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Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara
By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".
The book says, "Central to (Hindutva) perception is the belief that Muslim rulers indiscriminately demolished Hindu temples and broke Hindu idols. They relentlessly propagate the canard that 60,000 Hindu temples were demolished during Muslim rule, though there is hardly any credible evidence for the destruction of more than 80 of them."
Presenting what he calls "a limited survey of the desecration, destruction and appropriation of Buddhist stupas, monasteries and other structures by Brahminical forces", Jha says, "Evidence for such destruction dates as far back as the end of the reign of Ashoka, who is credited with making Buddhism a world religion."
He adds, "A tradition recorded in a twelfth-century Kashmiri text, the Rajatarangini of Kalhana, mentions one of Ashoka’s sons, Jalauka. Unlike his father, he was a Shaivite, and destroyed Buddhist monasteries. If this is given credence, the attacks on Shramanic religions seem to have begun either in the lifetime of Ashoka or soon after his death."
According to Jha, "Other early evidence of the persecution of Shramanas comes from the post-Mauryan period, recorded in the Divyavadana, a Buddhist Sanskrit, which describes the Brahmin ruler Pushyamitra Shunga as a great persecutor of Buddhists. He is said to have marched out with a large army, destroying stupas, burning monasteries and killing monks as far as Sakala, now known as Sialkot, where he announced a prize of one hundred dinars for every head of a Shramana."
Bringing up "evidence" from famous grammarian Patanjali, Jha says, he "famously stated in his Mahabhashya that Brahmins and Shramanas are eternal enemies, like the snake and the mongoose. All this taken together means that the stage was set for a Brahminical onslaught on Buddhism during the post-Mauryan period, especially under Pushyamitra Shunga, who may have destroyed the Ashokan Pillared Hall and the Kukutarama monastery at Pataliputra—modern-day Patna."
Jha further says, "The possibility of a Shunga assault on Buddhist monuments is supported by the layers of debris and the evidence of desertion found at many centres of Buddhism, notably in Madhya Pradesh. For example, Sanchi, which was an important Buddhist site since the time of Ashoka, has yielded evidence of the vandalisation of several edifices during the Shunga period. Similar evidence comes from nearby places such as Satdhara, in Katni district, and Deurkothar, in Rewa district."
"The destruction and appropriation of Buddhist sites continued in Madhya Pradesh even after Shunga rule ended", says Jha. "At Ahmedpur, for instance, a Brahminical temple seems to have been constructed on a stupa base in the fifth century, and icons have been found at several sites around Vidisha, which were transformed into Shaivite or Jain places of worship around the eighth century."
Then, "more than 250 kilometres north-east of Vidisha, a Buddhist establishment existed at Khajuraho before it emerged as a major temple town from the tenth century onwards, under the Chandellas. Here, the Ghantai temple appears to have been built on the remains of a Buddhist monument in the ninth or tenth century by the Jains, who also may have had a strong presence in the region."
Providing evidence from Mathura, which was a flourishing town in western Uttar Pradesh during the Kushana period, Jha says, "Some present-day Brahminical temples, such as those of Bhuteshwar and Gokarneshwar, were Buddhist sites in the ancient period. Here, the Katra Mound, a Buddhist centre during Kushana times, became a Hindu religious site in the early medieval period."
Further, at Kaushambi, near Allahabad, "the destruction and burning of the great Ghositaram monastery has been attributed to the Shungas -- more specifically to Pushyamitra", says Jha, adding, "Sarnath, near Varanasi, where the Buddha delivered his first sermon, became the target of Brahminical assault. This was followed by the construction of Brahminical buildings, such as Court 36 and Structure 136, probably in the Gupta period, by reusing Mauryan materials."
Quoting Chinese pilgrim Fa-hsien, who visited India in the early fifth century, during the Gupta period, Jha says, at Sravasti, where the Buddha spent much of his life, "Brahmins seem to have appropriated a Kushana Buddhist site, where a temple with Ramayana panels was constructed during the Gupta period."
Jha notes, "In fact, the general scenario of Buddhist establishments in what is today Uttar Pradesh was so bad that in Sultanpur district alone no less than 49 Buddhist sites seem to have been destroyed by fire when, as described in a paper by the archaeologist Alois Anton Führer, 'Brahminism won its final victories over Buddhism'.”
In the post-Gupta centuries, says Jha, Chinese Buddhist pilgrim and traveller Hsüan Tsang, who visited India between the years 631 and 645, during the reign of Harshavardhana, "states that the sixth-century Huna ruler Mihirakula, a devotee of Shiva, destroyed 1,600 Buddhist stupas and monasteries and killed thousands of Buddhist monks and laity. He further tells us that 1,000 sangharamas in Gandhara were 'deserted'/and in 'ruins,' and describes 1,400 sangharamas in Uddiyana as 'generally waste and desolate'.”
