About Us  :  Online Enquiry


Pre-Mauryan Age

The Pre-Mauryan Age (6th Century B.C. — 4th Century B.C.)

  • The material advantages brought about by the use of the iron in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the 6th century B.0 created conditions for the formation of large territorial states. Use of iron tools in agriculture produced surplus which could be taxed by the princes to finance their military and administrative needs. Also the surplus could be made available to the towns which sprung up in the 6th century B.C. Iron weapons also played an important part. Many janapadas sprung up in the 6th Century B.C. the larger of which were called the Mahajanapadas of which the mightiest was Magadha.

The Mahajanapadas:  [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • The Anguttura Nikhaya of Suttapitaka mentions the existence of 16 Mahajanapadas in the time of the Buddha. Alongwith these Mahajanapadas, many other janapadas also existed. The Mahajanapadas are;
    • Kamboja: Located in the north — western part of India with capital at Rajapura.
    • Gandhara: Located in the north-western part of India with capital of Taxila.
    • Surasenas: located in the region around Mathura with capital at Mathura.
    • Matsya: located in parts of Rajasthan with capital at virat (Bairath in Jaipur district).
    • Avanti: Located in Madhya Pradesh with northern capital at Ujjain and Southern capital at Mahishmati. Avanti had access to Iron mines.
    • Asmaka: On the banks of river Godavari with capital at Potana or Potali Asmaka (Assake) was the southernmost Mahajanapada.
    • Kuru: Sitatued in Upper Ganga — Yamuna doab with capitals at Indraprastha and Hastinapura.
    • Panchalas: situated in upper ganga-yamuna doab to the east of the Kurus with capitals at Ahichhatra and Kampilya.
    • Koshala: situated in eastern Uttar Pradesh with capital at Ayodhya (saket) and Shravasthi.
    • Mallas: In the northern border region of. Koshala were the MaIllas located Mallas
      were a republican state with capitals at Pava and Kusinagar.
    • Vatsas: To the west of Koshala along the bank of Yamuna lay the Vatsas with
      capital at Kaushambi near Allahabad. The Vatsas were a Kuru clan who had shifted from Hastinapur and settled down at Kaushambi.
    • Chedis: Situated on the bank of river Ken in Central India in the Budelkhand
      It’s capital was Shuktimati (Sotthivatinagara).  Pre-Mauryan Age
    • Kasi: Situated on the banks of Ganga river and on the confluence of varuna and
      Kasi had it’s capital at Varanasi.
    • Vajjis: was a confederacy of eight republican clans situated in north Bihar with it’s capital at Vaishali.
    • Anga: situated to the north-east of Magadha equated with modern Munger and Bhagalpur districts of Bihar. Anga’s capital was Champa.
    • Magadha: situated in south Bihar. Its capital was Rajagriha. Magadha due to a variety of reasons rose from being a janapada to a mahajanapadas and ultimately into an empire under the Mauryas.

Rise and Growth of Magadha Empire [Pre-Mauryan Age[]

