It is almost impossible to provide a continuous account of the near disappearance of Buddhism from the plains of India. This is primarily so because of the dearth of archaeological material and the stunning silence of the indigenous literature on this subject. Interestingly, the subject itself has remained one of the most neglected topics in the history of India. In this book apart from the history of the decline of Buddhism in India, various issues relating to this decline have been critically examined. Following this methodology, an attempt has been made at a region-wise survey of the decline in Sind, Kashmir, northwestern India, Bengal, Orissa, and Assam, followed by a detailed analysis of the different hypotheses that propose to explain this decline. This is followed by author’s proposed model of decline of Buddhism in India.
K.T.S. Sarao is currently Professor and Head of the Department of Buddhist Studies at the University of Delhi. He holds doctoral degrees from the universities of Delhi and Cambridge and an honorary doctorate from the P.S.R. Buddhist University, Phnom Penh.
It is very difficult to provide a continuous account of the near disappearance of Buddhism from the plains of Indian subcontinent primarily because of the dearth of archaeological material and the stunning silence of the indigenous literature on this subject. Interestingly, the subject itself has remained one of the most neglected topics in the history of India. Our own study of the background to the decline of Buddhism in India has left us with an impression similar to what discussing as to why religions decline: “the most insidious disease germs are not greatly feared, and perhaps not recognized.” In this book an attempt has been made to trace the history of the decline of Buddhism in India and critically examine various issues relating to this decline. Following this methodology, a region-wise survey of the decline in the Madhyadesa, Sind, Kashmir, Punjab, the northwestern Indian subcontinent, the Deccan, western India, and eastern India (including Bangladesh) has been attempted. Thereafter, the various causes and hypotheses generally proposed in this regard have been critically examined. In the end, a model for the decline has been proposed.
In the preparation of this book, I have received help from various persons particularly Prof. Lee Chi-fu, Prof. L.P. Singh, Prof. Cho Yong-kil, Prof. T.K.V. Subramanian, Prof. Kumkum Roy, Prof. Anita Sharma, and Richard Dancer who read the manuscript of this book at various stages of preparation and made many helpful suggestions. As an expert of the Indian Council of Historical Research, Prof. K.M. Shrimali commented extensively on an earlier draft of the manuscript and made many valuable suggestions. Professor Romila Thapar’s comments on the final manuscript were most helpful. Visiting fellowships offered by St. Edmunds College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (August 1999- January 2000), Maison des Sciences de L’ Homme, Paris, France (April-June 2001 and August-September 2009), Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies, Fagu Shan, Jinshan, Taiwan (October 2002- July 2005), Dongguk University, Seoul, S. Korea (May 2005), Visvabharati, Santiniketan, India (March 2008), and Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University, Phnom Penh, Cambodia (October 2010- April 2011) provided me with an opportunity to write this book. Dr S.M. Haldhar, Dr Krishna Murari, Dr A.K. Singh, Dr. Sanjaya Kumar Singh, Dr Maan Singh, Dr Sanjay Kumar Tiwary, Dr Shalin Jain, and Dr Santosh Kumar Rai helped with bibliographical material of various kinds. Above all, my daughters Neha and Nidhi took many pains in making available reading material from the Robarts Library, University of Toronto. Shri Ashok Jain of Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers took keen interest in the publication of this book. I am indebted to all of them. And finally, but foremost in my heart, I desire, in this book to thank my wife, Sunita, who has endured with superhuman good nature, the ups and downs that came our way.
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