South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Practices of Faith: Coastal Shrines on the Rim of the Indian Ocean

Saturday, July 7
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Silveroak II, Ground Floor

The paper examines a series of coastal shrines, dated between the 1st century BCE and 7th-8th century CE along the Indian Ocean in close proximity to ports and harbors, as centres of social integration for sailors, merchants, traders, devotees and the political and religious elites from across faiths and geographical regions.  Thie idea is to explore economic ties to study the world of rituals and shrines, of ‘practices of faith’ on oceanic  journeys.


Shrines of various faiths on the western coast of India such as Hindu temples on the coast of Gujarat, rock cut Buddhist caves of the Western Ghats and one of the earliest mosques in India the Churaman mosque on the Malabar Coast have been taken into consideration. Traversing across the Indian Ocean early sites in the UAE such as the Sun temple at ed-Dur, churches on the islands of Sir Bani yas and Marwaha; and in Oman the temple of Sin in Khor Rori and a ‘synagogue’ at Qana are also examined.


Based primarily on archaeological data (inscriptions, graffiti, settlement patterns, remains of ritual objects and offerings) and ethnographic material supplemented by textual references, the paper engages with the social dimension of this maritime travel which is a field yet to be fully researched. Patterns of prolonged interaction between the shrines and the communities of people who visited them is examined to highlight their cultural plurality, transcend present day boundaries of nation-states and regional identities to project a trans-national, shared cultural heritage of the Indian Ocean world. 

Salila Kulshreshtha

Independent Researcher, United Arab Emirates

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3 - Practices of Faith: Coastal Shrines on the Rim of the Indian Ocean



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