Which is more deplorable: destruction of Buddhism in its own birth place in ancient India by Hindus, or of Buddha statues by present day Islamic Talibans in Afghanistan?
Two well known academicians of Kerala – Prof KM Bahauddin, former pro-vice chancellor of Aligarh Muslim and Osmania universities, and Dr MS Jayaprakash, professor of history at Kollam – throw some deep insights into the dark history of India when Buddhism was systematically eliminated by Brahminical forces who control Hinduism, then and now.
Says Jayaprakash: ‘The ruthless demolition of Buddha statues by Taliban has courted severe criticism from different quarters of the world. Surprisingly, the BJP-led Indian Government, supported by all Hindutva forces, also condemned the Taliban action. It is a paradox that the forerunners of the present Hindutva forces in India had wantonly destroyed not only Buddhist statues but also killed Buddhists in India. Therefore, any impartial student of history would unequivocally say that these Hindutva forces have no moral right to criticize Taliban now.’
He elaborates: ‘Hundreds of Buddhist statues, stupas and viharas have been destroyed in India between 830 and 966 AD in the name of Hindu revivalism. Both literary and archaeological sources within and outside India speak volumes about the havoc done to Buddhism by Hindu fanatics. Spiritual leaders like Sankaracharya and many Hindu kings and rulers took pride in demolishing Buddhist images aiming at the total eradication of Buddhist culture. Today, their descendants destroyed the Babri Masjid and also published the list of mosques to be targeted in future. It is with this sin of pride that they presently condemn Taliban.’
Prof. Bahauddin elaborates the selfish compulsions of Brahminism to wipe-out Buddhism: ‘Buddhism tried to create a dynamic society in ancient India. Jainism also contributed its share. As Buddhism spread, iron ploughs and implement were used for development of agriculture. As a result, new areas were cultivated and agricultural productivity increased, apart from developing trade centres and road links. Subsistence-level economy changed to a surplus economy with grain storage facilities, exchange of goods, trade and development of bureaucratic administration. This also created social change – from elans consisting several families to tribes consisting several elans of similar socio-economic conditions. The emphasis of Brahmins, on the other hand, was for receiving and giving alms and not on production of goods. Those who give and receive alms were close to Gods and those who produce were considered as inferior. According to Manusmriti, a Sudra should not have wealth of his own. In case he has any, a Brahmin as his master can take it over without any hesitation. ‘Rigveda’ goes a step further to kill those who do not give ‘danam’ to the Brahmins. In other words, someone has to produce goods so that others can give ‘danam’ to the recipient Brahmins. It was against this system of ‘downgrading those who produce’ that Buddhism came into being.’
Recalls Dr. Jayaprakash: ‘The Hindu ruler Pushyamitra Sunga had destroyed 84,000 Buddhist stupas which were built by Emperor Ashoka. This was followed by the demolition of Buddhist centres in Magadha. Thousands of Buddhist saints were killed mercilessly. King Jalaluka destroyed the Buddha viharas within his jurisdiction on the ground that chanting of hymns by Buddhists disturbed his sleep! In Kashmir, King Kinnara demolished thousands of viharas and captured the Buddhist villages to please Brahmins. A large number of Buddha viharas were usurped by Brahmins and converted into Hindu temples where entry of ‘untouchables’ was prohibited. Notably, Buddhist places were regularized as Hindu temples by writing Puranas, which were invented myths or pseudo history. The important temples at Tirupathi, Aihole, Undavalli, Ellora, Bengal, Puri, Badarinath, Mathura, Ayodhya, Sringeri, Bodhigaya, Saranath, Delhi, Nalanda, Gudimallam, Nagarjunakonda, Srisailam and Sabarimala are some of the striking examples of Brahminical usurpation of Buddhist centres.’
Detailing the divergence in both orientation and essence between Buddhism and Hinduism, Prof. Bahauddin says: ‘Equality, compassion, non-violence, utilization of human abilities for general welfare, etc. were the cardinal principles of Buddhism. According to ‘Sathpatha Brahmanam (22-6, 3-4-14), on the other hand, the whole universe is controlled by God, God is controlled by Mantram and Mantram is with Brahmins and, therefore, Brahmins are God (on earth). They used Mantram and Sapam to instil fear in the people to obey them, while Buddhism encouraged people to observe visible facts, to apply reason to get out of fear. Buddhism also encouraged people to do good things, besides guiding Kings to look after the people’s welfare. Buddhism considers the general welfare of the people, while Brahminism considers that the whole world was created for them all along. And, there is bound to be conflict between these two opposite ways of thinking.’
