Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India: Their History and Their Contribution to Indian Culture

By Sukumar Dutt | Go to book overview

5
LEṆAS The Cave-Monasteries of Western India

a. BEGINNINGS

FACTUAL data are scarce on the migration of Buddhism from the north into the Sātavāhana empire. It was probably sometime after the fall of the Maurya dynasty that the movement commenced. In the very prime of the Sātavāhana times, Guhā-monasteries were sprouting up on the flank of the Western Ghats. A fact of much significance in this southward spread of Buddhism must have been the shifting of the Sātavāhana capital to Pratisthāna.

We have described elsewhere the ancient trunk-route that had existed in northern India in the age of the Mauryas connecting Pāṭaliputra with Ujjainī.1 It was linked afterwards with Pratisthāna and extended by many branches far into the south. The passage from north to south was by way of the west, the east being largely blocked, hardly passable.

For a few centuries since the beginning of the Christian era, the country was at peace. There are no records of foreign invasions or internecine wars. Routes of communication were comparatively safe and trade could prosper. Between the north and the south, the goings-on of trade seem to have been brisk and uninterrupted and large in volume. From peninsular seaboards, both eastern and western, commerce with the outer world was also beginning to grow into a great source of wealth for the whole country. The main evidence of the existence and extent of this commerce is afforded by a work of the first century AD to which we have already made a reference--the Periplus.2 All this activity of trade and commerce must have been a great stimulant to inland traffic.

We may be allowed to indulge a little in imagination to call up the variegated colourful traffic that flowed in that age in a steady stream from the north round Pratisthāna into the south and vice versa. Its tempo promoted travelling companionship. Leisurely, unhurried, with frequent stoppages at rest-houses and caravan-serais, it afforded opportunity to fellow-travellers to cultivate each other's acquaint

____________________
1
See Part II, Sec. 4, p. 121.
2
See Part II, Sec. 6, p. 132 and footnote 2.

-138-

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