Destruction of Nalanda (from my earlier post in Tribe.net):
There is wild speculation about the actual culprits responsible for burning down the magnificent Nalanda Mahavihara, one of the largest seats of Buddhist learning in ancient India. The usual rumour that is circulated maliciously is, “Five Brahmin youths burnt it down!” That sounds so ridiculous, when one has seen the amazing spread of Nalanda, the vast area it covered!! Nalanda is nearly 100 Kms away Patna, in modern Bihar, India. In ancient times it used to be referred to as, Nalanda, center of Buddhist learning, spread over an area of 50 Acres, near Rajagriha, in the kingdom of Magadha. At the peak of it’s existence, Nalanda University was the biggest Buddhist stronghold in the whole of India. The sheer number of occupants in Nalanda used to be 20,000, taking into account students, tutors, Bhikshu-s, Nuns, etc. It was world famous for it’s collection of scrolls, learned Buddhist philosophers, Vajrayana adepts & masters and for the magnificent architecture. Pupils thirsty of knowledge used to pour in from other countries like Tibet, China, Central Asia, Persia, Kabul (Afghanistan. Remember the gigantic Bamiyan Buddha statues?). So, whoever started the belief of those so-called Killer-Brahmins, is quite ignorant and has never consulted ancient history.
Here are the actual facts, with names and figures and proofs backing them up.
The Nalanda University was plundered, sacked and utterly destroyed by the Moslem invader Bakhtiyar Khilji, (Turkish) in 1193 AD. This devastating event contributed considerably to the decline of Buddhism in India, since Nalanda and similar universities, libraries and monasteries were like Buddhist fortresses in India. They were the pillars, supporting Buddhism, both philosophically and otherwise.
Bakhtiyar Khilji was not only cruel but also an Islamic Fanatic. He entered Nalanda to plunder it’s riches, but found only books and statues of Deities. Just Imagine his frustration! He then asked if they had even a single copy of the Islamic holy book Koran in the library. His soldiers found none!
Allow me to put down a little bit of Linguistics here.
The Muslim Turks upon entering the mainland of India, attacked the Viharas and Sanghas, the Buddhist monasteries, suspecting that they could be plundered for riches and gold. But they were filled with books and numerous idols of Vajrayana Gods and goddesses and of course, images of Buddha. The Indo-Islamic words Buth, Buth-parasti, etc, were coined during these conquests. “Buth” meaning statue, or, idol, came from the word, “Buddh” or, Buddha. “Buth-Parasti” means “worship of Idols“. The Islamic invaders wanted to utterly destroy these idol worshipers. In that Vajrayana period, the doctrines of Shunyata, Void and pure thoughts had vanished and were replaced by the worship of various deities… like Tara, Vajradhara, Mahakala…etc. You can find many brass, copper, bronze and stone statues of those deities in the Nalanda museum today. They have been excavated from the ruins.
The senseless genocide that followed has been recorded in detail in the historical book “Tabaquat-i-Nasiri” from the account of eye-witnesses and soldiers who took part in the killings. The Persian poet/ author /historian Minhaj-i-Siraj in his chronicle the “Tabaquat-i-Nasiri” described the rise of Muslim rule in Bengal up-to 1259, including the exploits of Bakhtiyar Khilji. We can also refer to the coins found from this period and validate the truth.
Tabaquat-i-Nasiri goes on like this: Khalji’s soldiers were ordered to pull down the structures, kill the inmates and burn all the worthless books. Several thousands of monks were thrown into the fire, while they were still alive. Some were beheaded. Khilji wanted to punish those idol-worshipers and devastate their culture, wipe it off the face of the earth, if possible. The millions of rare and invaluable books, scrolls and manuscripts burnt for months!!! Even after they turned to ashes, the sky above the surrounding villages was covered by a dark smoke that hung for weeks.
Shakya-Shribhadra, the Grand Abbot of Nalanda somehow escaped this killing. He received invitations from the Tibetan translator “Tropu Lotsaba Byams-Padpal” and this safe refuge was a heaven sent offer in those troubled times. So, he went to Tibet in 1204 AD and started another Mulasarvastivadin monastery there.
Another famous Tibetan translator “Chag Lotsawa” (1197–1264 AD) returned to India and visited in 1235 AD, the site where once Nalanda stood proudly. To his dismay, he found the place in ruins. Chag however discovered “Rahula Shribhadra“, the last remaining hermit, then 90 years old, still teaching a class of 70 students! This old master was kept alive by his Brahmin student named Jayadeva. (In India, numerous religions have been born and they flourished for thousands of years because of the natural spiritual tolerance of the people here. The only resistance Brahmins ever offered was by way of peaceful debates!) Jayadeva, however, was imprisoned in Odantapura, for supporting idolatry, where he heard of yet another invasion to take place. He notified his master Rahula and requested him to leave before any such a mishap. Rahula was left with only one student, a Tibetan, who carried his master on his shoulders, along with a few books, some rice and sugar. They took refuge in a temple. In-fact, during the stay of Chag Lotsawa, the remaining few Nalanda students were again attacked by 300 Muslim Turks. When Old Rahula and his student returned, nothing recognizable was left of Nalanda. ~(from the chronicles of Chag Lotsaba)
This article was originally composed by Amitabha Chatterjee (me) for Tribe.net here and edited on Oct 19th, 2014, before posting in WordPress.