In his travels Dharmapala encountered many universalizing projects-from Theosophy to Kakuzo Okakura’s pan-Asianism, from the World’s Parliament of Religions to the branding and projection of world religions, from Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita, and Annie Besant to Lord Curzon’s affection for an Imperial British Buddhism. In Kolkata the Bengali elite (bhadralok) was drawn to Buddhism for its humanism as well as by their own civilizational pride in Buddhism as an Indian religion. As Dharmapala cultivated those connections, he fought to take Bodh Gaya away from the Hindu renouncer who controlled it, trying to install a Japanese Buddha image in the Bodh Gaya temple. That struggle brought both local and international actors into conflict and made the place a global Buddhist resource on the one side and an emergent instrument for forging the Indian nation on the other.
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