[Ancient History] Religions and Religious Movements in India

Reformers all over the world protested against the existing social and religious evils and attempted to reconstruct a new socio-religious order.

Confucius in China, Zoroaster in Iran and Permanides in
Greece.

In India, were two luminaries-Mahavir who founded Jainism and Gautam Buddha who gave birth to Buddhism.

They protested against tyranny of the priests, the ritualistic form of religion, the brutality of caste, the dominance of Brahmins, etc.

They advocated social equality, justice and freedom, both for men women; rejected the Vedas and the Vedic rituals; denounced sacrifies and propagated the doctrine of non-violence, non-accumlation and love.

Both these religions were only a new reformed form of Hinduism.

They had a common background of Aryan culture and were motivated by the philosophy of the Upanishads.

Their ideas about karma,soul, rebith,moksha,ahimsa,etc. had been inspired by the Upanishads.





Causes of New Movements:

1.The Vedic philosophy had lost its original purity to rituals.

The rites and ceremonies were painfully elaborate and awfully expensive.

The common man developed a great dislike for these rituals.

2.The sacrifices prescribed by the Vedas had assumed a cumbrous shape.

They were very complicated and a source of wastage of time, energy and money.

3.The caste system had become rigid and brutal.

Interchange of caste was impossible.

4.The Vedic religion had become very complex and degenerated into 
superstititions,dogmas and rituals.

The Vedic mantras were unintelligible and beyond the intellect of the average person.

5.the supremacy of the Brahmins created intellectual confusion and dominated every aspect of the life of the Aryans.

6.All the religious treatises were written in Sanskrit which was the language of the life elite and not the masses, explained to the people in simple intelligible spoken Pali or Prakrit, the language of the common man at that time.

These evils and ills led to grow discontent among the masses who aspired for a change.

Several leading teachers raised their voice against these shortcomings.

The Pali texts refer to sixty-two and Jain texts to 200 such movements, big and small, of which only who(Jainism and Buddhism)survived.


JAINISM:


Jainism has great antiquity.

The names of two Jain Tirthankaras, Rishabha and Arishtanemi, are found in the Rigveda.

The Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavat Purana describe Rishabha as an incarnation of Narayana.

Thus Jainism is an old as the Vedic religion, it not older, though few of the scholars believe that the male nude torso discovered from the Induc-Valley culture has some thing to do with the Tirthankaras.

There were twenty-four Tirthankaras(prophets or gunus),all Kshatriyas and belonging to the royal family.

The first was Rishabhaanath and the last(twenty-fourth)was Mahavira Vardhamana.
Parshvanatha (twenty-third)who was an historical figure and flourished 250 years 
before Mahavira.

Parshvanatha was a prince who abandoned the throne and led the life of a hermit.

His four main teachings were non-in-jury(ahimsa), non-lying(satya),non-stealing(asateya) and non-possession(aparigraha).

Mahavira adopted all these four teachings and added one more, that is Brahmacharya to it.

Vardhamana Mahavira(540-468 B.C):

Mahavira was born in village Kundagram in district Muzzaffarpur (Bihar)in a Kshatriya family in 599B.C.

His father Siddhartha was the head of the Jnakrika clan and his mother Trisha was the sister of Chetaka, the king of Vaishali.

Mahavira was also related to Bimbisara, the ruler of Magadha, who had married Chellana, the daughter of Chetaka.

Mahavira was married to Yashoda and produced a daughter whose husband, Jamali, became the first disciple of Mahavira.

Vardhamana was educated in all branches of knowledge but he mever enjoyed the materialistic life.

At the age of 30, after the death of his parents, he renounced his family, became an ascetic and proceeded in search of truth.

He went from one religious leader to another and led a life of torture and self-mortification but it was to no avail.

In the thirteenth year of his asceticism on the tenth of Vaishkha,ourside the town of Jrimbhikgrama he attained the supreme knowledge.

From now onwards he was called Jaina or Jitendriya(one who has conquered his senses),Nragrantha(free from all bonds)and Mahavira(the brave)and his followers were named Jain.

For the remaining thirty years Mahavira moved from one place to another and preached his religioun.

At the age of 72 he attained Kaivalya(death)at Pava, near Patna, in 527B.C.

Mahavira was not the founder of any new sect, but a reformer of a well-established 
creed.

Most of the features of the features as revived by Mahavira were already existing.

He codified the unsystematic mass of beliefs into an organized and rigid religion.

The teachings of the Jain Tirthankaras are compiled in the twelve Angas.

These were written down at Vallabhi in the fifth century A.D.

Teachings of Mahavira:

1. Mahavira rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Vedic rituals .
He advocated an austere and simple life with the ultimate aim to attain Kaivalya(nirvana or moksha).

He was, however, not opposed to the theory of caste system though he did not approve of the restrictions on food or drink.

2. Mahavira did not believe in the existence of God.

He said that the universe is the product of nature-the outcome of cause and effect.

Man’s salvation does not depend upon the mercy of God but on his own acts.

Man is the architect of his own destiny.

3. Mahavira believed in karma and the transmigration of soul(atma).
Man is punished or rewarded in successive births according to his karma.

On account of karmas good or bab, the soul creates its own present or future.

The body dies but the soul is immortal.

4. Jains lay great emphasis on equality.

Mahavira accepted the caste system yet he said that man may be good or bad according to his karma and not on account of his birth.

5.The world consists of two elements;jiva (conscious being)and atma(the unconscious).
Jiva acts, feels and wills.

It suffers and dies.

Atma is eternal and is born and reborn.

The ultimate aim of Jiva should be to get rid of the cycle of birth and rebirth and attain nirvana.

6. Five vows are prescribed:

(a) ahima(non-violence)violenc should not be caused by words, thoughts and actions.
(b) satya-one should speak the truth and only the truth;

(c) asateya(non-stealing)-stealing(including weighing less or adulterating etc)in any form is bad;

(d) aparigraha(non-possession)-wealth and property in any form should not be accumulated;

(e) brahmacharya(chastity)-all kinds of passions, emotions and desires must be put under control.

7. In Jainism the devotees(siddhas)have been classified in five categories, in the descending order

(a )Tirthankara who has attained salvation.

(b) Arhat,who is about to attain nirvana,

(c) Acharya, the head of the ascetic group.

(d) Upadhyaya,teacher or saint, and 

(e) Sadhu,class which includes the rest.

Sects of Jainism:

Mahavira founded the Jain church.

He had eleven ardent disciples called Ganadharas,ten of whom died in Mahavira’s life time.

Only one, Arya Sud-haraman, survived and became the first Thera(pontiff)after the death of Mahavira.

Udayin, the successor of Ajathashatru of Magadha, was a devout Jain and so were the Nanda rulers.

Ujjain was a great Jain centre where saints like Kalkacharya and Garbhilla lived.

In the third century B.C.was born Bhadrabahu, the greatest ever exponent of Jain philosophy, who composed Kalpsutra, the most authentic treatise on the rise and developmet of Jainism from its birth to his time.

The Mauryan ruler Chandragupa Maurya was a Jain and accepted this faith in the last years of his life.

He left Pataliputra and accompanied by Bhadrabahu reached Shravanabelagola in Karnataka where on the Chandra hill he performed a fast unto death and like a true Jain upasaka attained kaivalya exactly 170 years afte the nirvana of Mahavira.

According to the Jain canons Bhadrabahu spread Jainism in South India.

The fourteen Purvas(the textbooks of old Jain scriptures)which Mahavira himself had taught to his Ganadharas were performed by Sambhutavi jaya and Bhadrabahu.

Sambhutavijaya died in 322 B.C.,the year Cahandragupta Maurya ascended the throne and Bhadrabahu left Magadha for Mysore.

About 300 B.C., Sthulabhadra(the disciple of Sambhutavijaya)called the first Jain council in which the Jain canons were compiled.

Later in the first century A.D. ten commentaries of these Angas were prepared and named Niryuktis.

