Posted on June 30th, 2014

by   B. A. Ariyatilaka

 Imagine yourself voyaging in a sailing ship from the Equator coming due north, some seven hundreds of kilometres longitudinally west of Sri Lanka . For hundreds of miles you pass islands both on the left and on the right as you travel, all set in a sparkling blue ocean. From the palm fringed shores of these islands, both large and small, arise dazzling white stupas each with a towering spire pointing high into the sky. That is the picture of the Maldivian islands in pre-Islamic times some eight hundred years ago.

 At the Paranavitana Gallery of the Colombo Museum there is a display of Buddhist artifacts brought from the Maldivian Gan island by Sri Lanka ’s pioneering archeologist H.C.P. Bell. Among the display is a fragment of a Buddha head exquisitely carved out of lithic material. This type of stone is only available in Sri Lanka . It is a reasonable assumption that monks and lay Buddhists would have gone over there from Sri Lanka a very long time ago. They established close links with the existing Maldivians who subsequently, had a religion and a culture almost indistinguishable from our own.

 Our ancient links with the Maldives The story of Buddhism in the Maldives is unravelled to us by Professor Vinie Vitararana in his book, Sri Lankan-Maldivian Cultural Affinities” who assembled the data from the work of many previous scholars in the subject.

 The year 1153 C.E. proved to be a great turning point for the religion of those islands. According to a legend related in the chronicle Tarikh, Sheik Yusuf Shams-ud-din arrived in the Islands and exorcised the spirits said to have possessed the King Theemugy Maha Kalaminja, a Buddhist.

 He promptly converted to Islam and ordered his courtiers to do likewise. In a short time all the inhabitants of the islands had changed their religion. In this way the Maldives lost its ancient culture built up over more than a thousand years and with it, Buddhism.

 Consequently Arabic culture soon engulfed the Maldivian way of life. Travellers returning from Arab lands pressed for the full Islamisation of the  country to ensure the security of Islam and to expunge Buddhism from public memory. The people began to add on or even adopt completely new Arabic names. The old script, evele akuru, which closely resembled sinhala akuru, was replaced by the Arabic script.

 Paucity of literary records

There are no literary records left except for a few inscriptions engraved on statues and coral slabs to give us a guide to the nature of pre-Islamic Maldives .

 But the extensive archeological discoveries found in almost all of the inhabited islands afford us considerable insights into the nature of the Maldivian past which is mainly Buddhist culture and which closely paralleled the state of Buddhism that prevailed in this country in those times. The discovery of a figure of Tara shows us that elements of Mahayana Buddhism had also found a niche in Maldivian Buddhism just as it had in Sri Lanka during the late Anuradhapura period.

 Buddhism in the face of Semitic intolerance Semitic monotheistic religions insist on the destruction and sweeping away of the past wherever it triumphs or has become a majority in the host population. The message of the Old Testament of the Bible is clear on this subject. Speaking of rival religions it says, destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves”. (Exodus: 34: 13).

 This is confirmed in the Holy Qur’an which says, Slay the polytheists wherever you find them” (Qur’an 9:5).

These culture-obliterating Biblical Quranic clauses has caused Buddhism to suffer greatly or be exterminated entirely in Asia, where, before it had flourished and made huge contributions to raising levels of culture and happiness in Asian civilisation.

The absence of absolute rules, giving freedom in so many areas, allowed great cultural statement in Buddhist societies.

 In stark contrast, the new absolutism, newly installed in the Maldives and as elsewhere, resulted, as the Professor’s book relates, in the harmless but free-thinking Buddhist monks and all those who resisted the change, to be beheaded all to the gleeful shouts of ‘Allah hu Akbar’

 All these Asian countries with a Buddhist past would have experienced a great and wilful destruction of their own Buddhist art, architecture and  monuments.

These would be either modified or replaced entirely as a means of obliterating the memory of a tolerant religion. An additional reason for the loss in the Maldives is that many Buddhist monuments were made of softer rocks or coral, which deteriorated in time.

 Male Museum , a heritage from British scholarship The Museum at Male houses sufficient artefacts to give us a good idea of the state of Buddhism in the Maldives at that time. Of these, the Buddha head with wide-open eyes, a characteristic different from those of Anuradhapura , shows that its style is distinctly Maldivian. If it originally was a part of a standing statue, it would have conformed to the dasa riyan (10 cubits) measurements of Buddhist iconography. A second head in the museum is from a Buddha statue and is very similar to those in Anuradhapura and Medirigiriya.

 Another item in the museum is the limestone fragments of a Sri-Pada (Holy Footprint) which is shown bordered by beautifully designed lotus buds. The feet are shown incised with auspicious signs including the svastika.

 Another precious item in the museum is the carved figure of Tara , mentioned above, with her hand in varada” (boon-granting) gesture. Other sculptures include slabs, panels and carved friezes all of which are familiar to us from similar items in Anuradhapura and elsewhere. These works of art, mercifully preserved for us in the Colombo Museum , indicate emphatically that Sri Lanka and the Maldives shared a common religion, a similar culture and a common history prior to the Islamic period.


The demon figures exhibited at the Male Museum must be described here, too. Buddhism, strictly speaking, requires one to work towards one’s own  salvation the Noble Path. But in this world of pratagjanas (worldlings), the daily struggle for health, immediate wealth and material gain is also a  pragmatic fact of life. To cater for both these aspects of human existence in the Maldives , demon worship existed side by side with the lofty spiritual ideals of Buddhism as is illustrated by the presence of these demon figures.

 Stupas, ponds and reservoirs The Buddhist stupa or dagoba occupies a central place in any temple complex. It is the centre of religious worship. 