According to Dr Jayaprakash, Sakaracharya had played ‘a demon’s role’ in destruction of Buddhist statues and monuments at Nagarjunakonda (in present-day Andhra Pradesh). ‘A. N. Longhurst, who conducted excavations at Nagarjunakonda, had recorded this in his invaluable book, Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India No. 54, The Buddhist Antiquities of Nagarjunakonda (Delhi, 1938, p. 6). The ruthless manner in which all the buildings at Nagarjunakonda have been destroyed is simply appalling and cannot represent the work of treasure-seekers alone since so many pillars, statues, and sculptures have been wantonly smashed to pieces. Local tradition relates that the great Hindu philosopher and teacher, Sankaracharya, came to Nagarjunakonda with a host of followers and destroyed the Buddhist monuments. The cultivated lands on which ruined buildings stand represent a religious grant made to Sankaracharya.’
Quoting Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Prof. Bahauddin says that the conflict against Brahmin supremacy had, in fact, started before Buddhist period, between Vasishta Muni, a Brahmin, and Viswamitra, a non-Brahmin. ‘The dispute was about the learning of ‘Vedas’, the right to conduct religious ceremony, to receive gifts, and to perform coronation of King. Vasishta Muni insisted that these were the exclusive privileges of Brahmins, while Viswamitra was opposed to such exclusive rights. This dispute lasted for long period, and even Kings joined in it (Writings and Speeches of Dr. Ambedkar, vol. 7, p. 148-155. It was won by Brahmins.’
Prof. Bahauddin lists the different stages of Brahmin hostility against Buddhism: ‘1) 483-273 BC: The period after Buddha’s death upto Ashoka’s rule when attempts were made to include Brahminical ideas in Buddhist ideology. 2) 273-200 BC: When Buddhism spread all over India and became a world religion. 3) 200 BC-500 AD: The period when all possible efforts were made to disintegrate Buddhism from within by adulterating Buddhist teachings with Brahminical ideas and also through physical annihilation from outside. As a result, Buddhism divided itself into 18 sects, of which Hinayana and Mahayana were prominent ones. 4) 500-700 AD: Brahminism gained supremacy in North India and efforts began to drive out Buddhism and Jainism from South India. 5) 700-1100 AD: Brahminism gained supremacy in South India and, with added vigour, it moved again to North India to obtain complete supremacy over Buddhism and Jainism. 6) 1100-1400 AD: Buddhism and Jainism were destroyed from the remaining Southern States of Karnataka and Kerala and, thus, total supremacy of Brahminism all over India was achieved.’
Adds Dr. Jayaprakash: ‘Within Kerala, Sankaracharya and his close associate Kumarila Bhatta, an avowed foe of Buddhism, organized a religious crusade against Buddhists. A vivid description of Sankaracharya’s pleasure of seeing people of non-Brahminic faith being burnt to death is available in ‘Sankara Digvijaya’. Kumarila instigated King Suddhanvan of Ujjain to exterminate Buddhists. The ‘Mricchakatika’ of Sudraka describes how the King’s brother-in-law in Ujjain inhumanly tortured the Buddhist monks, by using them as bullocks by inserting a string through their nose and yoking them to the cart! The ‘Keralolpathi’ documents the extermination of Buddhism from Kerala by Kumarila. About the activities of Sankaracharya, even Vivekananda had observed: ‘And, such was the heart of Sankara that he burnt to death lots of Buddhist monks by defeating them in argument. What can you call such action on Sankara’s part except fanaticism’ (Complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. III, p. 118, Calcutta, 1997).’
According to Dr. Jayaprakash, there are hundreds of places in Kerala having names ‘palli’ either affixed or suffixed with them. ‘Karunagapalli, Karthikapalli, Pallickal, Pallippuram, Edappally, etc. are some examples of these places. The term ‘palli’ means a Buddha vihara. Notably, Kerala had 1200 years of Buddhist tradition. Earlier, the schools in Malayalam were called as ‘Ezhuthupalli’ or ‘Pallikoodam’. It is also worth noticing that the Christians and Muslims in Kerala use the term ‘palli’ to denote their church and mosque alike. These ‘pallies’ or viharas had been ruthlessly demolished by the Hindu forces under the leadership of Sankaracharya and Kumarila. They could exterminate 1200 years of Buddhist tradition and converted Kerala into a Brahminical state based on the ‘Chaturvarna’ system. Original inhabitants of Kerala, like the Ezhavas, Pulayas, etc., were crushed under the weight of casteism. Many a viharas was transformed into temples and majority of people were prevented from entering temples under the pretext of caste pollution. It can also be noted that the name ‘Kerala’ is the Sanskritised Aryan version of the Dravidian and Buddhist term ‘Cherala’. The Parasurama legend is nothing but an invented myth for regularizing the Brahminical ‘Kerala’ hiding its glorious Buddhist traditions.’
