Economic Conditions in Gupta Period

Agrarian structure

The state was the exclusive owner of land. The most decisive argument is the evidence in Paharpur copper plate inscription of Buddhagupta where it is stated that the emperor acquired wealth as well as spiritual merit when he made land grants. This makes it obvious that he was the owner of the land. Landgrants indicate that the king had the supreme ownership of land otherwise he could not transfer comprehensive rights to the receipent. Even after the donation of land the king reserved certain prerogatives over it. Thus it appears that though the land was to all intents and purposes, that of the peasants the king claimed its theoretical ownership.

Classification of Land

The land of the Gupta period can be classified into the following groups:
Kshetra: Cultivable land
Khila: Waste land
Aprahata: Jungle or forest land
Vasti: Habitable land
Gapata Sarah: Pasture land

Land tenures

In the land grant inscriptions specific terms of land tenure are recorded. They are: 

  • Nivi dharma: Land endowment in perpetuity. 
  • Nivi dharma aksayana: a perpetual endowment which a recipient could not alienate but could make use of the income accruing from it eternally. 
  • Aprada dharma: It means that a recipient has all rights to enjoy such a property but no right to make a further gift of the same and can only enjoy the interest and income from the endowed land but not administrative rights. 
  • Bhumichchhidranyaya: This means that the rights of ownership as are acquired by a man making barren land cultivable for the first time and is free from liability to pay rent for it.

While the nivi dharma kind of trusteeship was prevalent in many parts of north and central India other kinds of trusteeship were probably followed mainly in the eastern part of the Gupta Empire. Therefore they are frequently mentioned in inscriptions from Bengal. Land survey is evident from the Poona plates of Prabhavati Gupta and many other inscriptions. Location and boundaries of individual plots were carefully marked out and measured by the record keepers and influential men of the locality as mentioned in the Paharpur copper plate. An officer called ustapala maintained records of all land transactions in the district and the village accountant preserves records of land in the village. Agriculture remained the economic basis of society during the Gupta period. The Gupta rulers made it a point to increase agricultural production since land revenue was the primary source of income. Waste land was brought under cultivation. There were two principal harvests one for summer and the other for autumn. A large variety of agricultural crops, trees and medicinal plants were grown during the Gupta period. The main agricultural products of the period were wheat, rice, sugarcane, jute, oilseed, cotton, jowar, bajra, spices, incense and indigo.


Both internal and foreign trade flourished during this period. Trade was carried on both by land and sea. The main articles of internal trade were cloth, foodgrains, spices, salt, bullion and precious stones. The trade was carried on by road and through rivers. Important cities and ports of the Gupta period was Broach, Ujjayini, Vidisa, Prayag, Banaras, Gaya, Pataliputra, Vaishali, Tamralipti, Kausambhi, Mathura, Peshawar etc which were well connected by public highways and the state arranged all facilities and security for the travellers and traders. Rich riverine traffic was carried along the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri. Tamralipti, Kavripatnam, Kalyan, Broach and Cambay were the principal ports of South, Deccan and Gujarat. Brisk trade was carried on with countries of South east asia, China, Rome in the west, India exported pearls, precious stones, cloth, perfumes, spices, indigo, drugs, coconuts and ivory articles while its main items of import were gold, silver, tin, lead, silk and horses.


Many industries came into existence under the patronage of the Gupta rulers. The manufacture of textiles of various kinds was among the more important industries of this time. It had a vast domestic market since textiles featured prominently in the north-south trade within the whole of India and there was considerable demand for Indian textiles in foreign markets. Silk, muslin, calico, linen, wool and cotton were produced in great quantity. Ship building industry also developed during the Gupta period. This helped in trade and colonisation. Among the various industries that flourished in the Gupta period, mining and metallurgy certainly occupied the top position. The Amarkosha gives a comprehensive list of metals. Of all the metals, iron was the most useful and blacksmith were only next to the peasants in the rural community. The most eloquent evidence of the high stage of development which metallurgy had attained in the Gupta period is the Mehrauli iron pillar of King Chandragupta II. Ivory work, stone cutting and carving and sculpture were in great demand.

