Out of the blues, I got stuck at Dr. Tharoor’s remarks. In a conversation, Dr. Tharoor  had claimed that after a sanguinary Partition, it was only reasonable for history to be employed in “a nation-building project”. And my next destination was part of this “nation-building project”. I was at Bakhtiyarpur Junction, which lies on the Howrah–Delhi main line and is about 46 km away from Patna. It is a major railway junction in Danapur railway division, ECR. Also, if one intends to visit the remains of old, glorious and world famous NALANDA University, one can make a stop since Bakhtiyarpur-Tilaiya line also originates here, connecting Rajgir, Bihar Sharif and Harnaut of Nalanda district up to Tilaiya.

This picture has been taken from Wikipedia.

How is Bakhtiyarpur Junction an effort of ‘Nation-building process’ ?

If I quote Wikipedia – “Bakhtiarpur is named after Bakhtiyar Khilji(Ikhtiyar ad-Din Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji). He was the military general of Qutb-ud- din Aybak later founded Bakhtiyar city. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakhtiarpur

But let me add some more historical details about this great man(great enough to get an important Railway Junction and town named after him in Patna district in the state of Bihar, India). According to historical studies, the University of Nalanda was established during the era of the Kumaragupta. He was a famous Gupta emperor. Prajnavarman and Xuanzang, both claimed him as the laying founder of the university, which is also proved by the seal discovered at the site of ruins of the Nalanda University. The university was attacked thrice by the invaders- Huns, Gaudas and Bhaktiyar Khilji. 

During the reign of Skandagupta, Huns were the first one who tried to destroy the university under Mihirakula. But the library was restored and improved with a bigger building and better faculties by Skanda’s successors. The second invasion was done by the Gaudas which was again restored by Harshavardhana; the Buddhist king. Khilji was an illiterate person who was hired by some Turkish rulers due to his military skills. But the army led by Turkish leader Bakhtiyar khilji did the most destructive attack in 1193 who tried to destroy the roots of knowledge, Buddhism and Ayurveda, from the country.

In the attack, the library kept burning for more than 5 months. 

At that point of time, the Library was a very prestigious and renowned repository of Buddhist knowledge throughout the world. The library of the Nalanda University was called Dharma Gunj which meant the “Mountain of Truth ”. The library consisted of three main buildings, which stood up to nine stories. It was composed of hundreds and thousands of volumes of books. This is quite evident from the fact that it took about 3-6 months for it to burn down completely, at the time when it was set aflame by the Muslim invaders. The three library buildings were called upon by their respective names that included Ratnasagar-The Sea of Jewels, Ratnarañjaka-Delighter of Jewels and Ratnodadhi-The Ocean of Jewels.

With the smoke, all the knowledge that mankind has collected and stored went into the flame. It is not tough to understand the vastness of the library of Nalanda University from the information that it took so many months by the invaders to burn it down completely and the smoke of the burning invaluable books and nearly 9 million manuscripts stayed there for many days.

In 6th century B.C. during the reign of Narasimha Deva, the university was built to serve the quench of knowledge of the world. It remained the best for over 800 years with around 10,000 students and nearly 2700 faculties who came from all over the world like Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Greater Iran, Persia, Greece, Mongolia and many more. Some of the very famous scholars who studied at Nalanda University include Dharmapala, Vasubandhu, Suvishnu, Dharmakirti, Asanga, Harshavardhana, Shantarakshita, Aryadeva, Nagarjuna, Padmasambhava and Xuanzang.

The Paradox of Bihar and Bakhtiyarpur 

For an ordinary Indian who reads the glorious History of Nalanda and gory details of its destruction in 1193 A.D, this is a euphemism at best and chicanery at worst. The naming of Bakhtiyarpur is a ruse to eclipse the politically unpleasant events of history, that the frail emotional-intellectual constitutions of particular communities may not be offended; and that the almost apocryphal narration of the ‘high virtues’ of a pre-independence political entity may enable its domination of the free country’s government. 

Dr. Tharoor made the tenuous claim that old wounds had already healed, and that they were now being re-exposed designedly for odious political purposes. History and politics, regardless of the perspicacity and prescience of historians and statesmen, are ever slightly miscible, and it is only natural that history should sooner or later be employed for political purposes. Dr. Tharoor, however, does not appear to realize an obvious error in his argument, namely, that wounds cannot be said to have healed with mere concealment thereof with discriminatory narration of history. For, should new research impugn that which has authoritatively been passed off as history, such questions as, “Why did my government, composed of the disciples of Gandhi’s precepts of truth, lie to me?” are very naturally posed. This is a very obvious precursor to amplifying social animosities.

My impression is, and this may well be erroneous for it is only an impression and not a thesis corroborated by empirical study that commends the view to me, that there pervades amongst the ‘elite’ a general reticence if not animus against India’s original history; certainly in the academic and diplomatic class if not the political class.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.