Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reconnecting history in Malala’s land

When the voice of truth rises from the minarets,
The Buddha smiles,
And the broken chain of history reconnects.

The lines are from the poem, The Relics of Butkara, written by Malala’s father and quoted by her in her autobiography, I am Malala.  I’m still reading the book and found this passage about Butkara, her birthplace, interesting.

“Our Butkara ruins were a magical place to play hide and seek,” she writes.  They were relics from the days when Buddhism was practised by the people of the place.  In other words, Malala’s forefathers must have been Buddhists.  The people who are now Muslims have a Buddhist ancestry.  It is that reconnection that Malala’s father speaks about in his poem. 

“Islam came to our valley (Swat) in the eleventh century when Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni invaded from Afghanistan and became our ruler, but in ancient times Swat was a Buddhist kingdom,” writes Malala.  “The Buddhists had arrived here in the second century and their kings ruled the valley for more than 500 years.  Chinese explorers wrote stories of how there were 1,400 Buddhist monasteries along the banks of the River Swat, and the magical sound of temple bells would ring out across the valley.  The temples are long gone, but almost anywhere you go in Swat, amid all the primroses and other wild flowers, you find their remains.  We would often picnic among rock carvings of a smiling fat Buddha sitting cross-legged on a lotus flower.  There were many stories that Lord Buddha himself came here because it is a place of such peace, and some of his ashes are said to be buried in the valley in a giant stupa.”

The land of that smiling Buddha who advocated peace and simplicity of heart today resounds with booms of guns wielded mercilessly by religious terrorists.  If only the terrorists realised that their forefathers belonged to a different religion altogether.  If only they realised that their religion was imposed on them by a conqueror from beyond the borders.  Would they then still want to kill for that religion?

If only we all understand that religion is a mere ‘accident’, a chance event, that happened to us some time in history due to certain necessities or fortuitous occurrences.  There may be no violence in the name of religion at least.  And much violence in the world occurs in the name of religion, directly or indirectly.

If only we could reconnect some broken chains of history.  The world would be a much happier place.

Wish you all a Happy Diwali filled with the light of awareness, enlightenment. 


  1. Very few of us realize that many things about us are accidents. As you say, religion is an accident. A person is educated because (s)he happened to be born to parents who could provide education, while another person is uneducated because (s)he happened to be born to parents who could not provide education. One can go on and on.
    Yet, we fight in the name of religion, educated people tend to look down on uneducated people, ...

    1. Agree with you that most of the fortunes as well as misfortunes are inherited. However, as I go on reading Malala's book I'm more and more disgusted with religion-generated violence because that very concept is an oxymoron. But then, I ask myself again: "Is it?" Just like politics has been the last refuge of the scoundrel, hasn't religion too been the last refuge of perverts? Well...


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