Vinod Mubayi and Waheed Mukaddam

The weaponization of the masjid-mandir controversies now erupting all over north India appear to be Hindutva’s strategy to keep the country on a continuous boil until the next round of elections –state or national. The Gyanvapi mosque imbroglio has been quickly followed by the Krishnajanambhoomi-Shahi Idgah rift in Mathura as if following the script of the slogan “Ayodhya toh sirf jhanki hai/Kashi Mathura baaki hai” [Ayodhya is only a trailer; Kashi and Mathura still remain]. that was popularized by the foot soldiers and vandals of Hindutva who demolished the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in 1992.

These demons dredged up from the past of many hundreds of years ago seem to be part of a plan formulated in advance and waiting in the wings to be put into practice at an opportune moment. The RSS-BJP combine appears to believe in the electoral efficacy of these weapons as a means of consolidating its vote bank at a time when the economy is in dismal straits and unlikely to get better anytime soon. No doubt the BJP’s success in the recent state elections has emboldened it to pursue and intensify this communal strategy. 

The masjid-mandir controversies are, however, only one leg of the overall Hindutva strategy of polarization for consolidating its Hindu vote bank. The other leg is equally, if not more, violent and involves the use of bulldozers for destroying the dwellings and shops of lower-class urban Muslims. Over the last two months, local police have allowed militant Hindu mobs under the guise of religious processions to congregate and parade in urban majority Muslim neighborhoods. When violence erupts as it usually does, the police arrest mostly Muslim men and either overlook or connive with the Hindu goondas effectively lending them state protection. When Muslim vendors or hawkers try to protect their handcarts or ramshackle shops or other common Muslims attempt to stop the desecration of a local mosque, municipal authorities send in bulldozers to remove what are termed “illegal encroachments” almost exclusively of Muslims. Writing in the India Cable of May 24, Shambhavi Madan points out that “recent punitive demolition drives by administrations reflect a willingness to dispossess anyone the state labels as ‘anti-social elements’,… the 2022 events have destroyed Muslim homes and livelihoods – directly deepening conditions of precarity – seemingly as retribution for challenging majoritarianism.”

What is more pathetic and highly distressing is the supine surrender of the country’s judiciary including its highest court to majoritarian passions. The foundations of this surrender were laid in the bizarre and utterly illogical verdict of the Supreme Court on the Ram temple in Ayodhya, more than two decades after the destruction of the Babri mosque. This judgment in a nutshell privileged alleged faith and belief claims of the Hindu plaintiffs as facts thus standing the law of evidence on its head. As one commentator wrote if the birth of Lord Rama at some specific location was a historical fact, then some evidence of this needed to be adduced as proof in a legal proceeding. None of this seemed to matter to the judge who authored a 116-page addendum to the judgment, thus inaugurating a post-truth era in judicial matters.

Notwithstanding the Ayodhya judgment, Supreme Court advocate Shadan Farasat writing in the Wire of May 27, reminds us of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 which “says that a mosque, temple, church or any place of public worship in existence on August 15 1947, will retain the same religious character that it had on that day – irrespective of its history – and cannot be changed by the courts or the government.” The Supreme Court in fact quoted this law in its Ayodhya judgment when it emphasized the mandate of the Indian Parliament in 1991 that any wrongs committed in history cannot be used in future to change the religious character of places of worship. Farasat goes on to point out that “The Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi was built upon a temple destroyed in 1669 on Aurangzeb’s orders and video surveys are hardly needed to identify Hindu features and motifs that are part of its masonry and structure. What matters in law is the status of the Gyanvapi mosque on August 15,1947. Its status as a mosque and a waqf was noted by a (1942) judgment of the Allahabad high court”. Given that the Supreme Court affirmed the 1991 law just over two years ago, how can it permit the legal proceedings in Varanasi and Mathura to move forward?


It is well known fact of Indian history going back over 2,000 years that successive kings and emperors who defeated rival kings often destroyed existing religious or cultural monuments belonging to the older order and used the material to build new monuments glorifying the victors. Hindutva historians, publicists and politicians would have us believe that this practice was indulged in only by Muslim kings but leading historians like the late Prof D.N. Jha stated in his book “Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History” that those who look at the ancient period of Indian history as “a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence” are mistaken. He said, “Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam”. Jha focused on hundreds of years of desecration, destruction of Buddhist stupas, monasteries and other structures by Brahminical forces”, and pointed out that the “evidence for such destruction dates as far back as the end of the reign of Ashoka, who is credited with making Buddhism a world religion.” A summary of Jha’s views is presented in an article of June 22, 2018 on the site counterview.net https://www.counterview.net/2018/06/buddhist-shrines-massively-destroyed-by.html and it is instructive to quote them at length:

