February 2015Our only stop today was Vikramshila University in the town of Bateshwarsthan. This is the birthplace of Vajrayana Buddhism. Originally established by King Dharampala in the late 8th or 9th century in response to what he saw as a decline in the quality of education at Nalanda. Vikramshila is one of the more important centers of Buddhist learning, along with Nalanda. This center, however, is much smaller with only one hundred teachers and one thousand students. It taught such interesting subjects as theology, philosophy, grammar, meta-physics and logic.
The university was destroyed by the Turks around 1200.
Vajarayana is a branch of Buddhism, related to esoteric ritual practices associated most strongly with a branch of Tibetan Buddhism, Tantrism. Tantrism is found in both Buddhism and Hinduism.
While it is quiet I wanted to go back to a site we saw in Varanasi. We had a quick stop at the Mother India Temple to view a map. Maps are an interesting concept in India. We have used maps throughout time and consider them a vital part of exploration and getting around, but this is not so in India.
Pilgrimage maps were the first maps of India, and these make the most sense. The candles and oil lamps that light the holy rivers drew the body of the Goddess (Bharat Mata) and gave sanctification to what was imagined to be the landscape of the country. So the concept of India can’t really be drawn in a western manner.
The second problem arises with “What is India?”
“There is no such country, and this is the first and most essential fact about India that can be learned. India is a name, which we give to a great region including a multitude of different countries. There is no general Indian term that corresponds to it.” – Sir John Strachey, 1888.
Because maps are such a touchy subject in India the Geographical Survey of India is the only organization that that is authorized to make official maps of India.
In April of 2013 the national surveying and map-making body filed a complaint with the Delhi police accusing Google of violating India’s national map policy. According to India’s 2005 National Map Policy, no department or entity, apart from the Survey of India, has the authority to produce maps of the country.
We passed another ethereal rock form today with a temple called Khelgaon or Jahngira.
Some sights from our slow, relaxing journey down the Ganges.