This chapter has been published in the book INDIA & Southeast Asia to 1800.
For ordering information, please click here.
In the Andhra land Satavahana king Simuka overthrew the last Kanva king in 30 BC and according to the Puranas reigned for 23 years. The Andhras were called Dasyus in the Aitareya Brahmana, and they were criticized for being degraded Brahmins or outcastes by the orthodox. For three centuries the kingdom of the Satavahanas flourished except for a brief invasion by the Shaka clan of Kshaharata led by Bhumaka and Nahapana in the early 2nd century CE. The latter was overthrown as the Satavahana kingdom with its caste system was restored by Gautamiputra Satakarni about 125 CE; his mother claimed he rooted out Shakas (Scythians), Yavanas (Greeks and Romans), and Pahlavas (Parthians), and records praised Gautamiputra for being virtuous, concerned about his subjects, taxing them justly, and stopping the mixing of castes. His successor Pulumavi ruled for 29 years and extended Satavahana power to the mouth of the Krishna River.
Trade with the Romans was active from the first century CE when Pliny complained that 550 million sesterces went to India annually, mostly for luxuries like spices, jewels, textiles, and exotic animals. The Satavahana kingdom was ruled in small provinces by governors, who became independent when the Satavahana kingdom collapsed. An inscription dated 150 CE credits Shaka ruler Rudradaman with supporting the cultural arts and Sanskrit literature and repairing the dam built by the Mauryans. Rudradaman took back most of the territory the Satavahana king Gautamiputra captured from Nahapana, and he also conquered the Yaudheya tribes in Rajasthan. However, in the next century the warlike Yaudheyas became more powerful. The indigenous Nagas also were aggressive toward Shaka satraps in the 3rd century. In the Deccan after the Satavahanas, Takataka kings ruled from the 3rd century to the 6th.
Probably in the second half of the first century BC Kharavela conquered much territory for Kalinga in southeastern India and patronized Jainism. He was said to have spent much money for the welfare of his subjects and had the canal enlarged that had been built three centuries before by the Nandas. In addition to a large palace, a monastery was built at Pabhara, and caves were excavated for the Jains.
Late in the 1st century BC a line of Iranian kings known as the Pahlavas ruled northwest India. The Shaka (Scythian) Maues, who ruled for about 40 years until 22 CE, broke relations with the Iranians and claimed to be the great king of kings himself. Maues was succeeded by three Shaka kings whose reigns overlapped. The Parthian Gondophernes seems to have driven the last Greek king Hermaeus out of the Kabul valley and taken over Gandhara from the Shakas, and it was said that he received at his court Jesus' disciple Thomas. Evidence indicates that Thomas also traveled to Malabar about 52 CE and established Syrian churches on the west coast before crossing to preach on the east coast around Madras, where he was opposed and killed in 68.
However, the Pahlavas were soon driven out by Scythians Chinese historians called the Yue-zhi. Their Kushana tribal chief Kujula Kadphises, his son Vima Kadphises, and Kanishka (r. 78-101) gained control of the western half of northern India by 79 CE. According to Chinese history one of these kings demanded to marry a Han princess, but the Kushanas were defeated by the Chinese led by Ban Chao at the end of the 1st century. Kanishka, considered the founder of the Shaka era, supported Buddhism, which held its 4th council in Kashmir during his reign. A new form of Mahayana Buddhism with the compassionate saints (bodhisattvas) helping to save others was spreading in the north, while the traditional Theravada of saints (arhats) working for their own enlightenment held strong in southern regions. Several great Buddhist philosophers were favored at Kanishka's court, including Parshva, Vasumitra, and Ashvaghosha; Buddhist missions were sent to central Asia and China, and Kanishka was said to have died fighting in central Asia. Kushana power decreased after the reign of Vasudeva (145-176), and they became vassals in the 3rd century after being defeated by Shapur I of the Persian Sasanian dynasty.
In the great vehicle or way of Mahayana Buddhism the saint (bodhisattva) is concerned with the virtues of benevolence, character, patience, perseverance, and meditation, determined to help all souls attain nirvana. This doctrine is found in the Sanskrit Surangama Sutra of the first century CE. In a dialog between the Buddha and Ananda before a large gathering of monks, the Buddha declares that keeping the precepts depends on concentration, which enhances meditation and develops intelligence and wisdom. He emphasizes that the most important allurement to overcome is sexual thought, desire, and indulgence. The next allurement is pride of ego, which makes one prone to be unkind, unjust, and cruel. Unless one can control the mind so that even the thought of killing or brutality is abhorrent, one will never escape the bondage of the world. Killing and eating flesh must be stopped. No teaching that is unkind can be the teaching of the Buddha. Another precept is to refrain from coveting and stealing, and the fourth is not to deceive or tell lies. In addition to the three poisons of lust, hatred, and infatuation, one must curtail falsehood, slander, obscene words, and flattery.
Ashvaghosha was the son of a Brahmin and at first traveled around arguing against Buddhism until he was converted, probably by Parshva. Ashvaghosha wrote the earliest Sanskrit drama still partially extant; in the Shariputra-prakarana the Buddha converts Maudgalyayana and Sariputra by philosophical discussion. His poem Buddhacharita describes the life and teachings of the Buddha very beautifully.
The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana is ascribed to Ashvaghosha. That treatise distinguishes two aspects of the soul as suchness (bhutatathata) and the cycle of birth and death (samsara). The soul as suchness is one with all things, but this cannot be described with any attributes. This is negative in its emptiness (sunyata) but positive as eternally transcendent of all intellectual categories. Samsara comes forth from this ultimate reality. Multiple things are produced when the mind is disturbed, but they disappear when the mind is quiet. The separate ego-consciousness is nourished by emotional and mental prejudices (ashrava). Since all beings have suchness, they can receive instructions from all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and receive benefits from them. By the purity of enlightenment they can destroy hindrances and experience insight into the oneness of the universe. All Buddhas feel compassion for all beings, treating others as themselves, and they practice virtue and good deeds for the universal salvation of humanity in the future, recognizing equality among people and not clinging to individual existence. Thus the prejudices and inequities of the caste system were strongly criticized.
Mahayana texts were usually written in Sanskrit instead of Pali, and the Prajnaparamita was translated into Chinese as early as 179 CE by Lokakshema. This dialog of 8,000 lines in which the Buddha spoke for himself and through Subhuti with his disciples was also summarized in verse. The topic is perfect wisdom. Bodhisattvas are described as having an even and friendly mind, being amenable, straight, soft-spoken, free of perceiving multiplicity, and free of self-interest. Detached, they do not want gain or fame, and their hearts are not overcome by anger nor do they seek a livelihood in the wrong way. Like an unstained lotus in the water they return from concentration to the sense world to mature beings and purify the field with compassion for all living things. Having renounced a heavenly reward they serve the entire world, like a mother taking care of her child. Thought produced is dedicated to enlightenment. They do not wish to release themselves in a private nirvana but become the world's resting place by learning not to embrace anything. With a mind full of friendliness and compassion, seeing countless beings with heavenly vision as like creatures on the way to slaughter, a Bodhisattva impartially endeavors to release them from their suffering by working for the welfare of all beings.
Nagarjuna was also born into a Brahmin family and in the 2nd century CE founded the Madhyamika (Middle Path) school of Mahayana Buddhism, although he was concerned about Hinayanists too. He was a stern disciplinarian and expelled many monks from the community at Nalanda for not observing the rules. A division among his followers led to the development of the Yogachara school of philosophy. Nagarjuna taught that all things are empty, but he answered critics that this does not deny reality but explains how the world happens. Only from the absolute point of view is there no birth or annihilation. The Buddha and all beings are like the sky and are of one nature. All things are nothing but mind established as phantoms; thus blissful or evil existence matures according to good or evil actions.
Nagarjuna discussed ethics in his Suhrllekha. He considered ethics faultless and sublime as the ground of all, like the earth. Aware that riches are unstable and void, one should give; for there is no better friend than giving. He recommended the transcendental virtues of charity, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom, while warning against avarice, deceit, illusion, lust, indolence, pride, greed, and hatred. Attaining patience by renouncing anger he felt was the most difficult. One should look on another's wife like one's mother, daughter or sister. It is more heroic to conquer the objects of the six senses than a mass of enemies in battle. Those who know the world are equal to the eight conditions of gain and loss, happiness and suffering, fame and dishonor, and blame and praise. A woman (or man), who is gentle as a sister, winning as a friend, caring as a mother, and obedient as a servant, one should honor as a guardian goddess (god). He suggested meditating on kindness, pity, joy, and equanimity, abandoning desire, reflection, happiness, and pain. The aggregates of form, perception, feeling, will, and consciousness arise from ignorance. One is fettered by attachment to religious ceremonies, wrong views, and doubt. One should annihilate desire as one would extinguish a fire in one's clothes or head. Wisdom and concentration go together, and for the one who has them the sea of existence is like a grove.
During the frequent wars that preceded the Gupta empire in the 4th century the Text of the Excellent Golden Light (Suvarnaprabhasottama Sutra) indicated the Buddhist attitude toward this fighting. Everyone should be protected from invasion in peace and prosperity. While turning back their enemies, one should create in the earthly kings a desire to avoid fighting, attacking, and quarreling with neighbors. When the kings are contented with their own territories, they will not attack others. They will gain their thrones by their past merit and not show their mettle by wasting provinces; thinking of mutual welfare, they will be prosperous, well fed, pleasant, and populous. However, when a king disregards evil done in his own kingdom and does not punish criminals, injustice, fraud, and strife will increase in the land. Such a land afflicted with terrible crimes falls into the power of the enemy, destroying property, families, and wealth, as men ruin each other with deceit. Such a king, who angers the gods, will find his kingdom perishing; but the king, who distinguishes good actions from evil, shows the results of karma and is ordained by the gods to preserve justice by putting down rogues and criminals in his domain even to giving up his life rather than the jewel of justice.
After 20 BC many kings ruled Sri Lanka (Ceylon) during a series of succession fights until Vasabha (r. 67-111 CE) of the Lambakanna sect established a new dynasty that would rule more than three centuries. Vasabha promoted the construction of eleven reservoirs and an extensive irrigation system. The island was divided briefly by his son and his two brothers, as the Chola king Karikala invaded; but Gajabahu (r. 114-36) united the country and invaded the Chola territory.
A treaty established friendly relations, and Hindu temples were built on Sri Lanka, including some for the chaste goddess immortalized in the Silappadikaram. Sri Lanka experienced peace and prosperity for 72 years, and King Voharika Tissa (r. 209-31) even abolished punishment by mutilation. However, when the Buddhist schism divided people, the king suppressed the new Mahayana doctrine and banished its followers. Caught in an intrigue with the queen, his brother Abhayanaga (r. 231-40) fled to India, and then with Tamils invaded Sri Lanka, defeated and killed his brother, took the throne, and married the queen. Gothabhaya (r. 249-62) persecuted the new Vetulya doctrine supported by monks at Abhayagirivihara by having sixty monks branded and banished. Their accounts of this cruelty led Sanghamitta to tutor the princes in such a way that when Mahasena (r. 274-301) became king, he confiscated property from the traditional Mahavihara monastery and gave it to Abhayagirivihara.
The Tamil epic poem called The Ankle Bracelet (Silappadikaram) was written about 200 CE by Prince Ilango Adigal, brother of King Shenguttuvan, who ruled the western coast of south India. Kovalan, the son of a wealthy merchant in Puhar, marries Kannaki, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy ship-owner. The enchanting Madhavi dances so well for the king that he gives her a wreath that she sells to Kovalan for a thousand gold kalanjus, making her his mistress. They sing songs to each other of love and lust until he notices hints of her other loves; so he withdraws his hands from her body and departs. Kovalan returns to his wife in shame for losing his wealth; but she gives him her valuable ankle bracelet, and they decide to travel to Madurai. Kannaki courageously accompanies him although it causes her feet to bleed. They are joined by the saintly woman Kavundi, and like good Jains they try not to step on living creatures as they walk. They meet a saintly man who tells them that no one can escape reaping the harvest grown from the seeds of one's actions.
In the woods a charming nymph tries to tempt Kovalan with a message from Madhavi, but his prayer causes her to confess and run away. A soothsayer calls Kannaki the queen of the southern Tamil land, but she only smiles at such ignorance. A priest brings a message from Madhavi asking for forgiveness and noting his leaving his parents. Kovalan has the letter sent to his parents to relieve their anguish. Leaving his wife with the saint Kavundi, Kovalan goes to visit the merchants, while Kavundi warns him that the merits of his previous lives have been exhausted; they must prepare for misfortune. Reaping what is sown, many fall into predicaments from pursuing women, wealth, and pleasure; thus sages renounce all desire for worldly things. A Brahmin tells Kovalan that Madhavi has given birth to his baby girl; he has done good deeds in the past, but he warns him he must pay for some errors committed in a past existence. Kovalan feels bad for wasting his youth and neglecting his parents. He goes to town to sell the ankle bracelet; a goldsmith tells him only the queen can purchase it, but the goldsmith tells King Korkai that he has found the man who stole his royal anklet. The king orders the thief put to death, and Kovalan is killed with a sword.
Kannaki weeping observes the spirit of her husband rise into the air, telling her to stay in life. She goes to King Korkai and proves her husband did not steal the anklet by showing him their anklet has gems not pearls. Filled with remorse for violating justice at the word of a goldsmith, the king dies, followed quickly in this by his queen. Kannaki goes out and curses the town as she walks around the city three times. Then she tears her left breast from her body and throws it in the dirt. A god of fire appears to burn the city, but she asks him to spare Brahmins, good men, cows, truthful women, cripples, the old, and children, while destroying evildoers. As the four genii who protect the four castes of Madurai depart, a conflagration breaks out. The goddess of Madurai explains to Kannaki that in a past life as Bharata her husband had renounced nonviolence and caused Sangaman to be beheaded, believing he was a spy. His wife cursed the killer, and now that action bore fruit. Kannaki wanders desolate for two weeks, confessing her crime. Then the king of heaven proclaims her a saint, and she ascends with Kovalan in a divine chariot.
King Shenguttuvan, who had conquered Kadambu, leaves Vanji and hears stories about a woman with a breast torn off suffering agony and how Madurai was destroyed. The king decides to march north to bring back a great stone on the crowned heads of two kings, Kanaka and Vijaya, who had criticized him; the stone is to be carved into the image of the beloved goddess. His army crosses the Ganges and defeats the northern kings. The saintly Kavundi fasts to death. The fathers of Kovalan and Kannaki both give up their wealth and join religious orders, and Madhavi goes into a Buddhist nunnery, followed later in this by her daughter. Madalan advises King Shenguttuvan to give up anger and criticizes him for contributing to war, causing the king to release prisoners and refund taxes. The Chola king notes how the faithful wife has proved the Tamil proverb that the virtue of women is of no use if the king fails to establish justice. Finally the author himself appears in the court of his brother Shenguttuvan and gives a list of moral precepts that begins:
Seek God and serve those who are near Him.
Do not tell lies.
Avoid eating the flesh of animals.
Do not cause pain to any living thing.
Be charitable, and observe fast days.
Never forget the good others have done to you.1
In a preamble added by a later commentator three lessons are drawn from this story: First, death results when a king strays from the path of justice; second, everyone must bow before a chaste and faithful wife; and third, fate is mysterious, and all actions are rewarded. Many sanctuaries were built in southern India and Sri Lanka to the faithful wife who became the goddess of chastity.
