Archiving Hindu Gaya: Temples, Shrines and Images of a Sacred Center in India

Abhishek Amar and Lauren Scutt (Hamilton College)

The Sacred Centers in India project, aimed at creating a digital archive, began in April 2013 at the Digital Humanities Initiative (DHI) at Hamilton College. This project seeks to examine the multiple layers of the history of 55 important shrines within the Hindu pilgrimage city of Gaya (known for funerary rituals) through a study of textual, archaeological and art-historical remains. Since March 2014, Lauren Scutt and Lainie Smith have been collaborating with Professor Abhishek Amar and DHI team to create the digital archive.
The process of creating the archive has been a multi-step process. Based upon extensive surveys of Gaya shrines conducted in 2011 and 2013, we have intensively analyzed the geo-spatial information, nature and usage, historical layers and links with the local community of these shrines. We have identified multitude of Hindu and Buddhist images along with their current ritual and symbolic meanings based upon ethnographic and historical materials. We are currently working on the metadata schema to collate and organize the dataset into analytical categories, which we hope to share through the digital archive with a wider audience. In addition to documenting and preserving the religio-historical heritage of Gaya, this dataset will also serve as a storehouse for scholars, researchers, students and Hindus across the world.
Based upon the collaborative experience, we propose to present short papers and participate in panel discussions. Amar’s presentation will focus on the implications of the project for his research and pedagogy. Scutt will discuss her experience of working on the project, especially on the metadata apart from discussing her independent project on the philosophical reflections on death rituals that are performed at the shrines of Gaya. Smith will also reflect on her own experience of working on project, which has resulted in an independent research project on the religious roots of yogic meditations and its subsequent adaptations into the modern world.