Nava Vihara

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The Nava Vihāra or नवविहार (Sanskrit, meaning "New Monastery", (Persian: نوبهارNew Spring) was two Buddhist monasteries close to the ancient city of Balkh in northern Afghanistan. The temples and monasteries of Nava Vihara or Nau Bahar (Bihar) are spread over a very large area about 20 km south of the ancient city of Balkh or Balch Bami or Balch Bamiiyani (Bam mean roof)[1] above Chesma e Safa (Persian: چشمه صفا‎ Clear water source), not far from (Koh e Alburz (Balkh) Alburz mean high mountain Hara Berezaiti, a 1,032 m rigde).[2][3]

Historical accounts report it as flourishing as an important centre of Buddhism between the seventh and eleventh centuries CE. It may have been founded considerably earlier, perhaps in or after the reign of Kaniṣka, in the second century CE.[4][5][6]

Rise to prominence[edit]

Nava Vihāra, the main monastery at Balkh, became the center of higher Buddhist study for all of Central Asia. The Tokharian monk Ghoṣaka was one of the compilers of the Vaibhāṣika (a sub-division of the Sārvāstivāda School of Theravāda) commentaries on abhidharma and established the Western Vaibhāṣika (Bālhīka "of Balkh") School. Monks at Nava Vihāra emphasized the study of the Vaibhāṣika (Tibetan: bye-brag smra-ba) abhidharma, admitting only monks who had already composed texts of the topic.[5] Navbahar also housed a tooth relic of the Buddha, making it one of the main centers of Buddhist pilgrimage along the Silk Route from China to India.

Xuanzang's report[edit]

From the Memoirs of Xuanzang, we learn that, at the time of his visit in 630, there were in Balkh about a hundred Buddhist monasteries, with 30,000 monks, and that there was a large number of stupas, and other religious monuments and that Buddhism was flourishing in the Bactrian portion of Western Turk empire. He also described it as having strong links with the Kingdom of Khotan in the Tarim Basin. The temple was led by Kashmiris called Pramukha (प्रमुख, Sanskrit for "leader" or "administrator"), who, under the Arabized name of Barmak,[7] came to be known as the Barmakids).[6]

History under the Arabs[edit]

The Umayyads captured Balkh in 663 from the Turki-Shahis who had taken over the territory from the Western Turks. Although some Buddhists and even an abbot of Nava Vihāra converted to Islam, most Buddhists kept their faiths and accepted dhimmi status, as loyal non-Muslim protected subjects within an Islamic state by paying a poll tax jizya in lieu of the Zakat tax levied and compulsory military service for Muslims, and the monastery remained open and functioning.

The Barmakids, who attained great power under the Abbasid caliphs, are regarded as having their origin in a line of hereditary priests at Nava Vihāra, who had convereted to Islam.

An Arab author, Omar ibn al-Azraq Al-Kermani, wrote a detailed account of Nava Vihāra at the beginning of the 8th century that is preserved in a later 10th-century work, the Kitab al-Buldan by Ibn al-Faqih al-Hamadhani. He described Navbahar in terms strikingly similar to the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest site of Islam. He described that the main temple had a stone cube in the center, draped with cloth, and that devotees circumambulated it and made prostration, as is the case with the Kaaba. The stone cube referred to the platform on which a stupa stood, as was the custom in Bactrian temples. The cloth that draped it was in accordance with Persian custom of showing veneration that applied equally to Buddha statues as well as to stupas.[8]

Some Arabic sources erroneously describe the vihāra as a Zoroastrian fire-temple, presumably because of its proximity to Balkh, Zoroaster's birthplace. In Arabic sources, the monastery's name is represented as "Naubahar" or "Navbahar." Van Bladel (p. 68) has pointed out that this version of the name can be traced to the pronunciation in the Bactrian language.[6]

The Han Chinese pilgrim Yijing (I-tsing) visited Nava Vihāra in the 680s and reported it flourishing as a Sārvāstivāda center of study.

