Friday 11/08/2018: Talk by Robert DeCaroli, "Snakes and Gutters"

The Columbia University Buddhist Studies Seminar, the Center for Buddhism and East Asian Religion and the Columbia University Seminars would like to invite you to the following talk:

Snakes and Gutters:
Nāga Imagery in the Western Deccan and the Birth of Buddhist Rainmaking Rituals
Robert DeCaroli, George Mason University

Friday, Nov 9th, 2018, 6:00pm
Columbia University
Faculty House Rm. G1

When considering the water-related challenges that confronted the monks and architects involved with rock-cut monasteries, it becomes apparent that the veneration of nāgas complimented methods of hydraulic engineering designed to regulate the flow of water at the sites. The highly visible nature of this arrangement helps to explain the emergence of ritual texts, primarily dating to after the fourth century CE, in which Buddhist ritualists adopt the role of rainmakers. The ritualists invariably invoke a special relationship with the nāgas whom they enjoin to rectify the undesirable conditions. This connection between image and text reveals a centuries-long process by which the monastic community developed an association with weather regulation that was contingent on a cultivated and highly public relationship with Buddhist-friendly nāgas.

Robert DeCaroli received his Ph.D. in the field South and Southeast Asian art history from UCLA. He is a specialist in the early history of Buddhism and has conducted fieldwork in India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. He is the author of Haunting the Buddha: Indian Popular Religions and the Formation of Buddhism (Oxford UP 2004) as well as of several journal articles and book chapters. The majority of this work deals with early (3rd c. BCE - 5th c. CE) aspects of South Asian material culture and its interaction with forms of regional religious practice. His second book, Image Problems: The Origin and Development of the Buddha’s Image in Early South Asia (U Washington Press 2015), explores the origin of the Buddha image and the social, political, and religious factors that led to its codification and spread. He is co-curator of the Encountering the Buddha exhibit at the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. He has been the recipient of the George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award and has received research grants from the Asian Cultural Council and the Getty Research Institute. From 2005 to 2014 he served as Director of the Art History Program.

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