When Bhadrabahu returned to Magadha,he refused to acknowledge the leadership of stulabhadra.

The Jain church was then divided into two parts-Digambara and Shvetambara;the former folloers of Bhadrabahu and remained nude, while the latter had adopted white garments.

The Jain Precepts and Philosophy:

Certain similarities with Samkhya and Buddhism.

The metaphysical start in Jainism and Samkhya are almost the same.

Reality, is uncreated and eternal and is characterized by origination, destruction and permanence.

For example, the soul with its charcter of consciousness is something permanent 
while it has its accidental charcters of pleasure or pains and mode superimposed as body.

The substances are real, characterized by existence and six in number.

They are broadly divided into living(jiva)and non-living(ajiva).

Jiva, which means soul or spirit, is classified into those which are in bondage and may possess only one sense organ or more, like earth, water, fire, wind and plant, and those that are free, which differ among themselves according to the number of sense organs they possess.

The non-living substances are made of matter, motion or rest, space and time.

But time here has no extension in space.

Conciousness is the very essence of the soul, potentially endowed with infinite vision, infinite knowledge, infinite power and infinite bliss.

But this is bound by karma which suppresses tha mumdane soul.

Everything depends upon karma and Jainism admits no creator.

There are five instruments of knowledge:

(a)matijnana,perception through activity of sense organs, including the mind

(b)srutajnana, knowledge reveled by scriptures

(c)avadhijnana, clairvoyant perception

(d)manahparyayaj-nana, telepathic knowledge

(e)kevalahnana,temporal knowledge or ommiscience,

Under standing and the acquisition of knowledge is attained by means of pramana (instruments of knowledge)and naya(point of view).

The five pramanas are those noted above; there are seven nayas,some refer to the substances, some to modifications, some arise out of the nature of the subject and some out of verbal statements.

The ultimate goal of Jain enthics is the realization of nirvana or moksa,i.e.completely liberating the soul from karma,samyak vishwas (Right Faith),samyak jnan(Right Knowledge)and samyak karma(Right Conduct)collectively pave the way to nirvana.

The code of moralit is less rigorous for householders but very rigorous for monks.

There are five vows;
(a)abstention from untruth(asatya)

(b)abstention from violence(ahimsa) and injury to living beings

(c)abstention from theft

(d)abstention from sex(sangam),and 

(e)abstention from greed(lobha)for worldly possessions.

A layman progresses in his spiritual upliftment if he observes seven more vows;

(a)limits the distance up to which he would go in any direction,

(b)abstains from wanton sinful activites

(c)restricts enjoying consumable and non-con-sumable articles

(d)limits the area of his material activities

(e)with minimum possession he retires to a quiet spot at fixed times and meditates

(f)fasts and leads a rigorous religious life for four days a month

(g)shares food with pious and holy persons who come to his house at the proper time 
and also renders them necessary aid in their religious practices.

The course of right conduct prescribed for a layman is divided into eleven states in the fifth stage of spiritual evoluation;

What apparently distinguishes a Jain layman from a monk is primarily stress on self-discipline and the art of living.

A Jain layman is expected to lead a highly disciplined life, a monk a rigorous life.

A Jain monk does not own a house of his own.

A Digambara monk goes about without clothes with a gourd put to urinate in and peacock feathers to clean himself after his toilet.

There are twenty-two troubles which he had to face unflinchingly and maintain his spritiual discipline or conduct.

In Jainism, God as such does not exist,

A liberated soul, that of a prophet, is god.

Though a voluntary death through penance is held in high esteem, suicide is condemned as an act fo cowar-dice.

This shows that Jainism prescribed very rigorous practies and a highly disciplined but simple life.

Royal Patrons of Jainism:

Asoka’s grandson Samprati had accepted Jainism.

In the second century B.C.King Kharavela of Orissa.
His chief queen dedicated a rock-cut cave to the Jain monks.

In the first century A.D.Mathura became the centre of Jain art and culture.

The second Jain Council was held at Vallabhi(Gujarat)in A.D.512 under the chairmanship of Devardhi Kshamasramana.

By this time the twelth Anga had already disappeared;so the remaining Angas were written down in Ardha Magdha language.

From the fifth century A.D.onwards many royal dynasties of South India such as the Gangas, the Kadambas, the Chalukys and the Rashtrakutas patronized Jainism.

The immortal poets Jinasena and Gunabhadra composed their Mahapurana.
King Amoghavarsha of the Rashtrakuta family became a Jain monk wrote Ratnamalika,a very popular book.

The rock-cut caves at Badami and Aibole have the figures of Jain Tirthankara which belong to early Chalukya period.

Chalukya ruler Somadeva (tenth century A.D)and Ganga ruler Nitimarga (twelfth century), gave liberal grants to Jain temples and installed many Jain figures.

In Kanchi(Tamil Nadu)Samantabhadra (A.D. 110)preached this religion and in Gujarat Sidharaja Jaisingh(A.D. 1094-1143), the most popular king, professed Jainism.

Jainism was further split into Therapantis and Samaiyas and it gradually declined.

The Decline-Its Causes:

Many evils entered the Jain faith.

It was no longer a pure and pious religion.

The royal patronage was not forthcoming.

Thirdly, the Jain church was split again and again.

Fourthly, the caste system was revived with all its ills.

The foreign invaders, first the Shakas and the Hunas and later the Muslim gave a serious setback.

Lastly, the revival of Hinduism.

Today there are about 32 lakh Jains distributed all over India.

Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture:

The Jains, however, opted for Prakrit, though at different places texts were written in local languages as well.

Mahavira,himself preached in Ardha-Magadhi.

Secondly, the Jain philosophy had certainly enriched India’s thought.

The five vows ahimsa, satya,asateya,aparigraha and brahmacharya are relevant even today.

The Jains constructed stupas adorned with railings, gateways with carved figures and pillars.

The image of a Tirthankara from Lohanipur(Patna)dating back to the Mauryan period is one of the earliest Jain figures.

The Hathigumpha Cave of Kharvela(with its famous inscription)and the Khandagiri and Udaigiri caves of Orissa contain early Jain relics.

During the Kushana period Mathura was a great centre of Jain art.
Several votiue tablets (ayagpatta)with the Tirthankara in the centre were produced.

The gigantic statues of Bahubali (called Gomateshvara)at Shravanabelagola and Karkala,both in Karnataka,are real wonders.

The Jain temples at Ranakpur, near Jodhapur in Rajasthan and the Dilwara temples at Mount Abu(Rajasthan).

The Jain Tower in the fort of Chittor.
Innumerable manuscripts in palm leaves were written down and some of them were 
painted with gold dust.

These have given rise to a new school of painting known as the “Western Indian School”.

Thus Jainism had played a very significant role in the development of language, philosophy, architecture, sculpture and painting in India.

It never crossed the frontiers of India.


BUDDHISM:


It was started by Gautama Buddha who was a notable contemporary of Mahavira.
Buddhism stands on three pillars;the Buddhas, its founder; the Dhamma, his teachings; and the Sangha;

The Buddha:

Also known as Sakyamuni or Thathagata, was born in 563B.C. on the Vaisakha Purnima days in the royal grove at Lumbini, near Kapilavastu, capital of the Sakyan republic, where his father Suddhodana was at the time rulings.

His mother died seven days after the birth.

So the child was brought up by his stepmother Gautami.

He was married at the age of 16 to Yasodhara.

Enjoyed family life for thirteen years and had a son Rahula.

He is said to have seen an old man who was diseased and suffering.

Thirdly he saw a corpes;

He saw a religious beggar, an ascetic.

He left his palace at night at the age of 29, to seek mental peace in the homeless life of an ascetic.

For full six years Gautama sought the solution to the world’s ills.

He searched, scrutinized and examined in detail the prevalent schools of thought.

One fine moning of Vaisakha Purnima at the age of 35, he attained, Enlightenment, at Buddha Gaya in Bihar.

The Buddha delivered his first sermon at Sarnath(Isipatana)before the five ascetics who had been earlier his colleagues.

