Nirvana in Assam
Buddha could not have selected a more lovely spot for the dissemina-
tion of his doctrines or the close of his career.
Edward Tuite Dalton, 1856
The creation of replicas of and substitutes for the holy lands of the great world religions, with their key shrines and sacra, has been a very widespread and well-known historical phenomenon. We find that such holy land replicas or substitutes are often believed to be—and are particularly promoted as being—as ritually efficacious as their originals. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, for instance, several reproductions of the Christian Holy Land were created in different parts of Europe. Replica complexes, such as the late fifteenth-century “New Jerusalem” of the Sacro Monte di Varallo Sesia in northern Italy, even included duplicate holy places with the distances between them constructed to exactly the same scale as those of the original sites in Palestine.1 By the seventeenth century, the performance of the Christian practice commonly known as Stations of the Cross, which was based upon a tableau of sites developed out of the Crusaders' experience of the Holy Land, was commonly judged to be an equivalent of or substitute for actual pilgrimage to Palestine itself. The creation of replica holy lands and the question of their efficacy has been no less a feature of religious cultures during the modern age. Thus, we find that devout late nineteenth-century American Christians were assured that the elaborate scale exhibition models of Palestine they visited in the Midwest of the United States were “equivalent to an actual tour of the Holy Land.”2