Constructing Buddhist Sovereignties: Text and Landscape in a Medieval Lankan Kingdom


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Asian Studies


This project is an intellectual and social history of Buddhist sovereignties constructed and contested in the landscape of Polonnaruva (1157-1215), providing a rich case study with implications for comparative sovereignty across the Buddhist world and in the “global medieval.” Despite the significance given to Parakramabahu I's monastic reforms in later Buddhist histories of Southern Asia, we have an inadequate understanding of his vision of Buddhist sovereignty, and less still of how that vision was subverted or even contested by monks, later monarchs, and noblewomen in his Polonnaruva kingdom. Reading the landscape as a site of discourse offers more nuanced insights into the contingency of “Buddhist sovereignty” belied by textual sources which emphasise cohesion and continuity.