In 708 Nazaktar Khan, a Turk Shahi prince, in alliance with the Tibetan Kingdom recaptured Bactria from the Umayyads and established a fanatic Buddhist rule, including the beheading of the abbot who converted. In 715 Ibn Qutaybah recaptured the region for the Umayyads and Tibet switched sides to ally with him against the Turk Shahis. In retribution for the insurrection Qutaiba inflicted heavy damage on Nava Vihāra resulting in many monks fleeing to Khotan and Kashmir.

Al-Biruni, a Persian scholar and writer in service to the Ghaznavid court, reported that, around the start of the 2nd millennium, the Buddhist monasteries in Bactria, including Nava Vihāra, were still functioning and decorated with Buddha frescoes.

A curious notice of this building is found in the writings of Arabian geographer Ibn Hawqal, an Arabian traveler of the 10th century.

Cultural Influence[edit]

The word "Navbehar" (or its variants) appears in several locations of present-day Iran, a sign of the extent of Buddhist impact in ancient times. The Arch of Nava Vihāra can still be seen today near Balkh.

The many Buddhist references in the Persian literature of the period also provide evidence of Islamic–Buddhist cultural contact. Persian poetry, for example, often used the simile for palaces that they were "as beautiful as a Nowbahar (Nava Vihāra)." Further, at Nava Vihāra and Bamiyan, Buddha images, particularly of Maitreya, the future Buddha, had 'moon discs' or halo iconographically represented behind or around their heads. This led to the poetic depiction of pure beauty as someone having "the moon-shaped face of a Buddha." Thus, 11th-century Persian poems, such as Varqe and Golshah by Ayyuqi, use the word budh with a positive connotation for "Buddha," not with its second, derogatory meaning as "idol." It implies the ideal of asexual beauty in both men and women. Such references indicate that either Buddhist monasteries and images were present in these Iranian cultural areas at least through the early Mongol period in the 13th century or, at minimum, that a strong Buddhist legacy remained for centuries among the Buddhist converts to Islam.

Nau Bahar as the Fire Temple in Sassanid dynasty[edit]

Nau Bahar
Persian: نوبهار
Nava Vihara is located in Afghanistan
Nava Vihara
Shown within Afghanistan
Coordinates 36°43′47″N 66°53′6.8″E / 36.72972°N 66.885222°E / 36.72972; 66.885222
Type ruin

Acoording to research by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall were the seven great idol monuments and fire temples of ancient time the Iranian plateau or Persia.[9][10] He described it as the world's seven wonders. Three of the seven world-famous fire temple lay on the floor of present day Afghanistan Naubahar[11] near Balch, Shahbahar by Kabul (als Shevaki temple ) and Subbahar in Ghazna, renamed Tap e Sardar in Ghazni. Three of the seven world-famous fire temple lay in Iran as country and one in Baku of Azarbaijan. In the time of the Zoroastrian Sassanid fire temple

Naubahar meant New spring (in the sense of Nauruz, New Year). Besides this fireplace there were two Buddhist monastery as Nava Vihara in the time of Kuchan dynasty which are still known as Takht i Rustam[12][13] and Tape e Rustam or Top-i-Rustam.[14] The fireplace Naubahar said in the Samanid dynasty as a mosque with nine domes and recently renamed as the grave of Haji Piadah Baba Haji Piyada. east Coordinates: 36°42′58″N 66°54′18″E / 36.71611°N 66.90500°E / 36.71611; 66.90500

Von Hammer-Purgtall listing these seven temples, which had already mentioned Thomas Hyde (1770) confirmed, namely, that the fire tempel Nush Azar (lovely fire) was in Naubahar of Balkh. He verified the statements of Al-Masudi Muruj adh-dhahab wa ma'adin al-jawhar (Arabic: مروج الذهب ومعادن الجواهر‎ translated The Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems)[15] and Ya'qubi in his book Kitab al-Buldan about Naubahar by Balkh, Shahbahar by Kabul and Subahar by Ghazni.