The Jain philosopher Kunda Kunda of the Digambara sect lived and taught sometime between the first and fourth centuries. He laid out his metaphysics in The Five Cosmic Constituents (Panchastikayasara). He noted that karmic matter brings about its own changes, as the soul by impure thoughts conditioned by karma does too. Freedom from sorrow comes from giving up desire and aversion, which cause karmic matter to cling to the soul, leading to states of existence in bodies with senses. Sense objects by perception then lead one to pursue them with desires or aversion, repeating the whole cycle. High ideals based on love, devotion, and justice, such as offering relief to the thirsty, hungry, and miserable, may purify the karmic matter; but anger, pride, deceit, coveting, and sensual pleasures interfere with calm thought, perception, and will, causing anguish to others, slander, and other evils. Meditating on the self with pure thought and controlled senses will wash off the karmic dust. Desire and aversion to pleasant and unpleasant states get the self bound by various kinds of karmic matter. The knowing soul associating with essential qualities is self-determined, but the soul led by desire for outer things gets bewildered and is other-determined.
Kunda Kunda discussed ethics in The Soul Essence (Samayasara). As long as one does not discern the difference between the soul and its thought activity, the ignorant will indulge in anger and other emotions that accumulate karma. The soul discerning the difference turns back from these. One with wrong knowledge takes the non-self for self, identifies with anger, and becomes the doer of karma. As the king has his warriors wage war, the soul produces, causes, binds, and assimilates karmic matter. Being affected by anger, pride, deceit, and greed, the soul becomes them. From the practical standpoint karma is attached in the soul, but from the real or pure perspective karma is neither bound nor attached to the soul; attachment to the karma destroys independence. The soul, knowing the karma is harmful, does not indulge them and in self-contemplation attains liberation. The soul is bound by wrong beliefs, lack of vows, passions, and vibratory activity. Kunda Kunda suggested that one does not cause misery or happiness to living beings by one's body, speech, mind, or by weapons, but living beings are happy or miserable by their own karma (actions). As long as one identifies with feelings of joy and sorrow and until soul realization shines out in the heart, one produces good and bad karma. Just as an artisan does not have to identify with performing a job, working with organs, holding tools, the soul can enjoy the fruit of karma without identifying.
In The Perfect Law (Niyamsara), Kunda Kunda described right belief, right knowledge, and right conduct that lead to liberation. The five vows are non-injury, truth, non-stealing, chastity, and non-possession. Renouncing passion, attachment, aversion, and other impure thoughts involves controlling the mind and speech with freedom from falsehood and restraining the body by not causing injury. The right conduct of repentance and equanimity is achieved by self-analysis, by avoiding transgressions and thoughts of pain and ill-will, and by self-contemplation with pure thoughts. Renunciation is practiced by equanimity toward all living beings with no ill feelings, giving up desires, controlling the senses, and distinguishing between the soul and material karma. A saint of independent actions is called an internal soul, but one devoid of independent action is called an external soul. The soul free from obstructions, independent of the senses, and liberated from good and bad karma is free from rebirth and eternal in the nirvana of perfect knowledge, bliss, and power.
After the disintegration in northern India in the third century CE, the Kushanas still ruled over the western Punjab and the declining Shakas over Gujarat and part of Malwa. Sri Lanka king Meghavarna (r. 301-28) sent gifts and asked permission to build a large monastery north of the Bodhi tree for Buddhist pilgrims that eventually housed more than a thousand priests. Sasanian king Shapur II fought and made a treaty with the Kushanas in 350, but he was defeated by them twice in 367-68. After two previous kings of the Gupta dynasty, Chandra-gupta I by marrying Kumaradevi, a Lichchhavi princess, inaugurated the Gupta empire in 320, launching campaigns of territorial conquest. This expansion was greatly increased by their son Samudra-gupta, who ruled for about forty years until 380, conquering nine republics in Rajasthan and twelve states in the Deccan of central India. Many other kingdoms on the frontiers paid taxes and obeyed orders. The Guptas replaced tribal customs with the caste system. Rulers in the south were defeated, captured, and released to rule as vassals. Local ruling councils under the Guptas tended to be dominated by commercial interests. In addition to his military abilities Samudra-gupta was a poet and musician, and inscriptions praised his charity.
His son Chandra-gupta II (r. 380-414) finally ended the foreign Shaka rule in the west so that his empire stretched from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. He allied his family with the Nagas by marrying princess Kubernaga; after marrying Vakataka king Rudrasena II, his daughter ruled as regent there for 13 years. In the south the Pallavas ruled in harmony with the Guptas. The Chinese pilgrim Fa-hien described a happy and prosperous people not bothered by magistrates and rules; only those working state land had to pay a portion, and the king governed without using decapitation or corporal punishments. Kumara-gupta (r. 414-55) was apparently able to rule this vast empire without engaging in military campaigns. Only after forty years of peace did the threat of invading Hunas (White Huns) cause crown prince Skanda-gupta (r. 455-67) to fight for and restore Gupta fortunes by defeating the Huns about 460. After a struggle for the Gupta throne, Budha-gupta ruled for at least twenty years until about 500. Trade with the Roman empire had been declining since the 3rd century and was being replaced by commerce with southeast Asia. The empire was beginning to break up into independent states, such as Kathiawar and Bundelkhand, while Vakataka king Narendra-sena took over some Gupta territory.
Gupta decline continued as Huna chief Toramana invaded the Punjab and western India. His son Mihirakula succeeded as ruler about 515; according to Xuan Zang he ruled over India, and a Kashmir chronicle credited Mihirakula with conquering southern India and Sri Lanka. The Chinese ambassador Song-yun in 520 described the Hun king of Gandara as cruel, vindictive, and barbarous, not believing in the law of Buddha, having 700 war-elephants, and living with his troops on the frontier. About ten years later the Greek Cosmas from Alexandria wrote that the White Hun king had 2,000 elephants and a large cavalry, but his kingdom was west of the Indus River. However, Mihirakula was defeated by the Malwa chief Yashodharman. The Gupta king Narasimha-gupta Baladitya was also overwhelmed by Yashodharman and was forced to pay tribute to Mihirakula, according to Xuan Zang; but Baladitya later defeated Mihirakula, saving the Gupta empire from the Huns. Baladitya was also credited with building a great monastery at Nalanda. In the middle of the 6th century the Gupta empire declined during the reigns of its last two emperors, Kumara-gupta III and Vishnu-gupta. Gupta sovereignty was recognized in Kalinga as late as 569.
In the 4th century Vasubandhu studied and taught Sarvastivadin Buddhism in Kashmir, analyzing the categories of experience in the 600 verses of his Abhidharma-kosha, including the causes and ways to eliminate moral problems. Vasubandhu was converted to the Yogachara school of Mahayana Buddhism by his brother Asanga. Vasubandhu had a long and influential career as the abbot at Nalanda.
As an idealist Vasubandhu, summing up his ideas in twenty and thirty verses, found all experience to be in consciousness. Seeds are brought to fruition in the store of consciousness. Individuals are deluded by the four evil desires of their views of self as real, ignorance of self, self-pride, and self-love. He found good mental functions in belief, sense of shame, modesty, absence of coveting, energy, mental peace, vigilance, equanimity, and non-injury. Evil mental functions he listed as covetousness, hatred, attachment, arrogance, doubt, and false view; minor ones included anger, enmity, concealment, affliction, envy, parsimony, deception, fraud, injury, pride, high-mindedness, low-mindedness, unbelief, indolence, idleness, forgetfulness, distraction, and non-discernment. For Vasubandhu life is like a dream in which we create our reality in our consciousness; even the tortures of hell have no outward reality but are merely projections of consciousness. Enlightenment is when mental obstructions and projections are transcended without grasping; the habit-energies of karma, the six senses and their objects, and relative knowledge are all abandoned for perfect wisdom, purity, freedom, peace, and joy. Vasubandhu wrote that we can know other minds and influence each other for better and worse, because karma is intersubjective.
In 554 Maukhari king Ishana-varman claimed he won victories over the Andhras, Sulikas, and Gaudas. A Gurjara kingdom was founded in the mid-6th century in Rajputana by Harichandra, as apparently the fall of empires in northern India caused this Brahmin to exchange scriptures for arms. Xuan Zang praised Valabhi king Shiladitya I, who ruled about 580, for having great administrative ability and compassion. Valabhi hosted the second Jain council that established the Jain canon in the 6th century. Valabhi king Shiladitya III (r. 662-84) assumed an imperial title and conquered Gurjara. However, internal conflicts as well as Arab invasion destroyed the Valabhi kingdom by about 735. The Gurjara kingdom was also overrun by Arabs, but Pratihara king Nagabhata is credited with turning back the Muslim invaders in the northwest; he was helped in this effort by Gurjara king Jayabhata IV and Chalukya king Avanijanashraya-Pulakeshiraja in the south.
After Thaneswar king Prabhakara-vardhana (r. 580-606) died, his son Rajya-vardhana marched against the hostile Malava king with 10,000 cavalry and won; but according to Banabhatta, the king of Malava, after gaining his confidence with false civilities, had him murdered. His brother Harsha-vardhana (r. 606-47) swore he would clear the earth of Gaudas; starting with 5,000 elephants, 2,000 cavalry, and 50,000 infantry, his army grew as military conquests enabled him to become the most powerful ruler of northern India at Kanauj. Somehow Harsha's conflicts with Valabhi and Gurjara led to his war with Chalukya king Pulakeshin II; but his southern campaign was apparently a failure, and Sindh remained an independent kingdom.
However, in the east according to Xuan Zang by 643 Harsha had subjugated Kongoda and Orissa. That year the Chinese pilgrim observed two great assemblies, one at Kanauj and the other a religious gathering at Prayaga, where the distribution of accumulated resources drew twenty kings and about 500,000 people. Xuan Zang credited Harsha with building rest-houses for travelers, but he noted that the penalty for breaching the social morality or filial duties could be mutilation or exile. After Gauda king Shashanka's death Harsha had conquered Magadha, and he eventually took over western Bengal. Harsha also was said to have written plays, and three of them survive. Xuan Zang reported that he divided India's revenues into four parts for government expenses, public service, intellectual rewards, and religious gifts. During his reign the university in Nalanda became the most renowned center of Buddhist learning. However, no successor of Harsha-vardana is known, and apparently his empire ended with his life.
Wang-Xuan-zi gained help from Nepal against the violent usurper of Harsha's throne, who was sent to China as a prisoner; Nepal also sent a mission to China in 651. The dynasty called the Later Guptas for their similar names took over Magadha and ruled there for almost a century. Then Yashovarman brought Magadha under his sovereignty as he also invaded Bengal and defeated the ruler of Gauda. In 713 Kashmir king Durlabhaka sent an envoy to the Chinese emperor asking for aid against invading Arabs. His successor Chandrapida was able to defend Kashmir against Arab aggression. He was described as humane and just, but in his ninth year as king he was killed by his brother Tarapida, whose cruel and bloody reign lasted only four years. Lalitaditya became king of Kashmir in 724 and in alliance with Yashovarman defeated the Tibetans; but Lalitaditya and Yashovarman could not agree on a treaty; Lalitaditya was victorious, taking over Kanauj and a vast empire. The Arabs were defeated in the west, and Bengal was conquered in the east, though Lalitaditya's record was tarnished when he had the Gauda king of Bengal murdered after promising him safe conduct. Lalitaditya died about 760. For a century Bengal had suffered anarchy in which the strong devoured the weak.
Arabs had been repelled at Sindh in 660, but they invaded Kabul and Zabulistan during the Caliphate of Muawiyah (661-80). In 683 Kabul revolted and defeated the Muslim army, but two years later Zabul's army was routed by the Arabs. After Al-Hajjaj became governor of Iraq in 695 the combined armies of Zabul and Kabul defeated the Arabs; but a huge Muslim army returned to ravage Zabulistan four years later. Zabul paid tribute until Hajjaj died in 714. Two years before that, Hajjaj had equipped Muslim general Muhammad-ibn-Qasim for a major invasion of Sindh which resulted in the chiefs accepting Islam under sovereignty of the new Caliph 'Umar II (717-20).
Pulakeshin I ruled the Chalukyas for about thirty years in the middle of the 6th century. He was succeeded by Kirtivarman I (r. 566-97), who claimed he destroyed the Nalas, Mauryas, and Kadambas. Mangalesha (r. 597-610) conquered the Kalachuris and Revatidvipa, but he lost his life in a civil war over the succession with his nephew Pulakeshin II (r. 610-42). Starting in darkness enveloped by enemies, this king made Govinda an ally and regained the Chalukya empire by reducing Kadamba capital Vanavasi, the Gangas, and the Mauryas, marrying a Ganga princess. In the north Pulakeshin II subdued the Latas, Malavas, and Gurjaras; he even defeated the mighty Harsha of Kanauj and won the three kingdoms of Maharashtra, Konkana, and Karnata. After conquering the Kosalas and Kalingas, an Eastern Chalukya dynasty was inaugurated by his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana and absorbed the Andhra country when Vishnukundin king Vikramendra-varman III was defeated. Moving south, Pulakeshin II allied himself with the Cholas, Keralas, and Pandyas in order to invade the powerful Pallavas. By 631 the Chalukya empire extended from sea to sea. Xuan Zang described the Chalukya people as stern and vindictive toward enemies, though they would not kill those who submitted. They and their elephants fought while inebriated, and Chalukya laws did not punish soldiers who killed. However, Pulakeshin II was defeated and probably killed in 642 when the Pallavas in retaliation for an attack on their capital captured the Chalukya capital at Badami.
For thirteen years the Pallavas held some territory while Chalukya successors fought for the throne. Eventually Vikramaditya I (r. 655-81) became king and recovered the southern part of the empire from the Pallavas, fighting three Pallava kings in succession. He was followed by his son Vinayaditya (r. 681-96), whose son Vijayaditya (r. 696-733) also fought with the Pallavas. Vijayaditya had a magnificent temple built to Shiva and donated villages to Jain teachers. His son Vikramaditya II (r. 733-47) also attacked the Pallavas and took Kanchi, but instead of destroying it he donated gold to its temples. His son Kirtivarman II (r. 744-57) was the last ruler of the Chalukya empire, as he was overthrown by Rashtrakuta king Krishna I. However, the dynasty of the Eastern Chalukyas still remained to challenge the Rashtrakutas. In the early 8th century the Chalukyas gave refuge to Zoroastrians called Parsis, who had been driven out of Persia by Muslims. A Christian community still lived in Malabar, and in the 10th century the king of the Cheras granted land to Joseph Rabban for a Jewish community in India.
Pallava king Mahendra-varman I, who ruled for thirty years at the beginning of the 7th century lost northern territory to the Chalukyas. As a Jain he had persecuted other religions, but after he tested and was converted by the Shaivite mystic Appar, he destroyed the Jain monastery at Pataliputra. His son Narasimha-varman I defeated Pulakeshin II in three battles, capturing the Chalukya capital at Vatapi in 642 with the aid of the Sri Lanka king. He ruled for 38 years, and his capital at Kanchi contained more than a hundred Buddhist monasteries housing over 10,000 monks, and there were many Jain temples too. During the reign (c. 670-95) of Pallava king Parameshvara-varman I the Chalukyas probably captured Kanchi, as they did again about 740.
