Religious Trends in Ancient India Class 6 History Notes Maharashtra Board

Religious Trends in Ancient India Class 6 History Notes Maharashtra State Board

Towards the end of the Vedic period, the minute details of yajna rites acquired undue importance. Only the priestly class had knowledge of those details. Others no longer had the freedom to gain that knowledge. The Varna System restrictions became very hard in the course of time. A person’s social position was decided by the varna into which he was born rather than by his achievements. That is why, from the Upanishad period, we see that attempts were made to give a wider scope to religious thought and not restrict it only to yajna rites.

However, the thought in Upanishads focussed on the existence and nature of the soul. It was difficult for ordinary people to understand it. This gave rise to different sects that emphasized the worship of particular deities. For example, the Shaiva sect of Shiva worshippers and the Vaishnava sect of the worshippers of Vishnu. Different Puranas were written with reference to these deities.

Religious Trends in Ancient India Class 6 History Notes Maharashtra Board

Certain trends around the sixth century BCE made attempts to express religious thought in such a way that the common man would understand it easily. Many people realized that every person is free to find ways of his own upliftment. This led to the establishment of new religions. These religions emphatically stated that discrimination on the basis of caste has no place in an individual’s upliftment. The work of Vardhaman Mahavir and Gautama Buddha is of special importance among the proponents of new thoughts.

Jainism is one of the ancient religions in India. This religion gives importance to the principle of non-violence. According to the Jain tradition, a person who reveals religious knowledge is known as a Tirthankar. There have been 24 Tirthankars in all. Vardhaman Mahavir is the twenty-fourth Tirthankar in the Jain religious tradition.

Vardhaman Mahavir (599 BCE to 527 BCE)
There was a mahajanapada known as Vrijji in what is known as the State of Bihar today. Its capital was Vaishali. Vardhaman Mahavir was born in Kundagram, a part of Vaishali. His father’s name was Siddharth, and his mother’s was Trishala. Vardhaman Mahavir left his home and all comforts for the attainment of knowledge. He attained enlightenment after twelve and a half years of rigorous tapa. This knowledge was pure or keval. Therefore, he is also known as Kevali. He was called Jina or Conqueror because the joy derived from physical comforts and the discomfort felt due to undesired things had no impact whatsoever on him.
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The term Jain derives from the word jina. Vardhaman is said to be Mahavir because he had the resilience, and the courage to conquer all passions. After the attainment of knowledge, he preached for about thirty years to explain the essence of religion to people. To make it easy for people to understand, he spoke to them in Ardhamagadhi, a people’s language. The religion that he expounded laid stress on good conduct. The essence of his teachings for good conduct is contained in the Five Great Vows (Pancha Mahavratas) and the Three Jewels (Tri-ratna). The assembly held by the Tirthankar to preach to people was known as ‘Samavasaran’ in Ardhamagadhi. Samavasaran was based on equality. People of all varnas had entry to it.

The Pancha Mahavratas (The Five Great Vows): These are five rules to be followed strictly.

  • Ahimsa (Non-violence): No living being should be hurt, injured, or harmed through one’s behaviour.
  • Satya (Truth): Every speech and action should be true.
  • Asteya (Non-stealing): Asteya means theft. Taking what belongs to others without their consent is theft or stealing. Asteya means ‘not stealing’ anything.
  • Aparigraha ( Non-attachment): Man tends to accumulate property due to greed. Aparigraha means not hoarding or accumulating anything in this way.
  • Brahmacharya (Chastity): It means leaving bodily pleasures and following the vows.

Tri-Ratna (The Three Jewels):
The three jewels are the three principles.

  • Samyak Darshan (Right Faith)
  • Samyak Jhan (Right Knowledge)
  • Samyak Charitra (Right Conduct) Samyak means ‘Balanced’.

1. Samyak Darshan:
To understand the truth in the preaching of the Tirthankar and to have faith in it.

2. Samyak Jnan:
Studying the preaching and philosophy of the Tirthankar regularly and learning its deep meaning.

Religious Trends in Ancient India Class 6 History Notes Maharashtra Board

3. Samyak Charitra:
Strictly following the Five Great Vows.

Essence of His Teachings:
Among the teachings of Mahavir, Anekantavada is considered to be very important in the quest for truth. It means pluralism or multiple viewpoints. In our quest for truth, if we focus on only one or two aspects or viewpoints and draw conclusions, the whole truth is not known. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to all aspects of an issue. If people follow this, they develop tolerance towards the opinions of other people in society and give up the attitude of stubborn adherence to their own opinions.

Vardhaman Mahavir taught the people that the greatness of man does not depend on his varna but on his excellent conduct. In the Vedic tradition, the doors of knowledge had slowly been closed to women. But Vardhaman Mahavir gave the right of sanyas (the right to renounce the world) to women, too. His teachings were: ‘Love all living things’, ‘Have mercy and compassion’, and ‘Live and let live’.

Buddhism spread in India and in many countries outside India. Gautama Buddha was the founder of Buddhism.

