Development And Decline Of Buddhism In South India

Prof.Dr. R. Gopalakrishnan, Formerly Professor And Head

Abstract


In this paper an attempt has been made to describe the entry, growth and disappearance of the globally reputed Buddhist faith and practice in the Southern part of India especially in the Tamil land. Grandeur of Buddhism lies not only in the scriptural texts, teachings and practices, etc. but in the organisational techniques like the Sangam paved the way for the spread of Buddhism in all parts of the world through royal patronage, scholarly interpretations, and collective modes of propagation and institutionalized methods of worship in the monasteries. The methodology resorted to here are both historical and descriptive, but highly informative and explanatory.
The entry of Buddhism was traced from the historical records especially of the travellers, and the notes of eminent emissaries, literary sources, excavations, inscriptions, art and architecture, viharas etc. The development of this faith has been studied from the grand epics like Manimekalai, Virasoliam, Kundalakesi etc. The Tamil emperors, even though followed different native religions, they did not hate the promotion of Buddhist practices both individually and collectively. They constructed monasteries and donated lands and revenues to sustain them. The Bodhisattvas too contributed their might in maintaining the prestige of Buddhism through their commitment and praxis.
Besides the historical back ground, this study accounts for the existence of Buddhist centres in different parts of Tamil country as well as the origin of new cult known as the avalokitesvara. Also more information are obtained from the inscriptions, sculptures, art and architecture regarding the prevalence of Buddhism in the Southernmost part of India. It is to be proudly noted that this faith did not flourish without philosophical themes and doctrinal expositions.
The final section deals with the reasons for the decline and disappearance of Buddhism from this land and concludes with a few suggestions to revive this holy faith in this soil.

Keywords


Dhamma, Sangha, Bodhisattva, Brahmi scripts, viharas, arahats, akaram, paramitas, mantras, inscriptions and rock-cut carvings.

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