When Muhammad Bakhtiar Khilji set ablaze Nalanda University in the winter of 1193-94, he wouldn’t have guessed that he was uprooting the idea of “university” itself from the Indian subcontinent. It would take another 600 years before the idea of university got seeded in India again. It has been a couple of weeks since our visit to the ruins of Nalanda, but I still can’t get over the 600 years long burial. Is it really fair to hold Muhammad Bakhtiar responsible for the “killing”? History tells us that it is not. Then what else is responsible for the prolonged hibernation of the concept of college? Let’s see in this article.
Nalanda was established in 5th century and at its peak had 10,000 students and 1,000 teachers. For centuries it had been the most important seat of learning in Asia. It had three multi-storied libraries. Most of what we know of Nalanda comes from the travel accounts of the Chinese pilgrim and scholar Xuanzhang who spent a couple of years at Nalanda. Xuanzhang studied logic, grammar, Sanskrit and Yogacara school of Buddhism during his time at Nalanda.
Nalanda is about 90km from Patna and we reached there by car in less than two hours. Archaeological Survey of India has done a good job in maintaining the site as well as the museum next to it. Our guide at Nalanda was a sixty year old gentleman and in this business for over four decades. He had picked up Japanese and was enthusiastic about his forty-five minute tour of the place. His version of the story of the destruction of Nalanda had an interesting twist. According to his story, when Bakhtiar arrived near Nalanda he asked the locals if this place had any loot. The Brahmins were prompt to point out that the place had something far more important than the loot and strongly advised him to destroy it. Apparently the smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days.
If the act of commission – burning the place down – was an important cause of Nalanda’s destruction, an equally if not more important cause was the act of omission by Brahmins. Historian Charles Allen writes following in his book, “Ashoka: The search for India’s lost emperor” – The most striking evidence of Brahmanical hostility towards Buddhism comes in the form of silence: the way in which India’s Buddhist history, extending over large parts of the country and lasting for many centuries, was excised from the historical record.
photo credit: Gauri Dabholkar
I'm curious - what does "the act of omission by Brahmins" mean, and from which historical record was Buddhist history excised ?ReplyDelete
Buddhism was absorbed into the larger Hindu fold with the Buddha being considered one of the incarnations of Vishnu and became like many other sects that arose in India.
I have borrowed the term "Brahminical omission" from the book "Ashoka: The search for India's lost emperor" by Charles Allen. Let me first give my interpretation. Nalanda was a popular seat of learning in Asia for a few centuries. It took European Orientalists to excavate and re-establish its importance in the 19th century. To the best of my knowledge, none of the residents from Indian sub-continent took the initiative. It was as though Nalanda did not exist. I could be wrong.ReplyDelete
I don't know how well Buddhism was "absorbed" into Hinduism. But, to me, it looks like a good technique of killing an idea - saying it is just like my idea - I will add you as as an appendix.
Yes < hinduism has been doing that , they took regional deities adn white was and make them hindu deitiesDelete
Mr.Dabholkarji , this platform is free for all and all are commenting as they are the history scholar and it happened in front of them.Delete
One must know that all the written work and research work is done by Brahmins, wheather Vedas, Upnishad,Purans and so on.
Gautam Buddha is considered as incarnation of Vishnu and they accepted his philosophy.
People must know that the Brahmin priest have written the all Buddhist treatise in Sanskrit and Pali language.
How can these Brahmins destroy the scriptures written by their own Brahmins scholars Rishis and sages.In end of eighth and beginning of ninth century, Adishnkaracharya Ji re-established the Sanatan Dharm and in the course of time Buddhism lost its glory. Eleventh century onwards foreign invaders started looting and destroying the religious scriptures and promoting their own religion and philosophy.
When Buddhism declined slowly, Nalanda University slowly absented by the Buddhists scholars and when Bakhtiar khilji came,it was almost in abandoned. He destroyed the library and the building. It is not wise to blame the Brahmins for the destruction of Hindu scriptures. In fact they were the custodians in the place of learning like Vaishali,Shrihut ( now Sylhet in Bangladesh) and the famous Taxila University.