Then, says Jha, "Hsüan Tsang tells us that the king Shashanka of Gauda cut down the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya in Bihar -- the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment -- and removed a statue of the Buddha from a local temple, ordering that it be replaced by an image of Maheshvara... Bodh Gaya came under Buddhist control again during the period of the Pala rulers, who were Buddhists, and the place has, in fact, remained a site of religious contestation throughout Indian history."
Referring to the internationally reputed Buddhist university at Nalanda, especially the its vast monastic complex where Hsüan Tsang spent more than five years, Jha says, it's library was set on fire by "Hindu fanatics", insisting, "The popular view, however, wrongly attributes this conflagration to the Mamluk commander Bakhtiyar Khilji, who never went there, but, in fact, sacked the nearby Odantapuri Mahavihara at modern-day Bihar Sharif."
Suspecting that even the Jagannath temple at Puri, one of the most prominent Brahminical pilgrimage centres in eastern India, built in the twelfth century during the reign of the Eastern Ganga ruler Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, "is said to have been constructed on a Buddhist site" something which "may be contested", Jha says, "There is hardly any doubt that the temples of Purneshvara, Kedareshvara, Kanteshvara, Someshvara and Angeshvara, all in Puri district, were either built on Buddhist viharas, or made of material derived from them."


Nandini Oza said…
Very useful and important read.
Unknown said…
Useful, but blaming it all on Brahmins is a bit short-sided. Brahmins wouldn't have been able to pull it off without the military support of Kshatriyas and financial support of Vaishyas while even Jains were seemingly all to happy in seeing a rival shramanistic religion fail. And, the final nail on the buddhist coffin WAS contributed to by Turkic and Afghani islamist invaders as well...
Uma said…
Why hide behind anonimity? It is true that Kshatriyas destroyed Buddhist sites but they were directed by the Bhrahmins.
Anonymous said…
Moulded facts indeed.The author needs to do a bit more research than coming to direct conclusion.I could show you in mybhometown Patna that many mosques built after the ghaznavid era in Patna still have the name of buddhist monastery.For example the mosque in patna called Patther ki masjid still bears the name Sangi masjid which is just a misnomer of Sangha.These leftist historians had very shamelessly suppressed these kind of evidences to put forward their agendised historical perspective.
smitesh shah said…
less evidence is given that kings destroyed buddhist sites 1500 temples, false. Even when buddhism was advancing, buddhist followers have tried to destroyed hindu temples in past if we see. Now, lets comes to conclusion, at time of today hindu govt pm modi, no 1 is destroying buddhist culture, so its not needed that all hindu kings in times destroyed buddhist culture, in in times of maurya kings respect buddhism. Buddhism decline due to lack debates with hindu saints in past recoverting buddhist to hindusim. This converted buddhist might also destroyed the temples and made it hindus
Aniket Das said…
Nice article
Saurav Bhagat said…
Smitesh Shah, what logic man. We have secularism today, how can anyone under any PM even dare to destroy any religious structure. Secularism is a modern concept. Medieval and ancient world didn't think that way.
G R Srinivasa said…
India is an ancient country where VEDAS originated ( words from God himself) and Bhagavath githa is 6500 years old. Ancient traditions prevailed. Some rulers who did not believe in Omnipotent God started believing what humans started saying from their experience ( Man created). Many believe in Tharka and Vitharka having no sanctity. One such theory is Shunya philosophy. In India 82 percent are people following VEDIC CULTURE. They are Mature and sensible. MOst of them believe that God exists every where.
Unknown said…
Sowing seeds of discord where none exists.
DN Jha is one of those who defended Babri Masjid.
So should we say -- cat is out of the bag.
Unknown said…
DN Jha'a credentials are questionable.
Anonymous said…
The bogus ideas of him includes Hindus eat beef, his and fellow comrades failed in Ayodhya verdict. People like him are fruit of our academic system which teach us to condemn our own religion and culture. Hindu is a nasty word for these scavengers who under foreign money and influence belittle this great civilization. Badrinath temple was vandalized by Buddhists but Great Shankara resurrected it. Buddha is Lord Vishnu for us. Those who lost mental capacity to understand Vedic life in Kaliyuga were given a way by Buddha who is always addressed as 'Arya' by his deciples. Buddhism was also spreading a cult of vagabonds where young men and women donot work, under guide of bhikshu immoral acts were practicsed. The religion is reduced to soceerism and black magic. So the parent vedic religion guided it. Hindus venerates all gods and goddesses of Budhism, Jainism, all Gurus of Sikhism. This is possible when you are at very high level of maturity
Unknown said…
ashoka himself is a fake character , britishers have rewritten history of india to a extent that facts are far left behind ,radha is a fake character to defame krishna, agnipariksha of mata sita is a fake episode written by britishers to defame rama, and so much so on, if hindus were so intolereant or brhamins were so dangerous how come outsiders ruled india for 1000 years?? and yet could not destroy a hair of hindus?? how even are this people called scholars and how is their knowledge trustable???