For forty-five years, the Buddha went about the country, from town to town, from village to village, disseminating spiritual illumination for the benefit of suffering humanity.

He attained mahaparinirvana at Kusinara(now Kasia in Gorkhpur district of U.P)in 483 B.C.at the age of 80.

The Dhamma:

The essence of Buddhism lies in the Four Noble Truths (sanketas)i.e.suffering, its cause;its cessation; and the path leading to the cessation of suffering.

The path that leads to cessation of suffering higher wisdom and peace of mind, is known as the Noble Eightfold Path or the Middle Path(Ariya-atthangikamagga).

This path is:

1.Right Understanding, free from superstition and delusion(samma-ditthi).

2.Right Thoughts, high and worthy of the intelligent earnest man(samma-sankappa).

3. Right Speech, kindly, open, truthful(samma-vaka).

4.Right Action, peaceful,honest, pure(sammu-kammanta).

5.Right Livelihood, bringing hurt or danger to no living thing(samma-ajiva).

6.Right Effort, in self-training and in self-control(samma-vayamma).

7.Right Mindfulness, the active, watchful mind(samma-sati).

8.Right Concentration, earnest thought on the deep mysteries of life (samma-samadhi).

The first two factors are grouped under the heading of Wisdom, the following three under Morality, and the last three under Concentration.

But according to the order of development, the sequence is:

1.Morality(sheela)

2.Concentration(Samadhi),and 

3.Wisdom(panna).

The Buddha held that ‘mind’is the nerve centre of every human activity.

In Buddhism,therefore, vipasana (meditation)is more important than prayer and the various abstinence which border on asceticism.

Buddhism Philosophy:

The three characteristics of Buddhism are:anicca(transiency), dukka(sorrow),anatta(soullessness).

Life is constantly changing.

The principle of transmigration of soul(rebirth)was accepted by the Buddha, and the process of rebirth is explained in the pattica samuppada(Dependent Origination).

On ‘delusion’(avijja)depend the “karma-formations”(sankhara).

On the karma-formations depends ‘consciousnes’(vinnana; starting with rebirth-consciousness in the womb of the mothe).

On consciousness depends the ‘mental and physical existence’(namarupa).

On the mental and physical existence depend the ‘six sense-organs’(sal-ayathana).

On the six sense organs depends ‘sensorial impression’(phassa).

On sensorial impression depends ‘feeling’(vedana).

On feeling depends ‘craving’(tanha).

On craving depends ‘cliging’(upadana).

On clinging depends the ‘process of becoming (bhava).

On the process of becoming(karma-bhava or karma-process)depends ‘rebirth’(jati).

On rebirth depend ‘decay and death’(jaramarana),sorrow,lamentation,pain, grief and despair.

The Buddha was also a great social reformer.

The social and religious laws in India were rigid, partisan,oppressive and even cruel for the vast mass of the people.

Buddha who for the first time attacked the fortresses of privileges, caste system, ritualism, religious fanaticism, superstitions,and ignorance.

It was the Buddha who expounded the transcendental philosophy of universal brotherhood and equalityin all respects.

Lord Buddha was, therefore, the creator of the virtues like individual liberty, toleration, fellow-felling, compassion, non-destruction of life (ahimsa),moral charcter, benevolence, service and sacrifice.

The Buddhist Sangha or Church:

The Buddha had two kinds of disciples—monks (bhikkhus or shramanas)and lay worshippers (upasakas).

The membership of the sangha was open to all persons, male or female, above fifteen years of age and who were free from leprosy, consumption and other infectious diseases.

There were no caste restrictions.

The sangha was governed on absolutely democratic lines and was empowered to enforce discipline amongst its members.

The life of moks and the nuns was strictly governed by the laws and the ten commandments, and there was no room for personal likes or dislikes.

The great defect of the sangha system was the absence of a central coordinating authority.

The sangha,or the Order of the Bhikkus,founded by the Buddha all exists in its original form in Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Amongst the most famous Bhikkhus at the time of the Buddha insight into the dhamma;
Moggallana, who had the greatest supernatural powers
Ananda, the devoted disciple and constant companion of the Buddha;

Maha Kassapa, the President of the Buddhist Council held at Rajagriha immediately after the Buddha’s death;

Anuruddha, master of Right Mindfulness; Upali, master of Vinaya; and Rahula, the Buddha’s son.

Every Buddhist monk has to be samanera(sramne)before ordained as a full-fledged member of the sangha.

The higher ordination of Bhikkhu is called upasampada.

Buddhist Councils:

The first Buddhist Council was held in 483 B.C.at Sattapanni cave near Rajagriha, to comple the dhamma(religious doctrines)and the vinya(monastic code).
Five hundred monks by dividing the teachings of the Buddha into two pitakas-the vinaya and the dhamma (dharma).

A century later a dispute arose regarding the code of discipline , as the monks of 
Vaishali wanted a relaxation fo the rules in respect of the ten points.

A Second Council was convenced in or about 383 B.C.at the Vaishali(Bihar)which condemned the ten heresies.

The Council ended in a permanent schism of the Buddhist church into Sthaviras and Mahasam-ghikas.

The Third Council was held at Pataliputra, during the reign of Asoka, 236 years after the death of the Buddha, under the chairmanship of a learned monk Moggaliputta Tissa to revise the scriptures.

The third Council accomplished two important results.

A new classification of the Buddhist canonical pitaka.

As a result of this the sayings and discourses of the Buddha now came to be known as the Tripitaka.

The canonical literature was precisey, defienitely and authoritatively settled sa as to eliminate all disruptive tendencies, making all division within the Church punishable.

The Buddhist Scriptures:

The sacred scriptures of the Buddhists are in Pali.

The word Pali means simply ‘text’ or ‘sacred text’.

As a language, Pali is an archaic Prakrit.

The Buddhist scriptures in Pali are commonly referred to as Tipitaka(Tripitaka)i.e., ‘Threefold Basket’.

The three ‘Baskets of the Law’(Pitakas)are:

1.Vinaya Pitaka

2.Sutta Pitaka

3.Abhidhama Pitaka.

The Pali canon was first of all codified at the First Council held at Rajagriha, immediately after the mahaparinirvana of the Buddha, under the presidentship of Maha Kassapa.

At this Council (sangiti), Ananda, the life-long comanion of the Buddha,recited the dhamma, while Upali recited the vinaya.

The Second Council held at Vaishali, under the presidentship of Sabbakami.

The Pali canon was further edited by at Patna(Pataliputra) and was presided over by Moggaliputta Tissa.

Later, Mahindra and Sanghamitra, son and daughter of Asoka, introduced Buddhism into Sri Lanka.

The sacred scriptures were committed to writing for the first time on palm leaves in Sri Lanka(Ceylon), where a Council was held for this purpose in 29B.C.under the patronage of the pious Sinhala king Vattagamani Abhaya.

The Vinaya Pitaka mainly deals with rules and regulations which the Buddha promulgated, as occasion arose, for the future discipline fo the order of monks(bhikkhus)and nuns(bhikkhunis).

It describes in detail the gradual development of the sangha.

The Sutta Pitaka consists chiefly of discourses, both small and long as delivered by the Buddha himself on various occasions.

A few discourses delivered by some of his distinguished disciples such as Sariputta, Ananda, Moggallana and others.

The Dhammapada(way of truth),containing a summary of Buddha’s universal teachings, is regarded as one of the great religipus texts of the world.

The Abhidhamma Pitaka contains the profound philosophy of the Buddha’s teachings.

The Abhidhamma investigates mind and matter, the two composite factors of the so-called being , to help the understanding of things as they truly are.
The Pali canon further divided into nine parts on the basis of the matter they contain.

These nine divisions are:

1.Sutta Nikaya(Sermons in prose)

2.Geyya Nikaya(Sermons in prose and verse)

3.Veyyadikarana(Commentary)

4.Gatha(Stories, Psalms)

5.Udana(Pithy sayings)

6.It-vuttaka(“Thus spoke” short speeches of the Buddha)

7.Jataka(Birth stories)

8.Vedalla(Teachings in the form of questions/answers).