On the island of Sri Lanka the 58th and last king listed in the Mahavamsa was Mahasena (r. 274-301). He oversaw the building of sixteen tanks and irrigation canals. The first of 125 kings listed up to 1815 in the Culavamsa, Srimeghavanna, repaired the monasteries destroyed by Mahasena. Mahanama (r. 406-28) married the queen after she murdered his brother Upatissa. Mahanama was the last king of the Lambakanna dynasty that had lasted nearly four centuries. His death was followed by an invasion from southern India that limited Sinhalese rule to the Rohana region.
Buddhaghosha was converted to Buddhism and went to Sri Lanka during the reign of Mahanama. There he translated and wrote commentaries on numerous Buddhist texts. His Visuddhimagga explains ways to attain purity by presenting the teachings of the Buddha in three parts on conduct, concentration, and wisdom. Buddhaghosha also collected parables and stories illustrating Buddhist ethics by showing how karma brings the consequences of actions back to one, sometimes in another life. One story showed how a grudge can cause alternating injuries between two individuals from life to life. Yet if no grudge is held, the enmity subsides. In addition to the usual vices of killing, stealing, adultery, and a judge taking bribes, occupations that could lead to hell include making weapons, selling poison, being a general, collecting taxes, living off tolls, hunting, fishing, and even gathering honey. The Buddhist path is encouraged with tales of miracles and by showing the benefits of good conduct and meditation.
The Moriya clan chief Dhatusena (r. 455-73) improved irrigation by having a bridge constructed across the Mahavali River. He led the struggle to expel the foreigners from the island and restored Sinhalese authority at Anuradhapura. His eldest son Kassapa (r. 473-91) took him prisoner and usurped the throne but lost it with his life to his brother Moggallana (r. 491-508), who used an army of mercenaries from south India. He had the coast guarded to prevent foreign attacks and gave his umbrella to the Buddhist community as a token of submission. His son Kumara-Dhatusena (r. 508-16) was succeeded by his son Kittisena, who was quickly deposed by the usurping uncle Siva. He was soon killed by Upatissa II (r. 517-18), who revived the Lambakanna dynasty and was succeeded by his son Silakala (r. 518-31). Moggallana II (r. 531-51) had to fight for the throne; but he was a poet and was considered a pious ruler loved by the people. Two rulers were killed as the Moriyas regained power. The second, Mahanaga (r. 569-71), had been a rebel at Rohana and then its governor before becoming king at Anuradhapura. Aggabodhi I (r. 571-604) and Aggabodhi II (r. 604-14) built monasteries and dug water tanks for irrigation. A revolt by the general Moggallana III (r. 614-19) overthrew the last Moriya king and led to a series of civil wars and succession battles suffered by the Sri Lanka people until Manavamma (r. 684-718) re-established the Lambakanna dynasty.
Included in a didactic Tamil collection of "Eighteen Minor Poems" are the Naladiyar and the famous Kural. The Naladiyar consists of 400 quatrains of moral aphorisms. In the 67th quatrain the wise say it is not cowardice to refuse a challenge when men rise in enmity and wish to fight; even when enemies do the worst, it is right not to do evil in return. Like milk the path of virtue is one, though many sects teach it. (118) The treasure of learning needs no safeguard, for fire cannot destroy it nor can kings take it. Other things are not true wealth, but learning is the best legacy to leave one's children. (134) Humility is greatness, and self-control is what the gainer actually gains. Only the rich who relieve the need of their neighbors are truly wealthy. (170) The good remember another's kindness, but the base only recall fancied slights. (356)
The Tamil classic, The Kural by Tiru Valluvar, was probably written about 600 CE, plus or minus two centuries. This book contains 133 chapters of ten pithy couplets each and is divided into three parts on the traditional Hindu goals of dharma (virtue or justice), artha (success or wealth), and kama (love or pleasure). The first two parts contain moral proverbs; the third is mostly expressions of love, though there is the statement that one-sided love is bitter while balanced love is sweet. Valluvar transcends the caste system by suggesting that we call Brahmins those who are virtuous and kind to all that live.
Here are a few of Valluvar's astute observations on dharma. Bliss hereafter is the fruit of a loving life here. (75) Sweet words with a smiling face are more pleasing than a gracious gift. (92) He asked, "How can one pleased with sweet words oneself use harsh words to others?"2 Self-control takes one to the gods, but its lack to utter darkness. (121) Always forgive transgressions, but better still forget them. (152) The height of wisdom is not to return ill for ill. (203) "The only gift is giving to the poor; all else is exchange." (221) If people refrain from eating meat, there will be no one to sell it. (256) "To bear your pain and not pain others is penance summed up." (261) In all the gospels he found nothing higher than the truth. (300) I think the whole chapter on not hurting others is worth quoting.
The pure in heart will never hurt others even for wealth or renown.
The code of the pure in heart is not to return hurt for angry hurt.
Vengeance even against a wanton insult does endless damage.
Punish an evil-doer by shaming him with a good deed, and forget.
What good is that sense which does not feel and prevent
all creatures' woes as its own?
Do not do to others what you know has hurt yourself.
It is best to refrain from willfully hurting anyone, anytime, anyway.
Why does one hurt others knowing what it is to be hurt?
The hurt you cause in the forenoon self-propelled
will overtake you in the afternoon.
Hurt comes to the hurtful; hence it is
that those don't hurt who do not want to be hurt.3
Valluvar went even farther when he wrote, "Even at the cost of one's own life one should avoid killing." (327) For death is but a sleep, and birth an awakening. (339)
In the part on artha (wealth) Valluvar defined the unfailing marks of a king as courage, liberality, wisdom and energy. (382) The just protector he deemed the Lord's deputy, and the best kings have grace, bounty, justice, and concern. "The wealth which never declines is not riches but learning." (400) "The wealth of the ignorant does more harm than the want of the learned." (408) The truly noble are free of arrogance, wrath, and pettiness. (431) "A tyrant indulging in terrorism will perish quickly." (563) "Friendship curbs wrong, guides right, and shares distress." (787) "The soul of friendship is freedom, which the wise should welcome." (802) "The world is secure under one whose nature can make friends of foes." (874) Valluvar believed it was base to be discourteous even to enemies (998), and his chapter on character is also worth quoting.
All virtues are said to be natural to those who acquire character as a duty.
To the wise the only worth is character, naught else.
The pillars of excellence are five-love, modesty,
altruism, compassion, truthfulness.
The core of penance is not killing, of goodness not speaking slander.
The secret of success is humility;
it is also wisdom's weapon against foes.
The touchstone of goodness is to own one's defeat even to inferiors.
What good is that good which does not return good for evil?
Poverty is no disgrace to one with strength of character.
Seas may whelm, but men of character will stand like the shore.
If the great fail in nobility, the earth will bear us no more.4
Kamandaka's Nitisara in the first half of the 8th century was primarily based on Kautilya's Arthashastra and was influenced by the violence in the Mahabharata, as he justified both open fighting when the king is powerful and treacherous fighting when he is at a disadvantage. Katyayana, like Kamandaka, accepted the tradition of the king's divinity, although he argued that this should make ruling justly a duty. Katyayana followed Narada's four modes of judicial decisions as the dharma of moral law when the defendant confesses, judicial proof when the judge decides, popular custom when tradition rules, and royal edict when the king decides. Crimes of violence were distinguished from the deception of theft. Laws prevented the accumulated interest on debts from exceeding the principal. Brahmins were still exempt from capital punishment and confiscation of property, and most laws differed according to one's caste. The Yoga-vasishtha philosophy taught that as a bird flies with two wings, the highest reality is attained through knowledge and work.
The famous Vedanta philosopher Shankara was born into a Brahmin family; his traditional dates are 788-820, though some scholars believe he lived about 700-50. It was said that when he was eight, he became an ascetic and studied with Govinda, a disciple of the monist Gaudapala; at 16 he was teaching many in the Varanasi area. Shankara wrote a long commentary on the primary Vedanta text, the Brahma Sutra, on the Bhagavad-Gita, and on ten of the Upanishads, always emphasizing the non-dual reality of Brahman (God), that the world is false, and that the atman (self or soul) is not different from Brahman.
Shankara traveled around India and to Kashmir, defeating opponents in debate; he criticized human sacrifice to the god Bhairava and branding the body. He performed a funeral for his mother even though it was considered improper for a sannyasin (renunciate). Shankara challenged the Mimamsa philosopher Mandana Mishra, who emphasized the duty of Vedic rituals, by arguing that knowledge of God is the only means to final release, and after seven days he was declared the winner by Mandana's wife. He tended to avoid the cities and taught sannyasins and intellectuals in the villages. Shankara founded monasteries in the south at Shringeri of Mysore, in the east at Puri, in the west at Dvaraka, and in the northern Himalayas at Badarinath. He wrote hymns glorifying Shiva as God, and Hindus would later believe he was an incarnation of Shiva. He criticized the corrupt left-hand (sexual) practices used in Tantra. His philosophy spread, and he became perhaps the most influential of all Hindu philosophers.
In the Crest-Jewel of Wisdom Shankara taught that although action is for removing bonds of conditioned existence and purifying the heart, reality can only be attained by right knowledge. Realizing that an object perceived is a rope removes the fear and sorrow from the illusion it is a snake. Knowledge comes from perception, investigation, or instruction, not from bathing, giving alms, or breath control. Shankara taught enduring all pain and sorrow without thought of retaliation, dejection, or lamentation. He noted that the scriptures gave the causes of liberation as faith, devotion, concentration, and union (yoga); but he taught, "Liberation cannot be achieved except by direct perception of the identity of the individual with the universal self."5 Desires lead to death, but one who is free of desires is fit for liberation. Shankara distinguished the atman as the real self or soul from the ahamkara (ego), which is the cause of change, experiences karma (action), and destroys the rest in the real self. From neglecting the real self spring delusion, ego, bondage, and pain. The soul is everlasting and full of wisdom. Ultimately both bondage and liberation are illusions that do not exist in the soul.
Indian drama was analyzed by Bharata in the Natya Shastra, probably from the third century CE or before. Bharata ascribed a divine origin to drama and considered it a fifth Veda; its origin seems to be from religious dancing. In the classical plays Sanskrit is spoken by the Brahmins and noble characters, while Prakrit vernaculars are used by others and most women. According to Bharata poetry (kavya), dance (nritta), and mime (nritya) in life's play (lila) produce emotion (bhava), but only drama (natya) produces "flavor" (rasa). The drama uses the eight basic emotions of love, joy (humor), anger, sadness, pride, fear, aversion, and wonder, attempting to resolve them in the ninth holistic feeling of peace. These are modified by 33 less stable sentiments he listed as discouragement, weakness, apprehension, weariness, contentment, stupor, elation, depression, cruelty, anxiety, fright, envy, arrogance, indignation, recollection, death, intoxication, dreaming, sleeping, awakening, shame, demonic possession, distraction, assurance, indolence, agitation, deliberation, dissimulation, sickness, insanity, despair, impatience, and inconstancy. The emotions are manifested by causes, effects, and moods. The spectators should be of good character, intelligent, and empathetic.
Although some scholars date him earlier, the plays of Bhasa can probably be placed after Ashvaghosha in the second or third century CE. In 1912 thirteen Trivandrum plays were discovered that scholars have attributed to Bhasa. Five one-act plays were adapted from situations in the epic Mahabharata. Dutavakya has Krishna as a peace envoy from the Pandavas giving advice to Duryodhana. In Karnabhara the warrior Karna sacrifices his armor by giving it to Indra, who is in the guise of a Brahmin. Dutaghatotkacha shows the envoy Ghatotkacha carrying Krishna's message to the Kauruvas. Urubhanga depicts Duryodhana as a hero treacherously attacked below the waist by Bhima at the signal of Krishna. In Madhyama-vyayoga the middle son is going to be sacrificed, but it turns out to be a device used by Bhima's wife Hidimba to get him to visit her. Each of these plays seems to portray didactically heroic virtues for an aristocratic audience. The Mahabharata also furnishes the episode for the Kauravas' cattle raid of Virata in the Pancharatra, which seems to have been staged to glorify some sacrifice. Bhasa's Abhisheka follows the Ramayana closely in the coronation of Rama, and Pratima also reworks the Rama story prior to the war. Balacharita portrays heroic episodes in the childhood of Krishna.
In Bhasa's Avimaraka the title character heroically saves princess Kurangi from a rampaging elephant, but he says he is an outcast. Dressed as a thief, Avimaraka sneaks into the palace to meet the princess, saying,
Once we have done what we can even failure is no disgrace.
Has anyone ever succeeded by saying, "I can't do it"?
A person becomes great by attempting great things.6
He spends a year there with Kurangi before he is discovered and must leave. Avimaraka is about to jump off a mountain when a fairy (Vidyadhara) gives him a ring by which he can become invisible. Using invisibility, he and his jester go back into the palace just in time to catch Kurangi before she hangs herself. The true parentage of the royal couple is revealed by the sage Narada, and Vairantya king Kuntibhoja gives his new son-in-law the following advice:
With tolerance be king over Brahmins.
With compassion win the hearts of your subjects.
With courage conquer earth's rulers.
With knowledge of the truth conquer yourself.7
Bhasa uses the story of legendary King Udayana in two plays. In Pratijna Yaugandharayana the Vatsa king at Kaushambi, Udayana, is captured by Avanti king Pradyota so that Udayana can be introduced to the princess Vasavadatta by tutoring her in music, a device which works as they fall in love. The title comes from the vow of chief minister Yaugandharayana to free his sovereign Udayana; he succeeds in rescuing him and his new queen Vasavadatta. In Bhasa's greatest play, The Dream of Vasavadatta, the same minister, knowing his king's reluctance to enter a needed political marriage, pretends that he and queen Vasavadatta are killed in a fire so that King Udayana will marry Magadha princess Padmavati. Saying Vasavadatta is his sister, Yaugandharayana entrusts her into the care of Padmavati, because of the prophecy she will become Udayana's queen. The play is very tender, and both princesses are noble and considerate of each other; it also includes an early example of a court jester. Udayana is still in love with Vasavadatta, and while resting half asleep, Vasavadatta, thinking she is comforting Padmavati's headache, gently touches him. The loving and grieving couple are reunited; Padmavati is also accepted as another wife; and the kingdom of Kaushambi is defended by the marriage alliance.
Bhasa's Charudatta is about the courtesan Vasantasena, who initiates a love affair with an impoverished merchant, but the manuscript is cut off abruptly after four acts. However, this story was adapted and completed in The Little Clay Cart, attributed to a King Sudraka, whose name means a little servant. In ten acts this play is a rare example of what Bharata called a maha-nataka or "great play." The play is revolutionary not only because the romantic hero and heroine are a married merchant and a courtesan, but because the king's brother-in-law, Sansthanaka, is portrayed as a vicious fool, and because by the end of the play the king is overthrown and replaced by a man he had falsely imprisoned. Vasantasena rejects the attentions of the insulting Sansthanaka, saying that true love is won by virtue not violence; she is in love with Charudatta, who is poor because he is honest and generous, as money and virtue seldom keep company these days. Vasantasena kindly pays the gambling debts of his shampooer, who then becomes a Buddhist monk. Charudatta, not wearing jewels any more, gives his cloak to a man who saved the monk from a rampaging elephant.
