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

By Sukumar Dutt | Go to book overview

5
The Devastation

HISTORY holds record of two devastations on an extensive scale of the Vihāras of northern India--once by Mihirakula in the western sector in the early part of the sixth century, and again, several centuries later, by Muslim invaders in the eastern sector round the turn of the thirteenth.

A branch of the HU+06Bṇas, called Epthalite or White Hūṇas, had entered India between AD 500 and 520 and seized ruling power over the border provinces of Gāndhāra and Kashmir. A Chinese pilgrim, Sung-yun, sent on an official mission to India by an empress of the Wei dynasty, arrived in Gāndhāra in AD 520. He found the country devastated by the Hūṇas and a puppet of the Hūṇa ruler cruelly exercising power.1 The Hūṇas gradually penetrated into the interior, carved out a kingdom and over it the Hūṇa king Mihirakula held sway in c. 518-529. The kingdom included Gāndhāra and Kashmir and perhaps extended farther east, embracing parts of the West Punjab even as far east as Kośmbī.2

From all accounts, this Hūṇna king was a Śaiva by faith and a sworn enemy of Buddhism. Though he had adopted an Indian faith he had imbibed little of Indian culture. The barbarian lust for destruction and vandalism ran in his veins. The Gupta kings fought off and on against the power of the Hūṇa, but it was not till some time before AD 533 that Mihirakula was subjugated by Yaśodharman of Mandasor.3

Nearly a hundred years later--in AD 630-631--Hsüan-tsang, passing through Gāndhāra and Kashmir, heard about Mihirakula's devastations. They were then traditional tales in these parts; they are reported by the Chinese pilgrim as he heard them. In Gāndhāra alone Mihirakula, says Hsüan-tsang, 'overthrew Stüpas and destroyed Saṅghārāmas, altogether one thousand and six hundred foundations'.4 Perhaps the work of destruction spread as far as Kośmbī, though it affected especially Gāndhāra and Kashmir. But in that age Buddhism had enough vitality to bind up the wounds inflicted by

____________________
1
See Beal Buddhist Records, Intro., pp. XV-XVI.
2
See Indian Archaeology for 1955-56 in which finds showing Hūṇa penetration to Kośāmbī are reported.
3
See Raj Chaudhuri Political History ( 6th Ed., 1953), p. 596.
4
Beal Buddhist Records, i, p. 171.

-206-

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