SPREADING THE BIG LIE
According to the Marxist professors “what is really required is an investigation into the theory that both the Dera Keshav Rai temple and the Idgah were built on the site of a Buddhist monastery which appears to have been destroyed.” Thank God, they have suggested it only as a theory; elsewhere in their writings they have not been that cautious. In fact, they have gone out of their way in spreading the Big Lie that the Hindus destroyed many Buddhist and Jain temples and monasteries in the pre-Islamic past. They have never been able to cite more than half-a-dozen instances of dubious veracity. But that has sufficed for providing a vociferous plank in the “progressive” party line. “If the descendants of Godse,” writes the executive editor of a prestigious Marxist monthly, “think that every medieval mosque has been built after demolishing some temple, why should we stop at the medieval period? After all, Hindu kings had also got a large number of Jain and Buddhist temples destroyed. The KrishNa temple at Mathutã rose on the ruins of a Buddhist monastery. There are hundreds of such places (that is, Hindu temples built on the ruins of Buddhist and Jain places of worship) in Karnataka, Rajasthãn, Bihãr and Uttar Pradesh.”1 The author of the article did not think it necessary to quote some instances. The proposition, he thought, was self-evident. Herr Goebbles, too, never felt the need of producing any evidence in support of his pronouncements.
It is unfortunate that some Buddhist and Jain scholars have swallowed this lie without checking the quality and quantity of the evidence offered. Some of these “scholars” are known for their “progressive” inclinations. But there are others who have become victims of a high-powered propaganda. The happiest people, however, have been the Christian missionaries and the apologists of Islam. Does it not, they say, blow up the bloody myth that Hinduism has a hoary tradition of religious tolerance and that all religions coexisted peacefully in this country before the advent of Islam and Christianity? We shall examine this canard exhaustively at a later stage in this study. For the present we are confining ourselves to the “evidence” offered in the context of the Kešavadeva temple. We reproduce below the relevant reports of the Archaeological Survey of India.
“In 1853,” writes Dr. J. Ph. Vogel, “regular explorations were started by General Cunningham on the KaTrã and continued in 1862. They yielded numerous sculptural remains; most important among them is an inscribed standing Buddha image (height 3’6”) now in the Lucknow Museum. From the inscription it appears that this image was presented to the Yašã-Vihãra in the Gupta year 230 (AD 549-50)…2
“The last archaeological explorations at Mathura were carried out by Dr. Fuhrer between the year 1887 and 1896. His chief work was the excavation of the Kañkãlî Tîlã in the three seasons of 1888-91. He explored also the KaTrã site. Unfortunately, no account of his researches is available, except the meager information contained in his Museum Reports for those years… The plates of which only a few are reproductions of photographs and the rest drawings, illustrate the sculptures acquired in the course of Dr. Fuhrer’s excavations but do not throw much fight on the explorations themselves ...3
“He [Cunningham] proposes to identify Kesopura, the quarter in which the KaTrã is situated, with ‘the Klisobora or Kaisobora of Arrian and the Calisobora of Pliny.’ It is, however, evident that the Mohalla Kesopura was named after the shrine of Keso or Kesab (Skt. Kešava) Dev. This temple stood, as we noticed above, on the ruins of a Buddhist monastery which still existed in the middle of the sixth century. It is, therefore, highly improbable that the name Kesopura goes back to the days of Arrian.4
“All we can say from past explorations is the following: The KaTrã must have been the site of a Buddhist monastery named the Yašã-Vihãra which was still extant in the middle of the sixth century. It would seem that in the immediate vicinity there existed a stûpa to which the Bhûtesar railing pillars belong. Dr. Fuhrer mentions indeed in one of his reports that, in digging at the back of Aurangzeb’s mosque, he struck the procession path of a stûpa bearing a dedicatory inscription.”5
Dr. Vogel returned to the theme in 1911-12. He wrote:
“The Keshab-Dev temple, of which the foundation can still clearly be traced stood again on earlier remains of Buddhist origin. This became at once apparent from General Cunningham’s explorations on this site in the years 1853 and 1862, which opened the era of archaeological research at Mathurã. Among his finds was a standing Buddha image (4’3.5”), now in the Lucknow Museum, bearing an inscription, which is dated in the Gupta year 230 (AD 549-50) and records that the image was dedicated by the Buddhist nun JayabhaTTã at the Yašã-Vihãra.
