Destruction of Nalanda:
In response to the article "History Writing to the Rescue against Sectarian Nationalism"

C. K. Raju

This refers to the article “History Writing to the Rescue against Sectarian Nationalism: A Tribute to Prof D. N. Jha”[1] by Ram Puniyani.

I did not personally know the late D. N. Jha, though he lived nearby, and sought and reprinted in his book[2]  my article on Kosambi, earlier published in Economic and Political Weekly.[3]

Mr Puniyani is completely wrong in attributing the destruction of Nalanda to Hindus. As pointed out long ago, in my article on “Time in Medieval India”[4]  Nalanda was destroyed not by Bakhtiyar-i-Khalji but by his son Muhammad-i-Bakhtiyar-Khalji, who sacked the university of Nalanda, in 1190, and who butchered in large numbers the unarmed Buddhist monks, ‘the Brahmanas with shaven heads’ who lived there, and burned their books (contrary to the injunction to Muslims to not burn books).

This is recorded in the Tabakat-i-Nasiri as follows.

The greater number of the inhabitants of that place were Brahmans, and the whole of these 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 Musalmanas, they summoned a number of Hindis that they might give them information respecting the import of these books, but the whole of the Hindis had been was found that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindui tongue, they called a college... Bihar [Vihar].[5]

The confusion between Muhammad-i-Bakhtiyar and Bakhtiyar-i-Khalji is probably because of the tradition of Muslim conquerors to start a new town when they destroyed an old one. There is a Bakhtiyarpur near Nalanda.

But such as gross inaccuracy of denying that it was Muslims who destroyed Nalanda is not appropriate in an obituary written for a historian, because it would throw into doubt other things he wrote. And I guess doing such a disservice is not the intent of the obituary.

1. Frontier Weekly, Vol. 53, No. 32, Feb 7 - 13, 2021.
2. C. K. Raju, ‘Kosambi the Mathematician’, in The Many Careers of D. D. Kosambi: Critical Essays, ed. D. N. Jha (Delhi: Left Word Books, 2011), 168–206.
3. C. K. Raju, ‘Kosambi the Mathematician’, Economic and Political Weekly 44, no. 20 (16 May 2009): 33–45,
4. C. K. Raju, “Time in Medieval India” Science, Philosophy and Culture: Multidisciplinary Explorations, Part 2, ed. D. P. Chattopadhyaya and Ravinder Kumar, PHISPC, 1997, pp. 253-278. Reprinted, History of Indian Science, Technology and Culture AD 1000-1800, ed. A. Rahman, PHISPC, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 32-49. Reprinted, Indian Horizons. October I999-March 2000, vol. 46(4) and 47(1) pp. 40-71.
5. Tabakat-i-Nasiri, A General History of the Muhammadan dynasties of Asia including Hindustan from AH 194 (AD 810) to AH 658 (AD 1260) and the Irruption of the Infidel Mughals into Islam. Maulana Minhajud-din, Abu-‘Umar-i-‘Usman. Tr. from the Persian by H.G. Raverty, vol. 1, reprint, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1970, vol l, p.552. The sequel recounts how Muhammad-i-Bakhtiyar carried his campaign into Tibet, but got trapped and lost almost all his men, returned with only a hundred or so men, and died heartbroken.

Feb 21, 2021

Prof. C. K. Raju

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