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Title:Indians | Ep 5: Nalanda and the Decline of Buddhism | A Brief History of a Civilization

Research, Script and Narration by Namit Arora; Producer: The Wire; Director: Natasha Badhwar; Camera: Ajmal Jami; Video Editor: Anam Sheikh. Made possible by a grant from The Raza Foundation and contributions to The Wire by viewers like you. Join The Wire's Youtube membership program and help fund many such initiatives. The story of India is one of profound and continuous change. It has been shaped by the dynamic of migration, conflict, mixing, coexistence, and cooperation. In this ten-part web series, Namit Arora tells the story of Indians and our civilization by exploring some of our greatest historical sites, most of which were lost to memory and were dug out by archaeologists. He will also focus on ancient and medieval foreign travellers whose idiosyncratic accounts conceal surprising insights about us Indians. All along, Arora surveys India’s long and exciting churn of cultural ideas, beliefs, and values—some that still shape us today, and others that have been lost forever. The series mostly mirrors—and often extends—the contents of his book, Indians: A Brief History of a Civilization. Bibliography appears below. EPISODE 5: NALANDA AND THE DECLINE OF BUDDHISM Nalanda was a Buddhist monastery founded in the 5th century during the Gupta period (319–543 CE)—a creative age for literature, art, architecture, maths and science. Nalanda became the greatest centre of Buddhist learning in the world, lasting more than 800 years until the 13th century. It attracted student monks from across Asia, including three from China whose travel accounts contain fascinating insights into the social life of India and academic life at Nalanda in the 5–7th centuries. They describe urban life, laws, medicine, obsessions with purity and pollution, food taboos, untouchability and religious conflicts. They relate the rhythms of daily life at Nalanda, its curriculum, star teachers, academic debates, funding sources and more.  In this episode, Namit Arora will also explore the many causes for the decline of Buddhism in India, starting in the second half of the first millennium. By the time of the Turko-Persian invasions, most Buddhist sites had already been abandoned, destroyed, or converted into Brahminical sites across much of India. Buddhist artifacts and texts were wiped out and Buddhism vanished from India's public memory. By the early colonial period, Indians had even forgotten that a man called the Buddha had existed in their past! Only in the 19th century did Indians rediscover Nalanda and their amazing Buddhist heritage through archaeology, texts that survived in foreign lands, accounts of Chinese and Tibetan monks, and other sources. PARTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY / FURTHER READING Asher, Frederick M., Nalanda: Situating the Great Monastery, The Marg Foundation, 2015 Beal, Samuel, The Life of Hiuen-Tsiang, Rupa Publications, 2012 Chandra Bagchi, Prabodh, India and China: A Thousand Years of Sino-Indian Contact, 1944 Chattopadhyaya, Debiprasad; Science and Philosophy in Ancient India; Aakar Books, 2013 Chos-dar, Upasaka; Roerich, Dr. George (Trans.); Biography of Dharmasvamin: A Tibetan Monk Pilgrim, 1959 Faxian, A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms / Being an account by the Chinese monk Fa-hsien of travels in India and Ceylon (A.D. 399–414) in search of the Buddhist books of discipline, Oxford, 1886 Fogelin, Lars, An Archaeological History of Indian Buddhism, OUP, 2015 Ganeri, Jonardon (Editor), The Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy, OUP, 2017 I-ching (Yijing), J. Takakusu (translator), A record of the Buddhist religion as practised in India and the Malay Archipelago, Oxford, The Clarendon press, 1896 Jha, DN, 'Monumental Absence: The destruction of ancient Buddhist sites', The Caravan, June 2018 Nanda, Meera; Science in Saffron: Skeptical Essays on History of Science; Three Essays Collective, 2016 Thapar, Romila, The Past as Present, Aleph Book Company, 2013 Tsiang, Hiuen and Beal, Samuel (translator), Si Yu Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co Ltd., 1906 Waley, Arthur, The Real Tripitaka and Other Pieces, Allen and Unwin, London, 1952 Xuanzang, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, July 2009 Yijing, Latika Lahiri (translator), Chinese Monks in India, or Biography of Eminent Monks who Went to the Western World in Search of the Law during the Great T’ang Dynasty, Motilal Banarasidas Publishers, Delhi, 2015. First edition 1986 Join The Wire's Youtube Membership and get exclusive content, member-only emojis, live interaction with The Wire's founders, editors and reporters and much more. Memberships to The Wire Crew start at Rs 89/month.


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