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Chapter 06. Religious Revolution (Indian History Notes)


trade was generally looked down upon by the brahmins. The vaisyas who practiced this trade wanted to raise their social position in the eyes of religion.
The vaisyas gave their support to both Mahavira and Gautama Buddha. The merchants, called the setthis, offered precious gifts to Gautama Buddha and his disciples.
The Vedic practice of killing cattles in sacrificial rituals was inimical to the emerging agricultural economy. Besides, the Sanskrit language was the language of a chosen few while the common masses spoke Prakrit. The elaborate Vedic rituals were heavily felt even by the rich. The interior position of women also facilitated the growth of new religions which had actually started off the reform of the Hi nduism.
Vardhmana Mahavira is associated with Jainism. The Jains believe that Mahavira was the last of the 24 tirthankaras, or great teachers. The first was Rishabhadev. Their teachings constitute the core of the religion of Jainism.
Mahavira was born at Kundagrama (near Vaishali), in Bihar.
His father was the head of the Jnatrika clan and his mother was a Lichchavi princess.
At the age of 30, Mahavira left his home. For the next 12 years, he wandered from place to place in search of knowledge. Then one day, while meditating, he realized the truth. Through this knowledge, he conquered both misery and happiness. He came to be known as Jina the great conqueror. His followers came to be known as Jains.
Mahavira travelled from place to place preaching his message.
He visited the court of Bimbisara and Ajatashatru.
Jainism in the Past
The name of Jaina Tirthankra Rishabha is found in the Rig Veda.
► The Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavat Purana describe Rishaba as an incarnation of Narayana.
► The male nude torso discovered from the Indus Valley culture has something to do with the tirthankaras.
► There were twenty-four tirthankaras, all Kshatriyas and belonging to the royal family. Parsavnath was the 23rd tirthankara.
Jainism was based on five doctrines: (i) Ahinsa, non-violence, (ii) do not speak a lie, (iii) do not steal, (iv) do not acquire property and (v) observe continence (Brahmacharya). It is said that only the fifth doctrine was added by Mahavir, the other four being taken over by him from previous teachers.
Jainism recognized the existence of the Gods but regarded them lower than the jina. It did not condemn the Varna system. According to Mahavira, a person is born in a high or in a lower Varna in consequence of the sins or the virtues acquired by him in the previous birth. In his opinion, through pure and meritorious life, members of the lower castes can attain liberation. Full knowledge, action and liberation are considered to be the three gems or ratnas of Jainism.
24 Tirthankaras
Name Symbol
1. Rishabha Bull 2. Ajitnath Elephant 3. Sambhavanath Horse 4. Abhinandam Swamy Monkey 5. Sumathinath Curlew 6. Padamprabhu Red Lotus 7. Suparaswanath Swastik 8. Chandrajit Prabhu Moon 9. Suivdhinath Crocodile 10. Shitalnath Srivatsa 11. Shreyansnath Rhinoceros 12. Vasupujya Buffalo 13. Vimalnath Bear 14. Ananthnath Falcon 15. Dharamnath Vajra 16. Shantinath Deer 17. Kuntunath He-Goat 18. Aranath Fish 19. Mallinath Water Pot 20. Munisuvrata Tortoise 21. Naminath Blue Lotus 22. Neminath Conch Shell 23. Parswanath Serpent 24. Mahavir Lion According to Jainism, the tirthankaras descended on earth from time to time to guide the masses.
The Principles of Jainism as Preached by Mahavira
Rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Vedic rituals.
Svetambaras and Digambaras : Although Parsva, a predecessor of Mahavira, had asked his followers to cover the upper and lower portions of their body.
Mahavira asked them to discard clothes completely. On account of this, in later times Jainism was divided into two sect: svetambaras or those who put on white dress, and digambaras or those who keep themselves naked.
Sacred Literature : According to svetambaras, the original doctorine taught by Mahavira was contained in 14 old texts called “Purvas”, which was passed orally and was compiled later.
► The sacred literature of the Svetambaras is written in a form of Prakrit called Arghamagadhi and may be classified as follows:
(i) The twelve Angas (ii) The twelve Upangas
(iii) The ten Prakirnakas (iv) The six Chhedasutras
(v) The four Mulasutras This literature is not accepted by Digambaras.
Jaina Philosophy
► Syadvada : All our judgements are necessarily relative, conditional and limited. According to Syadvada (the theory of may be) seven modes of predication (saptabhangi) are possible. Absolute affirmation and absolute negation both are wrong. All judgements are conditional.