Jainism, too, met with the same fate in South India. Prof. Bahauddin elaborates: ‘Very little information is available about growth of Jainism in South India during 300-400 AD. The Jain book, ‘Digambara Darsana’, recounts the starting of a Sangham at Madurai in 470 AD and Jainism became widespread and strong during 500-600 AD (Kumaraswamy Iyengar, ‘Studies in South Indian Jainism’, p. 51-58)….. The Jains used to instal the images of their saints in their religious places, a practice which was followed by Brahmins. Hindu temples appeared all over Tamilnadu probably after converting the Jain religious places. The idols of 63 Brahmin Sanyasis, who led destruction of Jainism, still adorn the walls of some Hindu temples in Tamilnadu. The remains of destroyed Jain idols, their abandoned religious and living places are scattered all over Tamilnadu to narrate their story. Frescos depicting the kings of Jains could be seen on the walls near the Golden Tank at Madurai Meenakshi Temple where, of the total 12 annual festivals, five depict the killing of Jains according to Kumaraswamy Iyengar (p. 78-79).’
According to Dr. Jayaprakash, a number of Buddha statues have been discovered at places like Ambalapuzha, Karunagapalli, Pallickal, Bharanikkavu, Mavelikara and Neelamperur in Kerala. ‘They are either in the form of smashed pieces or thrown away from viharas. Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala and Lord Padmanabha at Thiruvananthapuram are the proxy images of Buddha being worshipped as Vishnu. Hundreds of Buddhists were killed on the banks of Aluva river. The term ‘Aluva’ was derived from ‘Alawai’ which means ‘Trisul’, a weapon used by Hindu fanatics to stab Buddhists. Similarly, on the banks of the Vaigai river in Tamilnadu, thousands of Buddhists were killed by the Vaishnava Saint, Sambanthar. Thevaram, a Tamil book, documents this brutal extermination of Buddhism.’
Prof. Bahauddin recalls the strong reasons to believe that a large section of Jains had embraced Islam: ‘The spread of Islam in Tamilnadu can be considered in three or four stages. Islam spread in Kerala and Tamilnadu when Jainism was under pressure (650-750 AD). The new religion was received without resistance…. Since Islam considers every human being with equality Jainism and Buddhism had no conflict with it. When Muhammad ibn Al-Qasim attacked Sindh, the Buddhists supported him because they were facing annihilation at that time. A similar situation was prevailing in South India during 650-750 AD…. Muslims in Tamilnadu are called Anchuvanthar, Labba (teacher), Rauthar, Marakar (sailor) or Jonakan (Yavankan). The Anchuvanam is the guild of traders and groups of artisans. The Muslim mohallas of ‘Anchuvan Vamsagar’, ‘Anchuvanathar’, etc. are scattered all over Tamilnadu and seem to be the en bloc conversion of Jain guilds engaged in different activities, especially weaving. Those who ran away from Tamilnadu settled down in Sravanabalagola and Gomatheswaram in Karnataka. And, those who could not leave due to their economic interests converted to Islam. If we analyze the body structure, food, language, dress, ornaments, customs and habits of Anchuvanthar, it could be see that those are a continuation of Jain way of living and customs.
Till recently, the weavers in such Muslim mohallas will not eat at noon or night, and take only one meal before dusk. This was a continuation of Jain habits. There is a separate place in such villages called ‘Odukkam’ where Jain Munist used to sit in prayer. On the last Wednesday of the month called ‘Odukkathae’ Wednesday, the Muslims gather together to sing religious songs, which is also a Jain tradition. When religious functions like Maulood, Rathif, etc. are organized in the house, a white cloth with lotus symbol on it called ‘Mekett’ is tied, which resembles the ‘Asmanagiri’ of the Jains…. The architecture of Muslim stone mosques are completely of Jain architecture. The pillars of earlier mosques have practically no difference with the Jain temple pillars. The close relationship between traders and weavers had probably cemented by conversion to Islam. During 950-1200 AD, there were large number of Sufis, Fakirs, wandering poets, singing minstrels, etc. among Muslims all over Tamilnadu. Nadirshah with 500 disciples settled down in ‘Trichinopoly’ during 1000 AD. Aliyar Shah and his disciples made Madurai as their centre. Baba Fakhruddin travelled all over Tamilnadu. Nagur became another Sufi centre. The Muslim religious literature of Tamilnadu of that period was least different from those created by Jains and Hindus during the ‘Bhakti’ movement.’