Practically all the inhabited islands had stupas of varying sizes. The National Centre for Historical and Linguistic Research has mapped out these sites. In the islands of Gan and Fua Mulaku, archaeologist Bell documented the existence of stupas, finials, capitals, pillars, carved stones, images, beads and jars and a vatadage (circular relic house) -all of which serve to indicate just how deep rooted Buddhist culture was in the Maldives in those far off times. Ponds and reservoirs are also necessary adjuncts to Buddhist temples. Some were still in existence as the discoveries of Bell reveal.

 Place names such as Lankafuri (‘City of Lanka ’) and Viha Mana Furi (Vihara Mana Pura) ‘Delightful City of Buddhist Monasteries’ are easily  recognisable to those conversant with the Sinhala Language.

 It is a theme of this writing to reveal the similarities between the Maldivians and the Sinhala cultures that existed a thousand years ago. Peaceful monks who went there from Sri Lanka had planted the Buddhist culture there. They were not military adventurers or invaders directed to uproot existing cultures and replace them with new ideas of religion.

Nor did they disorientate the inhabitants by requiring worship of revered items unseen and in far distant

 The Maldives being a series of flat coral islands,were on the main sea routes to the East and, without strong and determined defence were easy prey for pirates, buccaneers and adventurers. They were very vulnerable to attacks and invasions from seafarers or overseas cultures. Finally this actually happened and they submitted to their fate. Today not even a small Buddha statue can be introduced to these islands without attracting a criminal penalty.

 Sri Lanka is indeed, very fortunate to still practice Buddhism despite the various changes in its fortunes over the centuries of 2500 years. The fate of Buddhist Maldives is an object lesson for the Sinhalese.

 B. A. Ariyatilaka


  1. hela puwath Says:

    There are tens of thousands of Moldivians settled in Colombo, mainly around Dehiwala, Panadura. They were warmly invited and securely settled by our rulers and enjoy the best of everything that transformed Colombo has to offer.

    Maldives now is no different from extremist Islamic Saudi Arabia; in both one cannot even be in possession of a Buddhist Vesak card.

    But yet what can a Sinhela Buddhist expect in The Maldives whose past inhabitants and rulers were Buddhist.

    This article by B.A. Ariyatilaka should serve as a lesson to the Maldivians in Sri Lanka of what it was, and to Sri Lankans what it could be.

  2. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Muslims wiped out
    complete civilisation in Egypt
    Parsees from Persia
    Buddhists from Afghanistan & Maldives
    Sikhs from Lahore
    Sindhis from Sindh
    Kashmiri pandits from Kashmir
    Hindus & Buddhists in Bangladesh.
    Christians and Hindus from several Islands of Indonesia

    But the real enemies to defeat are the disturbing emotions and attitudes that lie hidden in the mind. Buddhism’s “Jihad” is purely an internal spiritual war against the inner foes. Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha was born into the warrior caste and often used military imagery to describe the spiritual journey. Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha was the Triumphant One, who defeated the demonic forces of unawareness, distorted views, disturbing emotions, and impulsive karmic behavior.

