The Gods of Buddhism: Regional Deities and Spirits in Early South Asia


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


History and Art History


This project examines the relationship between the early Buddhist community and the terrestrial gods of South Asia. The work has two primary goals. First, because yakshas, nagas, and other such demigods were typically regional in nature, I will geographically and chronologically situate them on the South Asian landscape. Using archaeological, inscriptional, and textual sources, I will identify the locations associated with the cults of specific deities. Second, it is revealing to consider the political, ideological, and sectarian reasons why Buddhists at times embraced and at times distanced regional gods. Ultimately, the ebb and flow of Buddhist interaction with deities has more to do with changing political and cultural concerns than it does with strictly ideological Buddhist matters.