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date: 22 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents an overview of contemporary Indian Buddhism, broadly conceived, highlighting several historical developments, transregional influences, and Indo-centric adaptations within the colonial and postcolonial context. As the “homeland” of Buddhism and central to various contemporary revitalization movements, two themes are of particular analytical importance to this chapter: the recovery and reconfiguration of Buddhist material objects and the importance of reinvention among a range of Western and Asian Buddhist actors. After situating Indian Buddhism within the context of Indian historiography and discussions around the decline of Buddhism, this chapter examines various ways Indian Buddhist sites, artifacts, and structures are reimagined and reconfigured under colonization, nation-building, and changing socioeconomic interests. Also covered are Buddhist movements within India such as the Ambedkar-inspired New Buddhism, the role of Tibetan Buddhist refugees, and how the valorization of India’s Buddhist pilgrimage geography intersects with state goals toward tourism development and heritage diplomacy in Asia.

Keywords: Buddhism, colonialism, heritage, India, material objects, pilgrimage, reinvention, tourism

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