With the rise of Mahayanism,Sanskrit was adopted by the Mahayanist scholars.

Few Sanskrit texts belonging to the Hinayana(Theravada)school.

The bulk of the Buddhist literature, in Sanskrit, belongs to the Mahayana school.

Among the Mahayana sutras, the following texts or dharmas, also called the Vaipulya sutras,are regarded as the most important.

1.Astasahasrika-prajna-paramita

2.Saddharna-Pundarika

3.Lalitavistara

4.Suvarna-Prabhasa

5.Gaundavyuha

6.Tathagata-guhgaka

7.Sammadhiraja

8.Dasabhumisvara

Expansion and Development of Buddhism:

The emergence of Asoka the Great(273-232 B.C.)

Eight years after ascending the throne of the Mauryan Empire, which covered almost the whole of India, and even more, Asoka embraced Buddhism.

He would make the Buddha dhamma the basis of all his action in thespiritual as well as temporal fields.

He convenced the Third Buddhist Council.

After the Council, which was held at Pataliputra (modern Patna)under the presidentship of Maggaliputta Tissa, Asoka launched a vigorous campaign to preach and propagate the message of the Buddha, and sent missionaries to various parts of 
India and the neighbouring countries.

Of them, the names of the Greek king Menander of Milinda, who embraced Buddhism at the hands of Nagasen around 160B.C. and the Kushana ruler,Kanishka, who ruled from A.D. 78 to 101, are the most prominent.

1.asvaghosha, who was contemporary of Kanishka.
Gifted as he was, a poet,dramatist,musician, scholar and debator.
Thus he took Buddhism to every hearth and home.

2.Nagarujana, who was a friend and contempoprary of the Satavahana king Yajnasri Gautamiputra(A.D.166-196)of Andhra.

He propounded the Madhyamika school of Buddhist philosophy, popularly known as Sunyavada.

3-4.Asanga and Vasubandhu, who were brothers,flourished in the Punjab in the fourth century A.D.

Asanga was the most important teacher of the Yogacara or Vijnanavadai school founded by his guru, Maitreyanatha.

Vasubandhu’s greatest work, the Abhidharmakosa is still considered an important encyclopaedia of Buddhism.

5.Buddhaghosha, who lived in the fifth century A.D., was a great Pali scholar.

The Visuddhimaga written by him are not only a great achievement in the post-

Tripitaka literature but are also key to the Tripitaka.

6-7.Buddhapalita and Bhavaviveka were important exponents, in the fifth century, of the Sunyavada doctrine propounded by Nagarjuna.

8.Dinnaga, the last mightly intellectual of the fifth century, is well known as the founder of the Buddhist logic.

He wrote about 100 treatises on logic and is often referred to as the father of the Medieval Nyaya as a whole.

9-11.The grand tradition of Vasubandhu was subsequently continued by Chandrakirti, Sthrimati and the younger Dhammapala.

12-15.The Sunyavada doctrine was further interpreted by distinguished thinkers like Aryadeva, Santideva, Santaraksita and Kamalasila.

16.Dharmakirti, who lived in the seventh century AD.was another great Buddhist logician and dialectician and his writings mark the highest summit reached in epistemological speculation by later Buddhism.

Acknowledging his unsurpassed genius Dr.Stcherbatsky calls him the Kant of India.
Harsha (A.D. 606-647)was the last illustrious Buddhist ruler.

He had to assume power of the Thanesar and the Kanauj dynasties under dramatic circumstances.

This happended after the assassination of his elder brother, Rajyavardhana, at the hands of the king of Malwa who had earlier assassinated his brother-in-law , Grahvarman.

According to Hiuen Tsang, there were about 10,000 monasteries and about 75,000 monks in India during the reign of Harsha.

Thus the whole a number of eminent Buddhist scholars and teachers,

Buddhism was showing signs of decline.

After Harsha’s death in A.D. 647 it began declining rapidly.

By the twelfth century A.D Buddhism in India was only confined to a smll pocket in North-East India.

Even there it was almost closeted within the monasteries.

When the Muslim army advanced towards Bihar, sacked the Buddhist establishements at Nalanda, Vikramasila and Odantapuri, massacred most of the monks residing in them, the rout of Buddhism was complete.

Buddhism crossed the broders of India also and gained firm ground.

Beginning with the mission ary activities launched by Asoka in the third century B.C.. when he sent out his own son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra, to Sri Lanka, 
on Buddhist mission, it gradually spread across much of Asia.

One stream went to Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and the Malaya archipelago.

Another stream flowed int Central Asia, and from there to China, Korea and Japan.

Yet another entered Tibet and form there into China and Mongolia.

Sects of Busshism:

Differences arose among his followers as to the interpretation of the Master’s teachings.

After the Second Council, held 100 years after the Buddha, at Vaishali, two great schools—the Sthaviravadins and Mahasanghikas—came into being.

By the time of Asoka, there were eighteen different schools,each with its own interpretation on canonical teachings.

Mahasanghikas paved the way for the emergence of Mahayana in the first century A.D.at the Fourth Council held during the reign of Kanishka.

The Mahayanists gave prominence to the Buddhisattva ideal, and laid emphasis on liberating all individual, the ideal of arhatship in Theravada.

The Mahayanists believed that all things were of non-essential and indefinable charcter, and void at the bottom.

Everything, being void, there is in reality no process and no cessations.

They further gave prominence to the Eternal Buddhas, who look like the God of theistic religions.

The Mahayanists’emphasis of another school called Yogacara, in which not only imaginary beings but exponents or leaders of various sects were also deified as Bodhisattvas.

As a result of intermingling of Buddhisitic and Brahmanical speculartions, the Yogacara school paved way for Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism .

Even today, there are three major types of Buddhism;Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.

Regionally speaking, contemporary Theravada Buddhist Asia includes Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand , Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Nepal,Singapora, and Southern Vietnam.

Mahayana Buddhist Asia now includes China(to some extent), Hong Kong-Macao, Japan, Kora, Taiwan, Vietnam, and certain communities in Indonesia, India, Malayasia, the Philippines, Nepal, nad Singapore.

The present Vajrayana Buddhist Asia includes Bhutan, Mongolia(to some extent)m Tibet, and certain communities in India and Nepal.
Dhamma in cooperation with each other as members of the World Fellowship of Buddhists founded in Sri Lanka in 1950.

Thus now the emphasis is no Buddhayana, the universal teachings of the Buddha.

Sacred Shrines:

India, the birth place of the Buddha and Buddhism has many sacred shrines.

The four places; Lumbini (in Nepal), Buddha Gaya, Sarnath and Kusinagar.
Namely birth, enlightenment, first preaching and mahaparinirvana.
Srasvasti, Sankasya, Rajagriha nad Vaishali.


These eight places have all along been considered as the eight holy places (ashtamahasthanas), celebrated alike in Buddhist lore as well as art.

Some of the other important centres of Buddhism in ancient India were:Amaravati and Nagarjunakonds in Andhra Pradesh, Nalanda in Bihar, Jungadh and Valabhi in 
Gujarat;Sanchi and Bharhut in Madhya Pradesh;Ajanta-Ellora in Maharashtra;Dhaulagiri in Orissa; Kanauj, Kausambi and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh; and Jagaddala and Somapuri in West Bengal.

With the decline of Buddhism, all the Buddhist shrines fell into disuse.

The shrines in Western India being mostly in the shape of rock-cut caves, were covered with natural growth and were lucky to escape destruction and even desecration.

Buddhist Customs and Manners:

The Three Refuges are followed by the Five Moral Precepts (pancha sila)which form the bed-rock of the Buddhist way of life.

The Five Precepts are, to abstain toxicants.

The Buddhsits are divided into two classes, i.e.,the upasakas and the monks.