  3. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    In Saudi Arabia there is no Church, Synagogue, Buddhist nor Hindu Temple is allowed. Wahhabism (pseudo Salafism) is NOT a religion of tolerance. Wahhabism provides the fundamental base for Jihadism which causes unending strife and misery. It is not Iran that should be bombed. In Iran there are still Jews living there and praying in their Synagogues. Muammar al-Gaddafi respected Christian and Jewish religions and their Churches, Synagogues in Libya but American, English, French, Saudi and Qatari financed terrorists destroyed Churches, Synagogues recently. Buddhist Temples including Bamiyan Buddha statues have survived in Islamic countries for centuries, but they could not survive under the Wahhabism.
    Washington and London are protecting Wahhabi extremists. In Syria Christians and their Churches were safe before the Westerners began sending their Wahhabi fanatics to kill innocent Syrian civilians.
    In Bosnia and Kosovo, under the guise of “reconstruction aid”, Saudi Arabia, Kuwaiti, and other Wahhabi organizations have demolished and removed major Islamic monuments (survived attacks by Serb and Croat militias) which were created by Muslims with an Islamic culture and tradition stretching back to 14th century long before Ibn Abd al-Wahhab made his 18th century alliance with the warlord Ibn Saud who founded the Saudi dynasty – House of Saud.
    In post- Muammar al-Gaddafi Libya,Wahhabi Jihadists bulldozed several Libyan Sufi mosques (including the Tripoli’s Al-Shaab Al-Dahman mosque) and Sufi graves (including the tombs of Libyan Sufi scholars Abdullah al-Sha’ab, Abdel Salam al-Asmar and of soldiers who fought Spanish colonialists). Wahhabi Jihadists also burned down several historic Sufi libraries in Libya recently.
    Since the start of the Arab Spring uprising by Wahhabi Jihadists, many Sufi sites have been attacked in Egypt, Mali and Libya by armed Wahhabi Jihadists.
    The Wahhabis, and the British, supported the warlord Ibn Saud and legitimized the warlord Ibn Saud and his fight against the Ottoman Empire. Since then the House of Saud always supports Britain and its allies including USA and Israel. When the House of Saud took control of the Holy Places in Arabia from the Ottoman Empire with British support , they destroyed 15 centuries of Islamic heritage, including the desecration of the tombs of the wives and companions of the Holy Prophet, in the iconoclastic imposition of Wahhabism. The iconoclastic Wahhabi House of Saud gradually destroyed several holy shrines, including historical places of Islam from the Prophet’s house in Mecca and companion Ayoob Ansari’s house in Medina and turned them into apartments buildings and hotels. They also turned the site of the Prophet’s wives’ houses into a parking lot.
    The Wahhabi-backed House of Saud took full control of the Hijaz, Mecca and Medina, in 1924 and established the modern state of Saudi Arabia, with Wahhabism as its official religion. Since then the House of Saud has promoted Wahhabism as normative Islam throughout the Islamic world. The House of Saud was consolidated on massive oil wealth and has spent huge sums of money building Wahhabi mosques, publishing Wahhabi literature and funding Wahhabi organizations world-wide. Today, with Wahhabi control of the Holy Places intact, virtually every aspect and corner of modern Islam has been penetrated by Wahhabi influence through the agency of the House of Saud.
    Through the control of the Hajj – the beating heart of Islam – and through their vigorous publication and propaganda means, almost all the Muslims are infected with Wahhabism to some extent.
    Present Zionist and Wahhabi doctrines foresee the fall of Iran, Belarus, and, ultimately Russia and China, after the fall of Damascus, to the combined forces of NATO and the Saudi- and Qatari-backed Wahhabis, who make up a large portion of the anti Syrian movement.
    Sufism is an entirely indigenous Islamic resistance movement to fundamentalism an throughout South Asia including Sri Lanka for several centuries, the spiritual tradition of Sufism is vigorously present. Across Pakistan, the religious tenor has been correspondingly radicalised: the tolerant, Sufi-minded Barelvi form of Islam is now overtaken by the rise of the more hardline and politicized Wahhabism. Remember Sri Lankan cricketers were ambushed in Lahore by armed Wahhabi Jihadists.
    Wahhabi ideology of Islam reached Sri Lanka in the 1940s, but was not accepted by Sri Lankan Muslims. Later oil rich Saudi Arabia greatly began to penetrate Sri Lanka’s adherents to Islam in 70′s., With the increased funding by the Saudi Arabia with their petro dollars, Wahhabi followers have increased and are now responsible for the sectarian clashes that are slowly increasing among Sri Lankan Muslims especially in the Eastern Province. It is sadly true but there is a rising trend of Wahhabi Jihadism in Sri Lanka. Wahhabis are trying to take the peaceful Islamic community in Sri Lanka down the path of extremism and violence.Wahhabi fundamentalism has advanced so quickly in Sri Lanka partly because the House of Saud has financed the building of so many madrasas,The Wahhabis have already created deep divisions in among Sri Lankan Muslims and have formed gangs that intimidate moderate Muslims who speak out against Wahhabi fanatics. Like the Christian fundamentalist groups using NGOs to convert innocent poor families to Christianity, Wahhabis help poor Muslim families by providing cash and other material benefits to convert the innocent poor Muslim families into their cult. By building churches and madrasas all over the world to harvest the poor souls is truely very clever idea. Wahhabis even use Sri Lankan Government Cultural and Religious Affairs Departments to continue their nefarious activities.
    Wahhabis claim that moderate Sri Lankan Muslims do not know anything of Islam and only themselves are the real scholars of Islam. But Wahhabis preach only “dawah” of hatred, terror and murder. To understand the deranged mentality of Wahhabis look at the “fitna” the Wahhabis have caused in Pakistan. The Government authorities must investigate every Wahhabi school and propagandist in the Eastern Province to make sure they are not preaching things that are inimical to Sri Lanka. Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Wahhabi terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia spends 87 billion US dollar per year to spread Wahhabism world-wide. Scholarships are offered to our Muslims youths to go to Wahhabi institutions in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But those who completed their Wahhabi studies returned to Sri Lanka and propagate Wahhabism.
    Wahhabis have infiltrated Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). Almost all the participants and staffers in the Muslim section of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation are Wahabis and use the State radio to propagate Wahhabism. Not only Wahhabis run private unlicensed radio stations in the Eastern Province, also armed Wahhabis often attack mosques and leaders of the Sufi sect.
    Wahhabism in Srilanka is headquartered in Kattankudi is a new politico-religious movement that is sweeping the Eastern province of Sri Lanka with more than sixty Muslim Wahhabi organizations helping in propagating the movement throughout Sri Lanka and has raced ahead and taken control of the Jihadist and Al Fatah groups in Sri Lanka under their wings. Wahhabism is imported and planted in the midst of peace-loving Muslims in Sri Lanka, mostly through the lavish inflow of Saudi money pumped into Sri Lanka has overtaken other Islamic organizations by threats, intimidation and coercion.
    Remember Colonel Lateef was gun down by the prominent Wahhabi militant `Police` Faiz in Oddamavadi. CIA introduced Wahhabism in Sri Lanka through Saudi Arabia as a means of countering the growing support for Iran and Sufism among the Sri Lankan Muslims since CIA had calculated that Wahhabism would be an effective rival theology to prevent the spread of Iranian influence in Sri Lanka.
    Clashes between Sufis and Wahhabi Muslims in Kattankudi and in Oddamavadi occured on a regular basis due to the conflict of beliefs between both religious theologies. In October 2004 similar clashes occurred in Kattankudi and more than 200 homes of Sufi followers were burnt down by Wahhabi Jihadists.
    One of the Sufi leaders Abdul Payilvan died in Colombo was buried at in Kattankudi the next day. Wahhabi Muslims observed a hartal and demanded the removal of the body from the burial grounds. Wahhabi Muslims claim Kattankudy soil is sacred and bodies belonging to those who preach views contradictory to Wahhabism should not be buried there. Wahhabis demanded that the body of Abdul Payilvan, who is from Maruthamunai in the Ampara district, should be exhumed and buried elsewhere.
    Wahhabis had dug up the buried body of another Sufi Muslim from Mosque burial grounds and dumped the body on a local road as an act of protest. Kattankudi Police recovered the body, re-buried it in the original burial ground and guarded burial ground for few days.
    In Kattankudi, the hatred between Wahhabis and Sufis has widened in the last few years and has grown in intensity, left many injured, and caused damage to several houses and vehicles.
    P Jainul Abedin – a powerful Wahhabist preacher from Tamil Nadu – is leading the Wahhabi Jihadism in Kattankudi.

