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Ancient History / Pre-Mauryan Era

Religious Conditions of Pre Mauryan Age

Religious conditions of pre Mauryan Age were in deep turmoil. This period witnessed rise of 62 heterodox (Sramana) movements against Brahmins. Of these, Buddhism and Jainism have evolved into major religions.

The Brahmanical system which was based on complicated ceremonies and rituals created some kind of unrest among the common people. The ruling clans, who were not Indo-Aryans by origin, encouraged the emergence of independent views on religious philosophies.

Sramana Movements

Some of Shramana religious movements and philosophies are mentioned below

    Ajivika Religion

    It was founded by a Sramana called Makkhali Gosala. He was a friend of Vardhamana Mahavira. Important theory of Ajivika religion is Niyati, the concept of Fate.

    According to this theory, human efforts are useless and everything is predetermined. Upto Mauryans (upto 200 BC), this religion was very dominant and after that this got disappeared. It was an anti-Vedic religion.

    Charvaka or Lokayata Religious Movement

    It was founded by Ajita Kesakambali. There are two important doctrines in this religious movement. One, it promotes complete materialism (no rebirth) and the other, it preaches complete atheism (rejected the existence of God).

    According this movement, we experience everything with 5 senses. The real things have to be sensed by at least one of these 5 senses and those, which cannot be experienced with 5 senses, are myth and not reality.


    Gautama Buddha aka Siddhartha was the founder of this religion. Buddhism has a significant impact on the religious history of India.

    Though this religion was born in India, its influence transcended Indian boundaries and expanded to foreign countries like Japan, Mongolia, Korean peninsula, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, etc. Buddha taught four noble truths in his teachings.

    They are (i) 'Dukkha' that is life is sorrow, (ii) 'Samudaya' or desire causes sorrow, (iii) 'Nirodha' that is destruction of desire is a means to end sorrow and (iv) 'Marga' that is the path that leads to cessation of Dukkha.


    Jains regard their religion to be perpetual and they consider Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara, as the founder of Jainism. They have 24 Tirthankaras in total.

    First 22 Tirthankaras are mythological as there is no historical evidence about them. 23rd Tirthankara Parshvanatha and 24th Tirthankara Mahavira are historical.

    The four principles in Jainism proposed by Parshvanatha are Ahimsa (Non-injury to any of the living beings), Satya (Non-lying), Aparigraha (Non-possession of property) and Asteya (Non-stealing). And the fifth principle that is proposed by Mahavira is Brahmacharya.