Lecture by Catherine Becker:
A Tale of Two Stupas, a Tale of Two States: Buddhist Artistic Heritage and the Forging of State Identities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
This talk examines two Buddhist stupas alongside the emergence of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, two South Indian states created in 2014 from the formerly unified Andhra Pradesh. Crafted of hazy bulletproof glass and housing relics excavated from the Buddhist site of Bavikonda (now in Andhra Pradesh), the first stupa sits in the crumbling State Museum in Hyderabad, the new capital of Telangana. The second stupa—funded by the Telangana State Government and still under construction—reimagines the once-glorious architecture and sculpture of the largely destroyed second-century stupa at Amaravati, now within the boundaries of Andhra Pradesh, the new capital of which is also under construction and has been given an evocative name: Amaravati. Whereas the visual culture of this region’s Buddhist past was employed in recent decades to articulate a unified state identity, these two stupas exemplify not only a shift in the rhetorical uses of Buddhist heritage, but also broader developments in the on-going politicization of monuments in the wake of India’s economic liberalization.
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