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The Societal Dimensions of Early Buddhism


Admission requirements



Every year there is a Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies in Leiden, offering a series of extra-curricular lectures on a topic of Buddhist Studies. This year, a series of postgraduate lectures and online discussions will explore the societal dimensions of early Buddhism in India through in-depth examination of one of the earliest surviving Buddhist sites in the world: the stupa site at Bharhut in Central India. Following an introduction to this famous site and its geographical and historical contexts, we will look first at the knowledge systems and ideologies that have formed our conceptions and understandings of the site and its remains. In doing so, we will deconstruct what we think we know about the site and identify areas that have warranted further study. These include: archaeological investigations of the site, its surrounding area and the wider region; and a reanalysis of the sculptures and inscriptions from the site. The results of research on each of these topics will be presented and discussed. In doing so, we will then turn to discussion of a number of broader themes as they are reflected by the evidence from Bharhut. The first of these will be the ways in which the Buddhist community at Bharhut embedded themselves in the social fabric of the local area. The second will be consideration of what actually took place at the site and why. Third, we will look at longer term changes in Buddhism in the area, how they are manifest, and the reasons for them. Then finally, we will take a step back and consider what all of this means for our understanding of early Buddhism more generally. The contents of each lecture and seminar for this years course will be announced.

Course objectives

Students will gain an appreciation for and understanding of the archaeological evidence for developments in the doctrine, ritual and practice of Buddhism, and surrounding social traditions and institutions, while thinking about larger issues of religion in society.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture and seminar

Assessment method


  • Paper


In order to pass the course, students must obtain an an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.


Paper can be resubmitted in case of failing grade.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

To be announced.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.


Please contact Prof.dr. J.A. Silk with all content related questions.
For practical information, please contact Dr. M. Winkel, coordinator of studies MA Asian Studies.