Vasantasena entrusts a golden casket of jewelry to Charudatta, but Sharvilaka, breaking into his house to steal, is given it so that he can gain the courtesan girl Madanika. So that he won't get a bad reputation, Charudatta's wife gives a valuable pearl necklace to her husband, and he realizes he is not poor because he has a wife whose love outlasts his wealthy days. Madanika is concerned that Sharvilaka did something bad for her sake and tells him to restore the jewels, and he returns them to Vasantasena on the merchant's behalf, while she generously frees her servant Madanika for him.
Charudatta gives Vasantasena the more valuable pearl necklace, saying he gambled away her jewels. As the romantic rainy season approaches, the two lovers are naturally drawn together. Charudatta's child complains that he has to play with a little clay cart as a toy, and Vasantasena promises him a golden one. She gets into the wrong bullock cart and is taken to the garden of Sansthanaka, where he strangles her for rejecting his proposition. Then he accuses Charudatta of the crime, and because of his royal influence in the trial, Charudatta is condemned to be executed after his friend shows up with Vasantasena's jewels. However, the monk has revived Vasantasena, and just before Charudatta's head is to be cut off, she appears to save him. Sharvilaka has killed the bad king and anointed a good one. Charudatta lets the repentant Sansthanaka go free, and the king declares Vasantasena a wedded wife and thus no longer a courtesan.
Although he is considered India's greatest poet, it is not known when Kalidasa lived. Probably the best educated guess has him flourishing about 400 CE during the reign of Chandragupta II. The prolog of his play Malavika and Agnimitra asks the audience to consider a new poet and not just the celebrated Bhasa and two others. In this romance King Agnimitra, who already has two queens, in springtime falls in love with the dancing servant Malavika, who turns out to be a princess when his foreign conflicts are solved. The king is accompanied throughout by a court jester, who with a contrivance frees Malavika from confinement by the jealous queen. The only female who speaks Sanskrit in Kalidasa's plays is the Buddhist nun, who judges the dance contest and explains that Malavika had to be a servant for a year in order to fulfill a prophecy that she would marry a king after doing so. In celebration of the victory and his latest marriage, the king orders all prisoners released.
In Kalidasa's Urvashi Won by Valor, King Pururavas falls in love with the heavenly nymph Urvashi. The king's jester Manavaka reveals this secret to the queen's maid Nipunika. Urvashi comes down to earth with her friend and writes a love poem on a birch-leaf. The queen sees this also but forgives her husband's guilt. Urvashi returns to paradise to appear in a play; but accidentally revealing her love for Pururavas, she is expelled to earth and must stay until she sees the king's heir. The queen generously offers to accept a new queen who truly loves the king, and Urvashi makes herself visible to Pururavas. In the fourth act a moment of jealousy causes Urvashi to be changed into a vine, and the king in searching for her dances and sings, amorously befriending animals and plants until a ruby of reunion helps him find the vine; as he embraces the vine, it turns into Urvashi. After many years have passed, their son Ayus gains back the ruby that was stolen by a vulture. When Urvashi sees the grown-up child she had sent away so that she could stay with the king, she must return to paradise; but the king gives up his kingdom to their son so that he can go with her, although a heavenly messenger indicates that he can remain as king with Urvashi until his death.
The most widely acclaimed Indian drama is Kalidasa's Shakuntala and the Love Token. While hunting, King Dushyanta is asked by the local ascetics not to kill deer, saying, "Your weapon is meant to help the weak not smite the innocent."8 The king and Shakuntala, who is the daughter of a nymph and is being raised by ascetics, fall in love with each other. The king is accompanied by a foolish Brahmin who offers comic relief. Although he has other wives, the king declares that he needs only the earth and Shakuntala to sustain his line. They are married in the forest, and Shakuntala becomes pregnant. Kanva, who raised her, advises the bride to obey her elders, treat her fellow wives as friends, and not cross her husband in anger even if he mistreats her. The king returns to his capital and gives his ring to Shakuntala so that he will recognize her when she arrives later. However, because of a curse on her from Durvasas, he loses his memory of her, and she loses the ring. Later the king refuses to accept this pregnant woman he cannot recall, and in shame she disappears. A fisherman finds the ring in a fish; when the king gets it back, his memory of Shakuntala returns. The king searches for her and finds their son on Golden Peak with the birthmarks of a universal emperor; now he must ask to be recognized by her. They are happily reunited, and their child Bharata is to become the founding emperor of India.
An outstanding political play was written by Vishakhadatta, who may also have lived at the court of Chandragupta II or as late as the 9th century. Rakshasa's Ring is set when Chandragupta, who defeated Alexander's successor Seleucus in 305 BC, is becoming Maurya emperor by overcoming the Nandas. According to tradition he was politically assisted by his minister Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, supposed author of the famous treatise on politics, Artha Shastra. Rakshasa, whose name means demon, had sent a woman to poison Chandragupta, but Chanakya had her poison King Parvataka instead. Rakshasa supports Parvataka's son Malayaketu; Chanakya cleverly assuages public opinion by letting Parvataka's brother have half the kingdom but arranges for his death too. Chanakya even pretends to break with Chandragupta to further his plot.
Chanakya is able to use a Jain monk and a secretary by pretending to punish them and have Siddarthaka rescue the secretary; with a letter he composed written by the secretary and with Rakshasa's ring taken from the home of a jeweler who gave Rakshasa and his family refuge, they pretend to serve Malayaketu but make him suspect Rakshasa's loyalty and execute the allied princes that Rakshasa had gained for him. Ironically Rakshasa's greatest quality is loyalty, and after he realizes he has been trapped, he decides to sacrifice himself to save the jeweler from being executed. By then Malayaketu's attack on Chandragupta's capital has collapsed from lack of support, and he is captured. Chanakya's manipulations have defeated Chandragupta's rivals without a fight, and he appoints chief minister in his place Rakshasa, who then spares the life of Malayaketu. Chanakya (Kautilya) announces that the emperor (Chandragupta) grants Malayaketu his ancestral territories and releases all prisoners except draft animals.
Ratnavali was attributed to Harsha, who ruled at Kanauj in the first half of the 7th century. This comedy reworks the story of King Udayana, who though happily married to Vasavadatta, is seduced into marrying her Simhalese cousin Ratnavali for the political motivations contrived by his minister Yaugandharayana. Ratnavali, using the name Sagarika as the queen's maid, falls in love with the king and has painted his portrait. Her friend then paints her portrait with the king's, which enamors him after he hears the story of the painting from a mynah bird that repeats the maidens' conversation. Queen Vasavadatta becomes suspicious, and the jester is going to bring Sagarika dressed like the queen, who learning of it appears veiled herself to expose the affair. Sagarika tries to hang herself but is saved by the king. The jealous queen puts Sagarika in chains and the noose around the jester's neck. Yet in the last act a magician contrives a fire, and the king saves Sagarika once again. A necklace reveals that she is a princess, and the minister Yaugandharayana explains how he brought the lovers together.
Also attributed to Harsha: Priyadarshika is another harem comedy; but Joy of the Serpents (Nagananda) shows how prince Jimutavahana gives up his own body to stop a sacrifice of serpents to the divine Garuda. A royal contemporary of Harsha, Pallava king Mahendravikarmavarman wrote a one-act farce called "The Sport of Drunkards" (Mattavilasa) in which an inebriated Shaivite ascetic accuses a Buddhist monk of stealing his begging bowl made from a skull; but after much satire it is found to have been taken by a dog.
Bhavabhuti lived in the early 8th century and was said to have been the court poet in Kanauj of Yashovarman, a king also supposed to have written a play about Rama. Bhavabhuti depicted the early career of Rama in Mahavira-charita and then produced The Later Story of Rama. In this latter play Rama's brother Lakshmana shows Rama and Sita murals of their past, and Rama asks Sita for forgiveness for having put her through a trial by fire to show the people her purity after she had been captured by the evil Ravana. Rama has made a vow to serve the people's good above all and so orders Sita into exile because of their continuing suspicions. Instead of killing the demon Sambuka, his penance moves Rama to free him. Sita has given birth to two sons, Lava and Kusha, and twelve years pass. When he heard about his daughter Sita's exile, Janaka gave up meat and became a vegetarian; when Janaka meets Rama's mother Kaushalya, she faints at the memory. Rama's divine weapons have been passed on to his sons, and Lava is able to pacify Chandraketu's soldiers by meditating. Rama has Lava remove the spell, and Kusha recites the Ramayana taught him by Valmiki, who raised the sons. Finally Sita is joyfully reunited with Rama and their sons.
Malati and Madhava by Bhavabhuti takes place in the city of Padmavati. Although the king has arranged for Nandana to marry his minister's daughter Malati, the Buddhist nun Kamandaki manages eventually to bring together the suffering lovers Madhava and Malati. Malati has been watching Madhava and draws his portrait; when he sees it, he draws her too. Through the rest of the play they pine in love for each other. Malati calls her father greedy for going along with the king's plan to marry her to Nandana, since a father deferring to a king in this is not sanctioned by morality nor by custom. Madhava notes that success comes from education with innate understanding, boldness combined with practiced eloquence, and tact with quick wit. Malati's friend Madayantika is attacked by a tiger, and Madhava's friend Makaranda is wounded saving her life. In their amorous desperation Madhava sells his flesh to the gods, and he saves the suicidal Malati from being sacrificed by killing Aghoraghanta, whose pupil Kapalakundala then causes him much suffering. Finally Madhava and Malati are able to marry, as Makaranda marries Madayantika. These plays make clear that courtly love and romance were thriving in India for centuries before they were rediscovered in Europe.
The Rashtrakuta Dantidurga married a Chalukya princess and became a vassal king about 733; he and Gujarat's Pulakeshin helped Chalukya emperor Vikramaditya II repulse an Arab invasion, and Dantidurga's army joined the emperor in a victorious expedition against Kanchi and the Pallavas. After Vikramaditya II died in 747, Dantidurga conquered Gurjara, Malwa, and Madhya Pradesh. This Rashtrakuta king then confronted and defeated Chalukya emperor Kirtivarman II so that by the end of 753 he controlled all of Maharashtra. The next Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna I completed the demise of the Chalukya empire and was succeeded about 773 by his eldest son Govinda II. Absorbed in personal pleasures, he left the administration to his brother Dhruva, who eventually revolted and usurped the throne, defeating the Ganga, Pallava, and Vengi kings who had opposed him.
The Pratihara ruler of Gurjara, Vatsaraja, took over Kanauj and installed Indrayudha as governor there. The Palas rose to power by unifying Bengal under the elected king Gopala about 750. He patronized Buddhism, and his successor Dharmapala had fifty monasteries built, founding the Vikramashila monastery with 108 monks in charge of various programs. During the reign of Dharmapala the Jain scholar Haribhadra recommended respecting various views because of Jainism's principles of nonviolence and many-sidedness. Haribhadra found that the following eight qualities can be applied to the faithful of any tradition: nonviolence, truth, honesty, chastity, detachment, reverence for a teacher, fasting, and knowledge. Dharmapala marched into the Doab to challenge the Pratiharas but was defeated by Vatsaraja. When these two adversaries were about to meet for a second battle in the Doab, the Rashtrakuta ruler Dhruva from the Deccan defeated Vatsaraja first and then Dharmapala but did not occupy Kanauj.
Dhruva returned to the south with booty and was succeeded by his third son Govinda III in 793. Govinda had to defeat his brother Stambha and a rebellion of twelve kings, but the two brothers reconciled and turned on Ganga prince Shivamira, whom they returned to prison. Supreme over the Deccan, Govinda III left his brother Indra as viceroy of Gujarat and Malava and marched his army north toward Kanauj, which Vatsaraja's successor Nagabhata II had occupied while Dharmapala's nominee Chakrayudha was on that throne. Govinda's army defeated Nagabhata's; Chakrayudha surrendered, and Dharmapala submitted. Govinda III marched all the way to the Himalayas, uprooting and reinstating local kings.
Rashtrakuta supremacy was challenged by Vijayaditya II, who had become king of Vengi in 799; but Govinda defeated him and installed his brother Bhima-Salukki on the Vengi throne about 802. Then Govinda's forces scattered a confederacy of Pallava, Pandya, Kerala, and Ganga rulers and occupied Kanchi, threatening the king of Sri Lanka, who sent him two statues. After Govinda III died in 814, Chalukya Vijayaditya II overthrew Bhima-Salukki to regain his Vengi throne; then his army invaded Rashtrakuta territory, plundering and devastating the city of Stambha. Vijayaditya ruled for nearly half a century and was said to have fought 108 battles in a 12-year war with the Rashtrakutas and the Gangas. His grandson Vijayaditya III ruled Vengi for 44 years (848-92); he also invaded the Rashtrakuta empire in the north, burning Achalapura, and it was reported he took gold by force from the Ganga king of Kalinga. His successor Chalukya-Bhima I was king of Vengi for 30 years and was said to have turned his attention to helping ascetics and those in distress. Struggles with his neighbors continued though, and Chalukya-Bhima was even captured for a time.
Dharmapala's son Devapala also supported Buddhism and extended the Pala empire in the first half of the 9th century by defeating the Utkalas, Assam, Huns, Dravidas, and Gurjaras, while maintaining his domain against three generations of Pratihara rulers. His successor Vigrahapala retired to an ascetic life after ruling only three years, and his son Narayanapala was also of a peaceful and religious disposition, allowing the Pala empire to languish. After the Pala empire was defeated by the Rashtrakutas and Pratiharas, subordinate chiefs became independent; Assam king Harjara even claimed an imperial title. Just before his long reign ended in 908 Narayanapala did reclaim some territories after the Rashtrakuta invasion of the Pratihara dominions; but in the 10th century during the reign of the next three kings the Pala kingdom declined as principalities asserted their independence in conflicts with each other.
Chandella king Yashovarman invaded the Palas and the Kambojas, and he claimed to have conquered Gauda and Mithila. His successor Dhanga ruled through the second half of the 10th century and was the first independent Chandella king, calling himself the lord of Kalanjara. In the late 8th century Arab military expeditions had attempted to make Kabul pay tribute to the Muslim caliph. In 870 Kabul and Zabul were conquered by Ya'qub ibn Layth; the king of Zubalistan was killed, and the people accepted Islam. Ghazni sultan Sabutkin (r. 977-97) invaded India with a Muslim army and defeated Dhanga and a confederacy of Hindu chiefs about 989.
South of the Chandellas the Kalachuris led by Kokkalla in the second half of the 9th century battled the Pratiharas under Bhoja, Turushkas (Muslims), Vanga in east Bengal, Rashtrakuta king Krishna II, and Konkan. His successor Shankaragana fought Kosala, but he and Krishna II had to retreat from the Eastern Chalukyas. In the next century Kalachuri king Yuvaraja I celebrated his victory over Vallabha with a performance of Rajshekhara's drama Viddhashalabhanjika. Yuvaraja's son Lakshmanaraja raided east Bengal, defeated Kosala, and invaded the west. Like his father, he patronized Shaivite teachers and monasteries. Near the end of the 10th century Kalachuri king Yuvaraja II suffered attacks from Chalukya ruler Taila II and Paramara king Munja. After many conquests, the aggressive Munja, disregarding the advice of his counselor Rudraditya, was defeated and captured by Taila and executed after an attempted rescue.