  • Magadha was the most powerful and prosperous kingdom in north India the 6th century B.C. to 4th Century B.C. The founder of Magadha was Jarasandha and Brihadratha. But the rise of Magadha started under the Haryankas, expansion ‘took place under the Sisunagas and Nandas, but reached its zenith under the Mauryas.
  • Haryankas:
    • The Haryanka ruler Bimbisara was a contemporary of the Buddha. Bimbisara also known as Seniya or Sreniya is the first king to have a standing army. Bimbisara’s father was defeated by an Anga king, so as revenge Bimbisara defeated the Anga king Brahmadatta. He strengthened his position by matrimonial alliances. He married Mahakosaladevi, the daughter of king of Kosala and the sister of Prasenjit and got as dowry a kashi village. Bimbisara’s second wife Chellana was a Lichchhavi princess of Vaishali who gave birth to Ajatashatru. Bimbisara also married the daughter of the chief of the Madra clan of Punjab. All these marriages paved the way for expansion of Magadha northward and westward. Although Bimbisara initially fought with Chandapradyota Mahesena of Ujjain. He later sent his personal physician to cure him of Jaundice. The Gandhara ruler of Taxila Pukkusati (Pushkarasarin) set an embassy to Bimbisara. So through his conquests and diplomacy, Magadha became the paramount power in the 6th Century B.C. so much so that Magadha is said to have consisted of 80, 000 villages. Buddhist chronicles say Bimbisara ruled from 544-492 B.C. Nothing definite can be resolved whether Bimbisara was a follower of Jainism or Buddhism, though both religions claim him to be their supporter.  Pre-Mauryan Age
    • Ajatashatru (492-460 B.C.)
      • Ajatashatru (492-460 B.C.) succeeded Bimbisara to the throne. It is said that Ajatashatru killed his father to occupy the throne. He adopted an aggressive policy of expansion. Ajatashatru’s killing of his father led to grief of Mahakosaladevi and so Prasenjit, king of Koshala revoked Kashi which led to war in which koshala was defeated. Prasenjit also had to give his daughter Vajjira in marriage to Ajatashatru. Though Ajatashatru’s mother Chellana was Lichchhavis princess, he entered into war with the Lichchhavis accusing them of allying with Koshala. Ajatashatru sowed dissensions among his enemies and through his use of advanced ministers, he finally destroyed Vaishali after a protracted war of sixteen years. Ajatashatru also fortified
      • Rajagriha to meet the threat from Avanti anticipating an invasion which did not materialise. Udayin (460-444 B.C.) succeeded Ajatashatru and he built the fort upon the confluence of the Ganga and son at Patna for strategic purposes. Pre-Mauryan Age
  • Sisunagas:
    • Udayin was succeeded by the dynasty of Sisunagas who temporarily shifted the capital to Vaishali. They destroyed the power of Avanti which brought to an end the rivalry between Magadha and Avanti. A Sisunaga ruler Kalasoka (Kakavarin) transferred the capital from Vaishali to Pataliputra. The Sisunagas were in course of time supplanted by the Nandas.  Pre-Mauryan Age
    • Nandas:
      • The Nandas were powerful rulers. Mahapadmananda was a great conqueror called variously as Ekarat, Eka-Chchhatra or Sarvakshatrantaka. Eka — Chchhatra meant that he brought the whole earth under one umbrella. Sarvakshatrantaka meant that he destroyed all the Kshatriya kingdoms of the time. Mahapadmanada is credited with conquering Koshala. He also conquered Kalinga from where he brought an image of the Jina as a victory trophy. The nandas maintained a huge army through an effective taxation system. The last Nanda ruler Dhananada was ruling Magadha at the time of Alexander’s invasion of the north-western part of India. But Dhanananda’s huge army deterred Alexander from advancing against the Nandas. But Chandragupta Maurya ably assisted by Kautilya overthrew Dhananda to set up the Mauryan empire.  Pre-Mauryan Age

Causes of Magadha’s success  [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Magadha was led by competent and ambitious ruler like Bimbisara, Ajatashatru and Mahapadmananda.
  • Rajagriha the capital of Magadha was also known as Girivraja since it was surrounded by a group of five hills which acted as a natural fort. Pataliputra the later capital of Magadha was known as Jaladurga since it was located at the confluence of the Ganga, the Gandak, the son and a fourth river called the Ghagra joined the Ganga not far from Pataliputra. The rivers could be used for defence, communications and trade.
  • The resource base of Magadha was broad. The land was fertile and agricultural surplus could be produced. Magadha was rich in minerals such as iron from which agricultural tools and also weapons could be produced. The forests around Magadha produced elephants and also sufficient timber.  Pre-Mauryan Age
  • The Nandas streamlined an administrative system with vast bureaucracy which dug canals for expansion of agriculture, promoted trade and commerce and collected taxes adding to financial muscle of Magadha.
  • Magadha had a massive military machine with vast infantry, horses, elephants, chariots and  also innovative armaments such as rathamusula and mahasilakantika developed by Ajatashatru.
  • Magadha was inhabited by the Kiratas and Magadhas. Magadha then underwent a racial admixture with the advent of Vedic people. As it was recently Aryanised, it showed more enthusiasm than those kingdoms already under Aryan influence. Also Magadha was outside the pale of Vedic culture as a result of which it did not suffer from the disabilities stemming from orthodox brahmanical culture. So competent rulers could arise from any social group and they in turn promoted Buddhism, Jainism and other heterodox sects.

