A record of the nAstika attack on hi~NgulA

Hindu historical tradition holds that bauddha-s of the sindhu had made common cause with the the Arab marUnmatta-s as they launched invasion after invasion into jambudvIpa. This is not entirely surprising given that the bauddha-s (at least the sthaviravAdin-s) from the sindhu (along with those of shrIlankA) had show a notable iconoclastic streak before they themselves fell prey to the buddha-busting beards. We have accounts that they burned vajrayANa tantra-s and demolished images of heruka-s such as hevajra at gaya. So it is hardly surprising that they made common cause with the marUnmatta-s blissfully unaware that the fate that they hoped for the Astika-s was to soon fall upon them, not just in the sindhu but throughout jaMbudvIpa. We also have some evidence for earlier iconoclastic activity on their part even though this is narrated in a perhaps anachronistic fashion in the bauddha chronicles such as the history of the lAma tAranAtha and chIna chronicles of the major saMghakAra-s.

Legend holds that upon the death of satI, rudra was disconsolate and wandered carrying her calcined body. To relieve rudra of his sorrow viShNu hurled his chakra and cut the body of satI into fifty one pieces that fell all over bhAratavarSha defining its sacred geography by founding the sites of the shaktI pITha-s. Her brain is said to have fallen to the western boundary of bhAratavarSha and founded the pITha of hi~NgulA. It lies in the Makran desert (today in the Balochistan province of TSP) and is associated with several mud volcanoes. The nAstika-s narrate an account of how this shrine was “subjugated” by a tAthAgata:

“The shAkyasiMha had prophesied to his cousin Ananda that 300 years after his death (parinirvANa) a great bauddha would emerge who would spread their shAsana all over India. In a city called bhR^igukachCha in Gujarat there was a chieftain called darshana belonging to the kShatriya clan of the pANDu-s. He had a son called sudarshana who was richly endowed in wealth and had a retinue of beautiful women. One day while going to his garden with his ladies he saw an bauddha arihant known as shukhAyana. He bowed to the arihant who offered him a lecture on the bauddha-mata. sudarshana underwent an instant conversion and sought to renounce the world and become an arihant himself. He then sought his father’s permission who instead bound him in chains. Then sudarshana showed miracles like levitation, emitting light and the like and his father acceded to him becoming an arihant. Thereafter he also converted his father to the bauddha way. Eventually, he became the supreme leader of the bauddha saMgha and acquired a great following among all the four varNa-s. In the sindhu lived a mighty yakShiNI hi~NgulAchI with great powers of mAyA. She caused epidemics in various lands and when people tried to flee those lands she assumed dreadful forms and blocked their paths. They used to offer her food drawn in a large cart by six oxen and also a man, a woman and horse. Then sudarshana decided to crush her. So he took alms of cooked food from a village in the sindhu and went to the temple of hi~NgulAchI and began eating it. He then desecrated her place by washing his mouth there. Furious, she showered stones and weapons at sudarshana. But he being an arihant meditated in undisturbed on compassion as these showered on him and his followers. Then using his own miracle powers he set fire to the place. Burnt by it hi~NgulAchI became afraid and sought refuge in the arihant. He preached the bauddha-mata to her and converted her to the the bauddha way. Since her conversion no flesh or blood has ever been offered to her. Realizing that after him there would be none to crush the yakSha-s and nAga-s who did not follow the bauddha-mata he went on a mission of subduing 500 of such and established vihAra-s for the saMgha to propagate the buddha’s way. Then he went to the chIna-s and spread the bauddha-mata among them to an extant.”

What is interesting in this account is that the description of the hi~NgulA pITha is fairly specific: 1) It is described as being in the west of bhAratavarSha in the sindhu province. 2) The custom of offering a large amount of food is mention – a practice which continued to a degree until recently despite the heavy hand of Islam over the region. Offerings were made in large amounts and carried to the mud volcano where they were offered directly into the geothermal vent. 3) The hurling of stones and weapons by hi~NgulA is probably an allusion to the volcanic activity of the site. The event is supposed to have taken place at the time of ashoka’s reign because sudarshana is supposed to have attained nirvANa just before ashoka’s death. It is possible that the bauddha chronicles composed much later anachronistically placed this attack on hi~NgulA in ashoka’s time and attributed it to an important arihant who is supposed to have been greater than the subsequent arihants. The figures in these chronicles are primarily early sthaviravAdin-s whose history was supposedly recorded by a kShemendrabhadra, the source of tAranAtha. It is possible the sthaviravAdins attributed the “conquest” of hi~NgulA back in time to sudarshana and this was taken up by the vajrayANa chroniclers later.

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