by Dr. R. L. Aima
Purana ' (the Purana of Kashmir) refers
to the gaity with which the Vaishakha Purnima-the
day on which Buddha was born, attained 'Bodhi' and
' Mahanirvana ' - used to be celebrated in the
picturesome vale of Kashmir. Buddhist Chaityas -
Stupas ' used to be decorated with flowersand
paintings. Lord Buddha's statues used to be
decorated with Aushdhis and Ratan. This tradition
continued almost to the eleventh century A. D.
Kshemendra (10th-11th A. D.) started the writing
of his famous treatise ' Avdhankalaplataon' on
this auspicious day. Somdeva ( 1027 A. D. ) has
brought out this fact as under -
The history of Buddhism in
Kashmir has not been much different than its
history in the rest of the country. Before the
advent of Aryans in the valley, it is said, it had
already seen the rise and fall of Nagas, Pishachas
and Yakshas. Of these, Nagas are supposed to be of
great historical and cultural value. It is
believed that Kapil the propounder of ' Sankhya
Darshana and the author of Parmarthasar-Patanjali
were Nagas. Likewise, it is again believed that
the famous Buddhist philosopher-thinkers Nagarjun
and Naga Budhi, both were Nagas. It appears that
after the induction of Aryans, these aboriginies
of Kashmir accepted the Vedic religion and
thereafter the Buddhism. Buddhism has played one
of the most important roles in the making of
Indian mind, culture, religion and civilization.
When did actually the
spread of Buddhism start in Kashmir? Historians
have various theories and ideas. Kalhan's
Rajatarangni has it that even before Ashoka ( 3rd
Century B. C. ), Kashmir had many Bauddha Viharas.
According to the Chinese Sources, Buddhism has
spread in Kashmir just fifty years after the
Mahaparinirvana of Tathagata.
Most of the authorities
agreed on this fact that Mogaliputra Tissa, the
Buddhist minister of the Ashoka the great sent
Majhantika, the famous Buddhist authority of
Varanasi to spread Buddhism in Kashmir and Gandhar.
Gandhar, according to some Greek historians and
Jakatas, probably included Kashmir also. But no
stone-eddicts of Ashoka the great, has so far been
found in Kashmir. Chinese scholars believe that
Madhyantik (Majhuntik ) disciple of famous
Buddhist scholar Anand, was the first man to
preach Buddhism in Kashmir. This very Buddhist
preacher is supposed to have introduced the
forming and also the cultivation of world famous
Kashmir saffron in the valley.
After the Mahanirvana of
Tathagata Buddhism got divided into various
schools of thought. All these scholars were
followers of Buddha and all of them considered '
Moksha ' to be the ultimate aim of life. Various
interpretations of ' Vinaya ' and ' Abhidharma'
led the various schools of thought in Buddhism.
Amongst the oldest and the holiest philosophies of
the various Buddhist philosophy is supposed to be
Sarvastivada. Famous Tibetian scholar Rahul Bhadra
is supposed to be the father of this philosophy.
But generally Upgupta of Mathura is supposed to be
the propounder of this theory. Some scholars
believe that this philosophy originated from
Kashmir and Maghantik was its preacher. Whatever
the case may be Sarvasttvad was the most
prestigious philosophy of northern India and it
was deeply connected with Kashmir, even if it was
born in Mathura. It is said that famous Buddhist
thinkers in order to safeguard the original
thinking of Sarvastiuad came to Kashmir and it was
here only that its purest form was decided upon.
It was only in Kashmir that a detailed and
authentic commentary of this philosophy by the
name ' Vaibhashika ' was written. ' Sarvastivadi
', Abhidharma's basic scripture is supposed to
have been divided into six volumes. This
monumental work was completed, by Vasubandhu, son
of Katyayani, in Kashmir. It is said that it was
translated into Chinese in year 383 A. D.
Parmartha, writes in the biography of Vasubandhu
that Vasubandhu in order to get Vibasha written
Abhidharama, invited famous Sanskrit poet
Ashvaghosh from Sakat ( Ayodhya ) Ashvaghosh lived
in Kashmir for twelve long years and prepared the
literary forms of ' Vibasha ' in ten lakh cantos.