I am sorry to write about the Kshtriya Rajas, who never ever tried to stop the invaders and instead they helped them to establish their reigns and were womenisers having multiple wives and concubines.
Imagine, the Rajput fighting their own man Prithviraj Chavan with Mansingh the overall incharge of Army. There were three Hindus in the court of Akbar- Birbal,Todarmal and Mansingh. As per system prevailing that time, Kshtriya Rajas were the rulers and soldiers to protect the onslaught of foreign invaders.. These jhonnies were fighting among themselves and siding with the invaders. Hindus are suffering because of these rulers. The libraries were under the custody of the rulers and when they were defeated the entire treatise were looted or destroyed.
People have avenged the destination of Nalanda University by setting fire to the mosque and destroying the Islamic treatise. History can't be corrected by the the present day rulers.
Thanks for sharing your views. -VinayDelete
Vinay, most ancient Indian sites have been excavated by the British / Europeans because they were curious about history and they inherently believe in evidential or documented history, while we in India have oral history and we focus more on the philosophy / lessons part of history than the names and dates per se. So what you tell about Nalanda is true and it is as much true for most other historical places in India. BTW - do you know Taj Mahal was used by the British as a party place and so were many other tombs in Delhi.ReplyDelete
Nalanda as an idea was killed because of huge change in environment - people who could have preserved it were totally disempowered and were in no position to keep that idea alive - however the ruins give an idea of the idea it was and I think they are re-establishing the university with Amartya Sen at the helm of it. Tell me today's Brahmins - what power they have to establish centers of learning and what training they themselves have undergone for the same.
fabricated story to protect the barbar khiljiReplyDelete
Which story you are referring to, Tapan? That Brahmins suggested Khilji to move towards Nalanda or Brahmins didn't do anything later to keep the history of Nalanda alive?Delete
Brahmins are the key men's of destroying nalanada and Buddhism in IndiaDelete
That's propaganda by neo Buddhist and christlamofascistsReplyDelete
Good point. That's possible. Thanks.Delete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
This article The decline of Buddhism in India by D. D. Kosambi, a mathematician and historian (1907-1966) which appeared Times of India on May 24, 1956 gives a good perspective. . It says that "the real damage came from within" and that "Buddhism had become uneconomic. The innumerable monasteries and their pampered inmates were a counterpart of the costly military establishment."ReplyDelete
Brahmins did play a big role in the persecution of buddhists in the year 800adReplyDelete
Thanks for bringing it up. What would be a good reference for this information?Delete
I found a good reference on this topic - the book "The decline of Buddhism in India" by K. T. S. Sarao, Professor and Head of Buddhist studies at University of Delhi.ReplyDelete
What A Flawed Write-up ? The one who is uprooted the university is being given a coverup by subtly planting that "is he responsible ", when it is well documented about his motivations and intent . Based on conjunctures accusing a "group "of being silent ergo responsible is what i call it as "pulp-fiction-history-writing "ReplyDelete
With this logic the writer is responsible for the genocide in rawanda !!
The Turkish invaders systematically destroyed local cultures and places of worship, Libraries in Iran and Europe as well. The reason Hinduism survived is because of decentralized concept. People worship at home. Don’t care if you destroyed the temple and the priests and scholars.ReplyDelete
Muhammad-i-Bakht-yar, by the force of his intrepidity, threw himself into the postern of the gateway of the place, and they captured the fortress, and acquired great booty. The greater number of the inhabitants of that place were Brahmans, and the whole of those Brahmans had their heads shaven; and they were all slain. There were a great number of books there; and, when all these books came under the observation of the Musalmans, they summoned a number of Hindus that they might give them information respecting the import of those books; but the whole of the Hindus had been killed. On becoming acquainted [with the contents of those books], it was found that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindustani tongue, they call a college [مدرسه] Vihar.ReplyDelete