Buddhism in India began with the life of Gautam Buddha, originally known as Prince Siddharth. He was the prince of the small Shakya Kingdom, located in the foothills of the Himalayas and was brought up in luxury and extravagance. He later discovered the true meaning and purpose of his life and abandoned all worldly pleasures to tread the spiritual path. India is the land where Buddhism originated and is according to archaeological sources, Buddhism spread from Hinduism, which was very widespread at the time. In the modern world, the teachings of Gautam Buddha have immense significance in the lives of his devotees and a whole lot of other people who wish to learn more about his life and the prominence of Buddhism in India. Through this article, we have tried to elucidate the birth, the fall and the revival of Buddhism in this country. This will help you understand Buddhism in India accurately. Scroll down for more.
India And Buddhism
The Indian subcontinent witnessed the rise of Buddha and his teachings in the latter half of 6th century BCE. It was after 528 BCE, the year of his enlightenment, that he started preaching the doctrine of Dharma to his disciples. During his lifetime, a large number of people turned into his disciples and after following his death, his principles and teachings were accepted by a dominant population in Asia, particularly, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kandahar (Afghanistan).
Buddhism was growing at an exponential rate and was given patronage by Buddhist missionaries and Emperor Ashoka, who sent these missionaries to different parts of South East Asia, who spread Buddha's teachings. Following the Kalinga War, Ashoka converted to Buddhism, but the situation changed following his death. After a period of religious persecution, Buddhism once again picked up and received patronage during the reign of Kanishka. It was during this time, from 7th to 8th century, Buddhism remained the most influential religion in India, inspiring great works of literature, art, philosophy and majorly influencing the character of Indian people.
The patronage Buddhism received during 7th-8th centuries rapidly fell after the revival of Hinduism, primarily due to the fact that Hinduism had developed into a staunch practice and was not easily approachable for the common man. On the other hand, Buddhism was easily approachable, which led to the imagination that it was a religion of lesser importance. Thus, people who earlier followed Buddhism turned towards Hinduism towards. Other factors such as the changing political circumstances, the arrival of Islam and the intermingling of Tantrayana into Hinduism, reduced the prominence of this Buddhism in the country. Thus, Buddhism managed to survive only in small Buddhist communities in the Himalayan region.
During the British colonial rule in the early 20th century, people witnessed the resurgence of Buddhism in India. It strengthened with the dedicated activities of Dammapara of Sri Lanka who reinforced control over the Buddhist shrine in Bodhgaya, India. Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar held a conversion ceremony where over 5, 00,000 people converted to Buddhism. Around the same time, the arrival of Dalai Lama induced thousands of supporters to convert back to Buddhism, which eventually strengthened the Buddhist movement in India.
Today, Buddhism is prevalent in many parts of India and most Buddhists follow 'Theravada Buddhism', the 'doctrine of the Elders'. Theravada Buddhism traces its origins through Burmese and Sri Lankan tradition, with scriptures in the Pali language. Today, the Buddhist cult has expanded to include publishing, social services, international associations and educational institutions around India. Thousands of pilgrims travel to places of Buddhist worship annually, especially during the time of Buddha Purnima. Today, Buddhism is prevalent towards the north and eastern parts of India and also around the region of the Himalayas.
Now, according to recent statistics, the total number of Buddhists in India has risen to nearly 80, 00,000 million, constituting to 0.80 percent of the total Indian population. Hope this article familiarized you with the trends of Buddhism in India.
There are a number of places associated with Lord Buddha in India. Trace the origin and history of Buddhist religion in India.