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Title: Sri Pāda : diversity and exclusion in a sacred site in Sri Lanka
Author: De Silva, D. A. Premakumara
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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The thesis is an ethnohistorical study of one major pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka, known as Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak), where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually visit to worship the sacred footprint where is looted in the mountain top temple. This sacred footprint has different sacred connotations for Sri Lanka’s major religious groups (Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Catholic). However, this pilgrimage site, which was considered a multi-religious site until the turn of the twentieth century, has now been constructed or ordered into an ethnic majoritarian Buddhist space. My thesis, therefore, concentrates in part on the historical process which has led to the construction of the pilgrimage site as a Buddhist space, and then locates this process within the wider context of the rise of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lankan. My work highlights the powerful role pilgrimage can play in particular religious discourses and the manner it legitimates certain ways of envisaging power and relationships of domination at particular conjunctures, which is clearly apparent in the contemporary Sinhala Buddhist cultural nationalism in Sri Lanka. This thesis is divided into three interconnected parts. The first part considers ‘knowledge production’ about Sri Pada while the second part explores the major competing discourses that have been arisen during its political and religious history. The final part is mainly focused on the style of religiosity and the social composition of pilgrims, and explores social factors in the practices of worship. One chapter deals with the style of “official” Buddhist religiosity found at this centre and two further chapters look at devotional and expressive forms of religiosity of pilgrims, which is oriented to the Buddha rather than the gods and as such is markedly different from that documented by anthropologists working in other parts of the island. The final chapter investigates links between devotional styles and the shifting socio-political contexts. The documentation of the prevailing styles of religiosity at Sri Pada enable me to show on one hand how such religiosity further undermines the broadly Weberian antinomies that have dominated the anthropology of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and on the other hand the intensity or scale of Buddhicization of the historically viewed ‘sacred site’.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available