time as a ‘mahāvihāra’. A thorough re-examination of archaeological and artistic evidence from Kānheri indicates that the Black Mountain monastery – often treated cursorily or even completely overlooked in broader scholarly discourse – had developed as a major religious center during the medieval period with far reaching connections across the Buddhist world.

Inscriptions from caves 11 and 12 confirm the prominent role of Kānheri as a hub for Buddhist scholasticism in the 8th and 9th centuries. In addition, later medieval Buddhist textual sources and historiographies mention famous ācāryas allegedly receiving esoteric training at Kṛṣṇagiri. The layout and visual program of some of the later caves confirm that the Śrī Kṛṣṇagiri Mahārāja Mahāvihāra, as the monastery was called in Rāṣṭrakūṭa epigraphs, was well connected to Buddhist esoteric circuits. Kṛṣṇagiri appears to have entertained exchanges with the mahāvihāras of North India, with the Himalayan regions, and with Southeast Asia. In sum, the evidence presented in this paper should prompt us to shift our understanding of Kṛṣṇagiri. from a marginal regional monastery to a major international learning center in the networks of Buddhist transmission across South and Southeast Asia.

Co-Sponsered by the UGA Center for Asian Studies, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

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