Gautama Buddha (563 BCE To 483 BCE)
Gautama Buddha was born Lumbini in Nepal. His father’s name was Shuddhodana and his mother’s, Mayadevi. His birth name was Siddharth. He had attained knowledge of human life in its entirety. That is why he came to be known as the ‘Buddha’. He wanted to know why there is sorrow and suffering in human life. He left his home and all comforts in pursuit of the answer to this question.
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On Vaishakha Purnima, he was sitting in deep meditation under a pipal tree at Uruvela near Gaya in Bihar. That is when he attained ‘Bodhi’ – enlightenment or the highest knowledge. The tree is now known as the ‘Bodhi’ tree (Bodhivriksha) and the place Uruvela is known as Bodhgaya. He delivered his first sermon at Sarnath near Varanasi. His teachings in the first sermon are termed dhamma. He set in motion the wheel of dhamma in this sermon. Therefore this event is called dhamma-chakkapavattan in Pali and dharma-chakrapravartan in Sanskrit.
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Later, he traveled on foot (charika) for nearly forty-five years to preach dhamma. He preached in the people’s language, Pali. In Buddhism, taking refuge in Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha is important. It is known as Trisharan. The essence of the dhamma he expounded is as follows:

Aryasatyas (Noble Truths):
There are four truths at the root of all human affairs. They are called Noble Truths or Aryasatyas.

  • Dukkha (Suffering): There is suffering in human life.
  • The Cause of Dukkha: There is a cause of suffering.
  • Dukkha-nivaran: It is possible to end suffering.
  • Pratipad: Pratipad means the ‘way’. This way leads to the end of suffering. This is the way of good conduct. It is known as the Ashtangik or Eightfold Path.

Gautama Buddha asked people to follow five rules. The rules are called Panchasheel.

  • Stay away from killing animals.
  • Stay away from stealing.
  • Stay away from unethical conduct.
  • Stay away from telling lies.
  • Stay away from intoxicants.

Bauddha Sangha:
He created a sangha of bhikkhus to preach his religion. Followers who gave up their domestic life and entered the sangha were called bhikkhus. They, too, traveled on foot like the Buddha to preach dhamma to the people. There was a separate sangha of women. They are called bhikkhunis. People of all varnas and castes could embrace Buddhism.

Religious Trends in Ancient India Class 6 History Notes Maharashtra Board

Essence of His Teachings:
Gautama Buddha announced the freedom of human intelligence. He refused the discrimination based on things like varna. No one is greater or smaller by birth. Greatness depends on one’s behaviour or conduct. One of his famous quotes is that ‘Even the little quail can chirp freely in her nest’. This shows his thinking on the values of freedom and equality. He preached that like men, women, too, had the right to their own upliftment. He opposed the rituals of yajna. His teachings of wisdom (Prajna), moral virtue (Sheel), and other values are aimed at the welfare of man. Compassion (Karuna) for all living beings was an extraordinary feature of his personality. The tolerance preached by Gautama Buddha is a guiding principle not only for Indian society but for all mankind even today.

The ancient trend of thought known as Lokayat or Charvak is also important. It emphasized independent thought and rejected the authority of the Vedas. In the ancient period, new religious trends and thoughts went on emerging in India. Later on, religions like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism also took root in Indian society.

The Eightfold Path

  • Right View: The knowledge of the four noble truths.
  • Right Resolve: Giving up cruelty, etc.
  • Right Speech: Refrain from telling lies, telling tales, and rude, harsh, and meaningless speech.
  • Right Conduct: Stay away from killing animals, stealing, and uncontrolled behavior.
  • Right Livelihood: Using only the proper means of livelihood.
  • Right Effort: Making effort to avoid wrong acts, giving up wrong acts, undertaking and maintaining good acts.
  • Right Mindfulness: Being mindful to remove passions and concentrate on trying to understand one’s own feelings and mind.
  • Right Concentration: Experiencing deep meditation with concentration.

People belonging to the Jewish religion may have arrived in Kochi in Kerala around the first to the third century of the Christian Era. They believe that there is only one God. Judaism emphasizes justice, truth, peace, love, compassion, humility, charity, ethical speech and self-respect. Their prayer house is known as a synagogue.
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Christianity is a religion founded by Jesus Christ. It has spread all over the world. St. Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Christ, came to Kerala in the first century of the Christian Era. He established a church at Pallayur in Trichur district, in 52 CE. According to the teaching of Christianity, there is only one God. He is the loving father of all and is omnipotent. It is believed that Jesus Christ is the son of God who came to the earth for the salvation of mankind. According to the teachings of Christianity, we are all brothers and sisters. We should love everyone including our enemies. We should forgive those who err or go wrong. The Bible is the holy book of Christianity and their prayerhouse is known as a Church.
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Islam is a monotheistic religion. There is only one Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet. The message of God is revealed through him in the holy book of Quran Sharif. The word Islam means peace. It also means surrender to Allah. The teaching of Islam is that Allah is eternal, absolute, all-powerful, and merciful. The purpose of human existence is to worship Allah. The Quran Sharif provides guidance on how man should behave in life. Since ancient times there have been trade relations between India and Arabia. Arab traders used to visit the ports on the coast of Kerala. Islam spread in Arabia in the 7th century CE. Islam arrived in India in the same century through the Arab traders. The prayer house of Islam is known as a mosque or masjid.
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Religious Trends in Ancient India Class 6 History Notes Maharashtra Board

Since ancient times, the Zoroastrian people and Vedic people have shared ties. The sacred text of the Parsee or Zoroastrian people is the ‘Avesta’. The language of the Rigveda and Avesta is similar. The Parsees came to India from the Pars or Fars province of Iran. Therefore, they are known as Parsees. It is mostly believed that they first came to Gujarat in the eighth century CE. Zarathushtra or Zoroaster was the founder of their religion. ‘Ahur Mazda’ is the name of their God. The elements of fire and water are very important in their religion. The sacred fire burns in the temples which are known as Agyaris. At the core of Parsee’s thinking are three main principles of conduct, namely, good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.
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