Jha quotes from the classic twelfth-century Kashmiri text, the Rajatarangini of Kalhana, that one of Emperor Ashoka’s sons unlike his Buddhist father was a Shaivite who destroyed Buddhist monasteries. Hence, the attacks on Shramanic religions [i.e., Buddhism] seem to have begun either in the lifetime of Ashoka or soon after his death.” According to Jha, “Other early evidence of the persecution of Shramanas comes from the post-Mauryan period, recorded in the Divyavadana, a Buddhist Sanskrit, which describes the Brahmin ruler Pushyamitra Shunga as a great persecutor of Buddhists. He is said to have marched out with a large army, destroying stupas, burning monasteries and killing monks as far as Sakala, now known as Sialkot, where he announced a prize of one hundred dinars for every head of a Shramana.” Bringing up “evidence” from famous grammarian Patanjali, Jha says, he “famously stated in his Mahabhashya that Brahmins and Shramanas are eternal enemies, like the snake and the mongoose. All this taken together means that the stage was set for a Brahminical onslaught on Buddhism during the post-Mauryan period, especially under Pushyamitra Shunga, who may have destroyed the Ashokan Pillared Hall and the Kukutarama monastery at Pataliputra—modern-day Patna.”

Jha further says, “The possibility of a Shunga assault on Buddhist monuments is supported by the layers of debris and the evidence of desertion found at many centres of Buddhism, notably in Madhya Pradesh. For example, Sanchi, which was an important Buddhist site since the time of Ashoka, has yielded evidence of the vandalisation of several edifices during the Shunga period. Similar evidence comes from nearby places such as Satdhara, in Katni district, and Deurkothar, in Rewa district.”

“The destruction and appropriation of Buddhist sites continued in Madhya Pradesh even after Shunga rule ended”, says Jha. “At Ahmedpur, for instance, a Brahminical temple seems to have been constructed on a stupa base in the fifth century, and icons have been found at several sites around Vidisha, which were transformed into Shaivite or Jain places of worship around the eighth century.” Then, “more than 250 kilometres north-east of Vidisha, a Buddhist establishment existed at Khajuraho before it emerged as a major temple town from the tenth century onwards, under the Chandellas. Here, the Ghantai temple appears to have been built on the remains of a Buddhist monument in the ninth or tenth century by the Jains, who also may have had a strong presence in the region.”

Providing evidence from Mathura, which was a flourishing town in western Uttar Pradesh during the Kushana period, Jha says, “Some present-day Brahminical temples, such as those of Bhuteshwar and Gokarneshwar, were Buddhist sites in the ancient period. Here, the Katra Mound, a Buddhist centre during Kushana times, became a Hindu religious site in the early medieval period.” Further, at Kaushambi, near Allahabad, “the destruction and burning of the great Ghositaram monastery has been attributed to the Shungas — more specifically to Pushyamitra”, says Jha, adding, “Sarnath, near Varanasi, where the Buddha delivered his first sermon, became the target of Brahminical assault. This was followed by the construction of Brahminical buildings, such as Court 36 and Structure 136, probably in the Gupta period, by reusing Mauryan materials.”

Quoting Chinese pilgrim Fa-hsien, who visited India in the early fifth century, during the Gupta period, Jha says, at Sravasti, where the Buddha spent much of his life, “Brahmins seem to have appropriated a Kushana Buddhist site, where a temple with Ramayana panels was constructed during the Gupta period.”

Jha notes, “In fact, the general scenario of Buddhist establishments in what is today Uttar Pradesh was so bad that in Sultanpur district alone no less than 49 Buddhist sites seem to have been destroyed by fire when, as described in a paper by the archaeologist Alois Anton Führer, ‘Brahminism won its final victories over Buddhism’.”

In the post-Gupta centuries, says Jha, Chinese Buddhist pilgrim and traveller Hsüan Tsang, who visited India between the years 631 and 645, during the reign of Harshavardhana, “states that the sixth-century Huna ruler Mihirakula, a devotee of Shiva, destroyed 1,600 Buddhist stupas and monasteries and killed thousands of Buddhist monks and laity. He further tells us that 1,000 sangharamas in Gandhara were ‘deserted’/and in ‘ruins,’ and describes 1,400 sangharamas in Uddiyana as ‘generally waste and desolate’.” Then, says Jha, “Hsüan Tsang tells us that the king Shashanka of Gauda cut down the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya in Bihar — the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment — and removed a statue of the Buddha from a local temple, ordering that it be replaced by an image of Maheshvara… Bodh Gaya came under Buddhist control again during the period of the Pala rulers, who were Buddhists, and the place has, in fact, remained a site of religious contestation throughout Indian history.”

