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Religious liberalism in Rajput courts

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There are some manifestations of religious liberalism evident in the acts of Rajput rulers who held sway over substantial areas of the Northern India in past centuries.

Support of Zoroastrianism

, Jadi Rana

Zoroastrianism, the state religion of Sassanid Persia, was supplanted by Islam following the defeat of Yazdgerd III at the Battle of Nihawand in 642 AD. In due course, the residence of non-Muslims became untenable and many Zoroastrians who continued to adhere to their ancestral faith were forced to emigrate.

According to the Qissa-i Sanjan, an epic poem written c. 1600, one group of those fleeing Zoroastrians landed in what is now Gujarat, India. They were granted refuge by the local king Jadi Rana, and were allowed to practise their religion freely. These refugees would later found the city of Sanjan (in present-day Gujarat; cf. Sanjan in Greater Khorasan).

There is an even older tradition which links the Zoroastrians to India. Many Rajput rulers built temples to the Sun-God (Mithra or Mihira in Persian). By tradition, only the Maga/Bhojaka priests, originally from Shaka-dvipa (present-day Afghanistan) were entitled to conduct worship in these temples. The Maga (termed Magi in the New Testament) were priests belonging to the Mazdayasni (Zoroastrian) tradition.

Support of Buddhism

Buddhism had a significant present in several early Rajput kingdoms, although that faith had declined in popularity during the Gupta period, whose era preceded that of the early Rajput kingdoms.

The Gahadvalas were an early Rajput dynasty who ruled a substantial area in present-day Uttar Pradesh in the 12th century. Gahadvala Govindchandra (1114—1154 AD) supported the construction of a large Buddhist vihara at Jetavana. A copper-plate grant of Govindachandra dated AD 1129 mentions the donation of several villages to the Jetavana Mahavihara, the chief of whom was Buddha-Bhattaraka. An inscription (c.1170 AD) by Gahadvala Jayachandra, located at Bodhgaya, opens with an invocation to lord Buddha, the Bodhisattvas and the king's own preceptor, a monk named Srimitra. It mentions the construction of a cave-monastery at Jayapura. The dikshaguru of Jayachandra was Jaganmitrananda (Mitrayogi), who is considered one of the Mahasiddhas; his book, the Chandra-raja-lekha, has survived in its Tibetan translation.

Numerous other examples of Rajput support to Buddhist institutions exist. Inscriptions documenting the renewal of grants to Buddhist Viharas by the Chandellas of Bundelkhand is one example. The Ajanta caves are Buddhist and were created in the Rashtrakuta kingdom. The Shilaharas of Kolhapur are also known to have richly supported both Jainism and Buddhism.

File:Osiyan1 photo wiki.jpg

Support of Jainism

Jainism veritably flourished during Rajput rule. Jains were often appointed to high government positions, and Rajput kings richly supported Jain scholars and institutions. Numberless Jain temples ornamenting the landscapes of Rajasthan and Gujarat, including those at Mount Abu, Palitana and Osian, bear testimony to the support extended by Rajput rulers to the Jain tradition.

References

  • Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India: Their History and Their Contribution to Indian Culture, Sukumar Dutt. 1962.
  • The Rise and Decline of Buddhism in India, Kanai Lal Hazra
  • Thakur Deshraj: Jat Itihas, Delhi, 1934

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