Prof. Bahauddin recounts the spread of Jainism and Buddhism in Kerala, thus: ‘Jainism spread in North Kerala around 200 BC. The Jain architectural remains in Canara and Malabar are not available anywhere else in South of Nepal. While Jainism entered North Kerala via Mangalore, Salem, Coimbatore and Wayanad, it entered Southern Kerala from Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Nagercoil, Chitharal, etc. The hill near Anamala, which was an important Jain centre, is still called ‘Jain Durgam’. The close-by Kurumala was also a Jain centre. From Anamala through Munnar, Devikulam, Kothamangalam, Perumbavoor, etc. they reached Neryamangalam, Kothamangalam, Perumbavoor and other places. The ‘Kallil Kshetram’ in Perumbavoor is an important Jain monument as also the ‘Jainmedu’ in Vadakethara village of Palakkad district. Kerala’s cave temples at Chitharal, Kallil, Trikur, Erunilamkode (Thrissur district) and Thiruveghapuram (Palakkad district) were constructed during the period of Jain King Mahendra Verman-I (610-640 AD). Temple records of Rameswaram, Sucheendram, Poothadi (Wayanad), Keenalur (Kozhicode) , etc. show that they were part of ‘Kunavai Koottam’ during 10-11th centuries. ‘Koottam’ is the place of living for Jain Sanyasis. Temple records show that all these present-day Hindu temples were Jain religious places till 11th century. Place names with Kallu, Poothan, Aathan, Kotha, Palli, Ambalam, etc. were all Jain centres. Spread all over Kerala, names of these places show that Buddhism and Jainism were widespread. The famous Kalpathi in Palakkad district was a Buddhist-Jain centre. The ‘Ratholsavam’ there is akin to the ‘Kettukazhcha’ of Buddhists. The present Bhagavati temples were also Jain temples. The group, ‘Adikal’, had a prominent position among Jains who became ‘Pisharadi’ after absorption of Jainism in Hinduism.’
‘Similarly, the Buddhist stoopa at Kodungallore, located in Methala village South-East of Thrikanamathilakam, is an important Buddhist ruin in Kerala…. Mahismathi was the capital of Chera King Satyaputran, which shows the relationship of Chera country (Kerala) with Buddhism. There is a reference in ‘Manimekhala’ about a Buddhist Chaityam in Kerala. While Vadakkumnatha Temple at Thrissur and Kurumba Temple at Kodungallore were Buddhist temples, Buddha statues were discovered from Kollam, Alappuzha, Mavelikara, Pallikkal, Karumadi and other places…. Treating mental patients in Thiruvadi temple and leprosy patients in Thakazhi temple shows that they were Buddhist temples since these kind of humanitarian services were not rendered out from Hindu temples…. By 900 AD Buddhism and Jainism were almost wiped out from Tamilnadu. The second settlement wave of Brahmins in Kerala during 900 AD was with Pandyan Kings’ support. Karnataka and Kerala were the only two states where Buddhism and Jainism were still surviving and the second immigration of Brahmins might have been for driving out these two religions from the remaining places.’
Prof. Bahauddin recalls: ‘Very few people know that Buddhism and Jainism were the prominent religions of Kerala till 1200 AD. I was also under the impression that Hinduism was in Kerala from the very beginning. When facts were pieced together, a different picture emerged. Only from the end of 1800 AD the evidence became available about Buddha, Buddhism, Ashoka, etc. That fact itself is a pathetic story….’
Adds Dr. Jayaprakash in conclusion: ‘This is what really happened in India, the land of Buddha. But our so-called eminent historians, except a few, are bent upon eclipsing the cruelty done to Buddhists in India. These pseudo historians have succeeded in creating an impression that India is a land of righteousness and toleration. The entire world has been duped by them. The deed on the part of Taliban can be justified on the ground that Islam does not permit idols. But one has to note that Islam does not allow the demolition of other people’s religious centres and images. Whatever may be the argument for and against Taliban action, the Hindu atrocities on Buddhism in India has no parallel in the entire world history of religious struggle. Let the world know the cruel and crooked face of the ‘Indian vulture without culture’!