Chintaman Vinayak Vaidya.

History of mediæval Hindu India (being a history of India from 600 to 1200 A.D.) .. (Volume 1) online

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was due to the belief that this wurld was full of misery^
that the soul was bound in the chain of transmigration
from body to body according to its Karma and that the
only escape from the misery of the present and future
births lay in Pravrajya or giving up the world and ceasing
to act.t Under this belief the Rishisof the Upanishads gave
up living in towns and went to forests. The same belief
was placed in the forefront by Buddha, who added to it
the institution of monasteries. While Brahmin Sanyasis
were enjoined to live singly, Baddha not only allowed men
and women of all castes to become recluses, but for their
secure maintenance and quiet, established Sangharamas or
monasteries and directed lay devotees to feed them.
Sangharamas or monasteries, therefore, sprang into
existence and as Buddhism spread, multiplied. Thousands
of Bhikshus of all castes lived a life of ease and quiet in
these splendidly endowed institutions and they had line
halls and temples and stupas built for them by pious kings
and grandees. These monastic institutions of the
Buddhists were undoubtedly the parents of the
monastic institutions of Christianity and eventually
succumbed to the same causes as led to the downfall of
the latter. The downfall of the Buddhist monasteries
had, however, not yet commenced. From Hiuen Tsang's

t 3^Ra pjiA I 'j^ w'l'npRof fi JTisTifr sTsnr^ ( h. c, p. 338. )


records and also from the Harsha-Charita, India was at
this time covered all over its extent by monasteries inha-
bited by thousands of monks and they were a set of well
behaved and moral people, generally speaking, and had
not yet come into disrepute like the Hiudu Parasaris-
Jainism too had its recluses and its monasteries though
they were yet a small community from Hiuen Tsang's
account. Saivism too had its recluses or ascetics and
these lived probably in temples of Siva and burial grounds.
Among all these different recluses namely Jainas
i^:) or Buddhists, Arhatas ( ant^* ) or Jains, Pasupatas,.
Parasaris, Variiis (Brahmacharis) -(H, C. above quoted)
and others were to be found men learned in the philoso-
phies of their respective doctrines and a peculiar charac-
teristic of this time was the extreme fondness of the
people and the princes to hear learned discussions on
philosophical questions between the professors of the
different doctrines. The Indian religion, strangely enough,
combines the highest philosophy with the grossest super-
stition. The Indo-Aryans in times remote, grappled with
the most abstruse problems relating to God and soul, and
have left us speculations in the Upanishads and the Vedas
beyond which no people have yet gone. Imbued with a
deep sense of the miseries of this world the Indo-Aryans
applied themselves to a consideration of the world beyond
while the western Aryans applied themselves to the pro-
blems of this world. And in their speculations, as Max-
Muller has observed, they never shrank from accepting
conclusions at which they logically arrived. Hence the
diversity of schools in Indian philosophies and hence also
their freedom from bigotry or intolerance of other opi-
nions. The Indo-Aryan mind always took delight in
logically discussing the various questions of religious
philosophy. Buddhism especially was fond of such dis-
cussions. The development of Nyaya philosophy which
Buddhism to some extent made its own lent indeed a
scholastic character to such discussions and there was no
criterion of truth except the opponent's defeat in discussion.
Yet they have an interest and a value of their own as


reason was held supreme or in c ther words as the argu-
ment from revelation was never resorted to. Bana's work
gives ample testimony to the popularity of such discussions
in his time. Especially, Hiuen Tsang records the great
assemblies of learned men which were convened at the
time of the quinquennial alms-giving ceremonies which
Harsha used to hold at Prayaga and at the last of which
Hiuen'Tsang himself was the president of the assembly.
The usual procedure in such assemblies was that some
one made a declaration of his doctrines and called upon
all present to refute them. Sometimes a written declara-
tion was posted at the gate of a monastery calling upon
adversaries to tear it. Hiuen-Tsang tells us of one such
declaration posted by a Brahmin opponent to the door of
the Nalanda monastery which no body daring to tear, he
himself tore and then entering upon a controversy with the
Brahmin defeated him, he having first sworn to be a slave
of the man who would defeat him. Hiuen Tsang, however,
relieved him from his oath and allowed him to depart a
Buddhist. The Buddhist monasteries appear to have been
constant scenes of such disputations, for the monks resid-
ing therein having no care for their maintenance had
ample time for study and discussion besides performing
their religious exercises. Hiuen Tsang notes also this
feature of the life in Buddhist monastaries. The Buddhists
themselves were divided into 18 sects and had as many
disputations among themselves as with outsiders. "The
Brethren are often assembled for discussion to test in-
tellectual capacity and bring moral character into pro-
minence. Those who bring forward or estimate aright fine
points in philosophy and give subtle principles their pro-
per place, who are ornate in diction and acute in refined
distinctions ride richly caparisoned elephants," preceded
and followed by a host of attendants. Bana's discription
in the Harsha-Charita evidences also the assembling
of opponent philosophers at the hermitages of Buddhist
recluses, and the passage is interesting as giving us a
catalogue of the various schools which then contended in
the field of discussion. In the Asrama of Divakaramitra


