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Who Destroyed Nalanda University

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Nalanda University, located in present-day Bihar, India, was one of the most renowned centers of learning in the ancient world. Its destruction marks a significant loss to global intellectual heritage, but the question of who destroyed this great institution remains a subject of debate among historians and scholars.

Nalanda flourished as a Buddhist center of learning from the 5th century CE until its decline in the late 12th century. At its peak, it attracted scholars from across Asia and housed a vast library known as Dharmaganja or "Treasury of Truth."

Most left centric academia tends to blame the Brahmins. Here's a excerpt from the left-wing portal thewire1 by Ram Puniyani, a current president of the Executive Council of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) :

All reliable sources point to the fact that Brahmins burnt the library as revenge. Bringing in Khilji fits into the general Islamophobic propaganda against Muslims and, at the same time, hides the true story of the persecution of Buddhists during that period.

How about a counter from a right-wing prespective. Here's an article published in Swarajya 2 by Makarand Paranjape, a former professor at JNU university:

But the old Nalanda was finished by Islamic invaders. Around 1200 CE, it was reportedly looted and burned by a local Turkic-Afghan chieftain-adventurer, Bakhtiyar Khilji. Legend has it that Khilji and his 18 horsemen went on to capture Bengal. So popular is this view that Al Mahmud, the Bangladeshi writer, not only reprises it in Bakhtiyarer Ghora (Bakhtiyar’s Horses), but, some would argue, glorifies Khilji.

Interestingly Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998 and is also left-leaning, has this to say about Nalanda3:

Nalanda was violently destroyed in an Afghan attack, led by the ruthless conqueror, Bakhtiyar Khilji, in 1193, shortly after the beginning of Oxford University and shortly before the initiation of Cambridge.

So what's the truth? Was Nalanda university destoryed by Brahmins or Islamic invaders?

One source is Tabakat e Nasiri by Minhaj-i-Siraj Juzjani, you can read the English translation online4 on page 552

There were two brothers of Farghānah, men of learning, one Nizam-ud-Din, the other Şamṣām-ud-Din [by name], in the service of Muḥammad-i-Bakht-yār; and the author of this book. These two wise brothers were soldiers' among that band of holy warriors when they reached the gateway of the fortress and began the attack, at which time Muḥammad-i-Bakht-yār, by the force of his intrepidity, threw himself into the postern of the gateway of the place, and they captured the fortress, and acquired great booty. The greater number of the inhabitants of that place were Brahmans, and the whole of those Brahmans had their heads shaven; and they were all slain. There were a great number of books' there; and, when all these books came under the observation of the Musalmāns, they summoned a number of Hindus that they might give them information respecting the import of those books; but the whole of the Hindūs had been killed'. On becoming acquainted [with the contents of those books], it was found that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindui tongue, they call a college Bihār.

The Zubdat-ut-Tawarikh which quotes our author verbatim on most occassions, says they sent for a number of Hindus, who made them acquainted with the contents of the books, and in them it was written that fortress and city was called a college, but, correctly, a Budhist monastery.

I only quoted a single historical source, and other ancient documents may present differing perspectives. The problem with history is that unlike science, hypotheses cannot be tested through repeatable experiments. It's more susceptible to interpretation and inaccuracies.

However I think in this case I would more likely agree with the right. I think the left-leaning historians in India occasionally behave as regresssive left.

Whatever the truth may be about Nalanda's fall, it's crucial to remember that history should not be weaponized to settle present-day scores. The past can offer valuable lessons, but an obsessive focus on historical grievances can be detrimental to societal progress.


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