The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka

By John Clifford Holt | Go to book overview

3
A Visual Liturgy

Many of the traditional public rites and festivals, monastic and lay, that are still performed in the villages, towns, and temples of the contemporary Sinhala Buddhist religious culture within the Kandyan region of up- country Sri Lanka may be regarded, in part, as a legacy of what must have been Kīrti Śrī's unwearied efforts to articulate not only the royal discourses I discussed in chapter 2, but also a classical Sinhalese Theravāda Buddhist religious perspective. In chapter 1 I noted how, in general, the social, economic, and political predicament produced compelling reasons for why Kīrti Śrī felt so moved to engage in royal postures reminiscent of the ideal patterns of Buddhist political rule. I noted in chapter 2 how Kīrti Śrī accomplished this by revitalizing, in so conspicuous a fashion, various genres of public rituals, monastic and lay (upasampadā, äsaḷa perahära, pilgrimages, and so on), and by issuing formal written documents (sannasas and katikāvatas) so copiously. His efforts directed at the performance of rituals gave form to, or, rather, reformed, the public articulation of Buddhism, and this is reflected even in the present-day enactment in up-country Sri Lanka. In fact, one might go so far as to say that Kīrti Śrī laid the foundation for the manner in which Buddhism has become a type of civil religion in Kandy for up-country Sinhalese. 1 Kīrti Śrī's efforts, quite obviously, revitalized the institutional life of Buddhism in ways still felt today in this region and, at the same time, helped to centralize his grip on power throughout the other various regions of his king

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The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Kīrti Śrī's Predicament 3
  • 2 - Discourses of a Buddhist King 15
  • 3 - A Visual Liturgy 41
  • Details of the Liturgy: Wall Paintings from the Time of Kīrti Śrī *
  • 4 - Royalty Reborn 73
  • 5 - Implications for Theory and Method 91
  • 6 - Postscript: Ethnic Identity and Alienation 97
  • Appendix the Religious Works of Kīrti Śrī at Gangārāma and Ridī Vihāra 109
  • Notes 115
  • Bibliography 135
  • Index 141
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