The cutting, polishing and preparing of a variety of precious stones -jasper, agate, carnelian, quartz, and lapizlazuli were also associated with foreign trade. Pottery remained a basic part of industrial production though the elegant black polished ware was no longer used instead an ordinary ware with a brownish slip was produced in large quantities some of it being made to look good with the addition of mica in the clay. Guilds continued as the major institution in the manufacture of goods and in commercial enterprise. There were guilds not only of traders and bankers but also of manual workers like weavers and stone cutters. These guilds enjoyed sufficient autonomy to manage their own affairs and participated effectively in the economic life of the people. They had their own property and trusts worked as bankers, settle disputes of their members and issued their hundis and even coins.


It is usually held that Chandragupta I was the first imperial ruler who introduced currency system and that the Chandragupta-Kumaradevi type of gold coins were the earliest gold coins of the dynasty. But according to the scholars it was Samudragupta who first issued Gupta coins that his first gold coins were of standard type and that later on he issued the Chandragupta-Kumaradevi type of coins to commemorate his father's marriage to Lichchhavi princess which had proved to be great benefit to the Gupta dynasty. The minting of silver coins was first started in the reign of Chandragupta II and was continued by Kumaragupta I and Skandagupta.Along with gold and silver coins, copper coins were also issued though to a much limited extent at least in the reigns of Chandragupta II and Kumaragupta I. It seems that there was a paucity of coins from the Gupta period onwards. For the Gupta rulers did not issue as many copper coins as their predecessors. The Indo-Greeks and especially the Kushanas issued a large number of copper coins which were evidently in common use in different parts of their territories.

The comparative scarcity of Gupta coins shows that there was hardly any easy medium through which people of one town could enter into exchange relations with those of the other. The gold coins issued by the Gupta rulers could be useful only for big transactions such as the sale and purchase of land in which gold coins were used. Smaller transactions were evidently conducted through the barter system of cowries. Indian economy in the Gupta period was largely based on self-sufficient units of production in villages and towns and that money economy was gradually becoming weaker at this time. The bond of state control which kept these units together in the Maurya period and that of the copper currency which unified it in the pre-gupta period no longer operated during this period. This doesn't mean that production declined. Instead agricultural and craft production had shown substantial increase.

Gupta Culture

Arts and Architecture

By evolving the Nagara and Dravida styles the Gupta art ushers in the history of Indian architecture a formative and creative age. The rock-cut caves continue the old forms to a large extent but possess striking novelty by bringing about extensive changes in the ornamentation of the façade and in the designs of the pillars in the interior. The most notable groups of rock-cut caves are found at Ajanta and Ellora and Bagh.The Udayagiri caves also belong to this category.

Main features of the temple architecture:
•    Flat roofed square temple
•    Flat roofed square temple with a second storey above.
•    Square temple with a curvilinear tower above
•    Rectangular temple
•    Circular temple.

The second group of temples shows many of the characteristic features of the Dravida style. The importance of third group lies in the innovation of a sikhara that caps the sanctum sanctorium, the main feature of the Nagara style. Stupas were also built in large numbers but the best are found at Samath, Ratnagiri and Mirpur Khan.


A good example of stone sculpture is the well-known erect Buddha from Sarnath. Of the Brahmanical images the most impressive is the Great Boar at the entrance of a cave at Udayagiri. The art of casting statues on a large scale by the cire process was practised by Gupta craftsmen with conspicuous success. Two outstanding examples metal sculpture are copper image of the Buddha about eighteen feet high at Nalanda in Bihar and Sultanganj Buddha of seven and half feet.


The art of painting seems to have developed in Gupta age. Remains of paintings of this period are found at Ajanta, Bagh, Badami and other places. The surface of the paintings was done in a simple way. The art of Ajanta and Bagh shows the Madhyadesa School of Painting at its best.

Terracottas and Pottery

Clay figurines were used both for religious and secular purposes. There are figurines of Vishnu, Kartikeya, Surya, Durga, Kubera, Nagas and other gods and goddesses. Gupta pottery remains found at Ahichchhatra, Rajgarh, Hastinapur and Bashar afford an outstanding proof of the excellence of pottery. The most distinctive class of pottery of this period is the red ware.