“Several Buddhist sculptures, mostly of the KushãNa period have since been discovered in the KaTrã mound. So that there can be little doubt, that it marks the site of an important monastic establishment. It was particularly ‘one’ find which seemed to call for further investigation. Dr. Fuhrer while describing his last exploration of the year 1896 on the KaTrã, says the following, ‘About 50 paces to the north of this plinth [of the Kešavadeva Temple] I dug a trail trench, 80 feet long, 20 feet broad and 25 feet deep, in the hope of exposing the foundations and some of the sculptures of this Kešava temple. However, none of the hoped for Brahmanical sculptures and inscriptions were discovered, but only fragments belonging to an ancient stûpa. At a depth of 20 feet I came across a portion of the circular procession-path leading round this stûpa. On the pavement, composed of large red sandstone slabs, a short dedicatory inscription was discovered, according to which this stûpa, was repaired in samvat 76 by the Kushana King Vasushaka; unfortunately, I was unable to continue the work and lay bare the whole procession-path, as the walls of the brick structure, adjoining the Masjid are built right across the middle of this stûpa.’
“Unfortunately, the inscription referred to by Dr. Fuhrer was never published, nor were estampages of it known to exist. Since the discovery of the inscribed sacrificial post (yûpa) of Isãpur had established the fact that between Kanishka and Huvishka there reigned a ruler of the name of Vãsishka, it became specially important to verify the particulars given by Dr. Fuhrer in the above quoted note.
“The endeavours made by Pandit Radha Krishna to recover Dr. Fuhrer’s inscription were not crowned with success. It is true, however, that on the spot indicated the remains of a brick stûpa honeycombed by the depredations of contractors came to light. This monument, however, cannot be assigned a date earlier than about the sixth century of our era. Of the circular procession path of red stone slabs mentioned in Dr. Fuhrer’s report, no trace was found, but at a much higher level there was a straight causeway of stone referable to about the 12th or 13th century AD. Evidently it has nothing whatsoever to do with the stûpa. The causeway in question, which is 48’ long, 4’ 6” wide, runs straight from north to south and is constructed of large sandstone slabs roughly dressed and apparently obtained from different quarries. The size of these stones shows considerable variations, one measuring 6’6” by 1’6” by 9” and another 4’ 7” by 1’7” by 9”. The causeway consists of a double layer of these slabs laid three by three, the whole being very irregular. The slabs were bound with iron clamps, some of which still remain. Five of the stones are marked with a trident (trišûl).
“In course of excavation numerous sculptural fragments came to light mostly of a late date and apparently decorative remains of the Kesab Deb temple destroyed by Aurangzeb. Among earlier finds I wish only to mention a broken fourfold Jaina image (pratimã sarvato bhadrikã) with a fragmentary inscription in Brãhmî of the Kushan period.”6
A persual of these reports yields the following facts and conclusions:
That is the picture which emerges from the explorations and excavations undertaken at the KaTrã site by General Cunningham in 1853 and 1862, Dr. Fuhrer in 1896, and Pandit Radha Krishna in 1911-12. There is no positive evidence about the existence of a Buddhist edifice in the KaTrã mound. All that can be said is that a Buddhist stûpa was built in the vicinity of the site some time in the sixth century.
