Guru Susarman Visayapati
Ruler of the Theocracy of Bengal
duration 718-731
Predecessor Title created
Successor Guru Mandira Javnada
Leader of the Bengali Buddhist rebels
Duration 704-718
Predecessor none
Successor none
Full name
Susarman Visayapati
Born 647
Bengal region, under the Gupta Dynasty
Died 731
Theocracy of Bengal
Religion Buddhism
Occupation preaching Buddhism

Guru Susarman Visayapati was an important religious and political figure of the beginning 8th century in the Ganga Dynasty, as well as the founder of the Theocracy of Bengal. Preaching violence to defend the Buddhist faith, his ideas were often perceives as radical during his life. However, after his death, many would see in him a great mind of Buddhism, and future Buddhist rebellions would follow his initiative and ideas in the centuries following his death.

Early Life

Born in the Bengal, he always saw the local population as a unique nation and ethnic instead of being simply part of the major Indian culture. He was raised by noble parents, but decided to become a Buddhist after he saw one gave everything to save the life of a pregnant woman.

He was at first trained into a Buddhist monastery in the eastern part of the Gupta Dynasty, but felt uneasy due to the lack of Bengali with him, and returned to his natal region. There, he would found a monastery in 671. During the First Great War of India, he would use his monastery to hide numerous Buddhists civilians from the Gupta and Ganga troops who were fighting in the region.

Stories tell that one day Somesvara (the Admiral of the Ganga fleets and the brother of their Raja Khanchana I) came to the monastery, asking to be allowed in to search for possible gupta soldiers, since some of them were seen around here. Susarman responded that Gupta soldiers indeed came, and even tried to enter by forced, but flee when they heard of the presence of Ganga soldiers near. Somesvara, who didn't believed him, offer him to come in the monastery alone and unarmed to check, which Susarman accepted. In the temple, Somesvara saw with surprise hundreds of refugees living there. He asked Susarman how many people were working in the monastery, to which the Buddhist replied he was the only monk there. This impressed an touched Somesvara, who ordered his men to give half their rations to the monastery. Some version also claim that Somesvara secretly converted to Buddhism, although it seems to be only local propaganda.

In the years following the First Great War of India, Susarman gained in faith for protecting the Buddhist, and rapidly rose to be one of the most known Guru of the Bengal region. He also praised Palaka I reign, which was considered as the golden age of the Ganga Dynasty.

Rebel Leader and Buddhist Activist

Bengal budish rebels

Flag of the bengali Buddhist rebels

However, things went wrong when Palaka I's son Khadaga II, who placed many laws that persecuted Buddhists around the realm. This made many people uneasy, especially when a special tax for Buddhists was put in place. When in 704, Khadaga II made the Buddhist religion illegal, Guru Susarman called the Buddhist people to rise against this tyrant, and to make the Ganga Dynasty a place were once again Buddhists would live in peace, which resulted in a rebellion known as the Ganga Buddhist Crisis. However, only a small number of people followed him, even if he had the support of a nobleman of the north named Hirapal Yadava. This resulted in many bloodshed at the hand of Chandrajara.

When the Indian Empire began to invade the Ganga Dynasty, the oppression on the Buddhists was released, but Guru Susarman and his men also lost their only ally, Hirapal switching side for the Indian invaders. Guru Susarman was than left with a hard choice. The Ganga Dynasty was falling, and the only man left fighting for its independence was the same man that murdered many of them in the last decade. The Indian Empire was clearly not an option, as they heard of the massive conversion happening there. Now came the hard choice. They could ether support the Gupta Dynasty, which was once their homeland, or the Chenla Kingdom, which was Buddhist and would treat them well. In the end, Guru Susarman chose to follow the first one to act against the Indian Empire and Chandrajara. Until then, Guru Susarman proclaimed in 718 the Theocracy of Bengal.

The nation would survive the war, and in the end survive under Guru Susarman leadership. With the fall of the Ganga Dynasty at the hands of the Indian Empire, Guru Susarman began to militarize the small nation, believing the Indians would one day invade the region. Many Buddhists, seeing in the Theocracy of Bengal the state they always dreamed of, left India to join him. The success of this small nation would be because of Guru Susarman hard work, which was saddly too hard for the old man he was. He died in 731, leaving behind him a successor who promised to continue his ideas.

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