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Religious Tolerance and Persecution in Ancient & Medieval India: A Cyclical Legacy

We have seen in the previous posts how a Fascist regime makes its followers feel nostalgic about their glorious past during which only peace and prosperity prevailed. And their narrative involves a demonic alien that stormed into their lives bringing all the despair they are enduring in their present lives. 

How fact-based is this glorious past? Relying on facts is a far fetched pursuit for Fascist regimes. They are all based on invented narratives that change often to fit their absurd reality. 

The arrival of a demon

In India, the ruling Fascist BJP Party also shows its followers a dream land that existed in the past and with the arrival of Muslims the land filled with milk and honey turned red in the color of blood. 

After the demolition of Babri Masjid under the pretext that it was built on the debris of Lord Ram’s temple in Ayodhya, another attempt is under way to demolish another mosque in Gyanvapi in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Mosques are targeted because the Muslims are the bloodsucking demons from their horror-stuck imagined past. 

And according to this narrative, every Muslim in the country is clandestinely fighting a Holy war against Hindus.

Cut to: Medieval India – Buddhism and Vedic Religion (Hinduism)

There was once a time when Buddhism remained the religion of the majority of the population in India (that is Bharath). This happened because when King Ashoka from the Mauryan empire after winning the war in Kalinga that killed 100,000 people and 150,000 people were taken as captives.

A heartbroken, Hindu King Ashoka becomes a Buddhist and builds temples for Buddha in his kingdom and Buddhism starts flourishing. People who were discriminated against based on the caste system (also known as Varnashramam), became Buddhists. 

A small interlude from the future.  In 1956, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution, accepted Buddhism just two months before his death. 

Thanks to King Ashoka and the caste discrimination of Hindu Varnashrama, Buddhism flourished and outnumbered the Hindu population in India that is Bharath. 

Pushyamitra Sunga, the first or may be the second ruler of the Shunga empire, was the greatest persecutor of Buddhists, as described by Buddhist monk Divyavadana, writes D.N Jha in his book Brahmanical Intolerance in India.

Another version of the story about Pushyamitra is that he is the last king of the Maurya empire and he wanted to earn a lot more fame than King Ashoka who converted and became a proponent of Buddhism. For this reason, Pushyamitra destroyed nearly 84,000 Buddhist temples built under the patronage of King Ashoka. 

Another ruler by the name Miharakula, of the Huna empire is notorious for persecution of Buddhists. The faith of Miharakula is fogged and some historians say that he is a patron of Shaivism, a sect that worships Lord Shiva in the Vedic Religion (Hinduism).

The real demon?

And then came the bloodthirsty demons, the Mughals to India. But this is not the first time when Muslims came to India. Before the Mughals, a Slave Dynasty founded by Qutb-ud-din Aibak ruled the northern part of the country forming the Sultanate of Delhi.


Not sure which of the two are recognized as evil devils by the present day Fascists in India. Maybe both? 

Under Mughal rule, there have been incidents of religious tension and intolerance but the period was also marked by significant cooperation and tolerance. Just like how not all Hindu but a few rulers persecuted Buddhists. Many Hindu rulers were tolerant about Buddhism.

Times are such, not only in India but across the world, that one tends to write about hatred and communal discord first and then about harmony and tolerance, if it remains in their memory. 

So history repeats itself and persecution of one religion by another is cyclical. The oppressor becomes the oppressed and vice versa. And it might continue to happen while a common man struggles to make ends meet, unable to buy groceries, LPG and other basic amenities due to high inflation. To a common man poverty is the real demon.

It is when you do not have any other achievements to talk about or do not intend to work for people you resort to such divisive tactics. And it begets only divisive reactions.

May the proponents of divisive politics shift their focus toward economics and the well being of its citizens, rather than toward Kings and people whose skeleton must have disappeared from the face of this earth.

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