An upasaka(fem, upasika)is a lay devotee.

Who renounce the life of a householder and take to the life of a recluse by joining the sangha are knowna as monks (bhikhus).

There are four classeson the bassis of the observance.
Upasakas observing Five Precepts;serving Ten Precepts; and bhikkhus observing 227 Precepts.

The Buddhists have four sacred days in a month which are observed as days of fasting.
New moon, full moon and the two quarter moon days.

They are called uposatha(roya in Sri Lanka),i.e.,fast days.

On the uposatha days, the devout Buddhists follow the Eight Precepts(atthanga sila)and abstain from worldly pleasures.

They visit viharas and offer dana to the bhikkhus.

The most sacred and the most important festival for all the Buddhists is Vaishakha Purnima,known in India as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti.

It is fixed by the full-moon day of Vaishakha which falls in May.

This day is the Thrice Blessed day ad Lord Buddha was born(at Lumbini),attained Enlightenment (at Buddha Gaya)and entered into mahaparinirvana(at Kusinara)on this day.

Jainism and Buddhism –A Comparison:

Protestant religious movements.

Both held that the law of karma is above all creatures, whether men or gods, and even god ro gods cannot after the course of this law.

Both denied the Brahmanic ceremonies, rejected the authority of the Vedas,abhorred and condemned sacrifices and ignored the belief in God as the creator of the universe.

Both Mahavira and the Buddha preached their religions in the common language of the people, denounced the caste system and advocated equality of men and women.

As the founder of both Jainism and Buddhism were Kshatriya princes, drawing their inspiration from the teachings of the Upanishads,much of their success was due to the patronage of the Kshatriya princes and kings.

But in many respects they differed fundamentally from each other.

The Jains gave the laity a very prominent place in their order while the Buddhists relied mainly on their monastic order.

The nirvana of the Buddhists differed fundamentally from that of the Jains.

The nirvana of the former was escape from existence, whereas that of the latter is escape from the body.

The Jains believed in rigorous asceticism and approved of self-mor-tification which was discarded and condemned by the Buddhists strongly.

Contribution of Buddism to Indian Culture:

Without any complicated, elaborate and unintelligible,rithals such as could be performed only by a priestly class.

The doctrine of ahimsa,so strongly stressed.

The practice of worshipping personal gods, making their images and erecting temples in their honour was adopted by the Hindus in imitation of the Mahayana Buddhist.

The finest contribution of Buddhism to Indian life was made in the realm of architecture and sculpture.

The stupas at Sanchi, Bharhut and Amravati, the stone pillars of Asoka and the cave temples of Kanheri(Bombay), Karle(Pune)and Nasik are considered the best specimens of Buddhsit art.

The stupa at Sanchi is world-renowed for its gateways, and railings which are profusely covered with sculpture.

The most important fact is that Buddhism proved to be one of the greatest civilizing forces which India gave to the negighbouring countries.

Buddhism broke the isolation of India and established an intimate contact between India and foreign coungries.

It was India’s greatest gift to the outer world.

Indian culture and civilization was carried by the Buddhist missionaries into China, Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea, Japan, Burma,Java, Sumatra and other countries from the time of Asoka.


BHAGAVATISM AND BRAHMANISM

Changes were being introduced in the religious outlook of the Indo-Aryans.
The Vedic religion was no doubt held in honour,but its charcters was being gradually transformed.

The Aryanyka and the Upanishad literature, an authoritative and substantial part of which was associated with one or the other of the different branches(sakha)of the principal Vedas, was mainly concerned with such topics as the interpretation of the nature of the various sacrifices, and the mystery of Brahman and Atman and not with the actual ritualism of the Vedas and the Brahmanas.

When the Buddha and Mahavira flourished there were religious leaders like Kasyapa, Katyayana, Sanjaya, Maskari Ghosala and others, many of whom seem to have been severe critics of Vedic sacrificialism.

The most important element that operated to bring these sects about is bhakti,primarily the loving adoration of some persons by others, but secondarily the deep, affectionate and mystic devotion for some personal deity who is the principal object of worship to his devotees(bhaktas).

The divinities round whom the sects developed were not recruited from the orthodox Vedic pantheom, but from quite a different source, Indra, Prajapati, Mitra,Varuna, Yama, Agni and a host of other could not serve the purpose of sectarian deities, and many of them were relegated to the minor positions of guardians of quarters(dikapalas).

Some of the Vedic gods, again, like Vishnu, Surya and Rudra,and Brahmanic deities like the cosmic god Narayana, came to be merged in the composite cult-deities of different sects.

The part played by Vishnu is the Bhagavata or Pancharatra cult,later known as Vaishnavism.

The originals of the sectarian gods were either human heroes like Vasudeva Krishana,the son of Devaki, Sakyamuni Buddha and Mahavira, or mythological beings like Siva (Rudra-Siva),or the yakshas and nagas,e.g.
Manibhadra, Purnabhadra, Dadhikarna, Tak-shaka and others, and such goddesses as Uma, Haimavati, Ambika, Durga-Parvati and Vindyavasini.

Asoka significantly remarks in his Rock Edict XII that men are usually associated with one or the other sect,and that a tolerant monarch does not encourage the extolling of one’s own sect to the disparagement of others.

Bhagavatism:The Beginnings of the Bhakti School centring on Vasudeva Krishna:
One of the earliest religious schools centring upon a personal god who seems to have been originally a human hero was that of the Bhagavatas or the Pancharatras.

It was this school which later came to be designated as Vaishnava and became one of the foremost Brahmanical creeds of India.

According to the epic and Puranic traditions, the Bhagavatas worshipped Vasudeva Krishana, the Satvata or Vrishni chief and some of his relations.

One of the earliest references to Krishna is to be found in the Chhandogya Upanishad, a major and early prose Upanishad attributable to an age previous to that of the Buddha.

In this work he is represented as a pupil of Ghora, a sage of the Angirasa gotra.
Krishna is described here as the son of Devaki(Devakiputra) who learns several precepts concerning the real nature of man’s life from his teacher.

In the Chhandogya Upanishad(Book III)some facts are stated about one Mahidasa, son of Itara(Mahidasa Aitareya)and the next chapter deals with Krishna Devakiputra.

Some early Buddhist and Jain texts too show that Vasudeva was a man.

The Ghata Jataka mentions Vasudeva as belonging to the royal family of Upper Madhura (Mathura), and though the name of the family is not given, there can be little doubt that it is the Vrishni one.

The Jataka represents him and his brothers as the sons of Devagabbha and Upasagara.
They were handed over to a man of the name of Andhakavenhu and his wife Nandagopa, an attendant of Devagabha.

The names of the allied tribes, Andhakas and Vrishnis, and those of Krishna’s mother and foster-father are thus found in this account.

The Jain text Uttaradhyayana Sutra also refers in an interesting manner to Vasudeva, also named Kesava, who was a contemporary of Arishtanemi, the twenty-second Jina,both princes of the town of Soriyapura(Sairyapura).

Kesava was the son of Devaki and king Vasudeva, while Arishtanemi was born to king Samudravijaya and siva.

The earliest reference to the deification of the human hero, Vasudeva, however, is found in one of the sutras of Panini’s Ashtadhyayi, in which Vasudeva and Arjuna are mentioned side by side, in connection with the rule for the derivation of the words denoting their devotees.

Patanjali in commenting on the former aphorism raises this question and answers it by observing that Vasudeva in this context is not tha name of a Kshatriya, but that of the worshipful one, a god.

In one manuscript of the Mahabhashya,R.G.Bhandarkar found and suggested that here is an undoubted reference to the god Vasudeva.

The story of the fight between and his maternal uncle Kamsa and of the latter’s death at the hands of his nephew is also referred to in the Mahabhashya.

On these occasion the performers formed themselves into two rival groups representing the Vasudevabhaktas and the Kamsabhaktas, the former overcoming the latter.

Patanjali also knew that Vasudeva Krishna was the younger brother of Samkarshana (another name of Baladeva).

