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Decline of Buddhism in India

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This article is about the decline of Buddhism in ancient and medieval India which
includes the present day nations of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
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Ruins of Nalanda University; its destruction is considered a milestone in the

decline of Buddhism in India.
A steady decline of Buddhism in India set in during the 1st millennium CE in the
wake of the White Hun invasion followed by Turk-Mongol raids.,[1] though it
continued to attract financial and institutional support during the Gupta era (4th
to 6th century) and the Pala Empire (8th to 12th century).[2][3]

The decline of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent has been attributed to various
factors, especially the regionalisation of ancient India after the end of the Gupta
empire (320-650 CE), which lead to a competition with Hinduism and Jainism, the
loss of patronage and donations and the conquest and subsequent persecutions by
Huns, then Muslim Turks and Persians particularly from the 10th century onwards.[1]

Buddhism largely disappeared from most of India with the Muslim conquests of the
Indian subcontinent, surviving in the Himalayan regions and south India.[1][4][7]

The total Buddhist population in 2010 in the Indian subcontinent exclusive of Sri
Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan was about 10 million, of which about 7.2% lived in
Bangladesh, 92.5% in India and 0.2% in Pakistan.[8]

Contents [hide]
1 Growth of Buddhism
2 Causes of decline
2.1 Patronage and religious dynamics
2.1.1 Loss of patronage and donations
2.1.2 Religious convergence
2.1.3 Internal social-economic dynamics
2.2 Wars and persecution
2.2.1 Hun Invasions
2.2.2 Turk-Mongol raids
2.2.3 Islamic conquest and rule
3 Survival of Buddhism in India
4 Revival
5 See also
6 References
7 Sources
8 External links
Growth of Buddhism[edit]

Buddhist proselytism at the time of king Ashoka (260218 BCE).

Buddhism expanded in South Asia in the centuries after the death of the Buddha,
particularly after receiving the endorsement and royal support of the Maurya Empire
under Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. It spread even beyond the Indian subcontinent
to Central Asia and China.

The Buddha's period saw not only urbanisation, but also the beginnings of
centralised states.[9] The successful expansion of Buddhism depended on the growing
economy of the time, together with increased centralised political organisation
capable of change.[10]

Buddhism spread across ancient India and state support by various regional regimes
continued through the 1st millennium BCE.[11] The consolidation of monastic
organisation made Buddhism the centre of religious and intellectual life in India.
[12] Pushyamitra, the first ruler of the Shunga Dynasty built great Buddhist topes
at Sanchi in 188 BCE.[13] The succeeding Kanva Dynasty had four Buddhist Kanva

Causes of decline[edit]
The decline of Buddhism has been attributed to various factors, especially the
regionalisation of India after the end of the Gupta Empire (320650 CE), which led
to a competition with Hinduism and Jainism and the loss of patronage and donations;
and the conquest and subsequent persecutions by Huns, Turks and Persians.

Patronage and religious dynamics[edit]

Loss of patronage and donations[edit]
In ancient India, regardless of the religious beliefs of their kings, states
usually treated all the important sects relatively even-handedly.[11] This
consisted of building monasteries and religious monuments, donating property such
as the income of villages for the support of monks, and exempting donated property
from taxation. Donations were most often made by private persons such as wealthy
merchants and female relatives of the royal family, but there were periods when the
state also gave its support and protection. In the case of Buddhism, this support
was particularly important because of its high level of organisation and the
reliance of monks on donations from the laity. State patronage of Buddhism took the
form of land grant foundations.[14]

Numerous copper plate inscriptions from India as well as Tibetan and Chinese texts
suggest that the patronage of Buddhism and Buddhist monasteries in medieval India
was interrupted in periods of war and political change, but broadly continued in
Hindu kingdoms from the start of the common era through early 2nd millennium CE.
[15][16][17] The Gupta kings built Buddhist temples such as the one at Kushinagara,
[18][19] and monastic universities such as those at Nalanda, as evidenced by
records left by three Chinese visitors to India.[20][21][22]

After the end of the Gupta Empire (c. 320650 CE), power became decentralised in
India, and Buddhism started to lose financial support from the seventh century
onward.[23] The disintegration of central power also led to regionalisation of
religiosity, and religious rivalry.[24] Rural and devotional movements arose within
Hinduism, along with Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Bhakti and Tantra,[24] that competed
with each other, as well as with numerous sects of Buddhism and Jainism.[24][25]
This fragmentation of power into feudal kingdoms was detrimental for Buddhism, with
royal support shifting toward Hindu and Jain communities.[23][26][27][28][29]
Vaishnavism, Shaivism and other Hindu traditions became increasingly popular, and
Brahmins developed a new relationship with the state,[30] gaining influence in
socio-political process, which contributed to the decline of Buddhism.[31]

Religious convergence[edit]
See also Buddhism and Hinduism
Buddhism's distinctiveness diminished with the rise of Hindu sects. Though Mahayana
writers were quite critical of Hinduism, the devotional cults of Mahayana Buddhism
and Hinduism likely seemed quite similar to laity, and the developing Tantrism of
both religions were also similar.[32] Buddhist ideas, and even the Buddha himself,
[33] were absorbed and adapted into orthodox Hindu thought,[34][32][35] while the
differences between the two systems of thought were emphasized.[36][37][38][39][40]

Internal social-economic dynamics[edit]

According to some scholars such as Lars Fogelin, the decline of Buddhism may be
related to economic reasons, wherein the Buddhist monasteries with large land
grants focussed on non-material pursuits, self-isolation of the monasteries, loss
in internal discipline in the sangha, and a failure to efficiently operate the land
they owned.[17][42] With the growing support for Hindusim and Jainism, Buddhist
monasteries also gradually lost control of land revenue.

Wars and persecution[edit]

Hun Invasions[edit]
Chinese scholars travelling through the region between the 5th and 8th centuries,
such as Faxian, Xuanzang, Yijing, Hui-sheng, and Sung-Yun, began to speak of a
decline of the Buddhist Sangha in the north-west parts of Indian subcontinent,
especially in the wake of the Hun invasion from central Asia.[1] Xuanzang wrote
that numerous monasteries in north-western India had been reduced to ruins by the

Mihirakula, who ruled from 515 CE in north-western region (modern Afghanistan,

Pakistan and north India), suppressed Buddhism as well. He did this by destroying
monasteries as far away as modern-day Allahabad.[44]

Turk-Mongol raids[edit]

The image, in the chapter on India in Hutchison's Story of the Nations edited by
James Meston, depicts the Turkish general Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji's massacre of
Buddhist monks in Bihar. Khaliji destroyed the Nalanda and Vikramshila universities
during his raids across North Indian plains, massacring many Buddhist and Brahmin
The Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent was the first great iconoclastic
invasion into South Asia.[46] The Persian traveller Al Biruni's memoirs suggest
Buddhism had vanished from Ghazni (Afghanistan) and medieval Punjab region
(northern Pakistan) by early 11th century.[47] By the end of twelfth century,
Buddhism had further disappeared,[1][48] with the destruction of monasteries and
stupas in medieval north-west and western India (now Pakistan and north India).[49]

The Chach Nama records many instances of conv