    Organisations like the Saudi-funded Centre for Islamic Guidance cropped up in the early 1990s, Firdous said.
    A more recent 2009 clash in the south-western Muslim coastal town of Beruwala reflects similar religious tensions between a popular Sufi sheikh and a nearby Wahhabi congregation.
    Saudi agents have successfully penetrated Sri Lankan Muslims social fabric and have managed to defeat the Sufism in their game. Due to the training afforded by the House of Saud now the Wahhabis have prevailed over the Sufis. The Muslims in Sri Lanka have been subdued due to the Wahhabi influence while Buddhists have been agitating for the release of Rizana Naffek – teenage housemaid from Muthur who was sentenced to death by a Wahhabi Sharia Court in Saudi Arabia.
    The House of Saud pretending to be the leaders of the Islam promote their Wahhabi ideology world-wide. The result has been the birth of al-Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Wahhabi terrorist groups which are killing Sunni and Shia Muslims alike in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Wahhabism has been taking roots in Maldives from the days of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Abandoning its tolerant, syncretic brand of Islam, Maldives now moves towards an intolerant Wahhabi society.

    al-Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba are overseen by the CIA and Mossad who want to destabilise countries that are not friendly to them. Because the House of Saud depends on the Americans for its security it always obeys American orders. The constant demonization of Iran and now the war against Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad confirms a perception that Western Countries have joined with the Wahhabis in the Wahhabis’ war on the Shia. Wahhabi Jihadism remains a long-term security risk to the civilized world. In particular, through the spread of Wahhabi education in tens of thousands of religious schools world-wide, the practitioners of Wahhabism are breeding tens of millions of youth who are certain to remain outside the productive economy, and as a consequence, seethe with resentment and anger against the rest of society.

    Even the forced exodus of the Hindu Pandit community from the Kashmir Valley in India during the early 1990s, and the destruction of several Hindu and Sikh temples by the Wahhabi Jihadists in Kashmir, failed to slow down the volume of laudatory coverage of what were portrayed Wahhabi Jihadists as freedom fighters battling cruel Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir State by the Western media. The “Kashmir Model” of using the language of democracy and human rights to win Western support, even while adhering to a contrary policy in practice was widely used to topple Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. Wahhabis hated Muammar al-Gaddafi for the fact that he ruled Libya, with no quarter given to Wahhabi demands as the imposition of Sharia law or the banning of women’s dress other than the abaya. After Muammar al-Gaddafi was defeated and killed, Wahhabi Jihadists who took over Libya as a result of huge help from Nicholas Sarkozy and David Cameron have lost no time in imposing a Wahhabi version of Sharia law in Libya and in killing and jailing those who disagree with their extremist world-view. Fortunately for them, Western media channels that were once filled with news about Libya under Muammar al-Gaddafi are now silent about the immense human rights violations taking place in Libya after its “liberation” in 2011.

    Seeing the success of such a pitch in Libya, Wahhabi Jihadists against the Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, have begun cultivating the Western media and public opinion, the way the Wahhabi Jihadists in Kashmir used to do in the 1990s.

    So extreme has the identification with such elements become, that even the largest Western media outlets accept without question such “facts” as that Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad bombed his own troops and facilities in order “to blame it on the insurgents.” Since the armed uprising by Wahhabi Jihadists began in Syria several thousand members of the Syrian security forces and their family members have been killed by the Wahhabi insurgents, who themselves have lost thousands of their own.

    However, those relying on Western media are told that every such death has been caused by the Syrian security forces, ignoring the deadly violence that is being unleashed in Syria by groups of armed Wahhabi mobs.

    Today in Syria, women can dress as they please. Were the Wahhabi Jihadists to take control, this freedom might soon be replaced with the obligation to wear the full veil. Already in Egypt and in Tunisia, the secular ethos of the country is rapidly giving way to Wahhabism.
    While Western countries are opposed to Wahhabi Jihadism and Sharia law in their own countries, in the Arab countries they favor Wahhabi Jihadism over those who are secular. The result is a galloping Wahhabism and its Sharia law across the Arab countries.
    Since the Western countries subterfuge to destabilise Sri Lanka, by surreptitiously supporting the LTTE failed, now the Western countries will promote Wahhabi Jihadism to cause strife and trouble to destabilize Sri Lanka . Wahhabi followers – al-Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-TaibaTaliban and other Wahhabi terrorist groups – have caused untold misery in several countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Sri Lanka appears to be their next target. The Sri Lankan government must take immediate strict measures to control Wahhabi organizations and ban them. Wahhabis have already built several illegal Mosques in Sri lanka using Saudi Arabia’s petro dollar. The overwhelming peace loving Muslims of Sri Lanka will extend their support to the government in this matter. As the Wahhabis are even capable of starting ethnic riots between the peaceful Sinhalese and the Muslims, the Sri Lankan government must not be lethargic on this matter.

  4. hela puwath Says:

    Nalliah Thayabharan, why don’t you write up an article and get it published in not only Lankaweb, but also in SL newspapers?
    May be also some British papers as well. Great article!

  5. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Illuminating article. I had no idea that the Maldive nation was Buddhist till I read this article. Now having read this articl it is even more urgent to purge the Muslims (and for that matter the Christians and Hindus) out of Sri Lanka no matter how long it takes. It has been done with success in Islamic Pakistan that purged all Non Muslim minorities and if it can be done in Pakistan it can be done in Sri Lanka.