The Republican States: [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • The republican tradition in India is as old as age of the Buddha. Though in the pre-mauryan age monarchies were far stronger and more common, the republics existed either in the Indus basin where they may have been the remnants of the Vedic tribes or in the foothills of the Himalayas in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where they were possibly inspired by old ideas of tribal equality which did not give much prominence to single raja.
  • The republic unlike the monarchies were ruled by tribal oligarchies where every tribal oligarch was known as raja. The rajas in a republic were free to maintain their own little army under his senapti, so that each of them could compete with the other. The brahmanas unlike in the monarchies had no place in the early republics. In the republics of Shakyas and Lichchhavis the tribal oligarchies which constituted the ruling class belonged to the same clan and the same varna. The administrative machinery of the Shakyas and Lichchhavis was simple. It consisted of Raja, Uparaja (vice-king), Senapati (Commander) and Bhandagarika (treasurer). We hear of as many as seven courts in the hierarchical order for trying the same case. The Lichchhavis are said to be the oldest republic in the world. There were said to be 7707 rajas resident at Vaishali, the capital of the Lichchhavis republic and the Vajji confederacy of which Lichchhavis republic was of member. The administration of the Lichchhavis was much admired by the Buddha. Ajatashatru’s war with the Lichchhavis for a period of sixteen years ultimately led to defeat of the Lichchhavis.    Pre-Mauryan Age
  • Some of the republic in the pre-mauryan age are:
    • The Sakyas of Kapilavastu to which Lord Buddha belonged.
    • The Lichchhavis of Vaisali.
    • Mallas of Pava. Mahavira breathed his last at Pava.
    • Mallas of Kusinagar. Buddha breathed his last at Kusinagar.
    • The Koliyas of Ramagrama.
    • The Bhaggas of Sumsumasa.
    • The Moriyas of Pippalavahana.
    • The Kalamas of Kesaputta.
    • The Videhas of Mithila.
    • The Jnatrikas of Kundalagrama to which Lord Mahavira belonged.

Iranian and Greek Invasions [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Iranian Invasion: In the 6th century B.C. north-west India was a picture of political fragmentation. Several small principalities as Gandhara, Kamboja and Madra fought one another. The north-west did not have a strong kingdom like Magadha which could weld all the warning communities together. This area was also wealthy and could be easily entered through the passes in the Hindukush. So, it was only natural that the Achaemenid rulers of Persia wanted to take advantage of the political disunity on the north-western frontier.
  • Cyrus of Persia (588-530 BC) was.the first foreign conqueror who led an expedition and penetrated well into India. He destroyed the city of Capisa, located to the north of Kabul. All Indian tribes to the west of Indus right upto Kabul region submitted to Cyrus and paid him tribute.
  • Darisu-I, the grandson of Cyrus penetrated into north-west India in 515 B.C. and annexed Punjab, west of the Indus and Sindh. The north-west frontier constituted the-20th satrapy or province of Persia of a total of 28 provinces. It was the most fertile and populous part of the empire which paid a tribute of 360 talents of gold. The Indian Soldiers were also enrolled in the Persian army.
  • Xerxes deployed Indian contingents in Greece to fight his opponents. Darius-Ill enlisted Indian soldiers and sent them to fight.

Impact of Iranian Invasion:  [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • The Indo contact lasted for 200 years. The north-west come under Persian control and was a source of revenue for the Persians. Indian soldiers were enrolled in the Iranian army and even fought the Greeks. Impetus was given to Indo-Iranian trade and commerce. Iranian coins found in the north-western frontier point to the existence of trade with Iran. The Iranian scribes brought into India a form of writing which came to be known as Kharoshti script, which was like Arabic written from right to left. Some Ashokan inscriptions in north-western India were written in the 3rd century B.C. in this script. Perhaps the idea of the rock inscription used so effectively by Ashoka was inspired by the rock inscriptions of Darius. Iranian influence may also be traced in the preamble of Ashoka’s edicts as well as in certain terms used in them. For instance, the term dipi (an Iranian one) was used as lipi by the Ashokan scribes. Even in sculpture, Iranian influence is clearly perceptible. The monuments of Ashokas time, especially the ball-shaped capitals owed something to the Iranian model. Further, it seems that it is through the Iranians that the Greeks came to know about the great wealth of India which whetted their appetite and eventually led to Alexander’s invasion of India.

Alexander’s Invasion:  [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Alexander’s desire for world conquest and his passion for geographical enquiry and natural history meant that he set out to conquer India. The political condition of north-west India suited his plans as this area was parceled into many independent monarchies and tribal republics.
  • Alexander marched to India through the Khyber Pass in 326 B.C. It took him 5 months to reach the Indus. Ambhi, the ruler of Taxila submitted before him. When he reached Jhelum, Alexander met from Porus, the first and the strongest resistance. Although he defeated Porus, Alexander restored to Porus his kingdom, impressed by his courage and bravery. He then went on to conquer many small states one by one. Then he advanced to the Beas beyond which lay the mighty Nandas. Alexander wanted to move further east, but his war-weary, diseased soldiers, thanks to the hot climate and ten years of continuous campaigns became terribly homesick. The greek soldiers also heard of the formidable power on the Ganga which might not be able to subdue. So Alexander was forced to retreat after dividing his territorial possessions into three posts and placing them under three Greek governors. North-western India was placed under Selucus Nikator. Alexander remained in India from 326-325 B.C. for nineteen months. He died in Babylon in 323 B.C. at the age of thirty-three years.

