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From the great Buddhist stupas at Sanchi to the Jami Masjid (mosque) in Kashmir, Mary B. Wheeler's images reveal the richness of South Asia's traditions of sacred architecture. Kings, political officials and groups of lay individuals contributed to the creation of many types of buildings - Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Jain - at critical historical moments over the course of the last 2,500 years. Weaving together the spiritual and mundane, the forms of sacred architecture reveal much about how various traditions envisioned the relationship between the individual and the cosmos, human worshipper and divinity, and salvific paths to enlightenment and beyond.

Sacred architecture is often found in key pilgrimage sites, which have always formed an important part of religious worship in South Asia. Pilgrimage sites or "tirthas", which literally denotes a "crossing", serve as important junctions between the divine world of the gods and the imperfect world of humans. Performing pilgrimage to sacred tirthas remains a ritual duty in many of South Asia's religions, and devotees gladly make painstaking efforts to reach these places in order to achieve a closer connection with their personal deities. From the thronging sacred Temple of the Buddha's Tooth Relic in Kandy, to the quiet recluse of the Shankar Acarya temple atop a hill in Kashmir, Mary B. Wheeler's images give us a broad sense of the different types of tirthas and pilgrimage places that exist in South Asia.


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