Two other epithets of Samkarshana-Baladeva, namely Rama and Rauhineya, as well as another epithet of Vasudeva Krishna i.e. Kesava, were also known to Patanjali.

That the worship of Vasudeva was well establislied among some sections of Indians is proved by a few passages in the works of Megasthenes, Quintus Curtius, Strabo and other classical writers of ancient times.

Arrian, quoting from Megasthenes’s Indika, says that “Heracles is held in especial esteem by the Sourasenoi, an Indian tribe possessing two large cities, Methora and Cleisobora, the river Jobares flowing through their country.

R.G. Bhandarkar long ago identified the Sourasenoi with the Satavatas, and Heracles with Vasudeva.

The two cities of the Sourasenoi are no doubt Mathura and Krishnapura.

Though the Uttaradhyayana sutra account of Vasudeva is somewhat confused, we may find in the city named Sauryapura a reference to this form of the tribal designation.

Their Greek writers had some reason to identify their divine hero Herales with Vasudeva, for this Indian Heracles, according to Arrian, born to him by his many wives.

Quintus Curtius records that an image of Hercules(Herakles)was carried in front of the infantry of Porus in his battle with Alexander, and that it acted as the strongest of all incentives to make the soldiers fight well.

‘Hercules’ in this passage has been identified with Krishna, and if Curtius is correct in his statement, Porus and an appreciable section of his soldiers might have been worshippers of Vasudeva Krishna.

Panini’s reference to the worshppers of Vasudeva and Arjuna brings out another interesting point in connection with it.

The epic tradition shows that Nara and Narayana, or for that matter Arjuna and Vasudeva, were great heroes as well as sages; the sage-like charcter of one of them at least may be traced to the Vedic tradition about the Rishi Narayana, the seer of the Purushasukta.

Now, development of the Vasudeva cult.

Arjuna, who was a Kaurava, found no place in this list thought it contained the names of Samkarshana or Baladeva, Vasudeva Krishna, Pradyumna, Samba, and Aniruddha,all of whom belonged to the Vrishni clan and were closely related to onw another.

Both Samkarshan and Vasudeva were the sons of Vasudeva by different wives(Rohini and Devaki),Pradyumani and Smaba were the two sons of Vasudeva, Pradyumna born to Rukmini and Samba to Jambavati, while Aniruddha was the son of Pradyumna.

The epic and puranic tradition proves clearly that they were origninally human beings who were raised to the position of gods.

The Vayu Purana, one of the oldest of the Puranas,says that the gods who were human by nature (manushyaprakriti)were Samkarshana and the four others just mentioned, and that they were celevrated as the ‘five heroes of the clan’, evidently the Vrishni clan.

The Mora Well inscription of the time of Mahakshatrapa Sodasa(early first century A.D)refers to the enshrinement in a stone temple by a woman named Tosha, of foreign extraction, of the images of the five holy Vrishniviaras(bhagavatam vrishninam panchaviranam pratima).

It will be presently shown that with the exception of Somba,the fourth in this list, they constitute the four primary vyudhas or emanatory forms of the highest god(Para Vasudeva).

Tenets of the Bhagavata Cult:

Pancharatra Samhitas.

The earliest of these treatises seem to have been composed in the first centuries of the Christian era when the bulk of the Mahabharata along with its ‘Narayaniya’section must have taken its present shape.

The one God Vasudeva, the highest object of worship to a bhagavata, was conceived in his five-fold aspects, para, vyuha, vibhava,antaryamin, and archa.

Para is the highest aspect of the Lord, the next two being his emanatory and incarnatory forms respectively; his antaryamin aspect charcterises him as the inner controller of the actions of every individual, the archa form referring to his concrete images regarded by the Pancharatirna as his auspicious bodies(srivigrahas).

Much of this can be traced in the Bhagavadgita which gives the first systematic exposition of the ekantika dharma centring on Krishna Vasudeva.

Vasudeva Krishna, the one object of devotion to Arjun,corresponds to his para aspect while the vibhava and antaryamin aspects are also described in its several sections.

But the vyuha concept of the Lord does not seem to have been developed.

The ideology underlying the vyuhavada mainly centred upon the topic of ‘pure creation’(suddha-srishti),i.,e, the creation of the six ideal gunas,namely jnana, aisvarya, sakti, bala, virya and tejas.

The gunas or virturs come under two principal groups of three each, the first three(jnana or knowledge, aisvarya or lordship and sakti or potency) forming the first group of visrama bhumayah (stages of rest), and the second three(bala or strength, virya or virility and tejas or splendour), the second group of Sramabhumayah(stages of action).

Introduction of Vyuha Doctrine in the cult

At what period was the vyuha worship introduced in the Bhagavata cult?
The earliest reference to the vyuha doctrine is found by some scholars in the Brahmasutra but it must be noted that it is only in the commentaries thereupon of Sanskarcharya and Ramanuja that the tenet is clearly mentioned.

Patanjali uses the compound Rama-Kesava in his commentary on Panini;and elsewhere in his Bhashya he describes Krishna as second to Sam karshana.

Patanjali was more aware of the worship of the viras than of the vyuhas.

The second to the first century A.D.Viravada was the more prominent.

The Besnagar inscription (c. second century B.C.)of Heliodorus, the ambassador of Antialcidas, the Indo-Greek king of Taxila, to the Sunga king Kasiputra Bhagabhadra of Vidisa, refers only to Devadeva Vasudeva, the chosens god of Heliodorus-a convert to the Bhagavata creed.

The Nagari inscription of King Sarvatata(also of the same period)tells of his erection of stone walls round the shrines of Samkarshana and Vasudeva.
Bhagavadgita scholarship dates in the third to the second century B.C.

This view seems to be further corroborated by the Nanaghat cave inscription of Nayanika, queen of Sri Satakarni, the third in the puranic list of the Satavahana kings.

Among the various gods invoked, there occur the names of Samkarshana and Vasudeva in the correct dynastic order.

The regions of India which were more intimately as sociated with it were Mathura, the Surasena country and Vidisa in Central India.

Several fragmentary inscriptions of the first century B.C.have been discovered at modern Besanagar(ancient Vidisa)in Bhopal, which refer to the excellent temple of the Bhagavat.

It was evidently in front of one of these that the Yavana duta Heliodorus, himself a bhagavata by faith, erected that noble columan, the Garuda-dhavaja.

The Garuda capital of the inscribed columns is missing, but another Garuda-shaped capital of a shift has been discovered there.

These are shaped, one as atala(fan-palm)and the other as a makara(crocodile),and these tala and makara-dhvajas were undoubtedly dedicated to two of Krishna’s kinsmen(also his emanatory forms).

Two other massive stone sculptures of the third to the second century B.C.,discovered by Cunningham at Besanagar within sixty yards of each other, may be described, one as an image of the goddess Sri Lakshmi intimately associated with the Bhagavata cult, and the other as a banyan capital containing the ashtanidhis over which she was the presiding deity.

One of the earliest images of Samkarshana(Balarama),now in the Lucknow Museum collection, comes from Mathura and has been dated in the second century B.C.
The number of snake hoods of the deity with the drinking vessel and ploughshare in his hands shown his association with the Naga cult as well(Balarama is some times regarded as an incarnation of Annata Naga, a Parshada or companion of Vasudeva Vishnu).

It was perhaps this aspect of the god which commended his separate worship to a certain section of people who are described by Kautilya in his Arthashastra as a class of ascetics “with shaved head or braided hair”.

Growth of the Bhagavata Cult:

The cult of the Bhagavatas or the Pancharatras had thus come to enjoy high recongnition all over India by the end of the third century A.D.

The Jains, of Bhagavatism, for they held Vasudeva to be a near relation of Arishtanemi, the twenty-second Tirthankara and included Vasudeva and Baladeva among the sixty-three Salaka-Purushas, or eminent personalities, who had influenced the history of the world in various ways.