Impact of Alexander’s Invasion: [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Alexander’s invasion provided the first occasion when ancient Europe came into close contact with ancient India. It produced some important results. Politically, the Indian campaign of Alexander was a success as he added to his empire an Indian province much larger than that conquered by Iran. Alexander destroyed the power of petty states in the north-west and created a political vacuum which was filled by the expansion of the Mauryan empire in that area under Chandragupta Maurya. Economically, Alexander’s campaign opened up four distinct routes by land and sea paving the way for greek merchants and craftsmen and increased the existing facilities for trade. Alexander’s campaign also led to the establishment of some greek settlements in the north-west such as Alexandria in the Kabul region, Alexandria in Sind and Boukephala on the Jhelum. Although these areas were later conquered by the Mauryas, the greeks continued to live under the Mauryas.
  • Alexander was deeply interested in the geography of the mysterious ocean which he saw for the first time at the mouth of the Indus. Therefore, he dispatched his new fleet under Nearchus to explore the coast and search for harbours from the mouth of the Indus to that of the Euphrates. Alexander’s historians have left valuable geographical accounts. They also have left clearly dated records of his campaign, which enable us to build Indian chronology for subsequent events on a definite basis. They also give us important information about social and economic conditions. They tell us about the sati system, the sale of girls in market places by poor parents and the fine breed of oxen in north-west India.

Society in the Pre-Mauryan Period [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • The division of tribal society into four classes – brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas
  • and sudras necessitated the founding of the Indian legal and judicial system in this period and so the dharmasutras laid down the duties, rights, obligations and disabilities of various social groups.
  • The higher the Varna the purer it was and higher was the order of moral conduct
  • expected by civil and criminal law. All kinds of disabilities were imposed on the Shudras and various privileges were cornered by the brahmanas and Kshatriyas.
  • Sudras were not invested with upanayana. They were given punishments disproportionate to the crime committed. Members of higher vamas shunned the company of Sudras, avoided the food touched by him ‘and refused to enter into marriage relations with them. A sudra could not be appointed to the high posts. The Sudra was asked to serve the twice — born as slave, artisan and agricultural labourer. In this respect even Buddhism and Jainism did not materially change his position.
  • Civil and criminal law was administered by royal agents, who inflicted rough and ready punishments such as whipping, beheading, mutilation etc. In many cases punishments for criminal offences were governed by the idea of revenge. It meant tooth for tooth and eye for eye.
  • The brahmanical law givers did not ignore the customs of the non-vedic tribal groups which were gradually absorbed into the brahmanical social order.
  • Restrictions were imposed by the brahmanas on traders by saying that some lands being impure should not be visited.
  • Restrictions were imposed on women. Education was denied to them and they were not entitled to upanayana ceremony. Ganikas (courtesans) were an integral part of society.
  • The brahmanical law books, the Dharmasutras, decried lending of money on interest. They condemned the Vaishyas who lent money on account of growing trade and commerce.

Economic Conditions: [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • The large scale use of Iron led to large scale development of agriculture in the pre-mauryan age. In the monarchies gahapatis owned large tracts of land and in republics raja-kulas owned large tracts of land. The dasa-karmakaras (slaves and labourers) worked in fields of gahapatis and rajakulas. The private and state ownership of land continued side by side. Agriculture became advanced and irrigation methods improved. Various new crops were cultivated. Vrihi andSali terms were used to
  • refer to two new varieties of rice. Land was measured in units called Karisa, Nivartan and Kulyavapa. The term ‘Sita’ was used to refer to state lands. Crops such as rice, sugarcane, wheat, barley, lentils, rapessed, mustard, cotton were grown proper manuring methods were used. Most of the agriculture was now practiced by the Sudras.
  • There was development of industry and crafts, with upto 18 crafts corporations or guilds mentioned in Buddhist literature. The term Sreni is used to refer to a guild or a corporations. Srenis or Nigams were headed by a leader known as pammuka, pravara or Jyestha. Srenis had their own armed guards — srenibala, srenis had their own courts called Sreninyayalaya and the Srenis were bound by their own laws or regulations called Srenidharm. Srenis maintained proper quality of products. Srenis circulated their own seals. They also adopted lending business on a small scale.  Pre-Mauryan Age
  • The surplus in agriculture and increased craft production led to a spurt in trade and creation of trade circuits all over north India. Most of the routes were along the rivers. One route was from Taxila to Rajagriha through various important towns. There was another route from Mathura to Ujjain and thence from Ujjain to Mahishmati to the sea port of Baruch. There was a route from Pataliputra to Champa to the port of Tamralipti in West Bengal. Thus the whole north India was linked by various trade routes. Traders moved in Caravans called Sartha and the carrier of Sartha was known as Sarthavaha. Anathapindaka was a Sreshti of Sravasthi who was one of the richest men on earth he donated Jetuvana Vihar to the Buddha. Mendaka was another Sreshti of Rajagriha so rich as to pay the salary of Magadha army. The traders were provided security by the kings. The great traders were also involved in banking and they issued coins bearing punch marks. These bankers were known as Sresthi’s.
  • Potters wee an important section of society. Northern Black Polished ware (NBPW) was the typical pottery of this period which first appeared between Varanasi and Pataliputra. In the eastern areas, Black and Red Ware is directly followed by NBPW whereas in the western areas Black and Red ware is followed by Painted gray Ware (PGW) which gave way to Northern black Polished Ware (NBPW).

