"There are numerous gods in the universe and a
true Buddhist respects all the gods worshipped by mankind"
The History of Buddhism and Buddhism in India dates back to the birth of Shakyamuni or Gautama Buddha, about 2,500 years ago. Buddhism attained momentum after lord Buddha attained realization in approximately 531 BC, after which he taught widely, all across the places in India. The rapid growth of Buddhism did not stop, even after his passing in approximately 486 BC.
Historians holds that by the time of his passing, Lord Buddha had taught most of Buddhist teachings, encompassing, what came to be known as the three major vehicles or cycles of the Buddhist teachings, i.e., Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana . Each of these cycles of teaching became popular at different periods in the history of Buddhism in India.
The Hinayana Teachings
Shortly after Buddha's Mahaparinirvana (passing away), disciples of the Buddha held a council at Rajgir, known as the First Council, which emphasized the Hinayana teachings. Initially, it remained one of the many small sects in India and 18 schools of Hinayana were known by the time of the great Indian King Ashoka. The main breakthrough came when King Ashoka (ca. 270-232 BCE) converted to Buddhism. He did not make it a state religion, but supported all ethical religions. He organized the spreading of Buddhism throughout India.
The Mahayana Teachings
The Mahayana teachings became popular after the new millenium and continued to spread throughout Asia in the first century CE. Over the following centuries, the teachings became a very strong presence in countries throughout Asia, including Tibet. In India and surrounding countries, great Mahayana teaching masters such as Nagarjuna, , Aryadeva, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga, Dharmakirti, Tilopa and Naropa became famous.
The Vajarayana Teachings
Although, Buddha taught the Vajrayana to a restricted group of suitable disciples later in his life, the Vajrayana cycle of teachings did not became popular until the Sixth Century CE. At that time, many of the great Mahayana masters of scholarship took up the Vajrayana path in their later years and left their institutions to practice Vajrayana tantras.
Following this last flowering of Buddhist thought in India, Buddhism began to decline. It became increasingly a tradition of elite scholar-monks who studied in great monastic universities like Nalanda and Vikramashila in Northern India. Buddhism failed to adapt to changing social and political circumstances, and apparently lacked a wide base of support.
But a silver lining appeared during the reign of East India rule, when many Buddhist society were established including the Buddhist Society of South India, founded by Ayoti Daas, as well as other unrelated Buddhist activities took place in Bengal and other places in India. Later, In 1956 Dr. Ambedkar held a conversion ceremony, and apart from himself converted 500,000 untouchables to Buddhism. Thus, in the last few years, the people of India has become more conscious of Buddhism and its teachings.