Unveiling Bhikkhunīs in Oblivion: Ancient Bhikkhunī Sangha as revealed in the inscriptions of Rock Cut Caves of Western Deccan

The is an excellent survey of inscriptions mentioning bhikkhunis in the caves of the Deccan. Here, as elsewhere in India, the bhikkhunis and their students and sponsors play a key role in the development of Buddhism as recorded in the epigraphs. From such inscriptions we learn their names, the relations and connections, and glean something of how the practicality of Buddhism was undertaken.


For those without an account, here’s a link to the original PDF from

~ The Librarian :nerd_face:


Oh! Y’all might also like this well-written article on the imagined roles for women in Early Indian Buddhism by Peter Skilling :nerd_face:


Thank you for the link to this wonderful article.

Bhante @sujato How do you know this? Given that in the Kanheri inscriptions, pavayita clearly refers to bhikkhus or ascetics in general, I think it would be very reasonable to infer that pavaītīkā refers to bhikkhunis or female ascetics or their students. This word comes from pravrajitā (already a normal term for Jain and Buddhist ascetics by this period) with elision of the j. I can’t see a relationship to pavattinī, as if this were the case, this term wouldn’t be used for monks. See also Mehendale, Historical Grammar of Inscriptional Prakrits, p. 830.


Oh thanks my mistake. I only saw it in the case of nuns. I’ll fix the original article.


Some parts of the Deccan plain look amazing. Photos on a Google map location review:

Edited to add:
The article specifies Deccan’s western side. More info on the western mountain range aka Western Ghats: Western Ghats - Wikipedia