Causes of Origin of Buddhism and Jainism [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • The term intellectual revolution may be used to indicate the remarkable richness of vigour in though which one could come across in the 6th century B.C. There were 363 orders of thought and 62 philosophers were known. Of the various Sects Buddhism and Jainism were prominent.
  • The four-fold stratification of society on the basis of varna generated tensions.
  • The Kshatriyas reacted strongly against the ritualistic domination of the
    brahmanas and seem to have led a kind of protest movement against the
  • importance attached to birth in the varna system. Vardhamana Mahavira, who founded Jainism and Gautama Buddha, who founded Buddhism belonged to Kshatriya clan, and both disputed the authority of the brahmanas.  Pre-Mauryan Age
  • The real reason though was the rise of a new agricultural economy in north‑
    eastern India Which required the use of bullocks. But the Vedic practice of killing cattle in Sacrifices led to decimation of cattle wealth. So Buddhism and Jainism propagated the ideal of Ahimsa and spoke out against the Vedic sacrifices.            Pre-Mauryan Age
  • The rise of a large number of cities in north-eastern India and the use of punch‑
    marked coins facilitated trade and commerce, which added to the importance of Vaishyas who looked for some religion which could improve their position and so supported Buddhism and Jainism.
  • The common man did not like the various forms of private property which created
    social inequalities. Neither did they endorse new dwellings, dresses and transport systems which amounted to luxury. So the common people yearned to return to primitive life. Both Buddhism and Jainism preferred simple, puritan ascetic living. So Buddhism and Jainism were essentially a revolt against the changes in material life in the mid-ganga plain in the 6th and 5th Century B.C.

Causes of popularity of Buddhism and Jainism [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Both Gautama Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira were magnetic personalities who could profoundly influence anybody they came into contact with.            Pre-Mauryan Age
  • Buddhism used Pali and Jainism used Prakrit, both languages of the common people which helped in their spread.
  • Buddhism did not indulge in metaphysical discussions and suggested a simple and practical way of living.
  • They were patronised by various kingdoms. The Nandas patronised Jainism while the Mauryas patronised Buddhism.
  • They did not attach much importance to the existing varna system and hence appealed to the lower classes.
  • Mahavira followed a liberal policy towards women. Admission of women to the Sangha swelled the ranks of Buddhism.

Similarities between Buddhism and Jainism [Pre-Mauryan Age[]

  • Both the religions were founded by Kshatriyas in eastern India.
  • Both were against the ritualistic interpretation of Vedas and opposed Brahmanical domination. They uphold the essence of Vedas.
  • Both preached truth, non-violence, celibacy, and detachment from material comforts.
  • Both were non-theistic religions                  Pre-Mauryan Age
  • Both believed in karma and re-birth
  • Both allowed the sudras and women to follow the religion, become monks and attain salvation
  • Both of them spread as a result of teaching in the language of the common man.
  • Both were opposed to caste system but could not eliminate it.

Differences between Buddhism and Jainism  [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Jainism gave prominence to lay followers, while Buddhism relied mainly on the Sangha and its monks.
  • The method of attaining salvation for Jainas was an extreme one, but for the Buddhists it was a moderate one.
  • Jainism was confined to India, but survived in it. Buddhism spread rapidly to foreign lands, but died in India.
  • Jainism is more liberal in its treatment of women.
  • Jainism believed in soul and Buddhism did not.            Pre-Mauryan Age
  • Jainism laid over-emphasis on Ahimsa. In Buddhism, Ahimsa meant liberal feelings and practical behaviour.

