Early pilgrimage traditions in South Asia
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Original versionIn: Jacobsen, K. A. (ed.), Routledge Handbook of South Asian Religions, 111-123.
This chapter looks at early history of pilgrimage in South Asia. Sacred sites that were believed to offer rewards to those who visited them have been a significant feature of South Asian religious traditions since at least the first centuries CE. This chapter suggests that some pre-Buddhist, non-Vedic religious rituals in north and central India associated with sacred trees, pools of water, and shrines, might have been objects of pilgrimage travel also in prehistoric times. The chapter analyses statements about pilgrimage in two early texts that promoted pilgrimage, the Mahāparinibbānasutta and the Mahābhārata and suggests that different forms of ritual travel associated with pilgrimage are promoted in these texts and argues that they had different roots. The chapter suggests that perhaps the pre-Buddhist, nonVedic religious traditions were of some importance for the development of South Asian pilgrimage.