were assembled, Bana tells us at page 316 H. C. Arhatas/
(Jains), Maskaris (Sanyasis), Svetapatas ( Svetambara
Jains), white-clothed Bhiksus, Bhagavatas, Varnis
(Brahmacharis), Kesalunchacas ( those who rooted out
their hair), Kapilas (Sankhyas), Lokayatikas ( atheists).
Jains (Buddhists), Kanadas (followers of Kanada's Vaise-
sika philosophy), Aupanishadas (Vedantins), Aisvara
Karanikas ( Naiyayikas), Karandnamas (the philosophers
of •'^Tig^^ or elements ), Dharmasastris, Puranikas, Sapta-
tantavas(?),Saivas, Sabdikas (gramarians), Pancharatrikas
(followers of the Pancharatra sect of Vaishnavas ) and
others. This catalogue of the philosophies which were
current in the seventh century is historically important.
The Buddhists are here called Jains, Jina being a name of
Buddha while what are now called Jains are called
Arhatas. The Bhagavatas are again distinguished from
the Pancharatras. The Mimansakas are probably
intended by the term Dharmasastris for they based their
arguments on revelation. Lastly, Varnis or Brahmacharis
are distinguished from the Aupanishadas and these again
from the Maskaris. It is difScult to find out the nature
of the exact differences in these several allied philosophies
and we must content ourselves with noting the fact of
the distinction.

However much these different philosophies might
contend with one another, on two or three points all of
them seem to have held only one view. Firstly they all
believed ( with the exception of Lokayatikas or atheists
alone ) in the existence of the soul and its metempsychosis
through numberless births according to Karma. The
belief in the Karma doctrine and in the doctrine of the
transmigration of the kouI prorainentlydistinguishes Indian
philosophy from the philosophy of the West. We are not
concerned here either with its truth or otherwise or with
the history of its origin. But it is pertinent to remark

* 3TT|^: JT?^!^- ^fnl": q!i'g§TTO": >J|-'mrf4iu||^: %7T^»^: ^rf^: ^tWl-
■!jfr(^^- E?ru^\trTRT^: ^'BWKl^: ^nT^^TT^fiT: vr^|%fH-: 'f|icrl%^: ^nrcT^%:


that this belief was a potent and living force at the time
of which we are writing. It had a great effect in main-
taining the morals of the people at a high level. The
following extract from Hiuen Tsang a foreign and unbiassed
writer is relevant in this connection '* They are of hasty
and irresolute temperament but of pure moral principles.
They will not take anything wrongfully and they yield
more than fairness requires. They fear the retribution of
sins in other lives (ind make light of what conduct produces
in this life." (Watters Vol. I P. 171.) And further, "As the
government is honestly administered and the people live
together on good terms the criminal class is small "
(Ditto). The same cannot be said of the present state of
the Indian society and apparently the credit of this high
moral condition of the people is due to the teachings of
Buddhism which lays stress upon this doctrine of trans-
migration of soul and its moral lessons with the greatest
force, though it has taken it from Hinduism itself.