Buddhism  [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • The religion of Buddhism was founded by Gautam Buddha known originally as Siddharta. He belonged to the republican tribe Sakyas of Kapilvastu. He was born in 563 B.C. at Lumbini. He is said to have renounced the world (mahabhinishkramana) at the age of 29 years after witnessing four scenes in a sequence (old man, sick man, dead body and ascetic and attained nirvana at 35 years of age at Bodhgaya under a Pipal tree on the banks of Niranjan (Phalgu) river on the 49th day of meditation. He delivered his first sermon (dharmachakra parivarthana) at Sarnath and died at the age of 80 years in 483 B.C. at Kusinagar in U.P.
  • Since Buddha was born in the republican clan of Sakyas, he was known as Sakyamuni. Suddhodhana (father), Mahamaya (mother), Yashodhara (wife), Rahula (son), Devadatta (Cousin), Alara Kalama of Vaishali, Gautami (Step-mother, also first Buddhist nun), Ananda (his favourite disciple), Channa (the charioteer), Kanthaka (his horse), Kassapa or Kasyapa (his most learned disciple), Upali (the barber), Yasa (the rich youth) were some of the important people in his life.
  • Five events and their Symbols
    • Birth — Lotus and bull
    • Great— renunciation — horse
    • Nirvana — Bodhi tree
    • First Sermon — Dharmachakra or the 8 — spoked wheel
    • Parinirvana or death — Stupa
  • His four noble truths (Arya Satyas)
    • The world is full of sorrows
    • The cause of sorrow is desire
    • If desires are conquered, all sorrows can be removed
    • The only way this can be done is by following the 8- fold path.
  • The second truth, is based on Buddha’s doctrine of ‘Patichchha — Samuppada’ or ‘Pratitya — Samutpada’, i.e. law of dependent origination or causation.
  • Eight — fold Path (Ashtangamarga)
  Right understanding
  Right thought                Wisdom (Pragya Skanda)
  Right speech  
  Right action Morality (Sheel Skanda)
  Right livelihood  
  Right effort  
  Right mindfulness Concentration (Samadhi Skanda)
  Right concentration  


  • Three Jewels (Triratnas)
  • Buddha (the enlightened)
  • Dhamma (doctrine)
  • Sangha (order)

Buddhist Councils  [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • First Council: It was held immediately after the death of Buddha in 483 B.C. at Rajagriha under the patronage of Ajatashatru, under the Chairmanship of Mahkassapa. In this council Ananda composed the Suttapitaka containing the Buddha’s sayings and Upali composed the Vinayapitaka containing the monastic codes of Buddhism.        Pre-Mauryan Age
  • Second Council: It was held in 383 B.C. at Vaishali under the patronage of Kalasoka and chairmanship of Sabakami. There was division of the Buddhist sangha into the orthodox sthaviravadins or Theravadins and the unorthodox Mahasanghikas.
  • Third Council: It was held in 250 B.C. at Pataliputra under the patronage of Ashoka and chairmanship of Moggaliputta Tissa (Upagupta). The third council led to the establishment of the Sthaviravadins as the true followers. Abhidhamma Pitaka, the third of the Buddhist Pali canon was composed at the third council.
  • Fourth Council: It was held in 1st century A.D. at Kashmir under the patronage of Kanishka and Chairmanship of Vasumitra. It resulted in the division of Buddhists into two major sects- Hinayana and Mahayana. The deliberations of the council were in Sanskrit instead of Pali. Spread of Buddhism to other Asian countries — Mahayanism in Central
  • Asia, China and Japan, and Hinayanism in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand and parts of South-East Asia.
  Hinayana Buddhism Mahayana Buddhism
1 Hinayana held firm to the letter of Buddha’s teachings Mahayana held firm to the essence of buddha’s teachings
2 Hinayana        developed             with        the

Sang ha as the Centre

Mahayana      developed             with        the

individual as the centre

3 Hinayana        Scriptures              are        written

mainly Pali and are founded on the Tripitaka.

Mahayana      scriptures              written   in

Sanskrit are the sutras.

4 Hinayana believes in Salvation by works, that each man must work out his own Salvation Mahayana believes in Salvation by faith
5 Hinayana is centered round the acts of Buddha Mahayana      is centered            around the

Symbolism     of            Buddha’s        life          and

6 Hinayan          stressed righteous        action

and the law of Karma

Mahayan held that over and above the law of Karma was law of karuna or compassion
7 The Hinayana ideas is the Arhat, who strives after his own redemption Mahayana upholds the ideal of the
Bodhisattva   or            saviour   who        is
concerned with the salvation of others.
8 Hinayana literally means the lesser vehicle. Mahayana literally means the greater vehicle.