Abu-Mansur Daqiqi of Tus and Balch writes in Gustasepnameh:

Original[16] English from Arthur George and Edmond Warner,

Persian: چو گشتاسپ را داد لهراسپ تخت
Persian: فرود آمد از تخت و بربست رخت
Persian: به بلخ گزین شد بران نوبهار
Persian: که یزدان پرستان بدان روزگار
Persian: مران جای را داشتندی چنان
Persian: که مر مکه را تازیان این زمان

Romanized
Cho [Tscho] Goshtasp ra dad Luhrasp Takht (Tacht)
Frud amad az Takht o bar bast Rakht (Racht)
Ba Balch Gozin schud bar an Nau Bahar (Nobahar)
Ke Yazdan Parastan badan Rozgar
Mar an Jai [Dschai] ra Dashtandi chenan [Tschenan]
Ke mar Makka ra Taziyan in Zaman

English Translation
How Luhrasp went to Balkh abd how Gushtasp sat zpon the Throne
Now when Luhrasp, descending from the Throne
Resigbed it to Gushtasp, he made him ready
To go to Naubahar un cherished Balkh,
Because he had become Gods votary,
And men then held that fane in reverence,
Just as the Arabs reverence Mecca now[17]

(1) Gjemschid Dschamshid or Jamschid, also Yama

Books[edit]

Masjid no Gonbad in the timae of Samanid[edit]

now as Tomb of Hajji Piadah Baba[edit]

Video of fire temple of Naubahar[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Thomas Hyde:Historia Religionis Veterum Persarum..., London, 1700, P.P. 29, 418, 493
  2. ^ http://books.google.de/books?id=mGIQAQAAMAAJ&q=%27%27Koh+i+Alburz+Balkh%27%27&dq=%27%27Koh+i+Alburz+Balkh%27%27&hl=de&sa=X&ei=J9EZU728F8uRswb1yYDgBA&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAQ
  3. ^ http://books.google.de/books?id=ZhVFAAAAYAAJ&q=%27%27Koh+e+Alburz+Balkh%27%27&dq=%27%27Koh+e+Alburz+Balkh%27%27&hl=de&sa=X&ei=WM8ZU7uyNsGPtQa4i4H4BA&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAg
  4. ^ Historical reports referring to the monastery span from Xuanzang to Al Biruni.
  5. ^ a b History of Buddhism and Islam in Afghanistan, Last accessed 03 Jan 2008
  6. ^ a b c van Bladel, Kevin (2011). "The Bactrian Background of the Barmakids". In Anna Akasoy and Charles Burnett and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim. Islam and Tibet Interactions along the Musk Routes. Farnham, UK: Ashgate. pp. 43–88. ISBN 978-0754669562. 
  7. ^ Bailey, H. W. (1943). "Iranica". BSOAS 11 (1): 1–5. 
  8. ^ Bosworth, C. Edmund (1994). "Abū Ḥafṣ 'Umar al-Kirmānī and the Rise of the Barmakids". BSOAS. 57(2): 268–282. 
  9. ^ Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall [1] Gerold, Wien, 1831, p.p 76
  10. ^ Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall, Anzeige des Siebenmeers: nebst einem Verzeichnisse mit Wörtern Germanischer […], Wien, 1831
  11. ^ Thomas Hyde: (1770)[2], Historia religionis veterum Persarum eorum que magorum, p.p. 102, 103, 303-305
  12. ^ http://via.lib.harvard.edu/via/deliver/deepcontent?recordId=olvwork284481 Takht-i Rustam
  13. ^ http://via.lib.harvard.edu/via/deliver/deepcontent?recordId=olvwork285049 Takht-i Rustam
  14. ^ http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/charles-edward-yate/northern-afghanistan-or-letters-from-the-afghan-boundary-commission-hci/page-21-northern-afghanistan-or-letters-from-the-afghan-boundary-commission-hci.shtml Tope-i-Eustam and Takht-i-Rustam E=R
  15. ^ Mas'ūdī: Les Prairies d’Or. Texte et traduction par Barbier de Meynard et Pavet de Courteille. 9 vols. Paris 1861–1877. [3], Vol. 4 de 9, Pg 47, Pg.474
  16. ^ http://www.jasjoo.com/books/poem/daghighi/goshtasp-nameh/2/
  17. ^ Warner, Arthur George and Warner, Edmond,[4] The Shahnama of Firdausi, VOL. V, London 1909, p.31

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Pictures of No Gonbad mosque (Nine-Dome Mosque)[edit]