Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Buddhism and Jainism in South India - 3

In my previous posts, I have argued that Buddhists were mainly Tantriks in South India who later merged with Brahmins. In this post I try to understand why Buddhism became successful in Sri Lanka but failed in South India.

Buddhism that spread in the societies before they became agrarian(rice farming) lost out but remained strong in the socities that already adopted rice farming.

If you observe South East Asia and Southern China were already agrarian by the time Buddhism spread there and remained main religion until the advent of Islam(a situation similar to North-West of the subcontinent) and Christianity.

In India, the rice farming was first adopted by North-East region. Sinhalese were mostly descendants of the communities from that region. They have very high Haplogroup R2(~35%) and R1a1 (~15%) comparable to non-Brahmin population in that region(Bengal).

Theravada and Mahayana
It increasingly looks obvious that Buddhist monks were there in South India before the arrival Brahmin agriculturists. I think they belonged to both Theravada and Tantrik(Vajrayana) sects. I wonder how Theravada Buddhism might have spread in the population. If the following statement is correct, it would have remained religion of few considering the society was mainly tribal.

"Theravada Buddhism focused primarily on meditation and concentration, the eighth of the Eightfold Noble Path; as a result, it centered on a monastic life a an extreme expenditure of time in meditating. This left little room for the bulk of humanity to join in, so a new schism erupted within the ranks of Buddhism in the first century AD, one that would attempt to reformulate the teachings of Buddha to accommodate a greater number of people. They called their new Buddhism, the "Greater Vehicle" (literally, "The Greater Ox-Cart") or Mahayana, since it could accommodate more people and more believers from all walks of life. They distinguished themselves from mainstream Theravada Buddhism by contemptuously referring to Theravada as Hinayana, or 'The Lesser Vehicle.' "
Lifted from this article.

However, it looks like more people friendly Mahayana was spread mainly in North-East region or East Asia.

Eventhough, it was Theravada Buddhism that went to Sri Lanka, an agrarian civilization was more prepared than the tribal civilization of South India.

South Indian languages and Buddhism
In our primary (first 7 years) and high school(later 3 years) we study words forms under the headings tatsama(Sanskrit form) and tatbhava(equivalent Kannada or any other Dravidian language form). In my opinion all those tatbhava words in Kannada in fact were borrowed from Pali and not derived from Sanskrit. The earliest Indo-Aryan influences were Prakrit languages like Pali and not Sanskrit. The Sanskrit words that became part of the Kannada vocabulary have either retained the original form or are apabhramsha(corrupted form). So asking the pupils to write the tatbhava or tatsama of some words during the language exams does not really make much sense.(See update)

Buddhism and god names of Tulu tribes
Under the influence of Buddhism goddesses got the name Bhagavathi in Kerala temples. As the Buddhists were mainly Tantriks, Kali was Pali-ised with that name since Buddha was known as "Bhagavath".

In Mangalore, there is a temple dedicated to Shiva at Kadri. Here the deity Shiva's name is Manjunatha. Probably, this temple is the living proof of Tantriks becoming part of Vaidiks. The Shaiva Natha Pantha was supposed to be direct offshoot of Vajrayana Buddhism according to Wikipedia article.

The name Manjunatha is itself derived from one of the Bodhisattvas, Manjushri. However, the logic behind the name again shows the origin of Shivaism. Manjunatha means the lord or guardian of ice moutains, as Mount Kailasa was supposed to be the abode of Shiva. A related article here.

Udpate :
1. No idea whether Pali is a Prakrit language or not.
2. No idea if tatbhavas are considered Dravidian form of Sanskrit words or original Prakrit forms in Dravidian languages. It looks like in present day Indo-Aryan languages tatsama means original Sanskrit form and tatbhava means Prakrit form.
3. Absolutely no idea about the relationship between Sanskrit, Prakrits and Pali.

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