  6. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia’s ruling House of Saud have been intimately and permanently intertwined since their births. Unlike Islam in other Muslim countries, however, Wahhabism treats women as third class citizens, imposes the veil on them, and denies them basic human rights such as: driving cars; the freedom of traveling within the country or leaving it without permission or Mahram-a relative male chaperon, the interaction with men who are not related to them in order to maintain a complete separation of the sexes; and until a few decades ago denied them public education and banned them from Radio & Television.
    Wahhabism created the Saudi monarchy, and the House of Saud spread Wahhabism. One could not have existed without the other. Wahhabism gives the House of Saud legitimacy, and the House of Saud protects and promotes Wahhabism. Wahhabism is highly self-centered and extremely intolerant of progressive ideologies, other religions, and other Islamic sects such as Shiism and Sufism. It despises Arab Nationalism with a great deal of passion, yet it promotes “Saudi” nationalism, despite the fact that any nationalism is considered a violation of Islamic theology due to the concept of Islamic Ummah (“nation”).
    Wahhabi Islam has already penetrated every nook and corner of the Muslim world. It is right time that like minded Muslim scholars join together and put an end to its spreading further in the interest of protecting the younger generation. What is causing a big concern is that these Wahhabis concentrate much on brain washing the youths. This is a dangerous trend and the Sunnath Jamath Moulvis and followers should take a serious note of this. More than the illiteracy prevailing in the Islamic community, its backwardness, unemployment etc, what is the serious problem confronting the whole Muslim society is Wahhabism.
    There are NO SECTS in islam, indeed Koran specifies God’s dislike of schism in very clear terms. “Muslims” have taken it upon themselves to create various sects, each claiming others are wrong, this defeats the whole concept of “ummah”. Sects are clearly a human trait as Judaism & Christianity are also plagued with this divide, and at any rate all people who believe in One God should be part of one “Ummah”, instead we all seem to worship our Egos/parents religion/history rather than God.

  7. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha’s period saw not only urbanisation, but also the beginnings of centralised states.The successful expansion of Buddhism depended on the growing economy of the time, together with increased centralized political organization capable of change. Buddhism had seen a steady growth from its beginnings to its endorsement as state religion of the Maurya Empire under Ashoka Maurya (304BCE–232 BCE). It continued to flourish another 4 centuries and spread even beyond the Indian subcontinent to Central Asia and beyond to China.

    Ashoka Maurya banned Vedic sacrifices as contrary to Buddhist benevolence, Buddhism began its spread outside of its Magadha homeland. The succeeding Shungas reinstated the sacrifices. They also built the large Sanchi stupa next to a Shunga capital. The overall trend of Buddhism’s spread across India and state support by various regional regimes continued.The consolidation of monastic organization made Buddhism the center of religious and intellectual life in India. Pushyamitra the first ruler of the Sunga Dynasty built great Buddhist topes at Sanchi in 188 BCE. The succeeding Kanva Dynasty had four Buddhist Kanva Kings.

    The decline of Buddhism in India is the result of the hostility of the Brahmans. The gradual expansion in the scope and authority of caste regulations shifted political and economic power to the local arena, reversing the trend of centralization.The caste system gradually expanded into secular life as a regulative code of social and economic transactions. In ancient times, the four varnas were primarily a categorization scheme and the Vedas did contain prohibitions regarding intermarriage. There were, however, large numbers of castes probably originally tribal lineage groups.

    Pusyamitra Sunga (185 BCE to 151 BCE) was hostile to Buddhism, he burned Sūtras, Buddhists shrines and massacred monks. The Hindu Saivite ruler Shashanka of Gauda (590–626) destroyed the Buddhist images and Bo Tree, under which Siddhartha Gautama is said to have achieved enlightenment. But a steady decline of Buddhism in India set in during the later Gupta era and under the Pala Empire. Chinese monks traveling through the region between the 5th and 8th centuries CE, such as Faxian, Xuanzang, Yijing, Huisheng, and Song Yun, began to speak of a decline of the Buddhist sangha, especially in the wake of the White Hun invasion. By that time, Buddhism had become especially vulnerable to hostile rulers because it lacked strong roots in society as most of its adherents were ascetic communities.

    In 711 Muhammad bin Qasim conquered the Sindh, bringing Indian societies into contact with Islam, succeeding partly because Dahir was an unpopular Hindu king that ruled over a Buddhist majority and that Chach of Alor and his kin were regarded as usurpers of the earlier Buddhist Rai Dynasty – a view questioned by those who note the diffuse and blurred nature of Hindu and Buddhist practices in the region, especially that of the royalty to be patrons of both and those who believe that Chach himself may have been a Buddhist. The forces of Muhammad bin Qasim defeated Raja Dahir in alliance with the Jats and other regional governors.

    Many instances of conversion of stupas to mosques such as at Nerun as well as the incorporation of the religious elite into the ruling administration such as the allocation of 3% of the government revenue was allocated to the Brahmins. As a whole, the non-Muslim populations of conquered territories were treated as People of the Book and granted the freedom to practice their respective faiths in return for payment of the poll tax (jizya). They were then excused from military service or payment of the tax paid by Muslim subjects – Zakat. The jizya enforced was a graded tax, being heaviest on the elite and lightest on the poor.