Secondly, the doctrine of Ahinsa had become accept-
able to almost all the different schools of religious thought
m India. Its opponents were chiefly the Mimansakas or
the upholders of the old Vedic sacrifice, besides of course
the Lokayatikas or atheists and perhaps Pasupatas. but
even these Mimansakas had already come round to
accept it so far as ordinary slaughter of animals was
concerned. From the Mahabharata we already find the
compromise arrived at namely that although slaughter for
purposes of sacrifice and Sraddha was no slaughter it was
so for all ordinary purposes. We have shown elsewhere
(Epic India) that the Ahinsa doctrine was originally
started by Hinduism itself against animal sacrifice. ( See
Brihadaranya and other Upanishads). But it was taken up
by the Buddhists and the Jains and placed in the foremost
rank of their tenets. Whenever Buddhism flourished
animal sacrifices, therefore, fell in abeyance and along
with it naturally animal food also. The growth of the
worship of Krishna had made cows and bulls objects of
special adoration to the Hindus also and the slaughter of


cows and bulls had entirely ceased, as also that of certain
larger animals. When Hiuen Tsang visited India this
prohibition had become so strong " that the flesh of oxen,
asses, elephants, horses, pigs, dogs, foxes, wolves, lions,
monkeys and apes was entirely forbidden and those who
ate such food became pariahs" (Watters' Records V.I. P.178).
But the flesh of other animals was still permitted and
probably even Brahmins and Kshatriyas ate mutton and
venison as also fish. Besides during the Gupta supremacy
Asvamedha had been revived and at this sacrifice bulls and
horses must have been slaughtered, the sacrificers taking
refuge under the formula " slaughter for sacrifice was no
slaughter." Such practices must have given offence to
strong rulers of the Buddhistic faith and they must have
used their political power for the suppression of all slaugh-
ter. Hiuen Tsang tells us of Siladitya of Molapo prohi-
biting slaughter and animal food in his kingdom in the
latter half of the 6th century. This king himself was so
punctilious that he gave strained water to his horses and
elephants lest insects might be killed (Life p. 148) The.
Rajatarangini (III 6) mentions the efforts which Meghava-
hana made to prohibit slaughter in Kashmir. All such
partial attempts were now cast ino shade by the systema.
tic efforts of Harsha who wielded absolute power over the
whole of Northern India. " He prohibited the taking of
life under severe penalties and caused the use of animal
food to cease throughout the five Indies." (Watters' Vol. I
p. 344). Harsha was the master of four Indies only namely
the middle, the north, the west and the east. But in the
south probably his directions or requests must have been
complied with by the several kings in the south, the
people being already in favour of the prohibition of
animal food. Harsha's efforts appear to have been successful
■^nd although there was a rebound for a time against
Ahinsa after Harsha's death as we shall have to relate
hereafter, it became finally fixed in the Hindu mind and
strangely enough more completely in the south than
in the north- At this day Brahmins of the south are total
abstainers from flesh while in Northern India they are


only generally so. The Kshatriyas of the whole of India
who, it may be a surprise to read, are the most con-
servative people of the land, still use animal food but
the prohibition of animals enumerated by Hiuen Tsang as
above, is observed even by them. The Vaisyas are total
abstainers all over the country and other castes follow the
Kshatriyas, but habit of centuries and example of Brahmins
make them also generally abstainers from flesh. The non-
slaughter of cows and bulls has, it may be added, become so
completely the chief dogma of each and every follower of
Hinduism that its contempt rouses them as is well known,
even now, sometimes to the verge of religious frenzy.

Such is the great change in religious sentiment which
came over the people with respect to animal slaughter in
the momentous reign of the emperor Harsha. There is no
example in history of a great and vast people giving up
animal food for the sake of religious merit. The Ahinsa
doctrine has indeed raised Hinduism to a high position
of glory and has added to its spiritual power. But the
historian cannot but observe with Max-Muller that while
it has enabled India to live a higher spiritual life,
it has contributed largely to bring about its political
death. For a vegetarian people cannot ordinarily hope to
compete with thp flesh-eating peoples of the world in the
struggle for existence, as the history of India in the suc-
ceeding centuries but too painfully proved.


