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Romila Thapar

In this chapter, the author contrasts the recognition and concerns for the laity in Buddhism with the other major religion of early India, Hinduism, which tends either to leave it fluid or as in some sects, gives it no recognition. Votive inscriptions from Buddhist sites in the Deccan, the northern part of the Indian peninsula, during the period from the first century BC to about the third century AD provide the data. Lay collective activity in early India varied according to religion and among sects within the same religion. The author has tried to suggest that, although the concept of laity was a necessity in Buddhism, it was far more blurred if not absent in some of the Hindu sects. This was not merely due to religious formulations and requirements but also hinged on the interface between religious belief and practice and social forms.

in Law, laity and solidarities