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Mains Answer Writing

One of the key components of these exams is the written test, which consists of a number of essay and comprehension questions. Candidates are expected to write clear and well-structured answers that demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the topics being tested.

9-July-2023

Q. It was more than just the loss of patronage that led to the decline of Buddhism in India. Comment. (250 words)

Ans. Introduction: Buddhism spread rapidly in India after great royal patronages from Kings like Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE and Kanishka in the 2nd century, and which continued in the times of Harsha and Palas. But by the end of 1st Millenia, it started to decline.

Decline due to Loss of Royal Patronage:

  • Rise of patronage to Shiva and Vishnu: For example, Guptas were patrons of various avatars of Vishnu.
  • Rulers antagonistic to Buddhism: Patronage gradually stopped after Pushyamitra Sunga, a Brahmin king who replaced later Mauryans, who was also known to have persecuted Buddhists.
  • Weaker impact of the Buddhist Kings: Kings like Palas, who were patrons of Buddhism, couldn’t have a pan-India impact.

However, the loss of patronage was an effect of a larger shift, i.e. Buddhism was losing popularity amongst people itself. Therefore, a lesser number of rulers were interested in putting their political weight behind the religion.

Causes for loss of popularity amongst the Masses:

  • Corruption in Buddhist Sanghas: With time, the monks and followers came to be drawn toward luxury and self-indulgence.
  • Division among the Buddhists: Buddhism got divided into factions like ‘Hinayana’, ‘Mahayana’, ‘Vajrayana’, ‘Tantrayana’ and ‘Sahajayana’, which led Buddhism to lose its originality.
  • Use of Sanskrit Language: Pali and Prakrit were replaced by Sanskrit, which was difficult for common people to understand.
  • Idol worship: Idol worship by the Mahayana sect was against the basic principles of Buddhism, which brought it closer to Hinduism.

Further, the Bhakti Movement attracted many:

  • Reform in Hinduism: Due to the criticism from Sramana traditions, Hinduism started to re-organise itself, simplifying its rituals and accepting Non-violence. Eventually, even Buddha was accepted as an incarnation of Vishnu.
  • Role of Hindu saints: Bhakti Saints like Adi Shankaracharya played a vital role in the revival of Hinduism by opening the doors of Hinduism for all.

Therefore, to say that it was merely the loss of patronage that led to the decline of Buddhism would be highly erroneous. It was the loss of popularity in Buddhism itself that led to the loss of patronage by the Kings.

 

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