Sir Vincent Smith observes at page 357 of his ' Early
history of India ' 3rd Edition, that when " the wholesome
despotism of Harsha terminated by his death, India
instantly returned to her normal condition of anarchical
autonomy. " This is, I am afraid, a wrong and an unhis-
torical view. To those who look upon India as one country
and who consider a despotic imperial rule as the only
remedy for her political ills, the political condition
which usually obtained in ancient India may appear as
one of anarchical autonomy. But it must be remembered
that India never was one kingdom at any time except the
present, when the British rule has brought the whole
country under subjection. India may indeed be called
one country from certain aspects of race, religion and
tradition, but it cannot be denied that it never was, at
least in ancient history, one country politically. It gener-
ally consisted of a number of kingdoms and these were
usually at war with one another. To apply to this
condition the term anarchical autonomy would be

For what was the condition of Europe at this time or
for that matter at any time in its history ? Europe may
fitly be compared to India in every respect. Exclusive of
Russia, Europe is almost equal to India in extent and
population and its people are practically of one race,
namely, Aryan and of one religion, namely, Roman
Christianity. In the seventh century Hiuen Tsang de-
scribes India as divided into about seventy kingdoms
( Watters' Vol. I p. 140 ). Europe in the seventh century
could not have been divided into less. England itself was
divided into five kingdoms, France, Germany and Italy
into many more. Indeed the condition of society, civi
lization and the means of communication in ancient times


prevented the formation of kingdoms larger than those
that existed in India or Europe at that time. And history
shows that these kingdoms of Europe were constantly at
war with one another. European history is indeed a terri-
ble history detailing the constant and usually sanguinary
wars waged by the several kingdoms with one another.
Now would it be proper to describe this condition of
Europe as one of anarchical; autonomy, or to make the
comparison still more complete, to say that when the
Empire of Charlemagne fell to pieces after his death.
Burope reverted to her usual condition of anarchical
autonomy ? Even now when railways and telegraphs have
made the growth of large kingdoms possible, Europe is
still divided into a number of small kingdoms which are
not larger than the kingdoms in India described by Hiuen
Tsang. If we take 6000 li or 1200 miles as the average
circumference of a large Indian kingdom like Maharashtra
the area of an average large kingdom in square miles comes
to about 1,20,000 sq. miles. Or we may make calcuation
in another way and divide the total present area of India
viz. 18,02,629 sq. miles, by 70 and arrive at the area
25,752 sq. miles of an average kingdom in India as it existed
in the seventh century. The smaller kingdoms existing
in Europe at this day, Belgium ( 11,373 sq. ms. ), Holland
(12.582), Portugal (32,000), Italy ( 1,10,632 J, Bulgaria
( 33,645 ), Roumania ( 53,489 ) and Greece ( 25,014 ), not to^
speak of the small states of which the German Empire is
composed, are not thus larger than the kingdoms existing
in India in Hiuen Tsang's days, and these states of Europe
are normally in a condition of war. A decade does not pass
without a fight somewhere, and yet these small states are
alive and flourishing ; and history cannot describe the
normal condition of Europe as one of ' anarchical
autonomy'. The mistake lies in looking upon India as one
country or a territory that deserved to be one country
under one rule and hence, I apprehend, the use of the
word anarchical.

The question for the historian is why did the small
kingdoms of India succumb to the Mahomedans in the


12th century ? Why did they not live and develop into
strong kingdoms like the states of Europe ? It is usually
suggested that the Indian kingdoms ought to have fore-
seen the danger of foreign invasions and that they should
have laid aside mutual feuds in order to gather strength
against them. It is argued, for example, that after the de-
feat of the Huns, under Mihirkula in 528 A. D. India
was free from fc/eign invasion till the invasion of Mahmud
of Ghazni about 1000 A. D,, and she was free to work
out her destiny. This involves not only the previous
misconception that India was one country but also the
further misconception that such foreign invasions oould
have been foreseen. In fact we usually look upon the
condition of the seventh century, from our state of
knowledge in the twentieth century. But the invasions of
Mahmud could not have been foreseen by any the
wisest man, in the seventh century. No body in those days
or even later could have dreamt that the Turks, fired with
the fanaticism of a new creed and cursed with the bar-
barism of new invaders, would devastate India in the 11th
and the 12th centuries. Even the loss of Sind in the
beginning of the 8th century could not have served as a
warning. The conquest of Sind, in India, by the Arabs
may fitly be compared to the conquest of Constantinople
in Europe by the Turks. The Turks have remained in
Europe like a thorn in the side of Europe for these five
centuries in the same way as the Arabs remained in Sind
for five centuries before the 13th. The Arabs from Sind
molested the Hindus east, north and south much in the
same way as the Turks harassed Europe in t'ne west,
north and south. Yet Europe never thought of laying
aside her internal animosities and combining under one
empire. Why should then the kingdoms of India have
thought of combining under one sceptre to drive away
the Arabs ? Nay, the parallel goes much further. Mr.
Sardesai accuses the Rashtrakutas of having actually
taken the assistance of these Arab foreigners in their
fights with the Gurjaras. But it must be remembered
that in advanced Europe the same thing was done and is