Anekantavada : The Jaina metaphysics is a realistic and relativistic pluralism. It is called Anekantavada or the doctrine of the ‘manyness of reality’. Matter (Pudgala) and Spirit (Jiva) are regarded as separate and independent realities.


Important Terms
Ajnanevada: Ajnanevada refers to the jain doctrine agnosticism or scepticim. In the Jaina text, there is mention of 67 kinds of Ajnanevada.
Anuvratas: Anuvratas refer to first five vows in Jainism.
These are more moderate version of Mahavrate. These vows include abstinence from gross violence, gross falsehood, gross stealing, contentment with one’s own wife and limitation of one’s possessions.
Avasarpini: In Jainism time is divided into infinite equal time cyeles or ‘Kalchakras’. Every time cycle is further divided into two equal halves. The first half is the progressive cycle or ascending order, called ‘Utsarpini’ where as the second half is the regressive cycle or descending order, called ‘Avasavpini’.
Samavasarana: The term samavasarana refers to a place where all have a common opportunity of acquiring the window the theme of Samavasarana has been popular in Jain art.
Samayasara: Samaysara is a famous Jain text written by Acharya Kundakunda. In this text, Acharya describes about ‘Ratnatraya’ which includes Samyak Darshan, Samyak Gyan, Samyak Charitra.
Samachari: It refers in a part of Kalpsutra. Which deals with Jain monks.
Jaina Councils
By the end of fourth century B.C., there was a serious famine in the Ganges valley leading to a great exodus of many Jaina monks to the Deccan and South India (Sravana Balgola) along with Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya. They returned to the Gangetic valley after 12 years. The leader of the group, which stayed back at Magadha, was Sthulabahu. The changes that took place in the code of conduct of the followers of Sthulabahu led to the division of the Jaina into Digambaras (sky-clad or naked) and Svetambaras (white-clad).
First Council was held at Pataliputra by Sthulabahu in the beginning of the third century BC and resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas to replace the lost 14 Purvas.
Second Council was held at Valabhi in the 5th century AD under the leadership of Devaradhi Kshamasramana and resulted in final compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.
Ratnatraya (Three Gems of Jainism)
Right faith (Samyak Vishwas) referring to Lord Mahavira right knowledge (Samyak Gyan) knowledge of doctrines of Jainism Right conduct (Samyak Karma) fulfilment of 5 rows of Jainism.
Five Categories of Siddhas
Tirthankara, who has attained salvation.
Arhat, who is about to attain Nirvana.
Acharya, the head of the ascetic group.
Upadhyaya, teacher or saint, and
Sadhu, an ordinary ascetic Spread of Jainism : In order to propagate the teachings of Jainism, Mahavira organized an order of his followers which admitted both men and women. Since Jainism did not very clearly mark itself out from the brahmanical religion, it failed to attract the masses. Despite this, Jainism gradually spread into south and west India. According to a late tradition, the spread of Jainsim in Karnataka is attributed to Chandragupta Maurya (322– 298 B.C.). The emperor became a Jaina, gave up his throne and spent the last years of his life in Karnatak as a Jaina monk. But this tradition is not conditioned by any other sources.
Jainism spread to Kalinga in Orissa in the fourth century B.C.
It enjoyed the patronage of the Kalinga king Kharavela who had defeated the princes of Andhra and Magadha. In the second the first centuries B.C. it also seems to have reached the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. In later centuries, Jainism penetrated Malwa, Gujarat and Rajasthan, and even now these areas have good number of Jainas, mainly engaged in trade and commerce.
In the south, royal dynasties like the Gangas, Kadambas, Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas supported Jainism. In Gujarat, patronage came from wealthy, merchants. The concrete expression of Jainism’s religious favour is seen all over the country in the works of art and architecture. The 57-foot high statue of Gomateshvara at Sravana Belagola in Mysore, erected in 983 or 984 A.D. is a marvel of its kind. The temples at Mount Abu and those at Palithana in Gujarat and Moodabidri and Karkala in the south make a rich contribution to the Indian heritage.
Decline : Several factors attributed to the declining popularity of Jainism. In India, it had to compete with both Hinduism and Buddhism. Absence of popular religious preachers after the death of Mahavira, its division into two important sects, absence of protection by later rulers and the revival of Hinduism all contributed to the decline of this religion. Besides, it also was unable to spread to any considerable extent beyond the limits of India and never reached the popularity of Buddhism.