In 814 Govinda III was succeeded as Rashtrakuta ruler by his son Amoghavarsha, only about 13 years old; Gujarat viceroy Karkka acted as regent. Three years later a revolt led by Vijayaditya II, who had regained the Vengi throne, temporarily overthrew Rashtrakuta power until Karakka reinstated Amoghavarsha I by 821. A decade later the Rashtrakuta army defeated Vijayaditya II and occupied Vengi for about a dozen years. Karkka was made viceroy in Gujarat, but his son Dhruva I rebelled and was killed about 845. The Rashtrakutas also fought the Gangas for about twenty years until Amoghavarsha's daughter married a Ganga prince about 860. In addition to his military activities Amoghavarsha sponsored several famous Hindu and Jain writers and wrote a book himself on Jain ethics. Jain kings and soldiers made an exception to the prohibition against killing for the duties of hanging murderers and slaying enemies in battle. He died in 878 and was succeeded by his son Krishna II, who married the daughter of Chedi ruler Kokkalla I to gain an ally for his many wars with the Pratiharas, Eastern Chalukyas, Vengi, and the Cholas.
Krishna II died in 914 and was succeeded by his grandson Indra III, who marched his army north and captured northern India's imperial city Kanauj. However, Chandella king Harsha helped the Pratihara Mahipala regain his throne at Kanauj. Indra III died in 922; but his religious son Amoghavarsha II had to get help from his Chedi relations to defeat his brother Govinda IV, who had usurped the throne for fourteen years. Three years later in 939 Krishna III succeeded as Rashtrakuta emperor and organized an invasion of Chola and twenty years later another expedition to the north. The Rashtrakutas reigned over a vast empire when he died in 967; but with no living issue the struggle for the throne, despite the efforts of Ganga king Marasimha III, resulted in the triumph of Chalukya king Taila II in 974. That year Marasimha starved himself to death in the Jain manner and was succeeded by Rajamalla IV, whose minister Chamunda Raya staved off usurpation. His Chamunda Raya Purana includes an account of the 24 Jain prophets.
In the north in the middle of the 9th century the Pratiharas were attacked by Pala emperor Devapala; but Pratihara king Bhoja and his allies defeated Pala king Narayanapala. Bhoja won and lost battles against Rashtrakuta king Krishna II. The Pratiharas were described in 851 by an Arab as having the finest cavalry and as the greatest foe of the Muslims, though no country in India was safer from robbers. Bhoja ruled nearly a half century, and his successor Mahendrapala I expanded the Pratihara empire to the east. When Mahipala was ruling in 915 Al Mas'udi from Baghdad observed that the Pratiharas were at war with the Muslims in the west and the Rashtrakutas in the south, and he claimed they had four armies of about 800,000 men each. When Indra III sacked Kanauj, Mahipala fled but returned after the Rashtrakutas left. In the mid-10th century the Pratiharas had several kings, as the empire disintegrated and was reduced to territory around Kanauj.
A history of Kashmir's kings called the Rajatarangini was written by Kalhana in the 12th century. Vajraditya became king of Kashmir about 762 and was accused of selling men to the Mlechchhas (probably Arabs). Jayapida ruled Kashmir during the last thirty years of the 8th century, fighting wars of conquest even though his army once deserted his camp and people complained of high taxes. Family intrigue and factional violence led to a series of puppet kings until Avanti-varman began the Utpala dynasty of Kashmir in 855. His minister Suvya's engineering projects greatly increased the grain yield and lowered its prices. Avanti-varman's death in 883 was followed by a civil war won by Shankara-varman, who then invaded Darvabhisara, Gurjara, and Udabhanda; but he was killed by people in Urasha, who resented his army being quartered there. More family intrigues, bribery, and struggles for power between the Tantrin infantry, Ekanga military police, and the Damara feudal landowners caused a series of short reigns until the minister Kamalavardhana took control and asked the assembly to appoint a king; they chose the Brahmin Yashakara in 939.
Yashakara was persuaded to resign by his minister Parvagupta, who killed the new Kashmir king but died two years later in 950. Parvagupta's son Kshemagupta became king and married the Lohara princess Didda. Eight years later she became regent for their son Abhimanyu and won over the rebel Yashodhara by appointing him commander of her army. When King Abhimanyu died in 972, his three sons ruled in succession until each in turn was murdered by their grandmother, Queen Didda; she ruled Kashmir herself with the help of an unpopular prime minister from 980 until she died in 1003.
In the south the Pandyas had risen to power in the late 8th century under King Nedunjadaiyan. He ruled for fifty years, and his son Srimara Srivallabha reigned nearly as long, winning victories over the Gangas, Pallavas, Cholas, Kalingas, Magadhas, and others until he was defeated by Pallava Nandi-varman III at Tellaru. The Pandya empire was ruined when his successor Varaguna II was badly beaten about 880 by a combined force of Pallavas, western Gangas, and Cholas. The Chola dynasty of Tanjore was founded by Vijayalaya in the middle of the 9th century. As a vassal of the Pallavas, he and his son Aditya I helped their sovereign defeat the Pandyas. Aditya ruled 36 years and was succeeded as Chola king by his son Parantaka I (r. 907-953). His military campaigns established the Chola empire with the help of his allies, the Gangas, Kerala, and the Kodumbalur chiefs. The Pandyas and the Sinhalese king of Sri Lanka were defeated by the Cholas about 915. Parantaka demolished remaining Pallava power, but in 949 the Cholas were decisively beaten by Rashtrakuta king Krishna III at Takkolam, resulting in the loss of Tondamandalam and the Pandya country. Chola power was firmly established during the reign (985-1014) of Rajaraja I, who attacked the Kerala, Sri Lanka, and the Pandyas to break up their control of the western trade.
When the Pandyas invaded the island, Sri Lanka king Sena I (r. 833-53) fled as the royal treasury was plundered. His successor Sena II (r. 853-87) sent a Sinhalese army in retaliation, besieging Madura, defeating the Pandyas, and killing their king. The Pandya capital was plundered, and the golden images were taken back to the island. In 915 a Sinhalese army from Sri Lanka supported Pandyan ruler Rajasimha II against the Cholas; but the Chola army invaded Sri Lanka and apparently stayed until the Rashtrakutas invaded their country in 949. Sri Lanka king Mahinda IV (r. 956-72) had some of the monasteries burnt by the Cholas restored. Sena V (r. 972-82) became king at the age of twelve but died of alcoholism. During his reign a rebellion supported by Damila forces ravaged the island. By the time of Mahinda V (r. 982-1029) the monasteries owned extensive land, and barons kept the taxes from their lands. As unpaid mercenaries revolted and pillaged, Mahinda fled to Rohana. Chola king Rajaraja sent a force that sacked Anuradhapura, ending its period as the capital in 993 as the northern plains became a Chola province. In 1017 the Cholas conquered the south as well and took Mahinda to India as a prisoner for the rest of his life.
In India during this period Hindu colleges (ghatikas) were associated with the temples, and gradually the social power of the Brahmins superseded Buddhists and Jains, though the latter survived in the west. Jain gurus, owning nothing and wanting nothing, were often able to persuade the wealthy to contribute the four gifts of education, food, medicine, and shelter. In the devotional worship of Vishnu and Shiva and their avatars (incarnations), the Buddha became just another avatar for Hindus. Amid the increasing wars and militarism the ethical value of ahimsa (non-injury) so important to the Jains and Buddhists receded. The examples of the destroyer Shiva or Vishnu's incarnations as Rama and Krishna hardly promoted nonviolence. Village assemblies tended to have more autonomy in south India. The ur was open to all adult males in the village, but the sabha was chosen by lot from those qualified by land ownership, aged 35-70, knowing mantras and Brahmanas, and free of any major crime or sin. Land was worked by tenant peasants, who usually had to pay from one-sixth to one-third of their produce. Vegetarian diet was customary, and meat was expensive.
Women did not have political rights and usually worked in the home or in the fields, though upper caste women and courtesans could defy social conventions. Women attendants in the temples could become dancers, but some were exploited as prostitutes by temple authorities. Temple sculptures as well as literature were often quite erotic, as the loves of Krishna and the prowess of the Shiva lingam were celebrated, and the puritanical ethics of Buddhism and Jainism became less influential.
Feminine creative energy was worshiped as shakti, and Tantra in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism celebrated the union of the sexual act as a symbol of divine union; their rituals might culminate in partaking of the five Ms - madya (wine), matsya (fish), mamsa (flesh), mudra (grain), and maithuna (coitus). Although in the early stages of spiritual development Tantra taught the usual moral avoidance of cruelty, alcohol, and sexual intercourse, in the fifth stage after training by the guru secret rites at night might defy such social taboos. Ultimately the aspirant is not afraid to practice openly what others disapprove in pursuing what he thinks is true, transcending the likes and dislikes of earthly life like God, to whom all things are equal. However, some argued that the highest stage, symbolized as the external worship of flowers, negates ignorance, ego, attachment, vanity, delusion, pride, calumniation, perturbation, jealousy, and greed, culminating in the five virtues of nonviolence (ahimsa), control of the senses, charity, forgiveness, and knowledge.
The worker caste of Sudras was divided into the clean and the untouchables, who were barred from the temples. There were a few domestic slaves and those sold to the temples. Brahmins were often given tax-free grants of land, and they were forbidden by caste laws to work in cultivation; thus the peasant Sudras provided the labor. The increasing power of the Brahmin landowners led to a decline of merchants and the Buddhists they often had supported.
Commentaries on the Laws of Manu by Medhatithi focused on such issues as the duty of the king to protect the people, their rights, and property. Although following the tradition that the king should take up cases in order of caste, Medhatithi believed that a lower caste suit should be taken up first if it is more urgent. Not only should a Brahmin be exempt from the death penalty and corporal punishment, he thought that for a first offense not even a fine should be imposed on a Brahmin. Medhatithi also held that in education the rod should only be used mildly and as a last resort; his attitude about a husband beating his wife was similar. Medhatithi believed that a woman's mind was not under her control, and that they should all be guarded by their male relations. He upheld the property rights of widows who had been faithful but believed the unfaithful should be cast out to a separate life. Widow suicide called sati was approved by some and criticized by others. During this period marriages were often arranged for girls before they reached the age of puberty, though self-choice still was practiced.
The Jain monk Somadeva in his Nitivakyamrita also wrote that the king must chastise the wicked and that kings being divine should be obeyed as a spiritual duty. However, if the king does not speak the truth, he is worthless; for when the king is deceitful and unjust, who will not be? If he does not recognize merit, the cultured will not come to his court. Bribery is the door by which many sins enter, and the king should never speak what is hurtful, untrustworthy, untrue, or unnecessary. The force of arms cannot accomplish what peace does. If you can gain your goal with sugar, why use poison? In 959 Somadeva wrote the romance Yashastilaka in Sanskrit prose and verse, emphasizing devotion to the god Jina, goodwill to all creatures, hospitality to everyone, and altruism while defending the unpopular practices of the Digambara ascetics such as nudity, abstaining from bathing, and eating standing up.
The indigenous Bon religion of Tibet was animistic and included the doctrine of reincarnation. Tradition called Namri Songtsen the 32nd king of Tibet. His 13-year-old son Songtsen Gampo became king in 630. He sent seventeen scholars to India to learn the Sanskrit language. The Tibetans conquered Burma and in 640 occupied Nepal. Songtsen Gampo married a princess from Nepal and also wanted to marry a Chinese princess, but so did Eastern Tartar (Tuyuhun) ruler Thokiki. According to ancient records, the Tibetans recruited an army of 200,000, defeated the Tartars, and captured the city of Songzhou, persuading the Chinese emperor to send his daughter to Lhasa in 641. Songtsen Gampo's marriage to Buddhist princesses led to his conversion, the building of temples and 900 monasteries, and the translation of Buddhist texts. His people were instructed how to write the Tibetan dialect with adapted Sanskrit letters. Songtsen Gampo died in 649, but the Chinese princess lived on until 680. He was succeeded by his young grandson Mangsong Mangtsen, and Gar Tongtsen governed as regent and conducted military campaigns in Asha for eight years. Gar Tongtsen returned to Lhasa in 666 and died the next year of a fever. A large military fortress was built at Dremakhol in 668, and the Eastern Tartars swore loyalty.
During a royal power struggle involving the powerful Gar ministers, Tibet's peace with China was broken in 670, and for two centuries their frontier was in a state of war. The Tibetans invaded the Tarim basin and seized four garrisons in Chinese Turkestan. They raided the Shanzhou province in 676, the year Mangsong Mangtsen died. His death was kept a secret from the Chinese for three years, and a revolt in Shangshong was suppressed by the Tibetan military in 1677. Dusong Mangje was born a few days after his royal father died. The Gar brothers led their armies against the Chinese. During a power struggle Gar Zindoye was captured in battle in 694; his brother Tsenyen Sungton was executed for treason the next year; and Triding Tsendro was disgraced and committed suicide in 699, when Dusong defeated the Gar army. Nepal and northern India revolted in 702, and two years later the Tibetan king was killed in battle. Tibetan sources reported he died in Nanzhao, but according to the Chinese he was killed while suppressing the revolt in Nepal.
Since Mes-Agtshom (also known as Tride Tsugtsen or Khri-Ide-btsug-brtan) was only seven years old, his grandmother Trimalo acted as regent. Mes-Agtshom also married a Chinese princess to improve relations; but by 719 the Tibetans were trading with the Arabs and fighting together against the Chinese. In 730 Tibet made peace with China and requested classics and histories, which the Emperor sent to Tibet despite a minister's warning they contained defense strategies. During a plague in 740-41 all the foreign monks were expelled from Tibet. After the imperial princess died in 741, a large Tibetan army invaded China. Nanzhao, suffering from Chinese armies, formed an alliance with Tibet in 750. Mes-Agtshom died in 755, according to Tibetan sources by a horse accident; but an inscription from the following reign accused two ministers of assassinating him. During Trisong Detsen's reign (755-97) Tibetans collected tribute from the Pala king of Bengal and ruled Nanzhao. In 763 a large Tibetan army invaded China and even occupied their capital at Chang'an. The Chinese emperor promised to send Tibet 50,000 rolls of silk each year; but when the tribute was not paid, the war continued. In 778 Siamese troops fought with the Tibetans against the Chinese in Sichuan (Szech'uan). Peace was made in 783 when China ceded much territory to Tibet. In 790 the Tibetans regained four garrisons in Anxi they had lost to Chinese forces a century before.
After Mashang, the minister who favored the Bon religion, was removed from the scene, Trisong Detsen sent minister Ba Salnang to invite the Indian pandit Shantirakshita to come from the university at Nalanda in Nepal. The people believed that Bon spirits caused bad omens, and Shantirakshita returned to Nepal. So Ba Salnang invited Indian Tantric master Padmasambhava, who was able to overcome the Bon spirits by making them take an oath to defend the Buddhist religion. Shantirakshita returned and supervised the building of a monastery that came to be known as Samye. He was named high priest of Tibet, and he introduced the "ten virtues." When Padmasambhava was unable to refute the instantaneous enlightenment doctrine of the Chinese monk Hoshang, Kamalashila was invited from India for a debate at Samye that lasted from 1792 until 1794. Kamalashila argued that enlightenment is a gradual process resulting from study, analysis, and good deeds. Kamalashila was declared the winner, and King Trisong Detsen declared Buddhism the official religion of Tibet.