Such was the respect paid by the Nirgranthas to the two Vrishni heroes that they multiplied their number, and in the list of these sixty-three great men they counted nine Vasudevas, nine Baladevas and nine Prati-Vasudevas.

The Jain Aupapatika Sutra also mentions Baladeva and Vasudeva, and charcterises the former as one of the eight great Kshatriya teachers.

In many of their texts, both early and late, the Jain authors refer collectively to “the five great heroes(of the Vrishni clan)with Baladeva at their head”.
None other than Samkarshana, Vasudeva, Pradyumna, Samba and Aniruddha.

The Jain, again, insisted on the doctrine of ahimsa(non-violence) which had been one of the cardinal maxims of the Bhagavatas, for it was one of the great moral principles taught by Ghora Angirasa to Krishna Devakiputra, and it was included in the list of the divine qualities (daivi sampad)enumerated by the author of the Bhagavadgita.


It is no wonder that Keith had remarked: “the (Jain)faith is deeply permeated with Hindu influences, and especially with influences of Krishan worship”.

Early Bhagavatism exercised a great influence on Buddhism.

The Saddharmapundariks,one of the most characteristic Buddhist works of the early period(c. first century A.D.),contains a good many passages that have parallels in the Gita, a much earlier work.

Various scholars like Macnicol, Senart and Poussin have held the view that the Bhagavatas influenced the Buddhist tenets to a great extent from a very early period.

The cult was of indigenous origin, and in its earlier stages had nothing to do with Christianity.

R.G.Bhandarkar, however, was of opinion that the conception of the cowherd (Gopala)Krishna in Bhagavatism, and especially the stories connected with the the childhood of Krishna were directly inspired by the contact of the early Bhagavatas with foreign Christian immigrants into India, like the Abhiras.

The Vedic Vishnu, one of the Aditya,famed for his ‘three steps’(tri-vikrama)was associated with an act of deliverance and grace.

The rishi Ghora Angirasa, from whom Krishna Devakiputra learnt some doctrines, was himself a priest of the Sun.

Narayana, the other prominent god-concept to be taken over, is found mentioned for the first time in the Satapatha Brahmana, where he is credited with the performance of a Pancharatra Sattra (a sacrifice continued for five nights).

The Taittiriya Arannyaka refers and Lord, “the Deity Eternal, Superme and Lord”.
The amalgamation of Narayana’s worship with the worship of Vasudeva Krishna was also a necessary stage in the development of the Bhagavata cult.

Many of the early Bhagavatas like Sarvatrata, performed Vedic sacrifices like the asvamedha.

In the Gita,Krishna is several times addressed by Arjun as Vishnu and the association of Devadeva Vasudeva with the sun-bird Garuda is alluded to in the Heliodorus inscription.

The name Bhagavata remained current from the times of Panini till the Gupta period, though the term Vaishnava had come to be used some time before the middle of the fifth century A.D.

In the gradual transformation of Bhagavatism into Vaishnavism, the avatara doctrine played a prominent part.

Bhagavatism and its late form—Vaishnavism –were only one of the religious developments.

Bhagavatism and Vaishnavism:

Vaishnavism, as the name implies, means the particular theistic religion of which Vishnu is the object of worship and devotion as the Supreme God.

The grrm of Vishnu’s later greatness and of sectarian Vaishnavism is traceable even in the Rigveda.

Vishnu was usually recognized as an aspect of the Later Vedic texts more with sacrifice than with devotion and grace.

The Evolution of Vaishnavism:

The first step in the evolution of Vaishnavism was the identification of Vasudeva Krishna with the Vedic deity Vishnu.

Identification of Vasudeva-Krishna-Vishnu with a deified age(or hero)named Narayana.
The earliest evidence regarding the identification of Narayana with Vishnu is probably to be traced in Baudhayana’s Dharma-sutra.

Here Narayana appears also as Hari and as “the deity eternal, supreme and lord”.
According to the late Narayaniya section of the Santiparvan,Narayana, the eternal and the universal soul, was born as the son of Dhama in the quadruple form of Nara, Narayana, Hari, and Krishna.

R.G.Bhandarkar believes that Narayana has a cosmic charchter and is not a historical or mythological individual.

He interprets the word Narayana as the resting place or goal of Nara, or a collection of Naras(i,e,men).

The worshippers of the deified sage Narayana were originally known as Panchratirkas, who were later mixe up with the Bhagavatas worshipping Vasudeva according to the vidhi of the Satvata people.

An important feature of Vaishnavism in the Gupta Age was the popular worship of the avataras, i,e, descents or incarnations of Vishnu.

The conception of the Vamana(Dwarf)avatara associated with Vishnu, and that of the Varaha(Boar),Matsya(Fish),and Kurma(Tortoise)avataras not yet connected with that god, are to be found in the Satapatha and other Brahmanas.

According to the Matsya Purana, which also gives a list of ten incarnations, there wee three divine avataras,namely, Narayana, Narasimha, and Vamana,as well as seven human avataras, namely, Dattatrey, Mandhatri,Rama son of Jamadagni,Rama son of Dasaratha, Vedavyasa, Buddha, and Kelki.

Other Pancharatra words like the Vishvaksena-samhita mention the Buddha,Arjuna and others in the list of secondary avataras.

The Buddha is recognized as an avatara in the Dasavatara-Charita of the Kashmiri author Kshemendra(c.A.D. 1050).

Jayadeva sings in praise of Krishna who is Vishnu himself, and of his ten avataras, namely, Fish,Tortoise,Boar,Manlion,Dwarf, Rama Bhargava, Rama Dasarathi, Rama Haladhara, Buddha and Kalki.

The most important avatara whose worship was very popular in different parts of India in the Gupta Age seems to have been Varaha or the Boar.

According, to some scholars, Bhagavatism and Pancharatra, which were possibly related at the beginning, became completely different in the Gupta period.

Another feature of Vaishnavism in the Gupta period is the conception of Lakshmi or Sri as Vishnu’s wife.

A second wife of Vishnu was supposed to be the Earth, called Vaishnavi in some epigraphs, e.g.those of the Sarabhapura kings.

With the emergence of new gods and goddesses like Durga, Kartika and Ganesa, some older deities lost their prestiage.

One notable example is Samkarshana.

In North India(especially Bengal)of Lakshmi and Sarasvati as the two wives of Vishnu.
Identification of Lakshmi with Durga, Abma, Devi or Ekanamsa is also not unknown.

Saivism (Shivism):

The cult centring upon siva or better still Rudra-Siva.

This god-concept (or the amalgam of such concepts)was mythical in charcter.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad uses it several times as one of the various name of the 
god Rudra whose glory is extolled in that work.

Siva and his various forms such as Rudra-Siva, Mahadeva or Mahesvara,occur in the Sankhyayana,Kaushitaki and other Brahmanas.

The same forms are also found in the Svetasvatara,a treatise which mixes many theistic elements with the older pantheism of the Upanishads.

The Kaushitaki Brahmana, again ascribes the name Isana along with the epithet Mahan Deva to the god.

Weber pointed out long ago that this attribution “involves quite a special prominence of the deity as compared with the other gods and indeed indicates a sectarian worship”.

Rudra’s rise to the position of the supreme god had already been effected in the Atharva Veda where various epithets such as Bhava, Sarva, Pasupati, Ugra,Mahadeva and Isana are attributed to him.

With the addition of the name fo Asani in the Satapatha and Kaushitaki Brahmanas to the other seven, wer get Rudra’s eight names, each four of which typiy his two aspects, destructive and benign.

The theistic Upanishad Svetasvatara calls Rudra sometimes ‘Eka Deva’,the ‘One God’, another sign of his great prominence.

Patanjali refers to Siva as well as Rudra several times in his commentary.

Rudra is twice described as the god who is offered animals in sacrifice for which animals are procured;in two other passages, the medicinal herbs of Rudra are called auspicious(Siva Rudrasya bheshaji).