The followers of Jainism also abstracted from an active policy of conversion. It, thus, practically escaped unnoticed during the Brahmanical revival. Yet, it continues to retain its hold on a small body of follower’s upto the present day.
Impact of Jainsim : Jainism made the first serious attempt to reduce the evils of the Varna order and the ritualistic Vedic religion. The early Jaina Sanskrit language mainly patronized by the Brahmanas. They adopted Prakrit language of the common people to preach their doctrines. Jainism contributed much to lexicography, poetry, mathematics, astronomy, astrology and political thought. The Jainas composed the earliest important works in Apabhramsa (common language of the masses) and its first grammar. The Jaina literature contains epics, Puranas, novels and drama. A large portion of the Jaina writing is still in the form of manuscripts, which have not been published and which are found in the Jaina shrines of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Last but not the least; they contributed to the growth of regional languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Rajasthani and Kannada, in which they wrote extensively.
Jaina architechture is remarkable. The Hathi gumpha caves of kharvela and khandagiri and Udaigiri caves of Orissa contain early Jaina relies. In the Gupta period, big states of Bahubali (called Gomateshwara) at Shravana belagola and Karkala in Karnataka were erected. Also Jain temples of Ranakpur (near Jodhpur) and Dilwara temples in Mount Abu are examples of excellent architecture.
Buddhism is named after Gautam Buddha. His real name was Siddhartha. He was born at Lumbini. His father was the chief of the Shakya clan. Siddhartha had a comfortable life as a prince, yet, he was not happy.
Siddhartha left home to seek knowledge and the true meaning of life. For six years, he wandered from place to place. He learnt to meditate. He sat beneath a pipal tree in Gaya and began to meditate. After many days of intense meditation, he discovered enlightenment. He understood why the world is full of suffering and what should be done to overcome it. He thus, became the ‘Buddha’, the enlightened or the Awakened or the Wise one. The pipal tree, under which he attained enlightenment, came to be known as the tree of wisdom or ‘Bodhi Vriksha’.
From Gaya, the Buddha went to Sarnath. He gave his first sermon at the Deer Park in Sarnath. It is known as the Dharmachkra Pravartana (setting in motion the wheel of dharma). The Buddha spend the rest of his life travelling from one place to another, meeting people and preaching his message of love and peace. He taught in a language which the common people could understand.
The Concept of Nirvana
The concept of ‘Nirvana’ was originally explained by Lord Buddha. The word ‘Nirvana’ literally means to ‘blow out’ and refers to extinguishing of fires of greed, hatred and delusion.
The term ‘Nirvana’ has been explained as extinction of three fires- namely, passion or ‘raga’, aversion or ‘dwesha’ and ignorance ‘moha’. According to Buddhist philosophy, when these fires are extinguished, one gets freedom from the cycle of birth and death and thus ‘Nirvana’ is attained by the individual.
Jatakas: The stories of different births of Buddha are called Jatakas. It is a collection of over 500 poems briefly outlining folk tales and stories, attributed to Buddhaghosa.
Differences in Buddhism
Like Jainism, Buddhism also faced ideological differences. It was divided into three sects:
(i) The followers of Hinyana believed in the original teachings of Buddha.
(ii) They sought individual salvation through self-disciplined meditation.
(iii) They did not believe in idol-worship (iv) Hinayana, like Jainism, is a religion without God, Karma taking the place of God.
(v) Nirvana is regarded as the annihilation of all.
(vi) The oldest school of Hinayana Buddhism is the Sthaviravada (Theravada in Pali) or the ‘doctrine of the Elders’.
(vii) Gradually, Sarvastivada or Vaibhasika branch of another school called Sautantrika, which was more critical in outlook.
(i) The followers of Mahayana believed in the heavenliness of Budha and sought the salvation of all through the grace and help of Buddha and Bodhisattavas.
(ii) Believes in idol-worship.
(iii) Believes that Nirvana is not a negative cessation of misery but a positive state of bliss.
(iv) Mahanaya had two chief philosophical schools: the Madhyamika and the Yogachara.
(i) The followers of vajrayana believed that salvation could be best attained by achieving the magical power, which they called Vajra.
(ii) The chief divinites of this new sect were the Taras.
(iii) It became popular in Eastern India, particularly Bengal and Bihar. It was a form of Buddhism, which appeared in eastern India in the 8th century and was finally established in Tibet in 11th century, as a result of mission sent from the great Vajranaya monastery of Vikramshila.