No trace of a Buddhist monastery or any other Buddhist monument was found in the extensive exploration and excavation undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India at the KaTrã site during 1954-55, 1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77. None of the archaeologists who undertook the diggings has subscribed to the theory propounded earlier by General Cunningham, Dr. Fuhrer and Dr. Vogel and now by the Marxist professors. “Thirty eight sculptures,” wrote R.C. Sharma in 1984, “saw their way to the Mathurã Museum in July 1954 when Sri K.D. Vajpeyi (later Professor) was the Curator. They were unearthed as a result of levelling and digging of the KaTrã site for renovating the birthplace of Lord KRSNa and were made over to the Museum by the Janmabhûmi Trust. Some other objects which were casually picked up by others from KaTrã site were also acquired. The finds include terra-cottas from Mauryan to Gupta periods, a few brick panels with creeper designs and several Brãhmanical objects ranging from Gupta to early Medieval age. The number of fragments of ViSNu figures is quite considerable and this suggests that a big VaiSNava or Bhãgvata complex once stood on the site.”8
controversy should stand closed with what Professor Heinrich Luders, the
great expert on Mathura, has to say on the subject. “Considering the well-known
untrustworthiness of Dr. Fuhrer’s reports,” he writes, “there can be no
doubt that the VasuSka inscription is only a product of his imaginations.”9 Steven
Rosen has accused Dr. Vogel of “attempted forgery” in editing the Morã
Well inscription discovered by Cunningham in 1882. “Many early archaeologists
in India,” he writes, ‘were Christian - and they made no bones about their
motivation.”10 He adds,
“Dr. Vogel in attempting to distort the Morã Well inscription was
right in the line with many of his predecessors in the world of Indology
It is welcome that the professors are prepared for an investigation for finding whether the KaTrã mound hides the remains of a Buddhist monastery under the remains of the Kešavadeva temple. Only a thorough excavation of the site on which the Îdgãh stands can settle the question. But it must be pointed out that the excavation may not stop at the Buddhist monastery if it is uncovered at all. If it is true, as they say, that Hindus and Buddhists were at daggers drawn in the pre-Islamic period, they should be prepared for the possibility that the Buddhist monastery itself was built on the ruins of an earlier Hindu temple. After all, the most ancient and prolific Indian literature associates Mathura with the birth and youth of Šrî KrishNa, while the Buddhist associations with Mathura do not go beyond Greek and KushãNa times. We have already quoted Romila Thapar regarding the Kešvadeva tradition going back to the Mauryan period. It is quite plausible on the hypothesis of the professors that some Greek or KushãNa patron of Buddhism destroyed a Hindu temple which stood at Šrî KrishNa’s place of birth before he raised a Buddhist monastery on the site. Of course, we do not subscribe to this story of Hindu-Buddhist conflict. There is no evidence that the Hindus ever destroyed a Buddhist place of worship or vice versa. We are only proposing a test for the Marxist hypothesis.
It is intriguing indeed that whenever archaeological evidence points towards a mosque as standing on the site of a Hindu temple, our Marxist professors start seeing a Buddhist monastery buried underneath. They also invent some Šaiva king as destroying Buddhist and Jain shrines whenever the large-scale destruction of Hindu temples by Islamic invaders is mentioned. They never mention the destruction of big Buddhist and Jain complexes which dotted the length and breadth of India, Khurasan, and Sinkiang on the eve of the Islamic invasion, as testified by Hüen Tsang. We should very much like to know from them as to who destroyed the Buddhist and Jain temples and monasteries at Bukhara, Samarqand, Khotan, Balkh, Bamian, Kabul, Ghazni, Qandhar, Begram, Jalalabad, Peshawar, Charsadda, Ohind, Taxila, Multan, Mirpurkhas, Nagar-Parkar, Sialkot, Srinagar, Jalandhar, Jagadhari, Sugh, Tobra, Agroha, Delhi, Mathura, Hastinapur, Kanauj, Sravasti, Ayodhya, Varanasi, Sarnath, Nalanda, Vikramasila, Vaishali, Rajgir, Odantapuri, Bharhut, Champa, Paharpur, Jagaddal, Jajnagar, Nagarjunikonda, Amravati, Kanchi, Dwarasamudra, Devagiri, Bharuch, Valabhi, Girnar, Khambhat Patan, Jalor, Chandravati, Bhinmal, Didwana, Nagaur, Osian, Ajmer, Bairat, Gwalior, Chanderi, Mandu, Dhar, etc., to mention only the more prominent ones. The count of smaller Buddhist and Jain temples destroyed by the swordsmen of Islam runs into hundreds of thousands. There is no dearth of mosques and other Muslim monuments which have buried in their masonry any number of architectural and sculptural pieces from Buddhist and Jain monuments.