    The Gupta Empire period was a time of great development of Hindu culture but even then, in the Ganges Plain, half of the population supported Buddhism and the five precepts were widely observed. The Hindu rulers and wealthy laity gave lavish material support to Buddhist monasteries. After the Guptas, the Shaivite kings of Gujarat (as well as Nepal and Kashmir) also patronized Buddhist monasteries, building a great center of Buddhist learning at Valabhi. The Buddhist emperor Harsha and the later Buddhist Pala dynasty (8th to11th Centuries ) were great patrons of Buddhism but it had already begun to lose its political and social base.

    With the surge of Hindu philosophers like Adi Shankara(788 – 820), along with Madhvacharya and Ramanuja, three leaders in the revival of Hindu philosophy, Buddhism started to fade out rapidly from the landscape of India.

    By the 10th century Mahmud of Ghazni defeated the Hindu-Shahis, effectively removing Hindu influence and ending Buddhist self-governance across Central Asia, as well as the Punjab region. He demolished both stupas and temples during his numerous campaigns across North-Western India, but left those within his domains and Afghanistan alone. Hindu and Buddhist statues, shrines and temples were looted and destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni and many Buddhists had to take refuge in Tibet.

    Decline continued after the fall of the Pala dynasty in the 12th century and the gradual Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent. The Buddhism of Magadha was finally swept away by the Islamic invasion under one of Qutb-ud-Din’s generals Muhammad Bin Bakhtiar Khilji, during which many of the Viharas and the famed universities of Nalanda and Vikramshila were destroyed, and thousands of Buddhist monks were massacred in 12th century.

    Muhammad attacked the north-western regions of the Indian subcontinent many times. Gujarat later fell to Muhammad of Ghor’s armies in 1197. Muhammad of Ghor’s army was too developed for the traditional Indian army of that time to resist.

    In 1197 the capital, Bihar, was seized by a small party of two hundred horsemen, who rushed the postern gate, and sacked the town. Further, the slaughter of the “shaven-headed Brahmans,” as the Muslim chronicler calls the Buddhist monks, “was so complete that when the victor searched for a competent person to explain the contents of the library not a soul was alive.

    A similar fate befell upon the other Buddhist institutions, against which the combined intolerance and rapacity of the invaders was directed. The monasteries were sacked and the monks were slain, many of the temples were ruthlessly destroyed or desecrated, and countless idols were broken and trodden under their foot. Those monks who escaped the sword fled to Nepal, Tibet, and South India to avoid the consequences of war and Buddhism was finally destroyed and those areas then came under these Muslim rulers.

    Although the Mithila rulers were Shaivite Hindus, they continued the Pala patronage of Buddhism and offered strong resistance against the Ghurids. They stopped, for example, an attempted drive to take Tibet in 1206. The Sena king (a Hindu) installed defensive garrisons at Odantapuri and Vikramashila Monasteries, which were imposing walled citadels directly on the Ghurids’ line of advance.

    Nalanda escaped the fate of Odantapuri and Vikramshila monasteries. When the Tibetan translator, Chag Lotsawa Dharmasvamin (Chag Lo-tsa-ba, 1197 – 1264), visited northern India in 1235, he found Nalanda damaged, looted, and largely deserted, but still standing and functioning with 70 students.
    A Tibetan monk called Dharmaswamin visited Nalanda in 1235, nearly 40 years after its sack, and found a small class still conducted in the ruins by a 90 old monk, Rahul Sribhadra. Weak and old, the teacher was kept fed and alive by a local Brahmin, Jayadeva. Warned of a roving band of 300 Turks, the class dispersed, with Dharmaswamin carrying his nonagenarian teacher on his back into hiding. Only the two of them came back, and after the last lesson (it was Sanskrit grammar) Rahul Sribhadra told his Tibetan student that he had taught him all he knew and in spite of his entreaties asked him to go home. Packing a raggedy bundle of surviving manuscripts under his robe, Dharmaswamin left the old monk sitting calmly amidst the ruins. And both he and the Dharma of Sakyamuni made their exit from India.

    Many Buddhist monks fled Bihar and parts of northern Bengal, seeking asylum in monastic universities and centres in modern-day Orissa, southern Bangladesh, Arakan on the western coast of Burma, southern Burma, and northern Thailand. The majority, however, together with numerous Buddhist lay followers, went to the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, bringing with them many manuscripts from the vast monastic libraries that had been destroyed.

    Buddhism was in a strong position in Kathmandu at the time. The Hindu kings of the Thakuri Dynasties (750 – 1200) had supported the Buddhist monasteries, and there were several monastic universities. Since the end of the tenth century, numerous Tibetan translators had been visiting these centres on their way to India, and Nepalese masters from them had been instrumental in the revival of Buddhism in central and western Tibet. The early Hindu rulers of the Malla Period (1200 – 1768) continued the policies of their Thakuri predecessors.

    The Musalman invaders sacked the Buddhist Universities of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Jagaddala, Odantapuri to name only a few. They raised to the ground Buddhist monasteries with which the country was studded. The monks fled away in thousands to Nepal, Tibet and other places outside India. A very large number were killed outright by the Muslim commanders. How the Buddhist priesthood perished by the sword of the Muslim invaders has been recorded by the Muslim historians themselves.

    In 1215, Genghis Khan conquered Afghanistan and devastated the Muslim world. In 1227, after his death, his conquest was divided. Chagatai then established the Chagatai Khanate, where his son Arghun made Buddhism the state religion. At the same time, he came down harshly on Islam and demolished mosques to build many stupas. He was succeeded by his brother, and then his son Ghazan who converted to Islam and in 1295 changed the state religion. After his reign, and the splitting of the Chagatai Khanate, little mention of Buddhism or the stupas built by the Mongols can be found in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

    Timur was a 14th-century warlord of Turco-Mongol descent conqueror of much of Western and central Asia, and founder of the Timurid Empire destroyed Buddhist establishments and raided areas in which Buddhism had flourished.

