Celibate monks and foetus-stealing gods: Buddhism and pregnancy at the Jetavana Monastery, Shravasti, India - British Library Research Repository
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Celibate monks and foetus-stealing gods: Buddhism and pregnancy at the Jetavana Monastery, Shravasti, India

2013

Abstract

Care for pregnant women constituted an important aspect of interaction between monastic communities and the laity at the Jetavana Buddhist monastery. Figurines found at the monastery date to the first millennium CE and portray a deity with both maleficent and beneficent attitudes toward the unborn. The deities that such figurines depict have previously been interpreted as precursors to the Brahminical pantheon. However, archaeological evidence from the Jetavana monastery suggests that figurines were also drawn into Buddhism. As members of monastic communities were celibate, it is argued that figurines played a role in interaction with the laity. The beneficent attitudes of the deities they depict complemented the medical care that Buddhist monasteries offered pregnant women and the unborn. Examining figurines in their archaeological contexts highlights the diverse character of Buddhism. This study has implications for understanding the religious dimensions of care offered during pregnancy and childbirth and the concept of syncretism in ancient religions.

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