Referring to both literary and numismatic evidence, in this paper I consider possible links between the Buddhist Kālacakratantra literature, the Ismāʿīlī traditions of Sind and Multan, and the Ghaznavid Empire. The Kālacakra literature identifies Muḥammad, the prophet of Islam, as an avatāra of Allāh. ʿAlī, and probably Muḥammad, are presented in a similar vein in medieval Sind and Multan, where the Ismāʿīlī influence was very strong. Similarly, the Arabic term rasūl is translated as avatāra in the Sanskrit legend inscribed on the bilingual coins struck by Maḥmūd of Ghazna, after his campaigns in Sind and northwestern India. These dynamic equivalences utilized the same strategy: they adapted alien religious figures and concepts to the local context, which was mainly Vaiṣṇava. Indeed, the doctrine of the avatāras of Viṣṇu and other Vaiṣṇava elements are taken and reinterpreted in Kālacakratantra texts, in al-Bīrūnī’s Kitāb al-Hind - written at the court of Maḥmūd of Ghazna - and in some forms of Ismāʿīlī literature. The adoption of a similar kind of analogy, in approximately the same period, suggests a reciprocal investigation, intersection, and assimilation between the three above-mentioned different religious and cultural contexts.
The present article deals with traces of possible interrelations between Buddhism and Islam in Kashmir. To this end I investigate the representation of Buddhists and Muslims in the Rājataraṅgiṇīs of Kalhaṇa, Jonarāja, Śrīvara, and Śuka. While the authors of the Rājataraṅgiṇīs based themselves on older source materials when writing of historical events, in the case of more contemporary events they incorporated eyewitness reports and personal observations into their accounts. In contrast to widely held belief, the Rājataraṅgiṇīs are for the most part concerned with contemporary events. The latter halves of the works of both Kalhaṇa and Jonarāja are dedicated to the recent past and to contemporary history. Śrīvara and Śuka deal with their eras almost exclusively as witnesses (fifteenth to sixteenth century). Together, their works cover the early mythic periods from the first king of Kashmir (Gonanda I) and the eras of independent Hindu and sultanate rule prior to the Mughal conquest (1586) by Akbar’s troops and the formal annexation (1589) of the Kashmir Valley at the end of the sixteenth century. Written in the sophisticated style of ornate narrative literature, they encompass some 12,500 Sanskrit couplets. I present the gist of the evidence collected from their works as comprehensively, yet as briefly, as possible.
In this paper, I discuss the likelihood that in fourth-century BCE Central Asia Buddhists and Hellenists may have met, and their philosophical systems and argumentative techniques may have influenced each other. In order to formulate an answer to this question, I outline the origins of Buddhism as a tradition of rational inquiry and discuss the possibility of a Buddho-Greek encounter against the background of accepted knowledge that Buddhism ventured into the Central Asian region only at a later date. Hereafter, I address the possible role that late eighth-century Muslim thinkers in Central Asia may have played in transmitting the Buddhist argumentative technique to Europe, where it became the standard instrument with which, from around 1200, scientific texts were drawn.
In the 1340s, a group of Chinese emissaries arrived at the Tughluq court in Delhi to request permission to rebuild a Buddhist temple that purportedly had been destroyed by the sultan’s armies. Although their request was denied, the then ruler Muḥammad b. Tughluq sent them back with a caravan laden with gifts for the Mongol emperor. To ensure their safe return, he assigned the task of accompanying them to the Moroccan traveler Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, who had interrupted his journeys for nearly a decade to take up residence as judge in the Tughluq court. Taking this incident as a point of departure, I question how categories of religious difference were articulated in Ibn Baṭṭūṭa’s famed Riḥla [Journey] through his treatment of sacred monuments, landscapes, and living practitioners. More specifically, I look at the ways in which encounters with non-Muslim monuments and religious practitioners functioned in Ibn Baṭṭūṭa’s account of his travels through India: as narrative catalysts, as refractions of a geospatial imagination, and as transformative agents in the Islamicization of regions far beyond the dār al-islām.