    In Tamilnadu and Kerala, Buddhism survived until 15th to 16th century, as witnessed by the manuscript of the Manjusrimulakalpa. At Nagapattinam, in Tamil Nadu, Buddhist icons were cast and inscribed until this time, and the ruins of the Chudamani Vihara stood until they were destroyed by the Jesuits in 1867.

  8. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Please read the following

  9. RP Says:

    Yet, let me pose this question. Why is Buddhism so vulnerable ? Is it not due to a complacent don’t care attitude ? Do we not see the same complacent don’t care attitude amongst so many Buddhists in Sri Lanka today ? I am a Catholic and I find it so frustrating because it is an impossible task to get my Buddhist friends involved in raising a voice in defense of their religion. A good example is the Buddha Bar which was opened at one of the 5 Star Hotels in Cairo (it’s a French chain). All Buddhist Ambassadors ignored it with a ‘what can we do attitude’ and so did most of the Buddhists resident in Cairo. Finally when a Catholic Ambassador arrived in Cairo he managed to activate a few Sri Lankan Buddhist and others including myself and took the issue right to the top at Ministry level.

    Today when ‘Buddhist bashing’, is a major pastime of many, most Buddhists opt to remain silent blaming in fact the BBS. What a sad state of affairs.

  10. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Maldives had been settled by people from the nearest coasts, like the group today known as the Giravaaru. It is unlikely that the Giraavaru islanders were the only early settlers in the Maldives. The Giraavaru people were just one of the island communities predating Buddhism and the arrival of a Northern Kingly dynasty and the establishment of centralized political and administrative institutions. Prince Koimala from India or Sri Lanka entered the Maldives and became the first king from the House of Theemuge. Maldives was settled by successive waves of migration from India and more importantly Sri Lanka, had a vibrant Buddhist and Hindu culture.

    The ancient Maldivian Kings promoted Buddhism and the first Maldive writings and artistic achievements in the form of highly developed sculpture and architecture are from that period. The conversion to Islam is mentioned in the ancient edicts written in copper plates from the end of the 12th century AD. Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors and traders from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Until relatively recent times, Mappila pirates from the Malabar Coast harassed the islands.

    The Maldives were not always Islamic. Maldives was converted to Islam in the year 1153 AD by Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary – a Muslim from Maghreb (North Africa) . When Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary visited the Maldives the reigning king was Sri Tribuvana Aditiya. The first King of the Theemuge dynasty King Sri Mahabarana was his maternal uncle. Sri Tribuvana Aditiya ascended the throne around 1138 AD. After conversion to Islam he adopted the name Muhammed Ibn Abdulla. He sent missionaries to various parts of the Maldives to spread Islam. The first Friday Mosque to be built in Malé and the Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu Miskiy at Malé were commissioned by Sultan Muhammed Ibn Abdulla.
    After arrival at Malé Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary stayed in Maldives for several days. He was a Hafiz, a person who could recite the entire Holy Quran from memory. According to Thangeehu Kurevunu Dhivehi Raajjeyge Thaareekhuge Thanthankolhu (Researched excerpts from the History of the Maldives) the Hafiz succeeded in converting Maldivians to Islam after much effort and endeavour. His first efforts to proselytise did not meet with success. However his relentless perseverance turned out to be a tremendous service to the nation as Maldivians finally embraced Islam. The first convert was the king himself, who was followed by his wives and children and members of the court. After the people embraced the Islamic faith the Buddhist temples and idols were destroyed. Archaeological excavations carried out in Maldives at various times this century confirm the fact that there had been Buddhist temples in Maldives during the 12th century AD..
    Even after Maldivians adopted Islam Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary stayed in the Maldives to teach Islam to the people. He died during the reign of Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu (Muhammed Ibn Abdulla). According to historian Hassan Thaajuddheen, he was laid to rest at the shrine at Medhuziyaaraiy in Malé.
    The popular title attributed to Sultan Muhammed Ibn Abdulla, which is Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu implies that the Sultan was a pious and kind-hearted person who was generous, especially to the weak and poor. During his reign he strengthened adherence to the rules and principles of Islam, established laws of governance and destroyed the symbols of Buddhism. It is said that a long time after Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary’s death, the Sultan left on pilgrimage to Mecca and did not return.
    The 16th century saw the colonization of the islands by the Portuguese and the 17 years of Portuguese rule is referred to in Maldive history as “the dark night of Portuguese Christian rule.” It is claimed that the “seas ran red with blood” as the Portuguese attempted to convert the citizens to Christianity. The return to power of native rulers saw an Islamic revival, the adoption of the Arabic-style script, Thaana, and the visit to the islands of religious scholars who became the chief advisers to the sultans. Under their influence, the Kingship came to be seen as an institution created by Allah and held according to His wishes. Thus, correct religious practice on the part of the king (sultan) was seen as an essential justification of his right to rule and religious scholars were an essential part of the court. The Maldives was fairly unaffected by the British rule (the Raj) in the rest of South Asia and it wasn’t until 1887 that the country became a “protectorate” of the British; however, the British did not significantly interfere with the running of the state. Full independence was gained in July 26, 1965.
    Until recently, the people of the Maldives practiced a type of folk Islam which was influenced by Buddhism. They recited the Qur’an in the style of Buddhist chanting, the earlier mosques resembled Buddhist temples and the architectural designs of the mosques had a mix of Buddhist and Islamic influences, many Maldivian had had Hindu or Buddhist type names alongside Muslim ones and Dhivehi was written in a Brahmi based scrip[t. Now, the Maldives has been destroyed by these fundamentalist elements and now Maldives is so far gone that it look as it will never return back to its former glory. Had Hinduism and Buddhism still continued to exist in Maldives even after the arrival of Islam and Hindus and Buddhists had been able to coexist peacefully alongside Muslims, then the Maldives would have been a very different place now.
    Similar to the Afghan Islamic Taliban’s destruction of the priceless Buddhist and other historic artifacts in 2001, in February 2012, a group of Islamic extremists forced their way into the National Museum in Maldives and attacked the museum’s collection of Pre-Islamic sculptures, destroying or severely damaging nearly the entire collection about thirty Hindu and Buddhist sculptures dating from the 6th to 12th centuries.
    The scene took place at the Maldives’ National Museum where the destruction occurred. A group of five men who were a part of an Islamic Extremist group targeted artifacts dating from the Pre-Islamic era in Maldives. Of those destroyed, many Buddhist and Hindu relics were smashed and broken to pieces making them merely unrecognizable. Pieces destroyed, specifically included the “Bohomala sculptures, Hanuman statues, and the a sculpture of the Hindu water god, Makara. The two five faced statues from Male were also brutally damaged. This five-faced male was the only remaining archaeological evidence of a Buddhist era in Maldives and it too was destroyed, completely destroying any true history of the country. In addition an 11th century coral stone of the Lord Buddha was also wiped out. The museum staff were emotionally distraught and upset that any evidence of a Buddhist existence in Maldives was completely destroyed and torn down heartlessly. They stated that all their 12th century statues were lost which were made of coral and limestone. There is no way to restore them because they were very brittle and this makes it very difficult to remake, one of the staff members said. The Adhaalath Party, a Maldives Islamic group, who supports the newly elected President Mohamed Waheed, stated that the constitution does not allow idols anywhere in Maldives.
    Anyone with such ridiculous levels of intolerance, lack of respect or sensitivity for others are pure scumbags. Such acts are crimes against humanity, in that they should not be considered isolated incidents. They should be considered in conjunction with what happened at Bamiyan, the destruction of medical texts (considered anatomically correct pictures blasphemous) and the fact that humanity itself suffers grave losses due to such acts. This is not the mindset of the humane, these people will not only continue to destroy human cultural heritage, they will attempt to irradicate all aspects of human culture, art, science, religion, past, present and future that doesn’t fit into to their disgraceful, shallow, backward, medieval world view. Worse still, these goals are intended due only through the subjugation of the rest of humanity. The whole of the world should unite against such barbarism, including ESPECIALLY, the moderate muslims of the world in total unison.