Padmasambhava founded the red-hat Adi-yoga school and translated many Sanskrit books into Tibetan. A mythic account of his supernatural life that lasted twelve centuries was written by the Tibetan lady Yeshe Tsogyel. As his name implies, Padmasambhava was said to have been born miraculously on a lotus. His extraordinary and unconventional experiences included being married to 500 wives before renouncing a kingdom, several cases of cannibalism, surviving being burned at the stake, killing butchers, attaining Buddhahood, and teaching spirits and humans in many countries. In the guise of different famous teachers he taught people how to overcome the five poisons of sloth, anger, lust, arrogance, and jealousy.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead was first committed to writing around this time. Its title Bardol Thodol more literally means "liberation by hearing on the after-death plane." Similar in many ways to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, it likely contains many pre-Buddhist elements, as it was compiled over the centuries. The first part, chikhai bardo, describes the psychic experiences at the moment of death and urges one to unite with the all-good pure reality of the clear light. In the second stage of the chonyid bardo karmic illusions are experienced in a dream-like state, the thought-forms of one's own intellect. In the sidpa bardo, the third and last phase, one experiences the judgment of one's own karma; prayer is recommended, but instincts tend to lead one back into rebirth in another body. The purpose of the book is to help educate one how to attain liberation in the earlier stages and so prevent reincarnation.
Muni Tsenpo ruled Tibet from 797 probably to 804, although some believed he ruled for only eighteen months. He tried to reduce the disparity between the rich and poor by introducing land reform; but when the rich got richer, he tried two other reform plans. Padmasambhava advised him, "Our condition in this life is entirely dependent upon the actions of our previous life, and nothing can be done to alter the scheme of things."9 Muni Tsenpo had married his father's young wife to protect her from his mother's jealousy; but she turned against her son, the new king, and poisoned him; some believed he was poisoned because of his reforms. Since Muni Tsenpo had no sons, he was succeeded by his youngest brother Sadnaleg; his other brother Mutik Tsenpo was disqualified for having killed a minister in anger. During Sadnaleg's reign the Tibetans attacked the Arabs in the west, invading Transoxiana and besieging Samarqand; but they made an agreement with Caliph al-Ma'mun.
When Sadnaleg died in 815, his ministers chose his Buddhist son Ralpachen as king over his irreligious older brother Darma. After a border dispute, Buddhists mediated a treaty between Tibet and China in 821 that reaffirmed the boundaries of the 783 treaty. Ralpachen decreed that seven households should provide for each monk. By intrigues Darma managed to get his brother Tsangma and the trusted Buddhist minister Bande Dangka sent into exile; then Be Gyaltore and Chogro Lhalon, ministers who were loyal to Darma, went and murdered Bande Dangka. In 836 these same two pro-Bon ministers assassinated King Ralpachen and put Darma on the throne. They promulgated laws to destroy Buddhism in Tibet and closed the temples. Buddhist monks had to choose between marrying, carrying arms as hunters, becoming followers of the Bon religion, or death. In 842 the monk Lhalung Palgye Dorje assassinated King Darma with an arrow and escaped. That year marked a division in the royal line and the beginning of local rule in Tibet that lasted more than two centuries. Central Tibet suffered most from Darma's persecution, but Buddhism was kept alive in eastern and western Tibet. Buddhists helped Darma's son (r. 842-70) gain the throne, and he promoted their religion. As their empire disintegrated into separate warring territories, Tibetan occupation in Turkestan was ended by Turks, Uighurs, and Qarluqs.
In 978 translators Rinchen Zangpo and Lakpe Sherab invited some Indian pandits to come to Tibet, and this marked the beginning of the Buddhist renaissance in Tibet. Atisha (982-1054) was persuaded to come from India in 1042 and reformed the Tantric practices by introducing celibacy and a higher morality among the priests. He wrote The Lamp that Shows the Path to Enlightenment and founded the Katampa order, which was distinguished from the old Nyingmapa order of Padmasambhava. Drogmi (992-1074) taught the use of sexual practices for mystical realization, and his scholarly disciple Khon Konchog Gyalpo founded the Sakya monastery in 1073.
The Kagyupa school traces its lineage from the celestial Buddha Dorje-Chang to Tilopa (988-1069), who taught Naropa (1016-1100) in India. From a royal family in Bengal, Naropa studied in Kashmir for three years until he was fourteen. Three years later his family made him marry a Brahmin woman; they were divorced after eight years, though she became a writer too. In 1049 Naropa won a debate at Nalanda and was elected abbot there for eight years. He left to find the guru he had seen in a vision and was on the verge of suicide when Tilopa asked him how he would find his guru if he killed the Buddha. Naropa served Tilopa for twelve years during which he meditated in silence most of the time. However, twelve times he followed his guru's irrational suggestions and caused himself suffering. Each time Tilopa pointed out the lesson and healed him, according to the biography written about a century later. The twelve lessons taught him about the ordinary wish-fulfilling gem, one-valueness, commitment, mystic heat, apparition, dream, radiant light, transference, resurrection, eternal delight (learned from Tantric sex), mahamudra (authenticity), and the intermediate state (between birth and death). Naropa then went to Tibet where he taught Marpa (1012-96), who brought songs from the Tantric poets of Bengal to his disciple Milarepa.
Milarepa was born on the Tibetan frontier of Nepal in 1040. When he was seven years old, Milarepa's father died; his aunt and uncle taking control of the estate, his mother and he had to work as field laborers in poor conditions. When he came of age, his sister, mother, and he were thrown out of their house. So Milarepa studied black magic, and his mother threatened to kill herself if he failed. Milarepa caused the house to fall down, killing 35 people. Next his teacher taught him how to cause a hail storm, and at his mother's request he destroyed some crops. Milarepa repented of this sorcery and prayed to take up a religious life. He found his way to the lama Marpa the translator, who said that even if he imparted the truth to him, his liberation in one lifetime would depend on his own perseverance and energy. The lama was reluctant to give the truth to one who had done such evil deeds. So he had Milarepa build walls and often tear them down, while his wife pleaded for the young aspirant. Frustrated, Milarepa went to another teacher, who asked him to destroy his enemies with a hail storm, which he did while preserving an old woman's plot.
Milarepa returned to his guru Marpa and was initiated. Then he meditated in a cave for eleven months, discovering that the highest path started with a compassionate mood dedicating one's efforts to universal good, followed by clear aspiration transcending thought with prayer for others. After many years Milarepa went back to his old village to discover that his mother had died, his sister was gone, and his house and fields were in ruins. Describing his life in songs, Milarepa decided, "So I will go to gain the truth divine, to the Dragkar-taso cave I'll go, to practice meditation."10 He met the woman to whom he was betrothed in childhood, but he decided on the path of total self-abnegation. Going out to beg for food he met his aunt, who loosed dogs on him; but after talking he let her live in his house and cultivate his field. Milarepa practiced patience on those who had wronged him, calling it the shortest path to Buddhahood. Giving up comfort, material things, and desires for name or fame, he meditated and lived on nettles and water. He preached on the law of karma, and eventually his aunt was converted and devoted herself to penance and meditation. His sister found his nakedness shameful, but Milarepa declared that deception and evil deeds are shameful, not the body. Believing in karma, thoughts of the misery in the lower worlds may inspire one to seek Buddhahood.
It was said that Milarepa had 25 saints among his disciples, including his sister and three other women. In one of his last songs he wrote, "If pain and sorrow you desire sincerely to avoid, avoid, then, doing harm to others."11 Many miraculous stories are told of his passing from his body and the funeral; Milarepa died in 1123, and it was claimed that for a time no wars or epidemics ravaged the Earth. The biography of his life and songs was written by his disciple Rechung.
A contemporary of Milarepa, the life of Nangsa Obum was also told in songs and prose. She was born in Tibet, and because of her beauty and virtue she was married to Dragpa Samdrub, son of Rinang king Dragchen. She bore a son but longed to practice the dharma. Nangsa was falsely accused by Dragchen's jealous sister Ani Nyemo for giving seven sacks of flour to Rechung and other lamas. Beaten by her husband and separated from her child by the king, Nangsa died of a broken heart. Since her good deeds so outnumbered her bad deeds, the Lord of Death allowed her to come back to life. She decided to go practice the dharma; but her son and a repentant Ani Nyemo pleaded for her to stay. She remained but then visited her parents' home, where she took up weaving.
After quarreling with her mother, Nangsa left and went to study the sutras and practice Tantra. The king and her husband attacked her teacher Sakya Gyaltsen, who healed all the wounded monks. Then the teacher excoriated them for having animal minds and black karma, noting that Nangsa had come there for something better than a Rinang king; her good qualities would be wasted living with a hunter; they were trying to make a snow lion into a dog. The noblemen admitted they had made their karma worse and asked to be taught. Sakya replied that for those who have done wrong repentance is like the sun rising. They should think about their suffering and the meaninglessness of their lives and how much better they will be in the field of dharma. Dragchen and his father retired from worldly life, and Nangsa's 15-year-old son was given the kingdom.
Machig Lapdron (1055-1145) was said to be a reincarnation of Padmasambhava's consort Yeshe Tsogyel and of an Indian yogi named Monlam Drub. Leaving that body in a cave in India the soul traveled to Tibet and was born as Machig. As a child, she learned to recite the sutras at record speed, and at initiation she asked how she could help all sentient beings. In a dream an Indian teacher told her to confess her hidden faults, approach what she found repulsive, help those whom she thinks cannot be helped, let go of any attachment, go to scary places like cemeteries, be aware, and find the Buddha within. A lama taught her to examine the movement of her own mind carefully and become free of petty dualism and the demon of self-cherishing. She learned to wander and stay anywhere, and she absorbed various teachings from numerous gurus. She married and had three children but soon retired from the world. By forty she was well known in Tibet, and numerous monks and nuns came from India to challenge her; but she defeated them in debate. It was said that 433 lepers were cured by practicing her teachings.
A book on the supreme path of discipleship was compiled by Milarepa's disciple Lharje (1077-1152), who founded the Cur-lka monastery in 1150. This book lists yogic precepts in various categories. Causes of regret include frittering life away, dying an irreligious and worldly person, and selling the wise doctrine as merchandise. Requirements include sure action, diligence, knowledge of one's own faults and virtues, keen intellect and faith, watchfulness, freedom from desire and attachment, and love and compassion in thought and deed directed to the service of all sentient beings. "Unless the mind be disciplined to selflessness and infinite compassion, one is apt to fall into the error of seeking liberation for self alone."12 Offering to deities meat obtained by killing is like offering a mother the flesh of her own child. The virtue of the holy dharma is shown in those, whose heavy evil karma would have condemned them to suffering, turning to a religious life.
The black-hat Karmapa order was founded in 1147 by Tusum Khyenpa (1110-93), a native of Kham who studied with Milarepa's disciples. This sect claims to have started the system of leadership by successive reincarnations of the same soul, later adopted by the Dalai and Panchen Lamas. In 1207 a Tibetan council decided to submit peacefully to Genghis Khan and pay tribute. After the death of Genghis Khan in 1227, the Tibetans stopped paying the tribute, and the Mongols invaded in 1240, burning the Rating and Gyal Lhakhang monasteries and killing five hundred monks and civilians. In 1244 Sakya Pandita (1182-1251) went to Mongolia, where he initiated Genghis Khan's grandson Godan. Sakya Pandita instructed him in the Buddha's teachings and persuaded him to stop drowning the Chinese to reduce their population. Sakya Pandita was given authority over the thirteen myriarchies of central Tibet and told the Tibetan leaders it was useless to resist the Mongols' military power. He is also credited with devising a Mongolian alphabet. After Sakya Pandita died, the Mongols invaded Tibet in 1252. After Godan died, Kublai in 1254 invested Phagpa as the supreme ruler in Tibet by giving him a letter that recommended the monks stop quarreling and live peaceably. Phagpa conducted the enthronement of Kublai Khan in 1260. Phaga returned to Sakya in 1276 and died four years later.
In 1282 Dharmapala was appointed imperial preceptor (tishri) in Beijing. The Sakya administrator Shang Tsun objected to Kublai Khan's plans to invade India and Nepal, and the yogi Ugyen Sengge wrote a long poem against the idea, which Kublai Khan abandoned. After Tishri Dharmapala died in 1287, the myriarchy Drikhung attacked Sakya; but administrator Ag-len used troops and Mongol cavalry to defeat them, marching into Drikhung territory and burning their temple in 1290. Kublai Khan had been a patron of Buddhism in Tibet, but he died in 1295. After his death the influence of the Mongols in Tibet diminished.
Between 1000 and 1027 Ghazni ruler Mahmud invaded India with an army at least twelve times. About 15,000 Muslims took Peshawar and killed 5,000 Hindus in battle. Shahi king Jayapala was so ashamed of being defeated three times that he burned himself to death on a funeral pyre. In 1004 Mahmud's forces crossed the Indus River, then attacked and pillaged the wealth of Bhatiya. On the way to attack the heretical Abu-'l-Fath Daud, Mahmud defeated Shahi king Anandapala. Daud was forced to pay 20,000,000 dirhams and was allowed to rule as a Muslim if he paid 20,000 golden dirhams annually. Mahmud's army again met Anandapala's the next year; after 5,000 Muslims lost their lives, 20,000 Hindu soldiers were killed. Mahmud captured an immense treasure of 70,000,000 dirhams, plus gold and silver ingots, jewels, and other precious goods. After Mahmud defeated the king of Narayan and the rebelling Daud, Anandapala made a treaty that lasted until his death, allowing the Muslims passage to attack the sacred city of Thaneswar. In 1013 Mahmud attacked and defeated Anandapala's successor Trilochanapala, annexing the western and central portions of the Shahi kingdom in the Punjab. Next the Muslims plundered the Kashmir valley, though Mahmud was never able to hold it.
To attack Kanauj in the heart of India, Mahmud raised a force of 100,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry. Most Hindu chiefs submitted, but in Mahaban nearly 5,000 were killed, causing Kulachand to kill himself. Next the Muslims plundered the sacred city of Mathura, destroying a temple that took two centuries to build and estimated to be worth 100,000,000 red dinars. After conquering more forts and obtaining more booty, Mahmud ordered the inhabitants slain by sword, the city plundered, and the idols destroyed in Kanauj that was said to contain almost 10,000 temples. In 1019 Mahmud returned to Ghazni with immense wealth and 53,000 prisoners to be sold as slaves.
When Mahmud's army returned again to chastise Chandella ruler Vidyadhara for killing the submitting Pratihara king Rajyapala, the resistance of Trilochanapala was overcome, making all of Shahi part of Mahmud's empire. Although he had 45,000 infantry, 36,000 cavalry, and 640 elephants, Vidyadhara fled after a minor defeat. The next year Mahmud and Vidyadhara agreed to a peace. 50,000 Hindus were killed in 1025 defending the Shaivite temple of Somanatha in Kathiawar, as Mahmud captured another 20,000,000 dirhams. In his last campaign Mahmud used a navy of 1400 boats with iron spikes to defeat the Jats with their 4,000 boats in the Indus. Mahmud's soldiers often gave people the choice of accepting Islam or death. These threats and the enslavement of Hindus by Muslims and the Hindus' consequent attitude of considering Muslims impure barbarians (mlechchha) caused a great division between these religious groups.