Pre-Mauryan Age

  • Hinayana literature: The religious literature of Hinayana’s consists of the Pali canonical texts, several semi-cononical works and Ceylonese chronicles.
  • The pali canonical texts are the tripitakas. The largest and the most important of the three is the Sutta Pitaka which consists of five nikayas (groups) viz. Digha Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Samyuktta Nikaya, Anguttura Nikaya and Khuddaka Nikaya. The Khuddaka Nikaya consists of, among others the Jatakas and the Dhammapada (the psalms of brothers and sisters).
  • Among the Semi-canonical works, the most important is the Milindo Panho (Questions of Milinda or Menander), on account of the discussion between Indo­greek king Menander and the Buddhist monk Nagasena.
  • Ceylonese chronicles are the Dipavamsa (Island chronicle), Mahavamsa (Great chronicle) and Culavamsa (Lesser Chronicle).
  • Mahayana: It was divided into two chief philosOphical schools called the Madhyamika (middle way) and the Yogachara (way of union). Nagarjuna (1st century AD) was the founder of this school and his Madhyamika Karika forms the basic text of Madhyamika philosophy. His teachings were also known as Sunyavada (doctrine of void). The Yogachara school, also known as the Vijnanavada (doctrine of consciousness) was founded by Maitreyanatha. It completely rejected the realism of Hinayanism and maintained absolute ideolism. Later it came to be propagated by several philosophers like Asanga (author of Sutralankara), Vasubandhu (Asanga’s brother and minister-teacher of Samudragupta).
  • The Mahayanists had their own version of the Tripitakas in Sanskrit. But they gave a lot of prominence to an entirely new set of literature in Sanskrit, called the Vaipulya Sutras (Expanded Discourses), which they claimed to be the pronouncements of the Buddha. The most important among them is the Sadharmapundarika. Their other scriptures include the Lalitavistara (a flowery account of the life of the Buddha), Vajrachedika, Sukhavativyuha etc.
  • Vajrayanism: Its followers believed that Salvation could be best attained by acquiring the magical power, which they called A/aka’ (thunder-bolt). The chief divinities of this new Sect were the Taras (wives of the Buddas and Bodhisattvas) who should be compelled rather than persuaded to bestow magical power on the worshipper by performing the ‘tantra’ and reciting the ‘Mantra’.        Pre-Mauryan Age

Causes for the decline of Buddhism [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Buddhism eventually succumbed to the very rituals of ceremonies it originally denounced.
  • Inspired by Buddhism and Jainism, there was reform of Brahmanism and there was rise of Bhagavatism.
  • Buddhists gave up the use of Pali and took up the use of Sanskrit from the first century A.D.
  • From the first century AD, the Buddhists started practicing idol-worship and receiving offerings and huge donations, leading to the deterioration of moral standards.
  • Attacks of Huna’s such as Mihirakula, and the Turkish invaders such as Bakhtiyar Khilji led to decimation of Buddhism.

Importance of Buddhism [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Replacement of dogmatism and faith with reason and logic.

Promotion of trade and commerce.

  • Concept of ahimsa (non-violence) was its chief contribution. Ahimsa boosted the
  • cattle wealth of the country and became, one of the cherished values of Indian culture.
  • Improvement of condition of women and other downtrodden sections
  • Promotion of Pali and many other local language.
  • Promotionof education through residential universities like those at Taxila,
  • Naarjunakonda, Nalanda and Vikramsila.
  • Buddhist architecture developed essentially in three forms-Stupa, Chaitya,
  • The Stupa is a domical structure in which the relics of the Buddha or some prominent Buddhists monk are preserved. Chaitya is a temple or shrine with a prayer hall. A Vihara is a monastery or residence of monks.
  • In the field of art and architecture Buddhism takes the credit for:
    • First human statues to be worshiped
    • Stone-pillars depicting the life of Buddha at Gaya, Sanchi and Bharhut.
    • Gandhara art and the beautiful images of the Buddha
    • Cave architecture in the Barabar hills at Gaya and in western Indian
      around Nasik.  Pre-Mauryan Age
    • Art pieces of Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda.
  • Buddhism has also contributed for spread of Indian culture to other parts of Asia.