Anonymous said…
Brahmins are the cancer of India
.. no wonder they are going extinct now.. they destroyed everything and made people their slaves for 2 millennia... they physically inferior, hence used Kshatriya to do the task for them. Tiny penis, feminine bodied (hairless) creatures called Brahmins are an abomination to human race.
The archaeological claims are all without a shred of evidence. Also.. most Buddhists in India were Kshatriya and Vaishya converts who never gave up their Varna identities. Shudras were never Buddhists or Jains in large numbers. There exists no evidence of a large population of India, particularly non-Dvijas, ever becoming "Buddhist" or "Jain". Also, apart from Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, it were the Greeks and Scythians who had become Buddhists in large numbers within India. Pushyamitra Shunga's persecution of Buddhists was intended against the Greco-Buddhists who were supporting the last Greek Buddhist invader Demetrius (Dhammamitta) who was eventually defeated by Pushyamitra. Also the claim that there were "thousands" of Buddhist stupas and other structures is a Buddhist claim and cannot be verified from neutral or non-Buddhist sources. The Chinese travellers were also all Buddhists and they clearly claim even Deva temples (obviously Hindu ij modern terms) to be Buddhist institutions.

Buddhism, Jainism and Brahmanism were always a minority in India and confined to the castes that achived elite classes alone. The vast majority followed local folk religious traditions which were more or less the same as the folk religion of Indians today.. and this is what we call as popular Hinduism a.k.a. Agamic/Laukic Hinduism.

Modern day descendants of untouchables and outcastes appropriating "Buddhism" and other Shramanic systems as their own are liars. The Indian equivalents of "we wuz kangz". The Brahmanical Hinduism vs Vedic Hinduism (almost extinct anyway by the time Brahmanism rose) vs vs Buddhism vs Jainism vs Ajivakism was an upper caste vs upper caste issue. Untouchable Pariahs or Chandalas who were always largely folk religionists/Agamic or Laukic Hindus (non-Brahmanical unorganized folk Shaivites, Shaktas etc.) should stop stealing upper caste movements. They should also stop appropriating Kshatriya (Vrishala though) lineages like Moriyas- whose actual descendants exist only among Mori Rajputs, More Marathas and probably Mori Jats.
Unknown said…
It has been a power game all through the history. Whoever, had the power propagated his religion by destroying the vanquished. It is still going on and will continue to be made only for reversal after some time. Hilarious but true...
Anonymous said…
Some gay brahmins here pissed off😂😂😂
Anonymous said…
Look some pissed off people in comments. 😂😂😂😂
being rational said…
buddhism which has its very origin in INDIA itself has how many buddhist temples and pilgrimage sites here and how many of the people here are follwing buddhism?? see China instead, how widely buddhism fluorished there. the Facts written here might not be digested by a few conservatists but remember religion has always been a way to conquer states an d show dominance, mughals did the same thing by destroying hindu temples, and same goes for modi govt, demolishing one masjid to please the majority hindus that too in a democratic country, where in a democracy no state can have any affiliation to any particular state( only theocratic state has such) . Brahmins are pissed off here but its true guys. your forefathers were !@##holes. same goes for muslims. killings, rapes, and create their own hells heavens to justify the wrongs.
We need unbiased narratives. Harping on one theme continuously is also biased. It is also against national interest and the interest of science. D N Jha is a pastmaster in the art of polarization.
mohammedbasha said…
It’s been Misconceptions About Islam and misunderstood by many that Islam was founded by Prophet Muhammed around 1400 years ago in the middle of Arabia and The holy book of Islam was certainly sent by Almighty.
Unknown said…
An excellent article by a distinguished historian. The 'upper' caste thugs, who have a strange notion of themselves as 'tolerant', while practicing the unparalleled social abuse of untouchability, can only quote some sacred book of theirs! Illiterate epsilon-minuses.
Hakenkruez said…,-Ruins%20of%20Vikramashila&text=After%20the%20conquest%2C%20Buddhism%20largely,Himalayan%20regions%20and%20south%20India.&text=After%20the%20collapse%20of%20monastic,reoccupied%20by%20other%20religious%20orders.
Asif said…
The religion of peace named Islam is one among the mightiest religion in this world. And also, the one that is misunderstood a lot for several reasons. Be it a propaganda of political or of economical unfolded at all times. Our mission is to spread Truth about Islam by clearing entire misconceptions and to disseminate virtuous good deeds that the Muslims actually practice. Islam, one among largest religions in the world also the one that is misunderstood all time. There are several sources including political, economic & media, framed Islam as misleading religion. And the Truth about Muslims are always hidden from the light.
Anonymous said…
Can see a few writhing in pain!


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