    Wahhabism has been taking roots in Maldives from the days of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Abandoning its tolerant, syncretic brand of Islam, Maldives now moves towards an intolerant Wahhabi society. Recently two Maldives MPs – Dr Afrasheem Ali & Aishath Velezinee – were killed by Wahhabi Jihadists.

  11. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    “Wahhabi” essentially identifies a rather narrow and bigoted interpretation of Islam.

    The Wahhabis are
    (1) Extremely intolerant of “others” who do not share their specific religious beliefs;
    (2) Opposed to difference and pluralism;
    (3) Against civil rights;
    (4) Extremely anti-secular.

    To them the sole purpose of the state/politics is to serve their exclusive and bigoted interests.

    With the aid of oil revenues and the socialization of returning foreign workers, the Wahhabi distortion of Islam has spread widely in the last thirty years. In the Arab world, in South Asia, and in East Asia, Islamic workers and Islamic institutions have received aid from Saudi Arabian sources (usually private individuals and foundations) that have slowly embedded Wahhabism in many Muslim societies.

    The objective of Wahhabism is to revive the ritual and conceptual purity of Islam by seeking to eliminate the inclusion of culturally inspired practices under the rubric of religion. Yet its obsession with what is permissible and what is not has made it and its practitioners extremely intolerant of difference and otherness. This growing intolerance of the other has moved the practitioners of Wahhabism so far from the central peaceful and pluralistic principles of Islam that Wahhabism has become an ugly and ruthless caricature of a faith that, according to its foundational text (The Holy Qur’an), was sent as a mercy to humanity.

    When Prophet Muhammad established the first Islamic state in Medina, people of other faiths were free to practice their religions and had the same rights as Muslims in religious as well as political matters. But today in Saudi Arabia, the only Wahhabi state in the world, Christians and Hindus have very few rights and are prohibited from religious practice. They are not even allowed to celebrate their festivals openly. While Wahhabis today continue to fund the construction of mosques in India and in the West, they remain staunchly opposed to the construction of any temple or any church in Saudi Arabia. This is not only intolerant but also hypocritical.

    But we must pause before we judge Wahhabism as an Islamic byproduct. Wahhabism is a global condition and not some Islamic initiative unleashed upon the rest of the world. From the world’s oldest democracy to the world’s largest democracy one can see the festering of Wahhabi movements, sowing seeds of hatred, bigotry, and intolerance against “others” and seeking to capture the state to make it an instrument of hate.

  12. Lorenzo Says:


    I too experienced that. If a Sinhalese is called a RACIST, he gives up. FEAR of being called a RACIST stops Sinhalese.

    But we Tamils are different. IF anyone calls a Tamil a racist, he would actually feel PROUD deep inside. For a Tamil being racist is about being ATTACHED and COMMITTED. Ponnambalam famously screamed he’s the BIGGEST RACIST in the world. He won ALL the seats in Jaffna for it!!

    It is time Sinhalese should NOT mind being called racists by REAL racists.

    IF there is only the HUMAN RACE, a RACIST is someone who stands by the human race!!!

    But the BUDDHA BAR controversy is best avoided by Buddhists. Its not worth it.

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