It is not so long ago that Western scholars, even Christian missionaries, used to credit the Hindus at least with one virtue, namely, religious tolerance. Hindus had received universal acclaim for providing refuge and religious freedom to the Jews, the Christians, and the Parsis who had run away from persecutions at the hands of Christian and Islamic rulers in West Asia and Iran. It was also conceded that though Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain sects and subsects had had heated discussions among themselves and used even strong language for their adversaries, the occasions when they exchanged physical blows were few and far between. The recent spurt of accusations that Hindus also were bigots and vandals like Christians and Muslims, seems to be an after-thought. Apologists who find it impossible to whitewash Christianity and Islam, are out to redress the balance by blackening Hinduism. Till recently, the Marxists were well-known for compiling inventories of capitalist sins in order to hide away the crimes committed in Communist countries.
The professors see some retributive justice in the destruction of the Kešavadeva temple by Aurangzeb because they believe that the temple was built on the ruins of a Buddhist monastery destroyed by the Hindus in the pre-Islamic past. It does not speak very highly of whatever moral sense the professors may possess that they should justify or explain away the wrong done by someone during one period in terms of another wrong done by someone else at some distant date. The whole argument is tantamount to saying that the murder of A by B is justified or should be explained away because the great-great-great grandfather of A had murdered C!
But after all
is said about the Marxist professors, we must admit the merit of their
last point, namely, “the question of limits to the logic of restoration
of religious sites.” Our plea is that the question can be answered satisfactorily
only when we are prepared to face facts and a sense to proportion is restored.
That is exactly what this study intends to do.
2 Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report 1906-07, p. 137.
3 Ibid., p. 139.
4 Ibid., p. 140.
5 Ibid., pp. 140-41.
6 Ibid., Annual Report 1911-12, pp. 132-33.
7 How much mistaken General Cunningham could be in his speculations sometimes is shown by Dr. R.C. Sharma who has been a Curator of the Museum at Mathura. “Sir Alexander Cunningham,” he writes, “during his first exploration in 1853 found some pillars of a Buddhist railing at the site of KaTra Keshavadev renowned as birthplace of Lord KRSna. Later he recovered a gateway from the same spot and a standing Buddha figure from a well recording the name of the monastery as Yasã Vihãra. He remarks, ‘I made the first discovery of Buddhist remains at the temple of Kesau Ray in January 1853, when, after a long search I found a broken pillar of a Buddhist railing sculptured with the figure of Mãyã Devî standing under the Sãla tree’. Cunningham was mistaken when he identified the lady on railing as Mãyã Devî. Since it was the first discovery he thought the representation conveyed some special event. Now we know that the lady under tree was a common representation on the rail posts of KuSãNa period and it does not specifically represent Mãyã Devî” (R.C. Sharma, Buddhist Art of Mathurã, Delhi, 1984, p. 51).
8 R.C. Sharma, op. Cit. PP. 83-84.
9 Heinrich Luders, Mathura Inscriptions, Gottingen, 1961, p. 30.
10 Steven Rosen, Archaeology and the Vaishnava Traditions: The Pre-Christian Roots of Krishna Worship, Calcutta, 1989, pp. 25-26.
Ibid., p. 28.