During this time Mahipala I ruled Bengal for nearly half a century and founded a second Pala empire. In the half century around 1100 Ramapala tried to restore the decreasing realm of the Palas by invading his neighbors until he drowned himself in grief in the Ganges. Buddhists were persecuted in Varendri by the Vangala army. In the 12th century Vijayasena established a powerful kingdom in Bengal; but in spite of the military victories of Lakshmanasena, who began ruling in 1178, lands were lost to the Muslims and others early in the 13th century.
Military campaigns led by the Paramara Bhoja and the Kalachuri Karna against Muslims in the Punjab discouraged Muslim invasions after Punjab governor Ahmad Niyaltigin exacted tribute from the Thakurs and plundered the city of Banaras in 1034. Bhoja and a Hindu confederacy of chiefs conquered Hansi, Thaneswar, Nagarkot, and other territories from the Muslims in 1043. Bhoja also wrote 23 books, patronized writers, and established schools for his subjects. Karna won many battles over various kingdoms in India but gained little material advantage. About 1090 Gahadavala ruler Chandradeva seems to have collaborated with the Muslim governor of the Punjab to seize Kanauj from Rashtrakuta ruler Gopala. In the first half of the 12th century Gahadavala ruler Govindachandra came into conflict with the Palas, Senas, Gangas, Kakatiyas, Chalukyas, Chandellas, Chaulukyas, the Karnatakas of Mithila, and the Muslims.
The Ghuzz Turks made Muhammad Ghuri governor of Ghazni in 1173; he attacked the Gujarat kingdom in 1178, but his Turkish army was defeated by the Chaulukya king Mularaja II. Chahamana Prithviraja III began ruling that year and four years later defeated and plundered Paramardi's Chandella kingdom. In 1186 Khusrav Malik, the last Yamini ruler of Ghazni, was captured at Lahore by Muhammad Ghuri. The next year the Chahamana king Prithviraja made a treaty with Bhima II of Gujarat. Prithviraja's forces defeated Muhammad Ghuri's army at Tarain and regained Chahamana supremacy over the Punjab. Muhammad Ghuri organized 120,000 men from Ghazni to face 300,000 led by Prithviraja, who was captured and eventually executed as the Muslims demolished the temples of Ajmer in 1192 and built mosques. From there Sultan Muhammad Ghuri marched to Delhi, where he appointed general Qutb-ud-din Aybak governor; then with 50,000 cavalry Muhammad Ghuri defeated the Gahadavala army of Jayachandra before leaving for Ghazni. Prithviraja's brother Hariraja recaptured Delhi and Ajmer; but after losing them again to Aybak, he burned himself to death in 1194.
Next the local Mher tribes and the Chaulukya king of Gujarat, Bhima II, expelled the Turks from Rajputana; but in 1197 Aybak invaded Gujarat with more troops from Ghazni, killing 50,000 and capturing 20,000. In 1202 Aybak besieged Chandella king Paramardi at Kalanjara and forced him to pay tribute. In the east a Muslim named Bakhtyar raided Magadha and used the plunder to raise a larger force that conquered much of Bengal; his army slaughtered Buddhist monks, thinking they were Brahmins. However, the Khalji Bakhtyar met tough resistance in Tibet and had to return to Bengal where he died. The Ghuri dynasty ended soon after Muhammad Ghuri was murdered at Lahore in 1206 by his former slave Aybak, who assumed power but died in 1210.
The struggle for power was won by Aybak's son-in-law Iltutmish, who defeated and killed Aybak's successor. Then in 1216 Iltutmish captured his rival Yildiz, who had been driven by Khwarezm-Shah from Ghazni to the Punjab; the next year he expelled Qabacha from Lahore. In 1221 Mongols led by Genghis Khan pushed Khwarezm-Shah and other refugees across the Indus into the Punjab. Iltutmish invaded Bengal and ended the independence of the Khalji chiefs; but he met with Guhilot resistance in Rajputana before plundering Bhilsa and Ujjain in Malwa. Chahadadeva captured and ruled Narwar with an army of over 200,000 men, defeating Iltutmish's general in 1234, but he was later defeated by the Muslim general Balban in 1251. After Qabacha drowned in the Indus, Iltutmish was recognized as the Baghdad Caliph's great sultan in 1229 until he died of disease seven years later.
Factional strife occurred as Iltutmish's daughter Raziyya managed to rule like a man for three years before being killed by sexist hostility; his sons, grandson, and the "Forty" officials, who had been his slaves, struggled for power and pushed back the invading Mongols in 1245. After Iltutmish's son Mahmud became king, the capable Balban gained control. In 1253 the Indian Muslim Raihan replaced Balban for a year until the Turks for racist reasons insisted Balban and his associates be restored. When Mahmud died childless in 1265, Balban became an effective sultan. He said, "All that I can do is to crush the cruelties of the cruel and to see that all persons are equal before the law."13 Mongols invaded again in 1285 and killed Balban's son; two years later the elderly Balban died, and in 1290 the dynasty of Ilbari Turks was replaced by the Khalji Turks with ties to Afghanistan.
Chola king Rajendra I (r. 1012-44) ruled over most of south India and even invaded Sumatra and the Malay peninsula. His son Rajadhiraja I's reign (1018-52) overlapped his father's, as he tried to put down rebellions in Pandya and Chera, invading western Chalukya and sacking Kalyana. Cholas were criticized for violating the ethics of Hindu warfare by carrying off cows and "unloosing women's girdles." Rajadhiraja was killed while defeating Chalukya king Someshvara I (r. 1043-68). In the Deccan the later Chalukyas battled their neighbors; led by Vikramaditya, they fought a series of wars against the powerful Cholas. After battling his brother Vikramaditya, Someshvara II reigned 1068-76; in confederacy with Chaulukya Karna of Gujarat, he defeated the Paramara Jayasimha and occupied Malava briefly. Becoming Chalukya king, Vikramaditya VI (r. 1076-1126) invaded the Cholas and took Kanchi some time before 1085.
When the Vaishnavites Mahapurna and Kuresha had their eyes put out, probably by Kulottunga I in 1079, the famous philosopher Ramanuja took refuge in the Hoysala country until Kulottunga died. Ramanuja modified Shankara's nondualism in his Bhasya and emphasized the way of devotion (bhakti). He believed the grace of God was necessary for liberation. Although he practiced initiations and rituals, Ramanuja recognized that caste, rank, and religion were irrelevant to realizing union with God. He provided the philosophical reasoning for the popular worship of Vishnu and was thought to be 120 when he died in 1137.
In Sri Lanka the Sinhalese harassed the occupying Chola forces until they withdrew from Rohana in 1030, enabling Kassapa VI (r. 1029-40) to govern the south. When he died without an heir, Cholas under Rajadhiraja (r. 1043-54) regained control of Rajarata. After 1050 a struggle for power resulted in Kitti proclaiming himself Vijayabahu I (r. 1055-1110). However, in 1056 a Chola army invaded to suppress the revolt in Rohana. Vijayabahu fled to the hills, and his army was defeated near the old capital of Anuradhapura; yet he recovered Rohana about 1061. The Chola empire was also being challenged by the western Chalukyas during the reign (1063-69) of Virarajendra. The new Chola king Kulottunga I (r. 1070-1120), after being defeated by Vijayabahu, pulled his forces out of Sri Lanka. Vijayabahu took over the north but had to suppress a rebellion by three brothers in 1075 near Polonnaruwa. After his envoys to the Chalukya king at Karnataka were mutilated, Vijayabahu invaded Chola around 1085; but he made peace with Kulottunga in 1088. Vijayabahu restored irrigation and centralized administration as he patronized Buddhism. Vijayabahu was succeeded by his brother Jayabahu I; but a year later Vikramabahu I (r. 1111-32) took control of Rajarata and persecuted monks while the sons of Vijayabahu's sister Mitta ruled the rest of Sri Lanka.
The Hoysala king Vinayaditya (r. 1047-1101) acknowledged Chalukya supremacy; but after his death, the Hoysalas tried to become independent by fighting the Chalukyas. Kulottunga ordered a land survey in 1086. The Cholas under Kulottunga invaded Kalinga in 1096 to quell a revolt; a second invasion in 1110 was described in the Kalingattupparani of court poet Jayangondar. After Vikramaditya VI died, Vikrama Chola (r. 1118-1135) regained Chola control over the Vengi kingdom, though the Chalukyas ruled the Deccan until the Kalachuri king Bijjala took Kalyana from Chalukya king Taila III in 1156; the Kalachuris kept control for a quarter century. Gujarat's Chalukya king Kumarapala was converted to Jainism by the learned Hemachandra (1088-1172) and prohibited animal sacrifices, while Jain king Bijjala's minister Basava (1106-67) promoted the Vira Shaiva sect that emphasized social reform and the emancipation of women. Basava disregarded caste and ritual as shackling and senseless. When an outcaste married an ex-Brahmin bride, Bijjala sentenced them both, and they were dragged to death in the streets of Kalyana. Basava tried to convert the extremists to nonviolence but failed; they assassinated Bijjala, and the Vira Shaivas were persecuted. Basava asked, "Where is religion without loving kindness?" Basava had been taught by Allama Prabhu, who had completely rejected external rituals, converting some from the sacrifice of animals to sacrificing one's bestial self.
In his poem, The Arousing of Kumarapala, which describes how Hemachandra converted King Kumarapala, Somaprabha warned Jains from serving the king as ministers, harming others and extorting their fortunes that one's master may take. In the mid-12th century the island of Sri Lanka suffered a three-way civil war. Ratnavali arranged for her son Parakramabahu to succeed childless Kitsirimegha in Dakkinadesa. Parakramabahu defeated and captured Gajabahu (r. 1132-53), taking over Polonnaruwa. However, his pillaging troops alienated the people who turned to Manabharana. Parakramabahu allied with Gajabahu, becoming his heir, and defeated Manabharana. Parakramabahu I (r. 1153-86) restored unity but harshly suppressed a Rohana rebellion in 1160 and crushed Rajarata resistance in 1168. He used heavy taxation to rebuild Pulatthinagara and Anuradhapura that had been destroyed by the Cholas. The Culavamsa credits Parakramabahu with restoring or building 165 dams, 3910 canals, 163 major tanks, and 2376 minor tanks. He developed trade with Burma. Sri Lanka aided a Pandya ruler in 1169 when Kulashekhara Pandya defeated and killed Parakrama Pandya, seizing Madura; but Chola king Rajadhiraja II (r. 1163-79) brought the Pandya civil war to an end. This enabled larger Chola armies to defeat the Sri Lanka force by 1174. Parakramabahu was succeeded by his nephew, who was slain a year later by a nobleman by trying to usurp the throne. Parakramabahu son-in-law Nissankamalla stopped that and ruled Sri Lanka for nine years. He also was allied with the Pandyas and fought the Cholas.
During the next eighteen years Sri Lanka had twelve changes of rulers, though Nissankamalla's queen, Kalyanavati reigned 1202-08. Four Chola invasions further weakened Sri Lanka. Queen Lilavati ruled three different times and was supported by the Cholas. In 1212 the Pandyan prince Parakramapandu invaded Rajarata and deposed her; but three years later the Kalinga invader Magha took power. The Culavamsa criticized Magha (r. 1215-55) for confiscating the wealth of the monasteries, taxing the peasants, and letting his soldiers oppress the people. Finally the Sinhalese alliance with the Pandyas expelled Magha and defeated the invasions by Malay ruler Chandrabanu. When his son came again in 1285, the Pandyan general Arya Chakravarti defeated him and ruled the north, installing Parakramabahu III (r. 1287-93) as his vassal at Polonnaruwa. Eventually the capital Polonnaruwa was abandoned; the deterioration of the irrigation system became irreversible as mosquitoes carrying malaria infested its remains. The Tamil settlers withdrew to the north, developing the Jaffna kingdom. Others settled in the wet region in the west, as the jungle was tamed.
Hoysala king Ballala II proclaimed his independence in 1193. Chola king Kulottunga III (r. 1178-1216) ravaged the Pandya country about 1205, destroying the coronation hall at Madura; but a few years later he was overpowered by the Pandyas and saved from worse defeat by Hoysala intervention, as Hoysala king Ballala II (r. 1173-1220) had married a Chola princess. In the reign (1220-34) of Narasimha II the Hoysalas fought the Pandyas for empire, as Chola power decreased. Narasimha's son Someshvara (r. 1234-63) was defeated and killed in a battle led by Pandya Jatavarman Sundara. Chola king Rajendra III (r. 1246-79) was a Pandyan feudatory from 1258 to the end of his reign. The Cholas had inflicted much misery on their neighbors, even violating the sanctity of ambassadors. The Pandyas under their king Maravarman Kulashekhara, who ruled more than forty years until 1310, overcame and annexed the territories of the Cholas and the Hoysalas in 1279 and later in his reign gained supremacy over Sri Lanka.
The dualist Madhva (1197-1276) was the third great Vedanta philosopher after Shankara and Ramanuja. Madhva also opened the worship of Vishnu to all castes but may have picked up the idea of damnation in hell from missionary Christians or Muslims. He taught four steps to liberation: 1) detachment from material comforts, 2) persistent devotion to God, 3) meditation on God as the only independent reality, and 4) earning the grace of God.
Marco Polo on his visit to south India about 1293 noted that climate and ignorant treatment did not allow horses to thrive there. He admired Kakatiya queen Rudramba, who ruled for nearly forty years. He noted the Hindus' strict enforcement of justice against criminals and abstention from wine, but he was surprised they did not consider any form of sexual indulgence a sin. He found certain merchants most truthful but noted many superstitious beliefs. Yet he found that ascetics, who ate no meat, drank no wine, had no sex outside of marriage, did not steal, and never killed any creature, often lived very long lives. Marco Polo related a legend of brothers whose quarrels were prevented from turning to violence by their mother who threatened to cut off her breasts if they did not make peace.
Nizam-ud-din Auliya was an influential Sufi of the Chishti order that had been founded a century before. He taught love as the means to realize God. For Auliya universal love was expressed through love and service of humanity. The Sufis found music inflamed love, and they interpreted the Qur'an broadly in esoteric ways; the intuition of the inner light was more important to them than orthodox dogma. Auliya was the teacher of Amir Khusrau (1253-1325), one of the most prolific poets in the Persian language. Many of Khusrau's poems, however, glorified the bloody conquests of the Muslim rulers so that "the pure tree of Islam might be planted and flourish" and the evil tree with deep roots would be torn up by force. He wrote,
The whole country, by means of the sword of our holy warriors,
has become like a forest denuded of its thorns by fire.
The land has been saturated with the water of the sword,
and the vapors of infidelity have been dispersed.
The strong men of Hind have been trodden under foot,
and all are ready to pay tribute.
Islam is triumphant; idolatry is subdued.
Had not the law granted exemption from death
by the payment of poll-tax,
the very name of Hind, root and branch,
would have been extinguished.