This work is known by the name ' Abhidharma
The famous Chinese
traveller Huang Suang ( 7th Century A. D. ) says
that during the period of Kanishka there were five
hundred Buddhist scholars, inclusive of Vasumitra
who after detailed discussions on ' Pitakas '
following which ' Sutrapitaka ' ' Vinayapitaka'
and ' Abhidharma Pitaka ' were written down, which
are known as ' Upadeshashastra', ' Vinaya
Vibhashashastra' and ' Abhidharma Vibhashashastra
In fact the history of
Buddhism in Kashmir, is not clear after downfall
of Maurya dynasty. But it seems that Buddhism
continued its progress here. Here one needs to
refer to the main character ' Menandara ' of
famous book, ' Milindapanha '. Greek Menendar (
Minander ) was the King of Gandhar and his capital
was Siyalkot. It is said that at a place Twelve
Yojanas from Kashmir there was a discussion on
Buddhism between Milind or Menender and Nagsen
following, which Milind embraced Buddhism and he
became an ' Arhata. ' Milind is supposed to have
lived in Second Century B. C.
King Kanishka is the
person who gave a firm footing to Buddhism in
Kashmir. Before him there is a mention, of
Kashmiri king Sinha or ' Sudershana '. It is said
that it is only with the contact of this king,
Kanishka embraced Buddhism as a faith. Kanishka is
remembered in the history of Buddhism like the
great king Ashoka. He is suppossed to be
responsible to have organized the fourth and last
Buddhist council at Kundal Vanvihara. Some of the
scholars feel that this place is what is known at
present day as Jullunder. But most of the scholars
are of the view that Kundal Vanvrhara is the
present day ' Harwan ' in Kashmir. The chief aim
of this council was to collect, collate and
finalize the fundamental Buddhist principles and
get a commentary written on them in accordance
with the 'Sarvastivadi' Buddhist thought. Where
else could this council have taken place other
than in Kashmir -- the fountain head of
Sarvastivadi philosophy - this council was chaired
by Vasumitra and its Vice Chairman was the famous
Sanskrit poet Ashvaghosha. The three main
treatises of Sarvastivadi were written here. Of
these ' Maha Vibhasha Shastra ' is still in
existence today in Chinese. After the council was
over, King Kanishka donated entire Kashmir to '
Sangha.' Kanishka made many ' Viharas ' and raised
' Stupas ' here. He raised a city ' Kanishkapur'
which is today known as ' Kanispur ', which falls
in the district Baramulla.
' Turushka ' King
Kanishka is succeeded in Kashmir by two Buddhist
Kings ' Hushaka ' and ' Jushaka '. Both of these
raised two cities by the name ' Hushakpura ' and '
Jushakpura ' respectively. ' Hushakpura ' is '
Ushkar ' of Baramulla district of today and '
Jushakpura' is ' Zakura ', a few kilometers away
According to Kalhana '
Kushana' Kings in Kashmir were followed by
Abhimaniyu. It is said that because of Nagarjun's
tremendous scholarship and preaching, Kashmir's
traditional Naga cult of Nagas was almost wiped
out. In fact at this time the revival of Naga cult
was the result of tremendous hard work by a
Brahmin named 'Chandadeva.'
The first organized
crusade throughout the Buddhism in Kashmir was
made by Raja ' Nara.' It is said that he harassed
and terrorised Buddhists to such an extent that
famous Buddhist Scholar Nagarjuna had to run away
from Kashmir to south. In the sixth century A. D.
Mihirkula (or Mihirula) the legendary terrorist
king of Kashmir harassed Buddhists here. He
devastated Buddhist Viharas, Chaityas and Mathas
and killed Buddhists ruthlessly. But even under
such terrorism Buddhism in Kashmir remained alive.
In fact the famous Chinese traveller Huang Suang
(631 - 633 A. D. ) stayed as a state guest. While
staying here, he studied the ' Sutras ', '
Shastras ' and other Buddhist scriptures. Raja
Durlabhawardhana provided him with twenty clerks
who copied the religious scriptures for him. The
chief Buddhist scholar of that time declared Huang
Suang as a great intellect and said, Huang Suang
is one of the greatest Buddhist scholars in the
tradition of great Acharya Vasubandhu.
Buddhism was almost wiped
out from whole of India by the efforts of
Jagadguru Shankaracharya, But in seventh-eight
century A. D. Buddhism had official protection in
the time of great Kashmir King Lalitaditya
Muktapeeda. Lalitaditya served both Hindus as well
as Buddists in Kashmir. After this, Buddhism
because of its inherent weaknesses started
decaying in Kashmir. Kalhana writes that Raja
Shankara Varmana's wife Sugandha was nurtured in
the Nishpalaka Vihara. Maharaj Kshemgupta (
950-958 A. D. ) was a famous Shaivaite and he
raised the Jaindera Vihara to ground and with its
stones he built a massive temple to lord Shiva.
