A study of inscribed reliefs within the context of donative inscriptions at Sanchi



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Inscribed relief art at the early Buddhist archaeological site of Sanchi in India exhibits at least one interesting quality not found elsewhere at the site. Sanchi is well known for its narrative reliefs and reliquaries enshrined in stūpas. However, two inscribed images of stūpas found on the southern gateway record the gifts of two prominent individuals. The first is a junior monk whose teacher holds a high position in the local order. The second is the son of the foreman of the artisans of a king. Both inscribed stūpa images represent a departure from a previous donative epigraphical habit. Instead of inscribing their names on image-less architectural pieces, these two particular individuals inscribed their names on representations of stūpas, a symbol with a multiplicity of meanings. In this thesis, I use two perspectives to analyze the visual and verbal texts of these inscribed reliefs. In the end, I suggest that these donations were recorded as part of the visual field intentionally, showing the importance of not only inscribing a name on an auspicious symbol but also the importance of inscribing a name for the purpose of being seen.