Beyond Boundaries:

Religion, Region,
and the State

Corresponding Principal Investigator:

Department of Asia 


Supported by

European Research Council

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About the project

The Gupta kingdom and its networks had an enduring impact on India and a profound reach across central and southeast Asia in a host of cultural, religious and socio-political spheres.

As such, it has received considerable scholarly attention over the last century, as have separately the kingdoms of central and southeast Asia. Recent advances notwithstanding, knowledge and research activity are fragmented by entrenched disciplinary protocols, influenced by nationalist historiographies and constrained by regional languages and associated cultural and political agendas. The Gupta age, therefore, tends to be understood only from its parts.

The research team, hosted by the British Museum, will delineate and assess the significance of the Gupta Age and its pan-Asian impacts.

Research aims

  • Investigate the constitution of the Gupta kingdom and its relationship with surrounding states;
  • chart the polities that flourished concurrently in central and southeast Asia;
  • define and analyse specific appropriations inspired by Indian examples and map how Sanskrit, Prakrit and Pali, the media of political and religious discourse, came to be used across Asia beside regional languages such as Pyu, Kannada and Khotanese;
  • examine how key scientific, literary and religious texts were composed, disseminated and translated, processes facilitated by writing systems derived from India;
  • scrutinize how temples and monasteries first emerged as autonomous socio-economic institutions with stable endowments, thereby possessing the resources needed to become long-standing trans-regional nodes of learning, ritual practice and new art styles.