Acharya Abhinavgupta, the famous scholar of
Kashmir Shaivism and Indian literary criticism was
one of the most important Shaivist scholars of
this time. Queen Didha and the kings who followed
her did very little to promote Buddhism in
Kashmir. Buddhist Viharas had already started
decaying morally. During the reign of Lohara
dynasty in Kashmir, there was a brief attempt to
revive Buddhism in Kashmir. But by the time of
King Harshvardhan the Buddhist sun in Kashmir had
set. Kalhana ( who seems to have had great respect
for Buddhism) calls Harshvardhan as a ' Malecha. '
Kalhana's history has shown a lot of respect for
Buddhist rule in Kashmir. Buddhism had come under
the influence of Kashmir Shakatmata and slowly it
was breathing its last. One can have ample
references about this fact in the literary
writings of Kshemendra and Somadeva.
After going through this
bird's eye view of the deveiopment and decay of
Buddhism in Kashmir, one is supposed to conclude
that amongst the main centres of Buddhist
learnings, Kashmir has an important place. It was
through Kashmir that Buddhism spread to Ladakh and
Tibet. Pt. Rahul Sanskrityayana writes about a
tell-tale episode about this fact. Tibetian King
Shiyan Shung's son Jnanprabha was a Buddhist and
he did not see eye to eye with the Tibetian form
of Tantarika Buddhism. He selected twenty one
intelligent, young scholars and taught them
Buddhism for ten years. Then he sent them for
higher education to Kashmir. But during the hard
winters of Kashmir, these scholars, except for
Rattanbhadra Suprajnya could not survive the
rigours of winter. Rattanbhadra is still
remembered as one of the greatest translators and
scholars of Tibetian Buddhism. Acharya Vasubandhu,
known as second Buddha-author of Abhidharma Kosha
reached the pinnacle of his fame only when he came
to Kashmir. It is said that he came to Kashmir to
study one of the main Buddhist philosophies
Sarvastivada. He belonged to Peshawar and his
Abhidharma Kosha is still safe in sixty volumes in
Chinese language. Likewise the other famous
Buddhist scholar by name Vasubhadra is also
referred to. It is said that he entered Kashmir as
psuedo insane and learned by heart Vibhasha
Shastra of Saravastivada and then went back to
Ayodhya, where he made his knowledge known to
various Indian scholars.
Kashmir has been the
birth place of many Buddhist scholars. One of the
eight main scholars of famous Buddhist Vihara,
Vikramshila, was Smrityakara Siddha, who was
Kashmiri. Who spread ' Madhyamika', ' Satyashidi '
and Nirvana forms of Buddhism in China was Pt.
Kumar Vijaya - a Kashmiri, who was disciple of
famous Buddhist scholar Bandhudutta. There is a
long list of Kashmiri scholars who were either
connected with Buddhism or influenced by it like
Jayanta Bhatta, Vamana Bhatta, Damodaragupta,
Kshirswamina, Bhatta Udbhatta, Vasugupta, Bhatta
Kalata, Kayyata, Abhinavagupta, Kshemaraja,
Mammata, Kalhana, Yogaraja, Bilhana, Somdeva etc.
The influence of Buddhism
on life is very deep. Buddhism, though born in
India could not wipe-out Hindu religion from
Indian life, instead it itself got so deeply
enmeshed up in Hindu religion and philosophy that
it is difficult to isolate it, and it also gave
Hinduism a new shape. In fact Dr. Radhakrishnan
has said that Buddha was born, reared up and died
as a Hindu. ' Tathagata ' actually was a
reincarnation of highest ideals and philosophies
of India and Aryans. He was not born to vanquish,
but to nurture. One can very safely say that
Buddha was the prepounder of modern Hinduism and
it is probably because of this that he was
included in the Hindu pantheon.
With reference to
Kashmir, even the Shaiva philosophy of this state
has been influenced by Buddhism. It is said that
when Kanishka donated the entire Kashmir to 'Sangha',
the Brahmins rose against it. Kalhana says that it
was at this that Nagarjuna with the use of his
official support and scholarship tried to spread
Buddhism far and wide in Kashmir. He opposed the
various religious cults of Neelmata Purana and
defeated in discussion the Shaivite Brahmins. This
resulted into fierce struggle between Shaivites
and Buddhists. One of the major results of this
struggle went in favour of Kashmir Shaivism.
Kashmiri Shaivism was till then a knowledge
carried from teacher to disciple by word of mouth
only. It was at this time that the first written
document of this philosophy was born. It is said
that this first written form of Kashmiri Shaivism
was prepared by a famous Brahmin, 'Yogi Chandradev'
(1st Century A.D.). In fact according to Mr. K. C.
Pandey's Abhinavagupta, this is the only
historical fact in Kalhana's Rajatarangani. This
fact has been supported by Vardharaja who wrote a
commentary on Vamagupta's famous treatise '
Shivasutra'. In fact all the three main forms of '
Trika ' philosophy - ' Agam Shastra ', ' Spanda
Shastra' and ' Pritivhijna Shastra ' have been
tremondously influenced by Buddhist Philosophy.