Referring to the internationally reputed Buddhist university at Nalanda, especially the its vast monastic complex where Hsüan Tsang spent more than five years, Jha says, it’s library was set on fire by “Hindu fanatics”, insisting, “The popular view, however, wrongly attributes this conflagration to the Mamluk commander Bakhtiyar Khilji, who never went there, but, in fact, sacked the nearby Odantapuri Mahavihara at modern-day Bihar Sharif.”

Suspecting that even the Jagannath temple at Puri, one of the most prominent Brahminical pilgrimage centres in eastern India, built in the twelfth century during the reign of the Eastern Ganga ruler Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, “is said to have been constructed on a Buddhist site” something which “may be contested”, Jha says, “There is hardly any doubt that the temples of Purneshvara, Kedareshvara, Kanteshvara, Someshvara and Angeshvara, all in Puri district, were either built on Buddhist viharas, or made of material derived from them.”

We may note that the name of the state, Bihar, is itself of Buddhist origin, viz., from vihara.

Bodhi Satva Group – YouTube Videos

Very recently, the group Bodhi Satva has begun to issue YouTube videos that provide pictorial proof of the destruction of Buddhist sites to build Hindu temples. The url links of 8 videos are provided below so readers can see the evidence for themselves.

1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k_69DD2WSc

This video called “Buddha Paradise” is 7:50 minutes long in Hindi. It presents important archaeological and structural information about major Buddhist monuments.

2) https://youtu.be/k7cCq7o5uJ8

This Bodhi Satva video in Hindi is 8:15 Minutes long. It makes and substantiates the claim that Ayodhya, known by its earlier name Saket, was a very important center of Buddhist culture. It establishes that the large number of ancient relics discovered in the dig for construction of Modi’s Ram Temple in Ayodhya that were celebrated by the idiotic godi media as further proof that the site had a Hindu temple turned out on a simple inspection of the finds to be Buddhist relics of stupas, chakras and so on.

To call some of these Shivlinga shows ignorance. The Stupas have a definite structure; Gumbhat, the main part which is almost a semi sphere that sits on a circular base called Vedika.  On top of the Gumbhat is Harmic and then a chatra. Some even have Lord Buddha’s statues.

Additionally Mauryan columns were almost always eight sided. They were adorned by lotus medallions. Even modern statues of Lord Buddha often have him sitting on a Lotus medallion.  

The other very important point is the name of the city. Today’s Ayodhya was an important city called Saket. Saket is referred to in writings of Chinese visitors, some of whom spent several years there.

3. https://youtu.be/uUFv5_y0Vjc This video in Marathi is 25 minutes long and describes sites in Karad and other parts of Maharashtra.

4. https://youtu.be/3vzGBxjG9E8 This video is in Hindi 13:06 minutes long about sites in Ranpur Saurashtra and Rajkot.

5. https://youtu.be/7JmeDORAj9I This video in Hindi is 30:06 minutes long and describes sites in Shyamgad, Chambal district of MP.

6. https://youtu.be/O22bc_UIxt0 Hindi video 8:44 minutes long about Jharkhand, shows that the Bhadrakali Hindu Temple was in fact a Buddhist site.

7. https://youtu.be/tAMHoRTY1oc Hindi video 10:06 minutes long about Jagannath Mandir in Orissa.

8. https://youtu.be/GProaHecmkg Hindi video 42:35 minutes long about Shivneri, Shivaji’s birthplace, a completely neglected site.

The narration in the rest of videos provides further proofs of demolition and in some cases complete neglect of ancient India’s religious symbols, mostly related to Buddhist culture which seem to have been systematically destroyed by later Brahmanical rulers with great ferocity.  These are from various parts of the country: Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. Some destruction and “conversion” of these Buddhist monuments to Hindu icons is incredibly sloppy. For example, a large Buddha statue, carved in stone, in a cave was transformed to a Hanuman statue complete with a tail. However, the addition was done with cement that has developed cracks over the years. And it was done so lazily that they only bothered to patch up the front and left the distinctive Buddha curly hair and long ears untouched.

It is known that emperor Ashoka built thousands of stupas. The Dharam Wheel is part of the national flag. 

One of the videos asserts that the largely Dalit Buddhist groups are going to take this destruction of their heritage to the courts. One wonders how the judiciary will react. In any case, whether the godi media picks up this issue or not it will provide a fitting coda to the violence and destruction unleashed by the BJP-RSS crowd on the minorities of the country in the name of righting historical wrongs.

[We extend our thanks to our old friend Sukanya Agashe for forwarding to us the links of the Bodhi Satva videos]

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