Jainism [ Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Vardhamana, who later became Mahavira (Great Hero) or Jina (Conqueror) was born as the second son in 540 B.C. at Kundaligram near Vaishali. His father Siddhartha was the head of a Kshatriya clan called the Jnatrikas; and his mother Trisala was the sister of Chetaka, the most famous of the Lichchhavi princes and ruler of Vaishali. Mahavira was married to Yashoda, by whom he had a daughter Anjja. He became an ascetic at the age of 30 years after the death of his parents. For two years he was a member of an order -founded by Parsvanatha, but left it later and roamed for the next 10 years. He spent the first six years of his wandering with Gosala Maskariputra (founder of the Ajivika Sect). After attaining KaivaFya (perfect knowledge) under a Sal tree at Trimbhikagrama in eastern India at the age of 42, he preached for 30 years and died at the age of 72 in 468 B.C. at Pavapuri near Rajagriha. He became the head of a sect, called ‘nirgranthas (free from feters), who later came to be known as ‘Jinas’.
  • Five Cardinal Principles: The five cardinal principles of Jainism are;
    • Non-violence (ahimsa)
    • No lies (satya)  Pre-Mauryan Age
    • No stealing (asteya)
    • No property (a parigraha)
    • Observing continence (brahmacharya)
  • The five principles or vocus when observed by the monks strictly are known as ‘mahavratas’, but when lay members practice them they are called ‘anuvratas’. Only the fifth principle of ‘brahmacharya’ was supposed to have been added by Mahavira, the other four being the teachings of his predecessors. According to Jaina tradition, Mahavira was the 24th tirthankara. Parsvanath (son of king Asvasena of kasi) is believed to be the 23rd thirthankara and Rishabadeva (mentioned in the Rigveda) is believed to be the first tirthanakara.
  • Ratnatraya (Three Gems)
    • Full knowledge
    • Action
    • Liberation

Jain Church  [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Mahavira had eleven close disciples or apostles known as ‘gandharas’ (heads of schools). Only one of them, Arya Sudharman, survived Mahavira and became the ‘Thera’ (potiff) of the Jaina church after his death.
  • Sudharman’s successor was Jambu. Three generations of Pontiffs passed after him.
  • During the reign of the last Nanda ruler of Magadha, the Jaina church was ruled by Sambhutavijaya.
  • Kalpasutra, a jain book was written by Bhadrabahu who was the sixth thera after Mahavira, was a contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Schism and Councils: There was a serious famine in the Ganga valley leading to a great exodus of many jaina monks to the Deccan and south India to Sravanabelagola alongwith Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya. They returned after 12 years. The leader of the group which stayed back was Sthulabahu. Difference between the two groups over the code of conduct led to the division of the Jainas into Digambaras (sky —clad or naked) and the Svetambaras (white-clad).  Pre-Mauryan Age
  • First council: Held at Pataliputra by Sthulabahu in the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. and led to compilation of the 12 Angas to replace the last 14 purvas. They were accepted only by the Svetambaras.
  • Second Council: Held at Valabhi in the 6th century A.D. by the Svetambaras under the leadership of Devardhi Kshamasramana, and final compilation of the 12 Angas and 12 upangas.

Contribution of Jainism [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Jainism made the first serious attempt to mitigate the evils of the varna system and the ritualistic Vedic religion.
  • The early Jainas discarded Sanskrit and adopted Prakrit language for preaching. Their religious literature was written in Ardhamagadhi, and the texts were finally compiled in 6th century AD at Valabhi in Gujarat.
  • Out of Suraseni Prakrit, Marathi language grew. Jainaa also composed the earliest important works in Apabrahmsa and prepared its first grammar.
  • Jaina’s started worshipping statues of Mahavira developed from various schools of art.
  • Jainism contributed substantially to art and architecture in medieval times.
  • The gigantic statues of Bahubali called Gomatesvara at Sravanabelogola, Karkal and Mysore were built out of granite by Chamudaraya, the minster of a Ganga ruler, Rchamalla. Pre-Mauryan Age

Other Heterodox Sects [Pre-Mauryan Age]

  • Ajivikas: They were a heterodox sect founded by Gosala Maskariputra or Makhali, who was at first a close friend an later a strong opponent of Mahavira. He believed in fate called ‘niyati’. Ajivikas prospered during the pre-mauryan and Maurya times but declined later.
  • Pakudha Katyayana: He preached that just as earth, water, air and light are indestructible elements, so are sorrow, happiness and life. He was predecessor of Hindu Vaisesika School.
  • Purana Kassapa: He believed that vinous conduct had no effect on a man’s karma. He laid the foundations for Samkha Philosophy.
  • Ajita Keshakambalin: He was the earliest known teacher of complete materialism. He propagated the Uchchedavada. i.e. annihitationism; later the Lokayata or Charvaka School originated from this doctrine.
  • Sanjaya Balattipura: He was a sceptic who denied the possibility of certain knowledge altogether.
  • Pre-Mauryan Age


Send this to a friend