In this regard, we must
refer to Shankaracharya ( 8th Century AD ). He had
come to Kashmir and was deeply influenced by the
Shaiva and Buddhist philosophies, Buddhist
religious power, Sangha system and the idealistic
' Matha' system of this place. Shankara's theory
of Maya and different aspects of truth seems to be
the influence of Buddhism. Some scholars say that
Kashmiris are basically non-vegetarian, but it is
the influence of Buddhism that has made them
strict vegiterians on certain important days of
the year like ' Ashtami', 'Amavasya ', ' Ekadashi
' and 'Khirbhawani Mela. ' Besides this, muslims
of this place also have vegeterian days on the
Rishi Molsaheb and ' Batmalu Saheb's day in
Anantnag and Srinagar district respectively. But
this could be the influence of ' Vaishnavite '
because almost the whole of Buddhist world is non-vegeterian
today. Buddha himself died of eating pork. Buddha
in fact did not approve of killing. He even
disapproved of the watching of killing, but he
never forbade eating meat.
Buddhism influenced the
religious rights of Kashmiri Hindus. Even today
during ' Yajnas ' and ' Pujas,' Buddhist '
Trirattanas' are propritiated. The Kashmiris like'
Prajnaparmita ', 'Tara' 'Buddhamata ','Jineshwary',
' Jinmata ', ' Vajrahasta ', ' Lochana ', etc.
Even today the tradition of presenting scrolls to
their ' Jitmana ' by Kashmiri on New Year's day -
' Navreh ' is a Buddhist tradition.
One of the most important
influence of Buddhism in Kashmir is on muslims of
this place. Buddhists had a tradition of 'Chaityas'
and ' Stupas'. But once they were raised to
ground, the muslims have continued the tradition
in their own Islamic manner. Although Islam
prohibits such religious cults, muslims of Kashmir
still continue to follow the Buddhist tradition.
One of the world famous mosque ' Hazartbal ' has a
relic, the sacred hair of Prophet Mohammed. It
seems that it was mostly Buddhists who got
converted to Islam in Kashmir. Buddhism influenced
the Kashmiri literary and philosophical traditions
also. One can very easily point it out in Kashmiri
sufi and sant poets. Dr. S. C. Roy believes that
bead-telling, ' fan of philosophy ' and different
postulates - ' Makamat ' etc. of sufism are
heavily influenced by Buddhism and Indian
philosophies. Kasmiri folk literature too is
influenced by Buddhism.
Buddhism has influenced
to a large extent Kashmiri architecture. Buddhist
architecture in Kashmir has three clear divisions
- First is the architecture of Harwan ( Srinagar )
of third century B. C. This belongs to
Indo-Parthian style. After this we have the
architecture of Kushana king Hushka in first
Century A. D., who raised the city of ' Hushkapura.'
In this Gandhara style was followed. The
architecture and sculptural remains found at
Pandrethan near Srinagar belongs to Gupta style.
There the sculpture of Mahamaya ( Buddha's mother
) along with her sisters before the birth of Lord
Buddha is a significant find. In this, she is
wearing in her ears an ornament ( Dejeharu ) which
is worn even today by married Kashmiri Hindu
women. This special type of ear ornament is
supposed to be the influence of Naga tradition in
Kashmir. This fact leads to the conclusion that
Buddhism came under local influence.
Kashmir was under the
influence of Buddhism for almost a thousand years.
That is why we have even today the remains of
Buddhist influence. Most of the Viharas about
which Kalhana has given details have not been
located so far. But it is certain that they are
spread over the whole of Kashmir valley. There are
certain Viharas whose locations have been
pin-pointed. Some of them are-' Jalora Vihara ' at
Zalur Zainageer (Sopore in Baramulla Dist.), '
Vitastatra ' is today's ' Vyathavotur ' in
Anantnag district. King Ashoka (different from the
great King Ashoka of Maurya dynasty) had built a'
stupa' in today's Budgam; queen Shukdevi had built
a Vihara in Srinagar at a place named ' Nadvana '.
Vihara is not seen today, but the word ' Nadvana '
got changed into ' Narvora ' which is one of the
oldest parts of old Srinagar City. Huang Suang has
written about a ' Jainder Vihara ' near Srinagar
City, which had a huge Buddha idol in it. Huang
Suang had stayed in this Vihara, but its place is
still a matter of dispute. Besides these there are
many places in Kashmir which remind us of Buddhism
and its influence on Kashmir like, ' Parihaspora
', ' Anderkut ', ' Ahen ' (Sumbal), ' Khandhbhawan
' (Srinagar), 'Rattani Pura ', ' Harwan ' , 'Raithan
', etc. etc.