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Although typically associated with monuments in the Buddhist traditions, the Sanskrit word stūpa refers most basically to “a heap or pile of earth or bricks” (Monier-Williams, 1899). The stupa qua Buddhist reliquary derives from earlier traditions in which important bodies were placed within burial mounds. References to similar structures can also be found in Jain and Hindu literature. The prominent Buddhist practice of enshrining bodily relics within the stupa is documented in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta of the Pāli canon. Ānanda, the Buddha's premier disciple, asks what should be done with the Buddha's remains after his final entrance into nirvana. The Buddha replies that, after his cremation, “a stūpa should be erected at the crossroads … and whoever [makes offerings] there with a devout heart will ...

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