Abhishek Amar.

An article by Associate Professor of Religious Studies Abhishek Amar appeared on the EDUCAUSE Review blog on Sept. 17. In “Exploring Sacred Centers through Virtual Reality,” he wrote about the Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi) project, Sacred Centers in India. He described the project that examines the historical development of Hindu Gaya and Buddhist Bodh Gaya.

The project was conceived after Amar conducted an archaeological survey of more than 55 temples and shrines of Gaya in 2011. He turned to Director of the Digital Humanities Initiative and Lecturer in Cinema & Media Studies Janet Simons for ideas to organize his data. Amar credits Simons with being “instrumental” in the development of the project.

The resulting project “adopts an interdisciplinary approach to organize and digitally curate a collected data set to pursue [Amar’s] research about the multilayered past of the Hindu city of Gaya.

Amar said that since the project began in 2013, he and the DHi team, including DHi Lead Designer and Software Engineer Greg Lord, have “developed a web archive that includes a virtual reality component, a 3D model of the Vishnupada temple, a digital database, and GIS information of 20 shrines and temples of Gaya.”

Amar went on to describe the methodology as well as the goals for the ongoing project. He said after completing the database of shrines and temples, the next step will be to develop an archive of objects and remains from Bodh Gaya, many of which are housed in museums in India and the U.K.

Amar said he will also “develop a VR model of the Mahabodhi temple of Bodh Gaya, which will make this paradigmatic Buddhist center digitally accessible to a wider audience.”

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