Patanjali’s reference to the Siva-bhagavatas is unique interest, for it is the first unambiguous metion of a Saiva sect.

Patanjali says that a Siva-bhagavata was an ayahsulikah, i.,e ‘one who carried and iron lance’.

He observes that because this type of Saivite seeks to obtain his end by violence,which should be got by mildness, he is called ‘ayahsulikah’.

Though he makes no observation on the word dandajina it is apparent that a shaft(danda)and a hide(ajina)were also the charcterstic marks of a Siva-bhagavata who was 
both an ayahsulika and a dandajinika.

The Pasupatas:

Where the Siva-bhagavatas the same as the Pasupatas?

The Mahabharta(Narayaniya section)includes the Pasupata school among the five 
systems, namely,Sankhya, Yoga, Pancharatra,Veda and the Pasupata;referring to their founders, it says ‘Siva-Srikantha, the consort of Uma, the lord of spirits and the son of Brahmadeva, taught the Pasupatajnana’.

D.R.Bhandarkar pointed out long ago on the basis of textual(puranic)and epigraphic data, the Pasupata system was founded by Lakulisa, the twenty-eighth or the last incarnation of Siva.

The Mathura Pillar inscription of Chandragupta II, dated Gupta Era61(A.D.381), helps us to ascertain the approximate date of Lakulisa in a very interesting manner.

It records the erection of two images called Kapilesvara and Upamitesvara (really two siva-lings named after Kapila and Upamita , the teacher and the teacher’s teacher or the donor), in the gurvvayatana(abode of the teachers), by one Uditacharya, the Mahesvara(Pasupata)teacher;the latter is described in the record as tenth in the apostolic succession from Kusika.

This Kusika was no other than the first of the four immediate disciples of Lakulisa(Kusika,Mitra, Garga,and Kaurushya) who, according to epigraphic and puranic data, were the founders of four lines among the Pasupatas.

Lakulisa could not have been the founder of the school of the Siva-bhagavatas alluded to by Patanjali, for the simple reason that the latter is almost unanimously assigned a date in the middle of the second century B.C.

This is suggested by the puranic description of him as the twenty-eighth or last incarnation of Siva.

In this avatar Siva incarnated himself as a Brahmacharin,entering a dead body lying in a cremation ground of Kayavatara or Kayavarohana(modern Karvan in the Kathiawar Peninsula).

Lakulisa composed a work called Pancharthavidya, now lost but quoted by Madhavacharya.

The Pasupata vow is summarily described in the Atharvasiras Upanishad.

The Pasupata vrata,which consists of besmearing the initiate’s body with ashes simultaneously with the muttering of the mantra, “Agni is ashes, Vayu is ashes, all this is ashes, dry land is ashes, the sky is ashes, all this is ashes, the mind, these eyes are ashes”.

This is Pasu-vimokshana.

Siva (Shiva) Worship in Northern India:

The annalists of Alexander’s invasion probably refer to a class of Siva worshippers in the Punjab when they mention the ‘Sibae’ and a few of their charcterstic traits.

The Saiva sect was not only flourishing in Eastern India in the pre-Charistian period, but also existed in the extreme north of India.

That it also flourished in the north-western region is indirectly proved by a statement of the Greek author Hesychius, who says that “the bull was the god of Gandhara”.

This therimorphic divinity was one of the tutelary divinities of Pushkalavati (lit., ‘ the city of loutse’),th old capital of Gandhara, as is proved by a gold coin of the Indo-Scythian series, which contains the figure of a ball with the legends ‘tauros’ and ‘ushabhe’ in Greek and Kharoshthi charcters.

The long-continued worship of Siva in this locality, right up to the seventh century, is proved by Hiuen-tsang’s statement that “outside the west gate of the city of Pushkalavati was a Deva-temple and a marve-working image of the Deva”;the ‘Deva’here undoubtedly refers to siva.

The Panjtar(Silimpur)inscription bearing the date 122(c.A.D.64),probably refers to the existence of a Saiva sanctuary (Sivathala-Sivasthala)below the Mahaban range in North-western India. 

A bronze seal of the first century B.C. unearthed by Marshall in the course of excavatons on the Sirkap site of ancient Taxila contains the figre of Siva, and the Brahmi and Kharoshthi legends (Sivarakshitasa) beside it declare that it was the personal seal of one Sivarakshita;One protected by Siva.

But the popularity of Saivism among a section of the foreign immigrants into India is revealed by other archelogical data.

Gondopharnes, the Indo-Parthian ruler,(c.first half of the first century A.D.),very oftern describes himself in his coin-legends would be no other than the god ‘Siva’.

The word varta here again reminds us of the Pasupatavrata and Mahavrata of the sectarian Saivas.

That a great Kushana monarch reigning shortly after this Indo-Parthian king was a devoted Saiver sectar; has been reognised by all.

He was Wima Kadiphises, whose coins bear either Siva, Siva and bull, or one of the emblems of Siva, a trident-battle-axe.

Saktism (Shaktism):

The five well-known Brahmanical sects(Panchopasakas)were the Vaishnava, Saiva, Sakta, Saura and Ganapatya.

They centred respectively on the worship of Vishnu (Vasudeva-Vishnu-Narayana), Siva(Rudra Siva),Sakti(the female principle, conveniently called Durga-Parvati),Surya (the sun god)and Ganapati(the elephant-headed and pot-bellied divinity), ‘the lord of obstacls’.

Another band of devotees god Subrahmanya or Karttikeya.

The female deities are sometimes collectively named as the ‘wives of the gods’(e.g. in the passage devanam patninyajati), but the two goddesses that stand out prominent in the hymns’ of the Rigvedaa are Usha, the goddess of dawn, and Vak, the goddess of speech.

Durga,Kali,Ambika, Uma and others who singly as well as collectively became afterwards the central deities of the Sakta cult.

The Sauras-The Sun Worshippers:

One of the Upanishadic passagaes identified him with Brahma(asavadityo Brahma).

The Niddessa refers to a body of Indians whose special objects of worship were the sun and the moon(Surya and Chandra).

The sun-cult that flourished in parts of an alien influence which must have infiltrated from Eastern Iran in company with the Saka-Pahlava invaders of these Indian regions.

Worshippers of Karttikeya and Ganapati:

In the epic and puranic mythology Karttikeya and Ganapati are usually described as the two sons of Siva and Parvati.

The association of Karttikeya with Siva was perhaps known even in the time of Patanjali, for images of Skanda and Vishkha, which are his two other names or the names of his two aspects, are mentioned by the great grammarian along with those of Siva.

Certain warlike tribes of ancient India, e.g.the Yaudheyas, a Kshatriya tribe ‘living by their weapons’(ayudhajivi), exclusively worshipped this god.

The Yaudheyas were a very old tribe whose separate existence in parts of sourthern Punjab from the fourth centrury B.C.to the early fourth century A.D.

The earliest coins of this tribe probably refer to the Sulagava sacrifice performed in honour of Rudra for the possession of wealth and prosperity (bahudhana, bahudhanya);but the coins that they issued in the first century B.C. or the first century A.D. contain the figure of the six-headed Brahmanyadeva (Subrahmanya-Karttikeya)and his principal congnisance, a cock or a peacock (barhiketu), and a legend which states that they were the issues of ‘Brahmanya, also called Kumara the divine lord of the Yaudheyas’.

The figures of Karttikeya or his different aspects described variously as Skanda, Kumara, Vishkha and Mahasena found on the coins of Huvishka show that this god was held in great veneration by a section of Indians in the second century A.D.

A red sandstone pillar of the same period found at Laha Bhagat near Kanpur(U.P) with its detached cock capital as well as the cock-crested pillar devices on certain A.D.also show that his worship was in full vogue in parts of Northera India at the time.

1 comment:

  1. khadubhai,,passing ugc net...is enough to get me a assistant professor in hpu or collages or they ask for additional experience given that i hold none experience ...pls clarify it... also i am commerce post graduate with 71% i stuck between commerce or management....which is good..for career perspective

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