being done. History tells us that Francis I of France
excited the Turks against the Germans in his war with
Charles V, Emperor of Germany, in the 16th century. And
curiously enough the debt has been paid back in the
present 20th century by the last Emperor of Germany by
raising the Turks against the French and their allies
although the latter are of the same religion, race and civi-
lization as the Germans. The reason is, that in political
struggles, even religion and race are not of much account.
The Buigars are at present fighting against the Russians
though of the same race and even of the same religious
church. We need not, then, feel wonder if the Rashtra-
kiltas sought the assistance of the Arabs, against their
own co-religionists. We must remember that the Gur-
jarasand Rashtrakutas formed two distinct kingdoms with
distinct political interests. The real difference between
Europe and India lies in the fact that while both the
Gurjaras and the Rashtrakutas have eventually succumbed
beforethe Arabs, the French and the Germans are still alive
and not likely to succumb to the Turks. The real question,
therefore, for the historian is why did the Gurjaras and the
Rashtrakutas succumb ? In other words why did thp king-
doms in India not develop into strong nations ? What
was the political condition in the seventh' and the pre-
ceding centuries which led to her decline and downfall ?
That is the question which we really have to solve and
which requires to be carefully tackled in the light of
western and easten history past and present.

The main cause of this difference in the vitality of
the nations in the west and the nations in the east
appears to be the complete divergence in the develop-
ment of their political ideas. While in the west the high-
est ideal of a state was evolved at a very ancient date in
Greece, in India the Indo-Aryan intellect not only failed
to grasp the essentials of a perfect state but developed
ideas which were diametrically opposed to them. Per-
haps the Indo-Aryan intellect was. as said before,
engrossed with the idea of the nothingness of this


world's prosperity and devoting itself to spirtual spe-
culation spurned the limitations of a limited state
and concerned itself with the welfare of the whole
world, man and beast, animate and inanimate. In Europe
the small citizen states of Greece were led by the Hellenic
intellect to a very high political development and the
Romans by their legal temperament carried it to the far-
thest limits. The duties and the dignities of a citizen of
the Roman Empire, a word which still reminds us of the
ancient develpment of city-states, were now clearly under-
stood and defined and they in their turn moulded the
development of political ideas in the Germanic peoples
who added their own political instincts and notions to the
ideas inherited from the civilizations of Greece and Rome.
The German states were, indeed, not republics like the
ancient states of Greece and Rome, but the power of the
king in these was limited by institutions of states-general
or representative assemblies of the people; and these have
developed into the modern kingdoms of Europe with their
limited monarchies. The rights and duties of the citizens
or rather members of a state have further been developed
by French thinkers preceding the French Revolution and
their ideas have now permeated to the lowest class in each
and every state of Europe. Under their influence each
individual citizen in the western states believes that he
is a partner in the political partnership of the state and is
thus both its master and servant in his own small capacity.
Each citizen again is bound to the state not only by ties
of affection or patriotism but also by the ties of self-interest,
for each one shares in the prosperity of the state or its
adversity and is thus ready to make any sacrifice for it by
self-interest as well as by patriotism. Such a state must
necessarily be a strong organisation and cannot be
suppressed or killed except by the greatest exertion of
enemies, Nay, it has come to be a maxim with political
philosophers in the west that no people, however few,
imbued with the instincts of true citizenship, can ever be
suppressed by force.


The development of political ideas in India was exactly
in the opposite direction. The Indo-Aryans were indeed
in the beginning imbued with the same racial tendencies
as their brethren in the west. The sovereignty so to speak
belonged to the people and the king was merely their
leader and agent. There were public assemblies of the

Online LibraryChintaman Vinayak VaidyaHistory of mediæval Hindu India (being a history of India from 600 to 1200 A.D.) .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 38)