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Places in MotionThe Fluid Identities of Temples, Images, and Pilgrims$
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Jacob N. Kinnard

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199359653

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199359653.001.0001

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The Polyvalent Pādas of Viṣṇu and the Buddha*

The Polyvalent Pādas of Viṣṇu and the Buddha*

(p.56) 3 The Polyvalent Pādas of Viṣṇu and the Buddha*
Places in Motion

Jacob N. Kinnard

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the ways in which a specific religiously charged object in India —the footprint, or pāda—has defied attempts to fix it with a single, static identity. The specific focus here is on sculptural images of footprints at Bodhgayā and Gayā, located in northeastern India, in the modern state of Bihar, that are caught up in a complex signifying web and are venerated by both Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims, who attach very different identities and significance to the same objects. The issue of whose footprint is whose—the Buddha’s or Viṣṇu’s—seems not to have arisen at all on the ground, among those who worship such images. Rather, identity proves to be a fluid matter depending on both the particular ritual and discursive context in which a given footprint is located, and the particular identity and religious affiliation of the participant in the image.

Keywords:   Bodhgayā, Buddhist art, footprints, Gayā, Indian archaeology, religious identity

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