The Pallavas: Southern India’s First Great Dynasty (3rd to 9th CE)
God forbid! God forbid! Those sinners who torment living beings by forcing them to practice celibacy, shave off their hair, wear filth, fix time for meals and don impure garments, should not be referred to even by way of reproach. Hence, I would like to wash by wine my tongue, made impure by the reference to the heretics.
-Satyasoma, a drunken Kapalika (Shaivite mendicant), referring to Jain monks as heretics
But why is it that possession of women and drinking of liquor not prescribed by the Tathagata [the Buddha]? How could the omniscient fail to see that? I am sure that those lazy, wretched elders must have blotted out from the canonical books the ordinances regarding women and of liquor to spite us, the youngsters. From where can I procure an uncorrupted original text? Then by making known to the world the complete teachings of the Buddha I shall do service to the congregation of the Buddhists.
-Nagasena, a Buddhist monk
Satyasoma and Nagasena were among the main characters in the 7th-century CE Sanskrit play Mattavilasa Prahasana.* Set in Kanchipuram, it is a satire commenting on the various religions and religious practices of the time and was widely enacted in the temple theatres of present-day Kerala and Tamil Nadu during festivals.
But what’s more surprising is that the play was written by Mahendravarman I, an exceptional ruler of Southern India’s first great dynasty, the Pallavas. Besides being a celebrated piece of literature, the play also offers us glimpses into life during those times. There is a mention of corrupted courts, temple towers, Buddhist monasteries and flower shops. More importantly, it points towards the decline in Buddhism and Jainism in the region against the backdrop of a strong revivalist movement of Hinduism that was taking place during the time.