Buddhist Councils
According to Pali literature four councils were held to draw up the canonical texts and the creed in their pure form.
The First Council was held at Rajgir immediately after the Parinirvana of the Buddha. It was presided over by Molakassapa. At this council, Vinaya Pitaka and Sutra Pitaka were compiled.
The Second Council was held at Vaishali in 383 B.C. In it Vinaya Pitaka was revised and the daily activities of the monks were settled.
The Third Council was held in Patliputra in 250 B.C. during the reign of Ashoka. Moggliputta Tissa presided over it. At this council Abhidhamma Pitaka were collected.
The Fourth Council was held under Kanishka. The place of assembly was Kashmir. The president of this council was Vasumitra where Ashvaghosha acted as vice president of this council. The proceedings of this council were confirmed to the composition of commentaries.
Spread of Buddhism
The spread of Buddhism was due to the missionarie’s activities of Emperor Ashoka. He sent missionaries to many place in central Asia to popularize Buddhism. During the reign of king Kanishka also many Indian missionaries went to Central Asia. They introduced Mahayan’s Buddhism in this region.
According to Mahayana, Buddha was considered a form of God on earth and his images were worshipped. The worship of Bodhi Satvas, Buddhist Saints, also became popular from Central Asia and China. Buddhism spread to Korea and Japan.
The Silk Route also helped greatly in the spread of Buddhism to Central Asia and China. Pligrims and missionaries from India travelled to China and Central Asia through this route.


The famous Buddhist monk, Kumaraja went to China and stayed there for some time to spread Buddhism. Buddhist pilgrims from China also come to India by this Silk Route.
Other countries such as Java, Sumatra, Vietnam, Thailand and Combodia were also influenced by Buddhism. Today, Buddhism is practised in Central and South-east Asia.
Decline of Buddhism
Buddhism became extinct in India by the end of 12 century.
Gradually, the Buddhist monks were cut off from the mainstream of life; they gave up Pali, the language of the people, and took to Sanskrit, the language of intellectuals.
The Hinduism was internally reformed and stressing upon love and devotion, promised non-violence against cattle and raise in women’s position in the society. From the first century A.D. they practised idol worship on a large scale and received numerous offerings from devotees. Some of the monasteries such as Nalanda collected revenue from as many as 200 villages. By the seventh century A.D., the Buddhist monasteries had come to be dominated by ease-loving people and became centres of corrupt practices which Gautama Buddha had strictly prohibited. The new form of Buddhism was known as Vajrayana. Entry of women into Buddhist-Sanghas and the attacks of Huna king in the 6th century A.D. and the Turkish invaders in the 12th century A.D. brought rapid extinction of Buddhism.
Despite its extinction as an organized religion, Buddhism left its mark on the history of India. The objective of the Buddhist teachings was to secure the salvation of the individual or Nirvana. Buddhism made an important impact on society by keeping its doors open to women and sudras. Their conversions to Buddhism freed them from such mark of inferiority.
Buddhism strengthens the cattle of the country. The earliest Buddhist text Sutra pitaka declares the cattle to be giver of food, beauty and happiness (annada, vannada and sukhada), and thus defended for their protection. Buddhism created and developed a new awareness in the field of intellect and culture.
Buddhism left its mark on the art of ancient India. The first human statues worshipped in India were probably those of the Buddha. The faithful devotees described the various events in the life of the Buddha in stone.
For the residence of the monks, rooms were hewn carved out of the rocks, and thus, began the cave architecture in the Barabar hills in Gaya and in western India around Nasik. Under the impetus of Roman trade, Buddhist art flourished in the Krishna delta, and under that of Central Asian contacts, it throve in Mathura and Gandhara.


In face of attacks from Jainism and Buddhism, the Hindu religion sought to revive its lost glory.
(a) Bhagavatism or Vaishnavism
This sect was propaged by Vasudeva. The faith in the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagwat Gita, theory of incarnations of God, attainment of Salvation or Nirvana by bhakti, idol-worship, chanting of prayers, etc. were popularized by him.
Teachings: In Bhagavatism, Vishnu, is considered as the supreme God. He is the creator of the universe, reigns in Vaikunthas and rests in the primeval ocean on the thousand-headed snake, ‘Sesanaga.’ The colour of his skin is dark blue and he has four arms. His wife is Lakshmi who is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. He rides the great eagle, Garuda.
