Organized Panel Session
With Kandy, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Ava, and Longvek, the early modern period saw the emergence of distinctive centers of power across mainland Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. In an act that was as much political as it was devotional, overlords established their new city as bastion of the Buddhist religion. The process contributed to reify a Buddhist realm conceived of at once by the overlords through territorial claims over their polity and associations with Buddhist India and Sri Lanka.
Under royal impulse and patronage a predominantly Buddhist landscape emerged in which the spatial ordering of buildings, people, and things, the placement of visual narratives and iconography in the city’s landscape, the ritual procession of relics throughout the new royal center, and the formulation of authoritative spatial narratives helped the court and elite monastic community assert power and lineage. How and to what extent these practices were localized and sustained by ‘court-sangha’ dynamics and dynamics played out between monastic orders will be some of the questions addressed by the contributions.
By reading texts and landscapes, the panel revisits scholarship on sacred centers in South and Southeast Asia, moves beyond impressionistic views portraying the succession of royal centers in their supposed timelessness, and emphasizes the connected history between these Buddhist polities, especially with Sri Lanka. In doing so, it hopes to contribute to a comparative approach to early modern Buddhist polities across South and Southeast Asia that has hitherto been lacking.