From Ghazni to the shore of the ocean
you see all under the dominion of Islam.14
In 1290 the Khalji Jalal-ud-din Firuz became sultan in Delhi but refused to sacrifice Muslim lives to take Ranthambhor, though his army defeated and made peace with 150,000 invading Mongols. Genghis Khan's descendant Ulghu and 4,000 others accepted Islam and became known as the "new Muslims." This lenient sultan sent a thousand captured robbers and murderers to Bengal without punishment. His more ambitious nephew 'Ala-ud-din Khalji attacked the kingdom of Devagiri, gaining booty and exacting from Yadava king Ramachandra gold he used to raise an army of 60,000 cavalry and as many infantry. In 1296 he lured his uncle into a trap, had him assassinated, and bribed the nobles to proclaim him sultan. Several political adversaries were blinded and killed. The next year 'Ala-ud-din sent an army headed by his brother Ulugh Khan to conquer Gujarat; according to Wassaf they slaughtered the people and plundered the country. Another 200,000 Mongols invaded in 1299, but they were driven back. Revolts by his nephews and an old officer were ruthlessly crushed. Money was extorted; a spy network made nobles afraid to speak in public; alcohol was prohibited; and gatherings of nobles were restricted. Orders were given that Hindus were not to have anything above subsistence; this prejudicial treatment was justified by Islamic law.
In addition to his three plays we also have four poems by Kalidasa. The Dynasty of Raghu is an epic telling the story not only of Rama but of his ancestors and descendants. King Dilipa's willingness to sacrifice himself for a cow enables him to get a son, Raghu. Consecrated as king, Raghu tries to establish an empire with the traditional horse sacrifice in which a horse for a year is allowed to wander into other kingdoms, which must either submit or defend themselves against his army. His son Aja is chosen by the princess Indumati. Their son Dasharatha has four sons by three wives; but for killing a boy while hunting, he must suffer the banishment of his eldest son Rama, whose traditional story takes up a third of the epic. His son Kusha restores the capital at Ayodhya; but after a line of 22 kings Agnivarna becomes preoccupied with love affairs before dying and leaving a pregnant queen ruling as regent.
Another epic poem, The Birth of the War-god tells how the ascetic Shiva is eventually wooed by Parvati, daughter of the Himalaya mountains, after the fire from Shiva's eye kills the god of Love and she becomes an ascetic. After being entertained by nymphs, Shiva restores the body of Love. Their son Kumara is made a general by the god Indra; after their army is defeated by Taraka's army, Kumara kills the demon Taraka. Kalidasa's elegy, The Cloud-Messenger, describes how the Yaksha Kubera, an attendant of the god of Wealth, who has been exiled from the Himalayas to the Vindhya mountains for a year, sends a cloud as a messenger to his wife during the romantic rainy season. Kalidasa is also believed to be the author of a poem on the six seasons in India.
Bana wrote an epic romance on the conquests of Harsha in the 7th century and another called Kadambari. Bana was not afraid to criticize the idea of kings being divine nor the unethical and cruel tactics of the political theorist Kautilya. Bana was one of the few Indian writers who showed concern for the poor and humble.
About the 6th or 7th century Bhartrihari wrote short erotic poems typical of those later collected into anthologies. He reminded himself that virtue is still important.
Granted her breasts are firm, her face entrancing,
Her legs enchanting - what is that to you?
My mind, if you would win her, stop romancing.
Have you not heard, reward is virtue's due?15
Torn between sensual and spiritual love, Bhartrihari found that the charms of a slim girl disturbed him. Should he choose the youth of full-breasted women or the forest? Eventually he moved from the dark night of passion to the clear vision of seeing God in everything. He noted that it is easier to take a gem from a crocodile's jaws or swim the ocean or wear an angry serpent like a flower in one's hair or squeeze oil from sand, water from a mirage, or find a rabbit's horn than it is to satisfy a fool whose opinions are set. Bhartrihari asked subtle questions.
Patience, better than armor, guards from harm.
And why seek enemies, if you have anger?
With friends, you need no medicine for danger.
With kinsmen, why ask fire to keep you warm?
What use are snakes when slander sharper stings?
What use is wealth where wisdom brings content?
With modesty, what need for ornament?
With poetry's Muse, why should we envy kings?16
The erotic poetry of Amaru about the 7th century often expressed the woman's viewpoint. When someone questioned her pining and faithfulness, she asked him to speak softly because her love living in her heart might hear. In another poem the narrator tries to hide her blushing, sweating cheeks but found her bodice splitting of its own accord. This poet seemed to prefer love-making to meditation. The erotic and the religious were combined in 12th century Bengali poet Jayadeva's "Songs of the Cowherd" (Gita Govinda) about the loves of Krishna. A poet observed that most people can see the faults in others, and some can see their virtues; but perhaps only two or three can see their own shortcomings.
In the late 11th century Buddhist scholar Vidyakara collected together an anthology of Sanskrit court poetry, Treasury of Well-Turned Verse (Subhasitaratnakosa), with verses from more than two hundred poets, mostly from the previous four centuries. Although it begins with verses on the Buddha and the bodhisattvas Lokesvara and Manjughosa, Vidyakara also included verses on Shiva and Vishnu. One poet asked why a naked ascetic with holy ashes needed a bow or a woman. (103) After these chapters the poetry is not religious, with verses on the seasons and other aspects of nature. Love poetry is ample, and it is quite sensual, though none of it is obscene. Women's bodies are described with affection, and sections include the joys of love as well as the sad longing of love-in-separation. An epigram complains of a man whose body smells of blood as his action runs to slaughter because his sense of right and wrong is no better than a beast's. Only courage is admired in a lion, but that makes the world seem cheap. (1091) Another epigram warns that the earth will give no support nor a wishing tree a wish, and one's efforts will come to nothing for one whose sin accumulated in a former birth. (1097) Shardarnava described peace in the smooth flow of a river; but noting uprooted trees along the shore, he inferred concealed lawlessness. (1111)
Dharmakirti's verses describe the good as asking no favors from the wicked, not begging from a friend whose means are small, keeping one's stature in misfortune, and following in the footsteps of the great, though these rules may be as hard to travel as a sword blade. (1213) Another poet found that he grew mad like a rutting elephant when knowing little he thought he knew everything; but after consorting with the wise and gaining some knowledge, he knew himself a fool, and the madness left like a fever. (1217) Another proclaimed good one who offers aid to those in distress, not one who is skillful at keeping ill-gotten gains. (1226) A poet noted that countless get angry with or without a cause, but perhaps only five or six in the world do not get angry when there is a cause. (1236) The great guard their honor, not their lives; fear evil, not enemies; and seek not wealth but those who ask for it. (1239) Small-minded people ask if someone is one of them or an outsider, but the noble mind takes the whole world for family. (1241) An anonymous poet asked these great questions:
Can that be judgment where compassion plays no part,
or that be the way if we help not others on it?
Can that be law where we injure still our fellows,
or that be sacred knowledge which leads us not to peace?17
A poet advised that the wise, considering that youth is fleeting, the body soon forfeited and wealth soon gone, lays up no deeds, though they be pleasurable here, that will ripen into bitter fruit in future lives. (1686)
Although collected from ancient myths and folklore, the eighteen "great" Puranas were written between the 4th and 10th centuries. Originally intended to describe the creation of the universe, its destruction and renewal, genealogies, and chronicles of the lawgivers and the solar and lunar dynasties, they retold myths and legends according to different Vaishnavite and Shaivite sects with assorted religious lore. The Agni Puranam, for example, describes the avatars Rama and Krishna, religious ceremonies, Tantric rituals, initiation, Shiva, holy places, duties of kings, the art of war, judicature, medicine, worship of Shiva and the Goddess, and concludes with a treatise on prosody, rhetoric, grammar, and yoga. Much of this was apparently taken from other books.
The early Vishnu Purana explains that although all creatures are destroyed at each cosmic dissolution, they are reborn according to their good or bad karma; this justice pleased the creator Brahma. In this Purana Vishnu becomes the Buddha in order to delude the demons so that they can be destroyed. The gods complain that they cannot kill the demons because they are following the Vedas and developing ascetic powers. So Vishnu says he will bewitch them to seek heaven or nirvana and stop evil rites such as killing animals. Then reviling the Vedas, the gods, the sacrificial rituals, and the Brahmins, they went on the wrong path and were destroyed by the gods. The Vishnu Purana describes the incarnations of Vishnu, including his future life as Kalkin at the end of the dark age (Kali yuga) when evil people will be destroyed, and justice (dharma) will be re-established in the Krita age. The gradual ethical degeneration is reflected in the change in Hindu literature from the heroic Vedas to the strategic epics and then to deception and demonic methods in the Puranas. The Padma Purana explains the incarnations of Vishnu as fulfilling a curse from lord Bhrigu, because Vishnu killed his wife. Thus Vishnu is born again and again for the good of the world when virtue has declined. By appearing as a naked Jain and the Buddha, Vishnu has turned the demons away from the Vedas to the virtue (dharma) of the sages.
The most popular of all the Puranas, the Srimad Bhagavatam was attributed to the author of the Mahabharata, Vyasa, given out through his son Suta. However, scholars consider this work emphasizing the way of devotion (bhakti) one of the later great Puranas and ascribe it to the grammarian Vopadeva. Bhagavatam retells the stories of the incarnations of the god Vishnu with special emphasis on Krishna. Even as a baby and a child the divine Krishna performs many miracles and defeats demons. The young Krishna is not afraid to provoke the wrath of the chief god Indra by explaining that happiness and misery, fear and security, result from the karma of one's actions. Even a supreme Lord must dispense the fruits of others' karma and thus is dependent on those who act. Thus individuals are controlled by their dispositions they have created by their former actions. Karma, or we might say experience, is the guru and the supreme Lord. Brahmins should maintain themselves by knowledge of the Veda, Kshatriyas by protecting the country, Vaishyas by business, and Sudras by service. Krishna also notes that karma based on desire is the product of ignorance, of not understanding one's true nature.
The king who is listening to the stories of Krishna asks how this Lord could sport with other men's wives; but the author excuses these escapades by explaining that although the superhuman may teach the truth, their acts do not always conform to their teachings. The intelligent understand this and follow only the teachings. The worshiping author places the Lord above good and evil and claims that the men of Vajra did not become angry at Krishna because they imagined their wives were by their sides all the time. Krishna also fought and killed many enemies, "as the lord of the jungle kills the beasts."18 He killed Kamsa for unjustly appropriating cows. Krishna fought the army of Magadha king Jarasandha seventeen times and presented the spoils of war to the Yadu king. He killed Satadhanva over a gem. Krishna carried off by force and thus wed Rukmini by the demon mode. Several other weddings followed, and Krishna's eight principal queens were said to have bore him ten sons each. The author claimed he had 16,000 wives and lived with them all at the same time in their own apartments or houses.
In the 18th battle Jarasandha's army finally defeated Krishna's, and it was said that he captured 20,800 kings; but Krishna got Bhima to kill Jarasandha, and all the confined Kshatriyas were released. Krishna cut off the head of his foe Sishupala with his razor-sharp discus; he also destroyed the Soubha and killed Salva, Dantavakra and his brother. Although the methods of action (karma) and knowledge (jnani) are discussed in relation to Samkhya philosophy and yoga, in the Bhagavatam the practice of devotion (bhakti) to God in the form of Krishna is favored as the supreme means of salvation. The great war between the Kurus and the Pandavas is explained as Krishna's way of removing the burden of the Earth. Krishna tells his own people, the Yadus, to cross the sea to Prabhasa and worship the gods, Brahmins, and cows. There rendered senseless by Krishna's illusion (maya), they indulge in drink and slaughter each other. Krishna's brother Balarama and he both depart from their mortal bodies, Krishna ascending to heaven with his chariot and celestial weapons.
Before the 11th century seventy stories of "The Enchanted Parrot" were employed to keep a wife entertained while her husband was away so that she would not find a lover. A charming parrot satirizes women, comparing them to kings and serpents in taking what is near them. The proverb is quoted that when the gods want to ruin someone they first take away one's sense of right and wrong, and the listener is warned not to set one's heart on riches gained by wickedness nor on an enemy one has humiliated. When the husband returns, the parrot is freed from the curse and flies to heaven amid a rain of flowers.
In the late 11th century Somadeva added to the Great Story (Brihat-katha) of Gunadhya to make the Ocean of the Streams of Story (Katha-sarit-sagara) collection of more than 350 stories in Sanskrit verse. The author noting that jealousy interferes with discernment, a king orders a Brahmin executed for talking with his queen; but on the way to his punishment, a dead fish laughs because while so many men are dressed as women in the king's harem an innocent Brahmin is to be killed. The narrator tells the king this and gains respect for his wisdom and release for the Brahmin. The author also notes that for the wise, character is wealth. Somadeva recounts the legendary stories of Vatsa king Udayana and his marriages to Vasavadatta and the Magadhan princess Padmavati. The former is commended for cooperating in the separation in Yaugandharayana's scheme; he says she is a real queen because she does not merely comply with her husband's wishes but cares for his true interests.
An eminent merchant sends his son to a courtesan to learn to beware of immorality incarnate in harlots, who rob rich young men blinded by their virility. Like all professionals, the prostitute has her price but must guard against being in love when no price is paid. She must be a good actress in seducing and milking the man of his money, deserting him when it is gone, and taking him back when he comes up with more money. Like the hermit, she must learn to treat them all equally whether handsome or ugly. Nonetheless the son is taken in by a courtesan and loses all his money, but he contrives to get it back by using a monkey trained to swallow money and give it back on cue.
From Somadeva also comes the Vampire's Tales of "The King and the Corpse." In an unusual frame for 25 stories a king is instructed to carry a hanged corpse inhabited by a vampire, who poses a dilemma at the conclusion of each tale. For example, when heads are cut off and are put back on each other's bodies, which person is which? After becoming orphans the oldest of four Brahmin brothers tries to hang himself; but he is cut down and saved by a man who asks him why a learned person should despair when good fortune comes from good karma and bad luck from bad karma. The answer to unhappiness, then, is doing good; but to kill oneself would bring the suffering of hell. So the brothers combine their talents to create a lion from a bone; but the lion kills them, as their creation was not intelligent but evil. The last brother, who brought the lion's completed body to life, is judged most responsible by the king because he should have been more aware of what would result.
1. Prince Ilango Adigal, Shilappadikaram, tr. Alain
Daniélou, p. 202.
2. Tiruvalluvar, The Kural tr. P. S. Sundarum, 99.
3. Ibid., 311-320.
4. Ibid., 981-990.
5. Shankara, Crest-Jewel of Wisdom tr. Mohini M. Chatterji, 58.
6. Bhasa, Avimaraka tr. J. L. Masson and D. D. Kosambi, p. 73.
7. Ibid., p. 130-131.
8. Kalidasa, Shakuntala tr. Michael Coulson, 1:11.
9. Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa tr. Kazi Dawa-Samdup, p. 176.
10. Ibid., p. 253.
11. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines tr. Kazi Dawa-Samdup, p. 75.
12. Majumdar, R. C., An Advanced History of India, p. 292.
13. Speaking of Shiva tr. A. K. Ramanujan, p. 54.
14. Elliot, H. M., The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians, Vol. 3, p. 546.
15. Poems from the Sanskrit tr. John Brough, p. 58.
16. Ibid., p. 71.
17. An Anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry tr. Daniel H. H. Ingalls, 1629.
18. Srimad Bhagavatam tr. N. Raghunathan, 10:44:40, Vol. 2 p. 321.
This chapter has been published in the book INDIA & Southeast Asia to 1800.
For ordering information, please click here.