Brahma who creates the world is born in the lotus-flower which grows from the navel of Vishnu in his sleep. The same way, all other Gods have been created and are dependent on Vishnu. Therefore, Vishnu is the Param- Brahma, the Paramatma, Narayana or Hari and therefore, worship and bhakti of Vishnu is the most essential religious duty of an individual.
Literature: Bhagwad Gita was the most popular religious book of Bhagavatism which is generally believed to be a work of the first or second century B.C.
The Gita delivers the most harmonious blend of three paths of salvation or Nirvana, viz. though Gyana (knowledge), Karma (action) and Bhakti (devotion) and declares, “All roads to Moksha (salvation) lead but unto me.” Gyana is the realization by an individual that every soul is a part of the Paramatma (Universal Soul), every person has a soul, soul never dies, nobody can touch or kill a soul, soul has neither friends, enemies nor relations and soul neither feels pleasure nor pain. If an individual does not realize this, then he or she is ignorant and cannot attain salvation. According to the Gita, Agyana (ignorance) is more a spiritual blindness than an intellectual weakness which can be removed by Karma-yoga. But the Gyana marg which directs an individual to the meditation of the absolute is a difficult process. Therefore, the Gita suggests Karma-marg as an easier alternative. An individual should be Karma-Yoging to attain Nirvana.
Spread of Bhagvatism: The religious ideas and practices which grew up during this time had matured by the age of the Guptas and found their permanent place in Hinduism.
Of course, religious scholars and preachers like Kumaril Bhatt who preached Dualism and Shankaracharya who preached Monism tried to revive the Karma (action) and Gyana (knowledge) marg respectively to attain Nirvana but their efforts brought little results.
(b) Saivism
The other popular sect of Hindusim is Saivism. The origin of Siva can be traced to the concept of Rudra in the Rigveda.
Probably, he found his place among Aryan Gods because of the influence of the Dravidians, who had a similar God among them called Pasupati. In the Yajurveda, he is refered to as Sambhu or Shankar. In the Athravaveda, he is regarded as the Supreme God while in the Svetasvatara Upanishad, his spouse Uma or Parvati, is provided a similar position. Thus, Siva rose into prominence with the passage of time. However, the rise of Saivism, with a philosophy and organization of its own, cannot be traced back erlier than about the beginning of the Charistian era. The sect, probably, was started by a person called Lakulin or Nakulin near about the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. Afterwards, Saivism was divided into four important schools, viz. Pasupata, Saiva, Kapalika and Kalamukha. However, Shiva is worshipped most in the form of the Linga (Phallus) because of the influence of another sect of Saivism called Lingyat. Saivism is now a part of Hinduism and the worship of Siva is most popular among the Hindus.
Points to Remember
► Jainism and Buddhism emerged as the most prominent religious reforms movements.
► Jainism is based on five doctrines.
(i) Ahimsa (ii) Do not speak a lie (iii) Do not steal (iv) Do not acquire property and (v) Observe continence.
► Jain philosophy includes- ‘Syadvada’: All our judgement is necessarily relative, conditional and limited.
‘Anekantavada’: Matter (Pudgala) and spirit (Jiva) are regarded as separate and independent realities.
► Buddhism is named after Gautam Buddha. Whose real name was Siddhartha.
► Buddhism has three sects Hinayana Mahayana and Vajrayana.
► Emperor Ashok played an important role in spread of Buddhism. He sent missionaries to many places in central Asia.
► Hindu revivalist movement played an important role in reducing popularity of Jainism and Buddhism.
► Bhagvatism or vaishnavism sect was propaqed by Vasuadeva.
“Vishnu” is considered surname God is Bhagvatism and Bhagwat Gita is considered most popular book.
► Saivism considers siva as its supreme God. This sect was started by Lakalir or Nakulir in 2nd century AD.
► Jainism and Buddhism emerged an the most point religious reform movements.
► Jainism is based on five doctrines:
(i) Ahimsa (ii) Do not speak a lie (iii) Do not steal (iv) Do not acquire property and (v) Observe continence.
► Jain philosophy includes – ‘Syadvada’ : All our judgement is necessarly relative, conditional and limited.
‘Anekantavada’: Matter (Pudgala) and spirit (Jiva) are regarded as separate and independent realities.
► Buddhism is named after Gautam Buddha whose real name was Siddhartha.
► Buddhism has there sects – Hinayan Mahayan and Vajrayana.
► Emperor Ashok played an important role in spread of Buddhism. He sent missionaries to many places in central Asia.

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