Literary Activities

The popularity of Sanskrit is seen in the inscriptions composed in the language. It was not merely the language of the learned classes but became the spoken language of the country. Sanskirt had a decided superiority over Pali and Prakrit in the richness of its vocabulary, compactness of its form and expressiveness of its idoms. The poetry and prose in Sanskrit were encouraged on a lavish scale through royal patronage. Kalidasa was the outstanding writer who wrote famous works of Shakuntalam, Meghadutam etc. The biography of Harsha written by Bana was held as an excellent example of best Sanskrit prose. During the Gupta age -Bhasa, Sudraka, Kalidasa, Visakhadatta and Bharavi flourished. Literature in Prakrit also had its patronage outside the court circle.

Prakrit literature written by Jainas tended to be more didactic in style with a substantial religious content. The period saw the last phase of the Smriti literature. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana also got their final touchup and received their present shape during this age. The Gupta period also saw the development of Sanskrit grammar based on Panini (Ashtadhyayi) and Patanjali(Mahabhashya). This period is memorable for the compilation of the Amarakosa by Amarasimha. A Buddhist scholar from Bengal, Chandragomia composed a book on grammar named Chandravyakaranam.

Gupta Sciences

The Gupta period saw the development of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, chemistry, physics and metallurgy. The science of mathematics was cultivated with success. Numerals had been in use for some time. They were later introduced to the European world as Arabic numerals. In the field of mathematics Aryabhatta wrote Aryabhatiya. This mathematician was well versed in various kinds of calculations. The Aryabhatiya refers to some of the important properties of circles and triangles. The most epoch making achievement of this age in the realm of arithmetic was the discovery of the decimal system of notation. The Bakshali manuscripts give us a fairly comprehensive idea of the state of mathematics during Gupta period. It deals with varied topics like fractions, square roots, arithmetical and geometric progressions, summation of complex series, simultaneous linear equations and indeterminate equations of the second degree. The first major expositions of Indian astronomy in the last few centuries BC are recorded in two works, the Jyotisha-Vedanga and the Surya Prajnapti. Vasishtha Siddhanta marked a further progress in astronomy.

Paulisa Siddhanta was another important work. It laid down a rough rule for calculating the lunar and solar eclipses. The Surya Sidhanta was most popular before the time of Aryabhatta. It had formulated some rules for calculating eclipses and discovered solutions for some of the problems in spherical astronomy. Another important writer on astronomy was Varahamihira. His work the study of Astronomy is divided into three branches each of equal importance-astronomy and mathematics and astrology. The most interesting work of Varahamihira is the Pancha Sidhantika a concise account of the five currently used schools of which two reflect a close knowledge of Greek astronomy. Medicine also progressed during this period. The famous Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna was a student of chemistry, metallurgy and medicine. Dhanavantari was a renowned Ayurvedic physician. Hastyaurveda or the veterinary science authored by Palakapya attests to the advances made in medical science during the Gupta period.

Urban centres in Gupta period

The emergence of self-sufficient local units of production is also indicated by the gradual decay of urban centres in the Gupta period. Archaeology shows that Kushana layers belonging to the first-third centuries AD were very flourishing. On the other hand the Gupta layers belonging to the fourth-sixth centuries AD were in state of decline and in many cases Kushana bricks were used in Gupta structures. In many urban sites habitation disappeared after the 6th century AD.

Gupta Administration

The inscriptions mention the following titles as: paramadvaita, paramabhattaraka, maharajadhiraja, prithvipala, paramesvara, samrat, ekadhiraja and chakravartin. The king was assisted in his administration by a chief minister called mantra or sachiva. Pratiharas and mahapratiharas were important officers in the royal court though they did not participate in the administration. Among the important military officers are mentioned senapati, mahasenapati, baladhyaksha, mahabaladhyaksha, baladhikrita and mahabaladhikrita who perhaps represented different grades. There were two other high military officers-the bhatasvapati, commander of the infantry and cavalry and the katuka, commander of the elephant corps. Another important official mentioned in the Basarh seals was ranabhandagaradhikarana, chief of the treasury of the war office. One more high officer mentioned for the first time in the Gupta records was sandhibigrahika or mahasandhivigrahika a foreign minister. One of the inscriptions mentions sarvadhyakshas, superintendents of all but it is not clear whether they were central or provincial officers. Numerous inscriptions mention dutaka or duta who communicated royal commands to officers and people concerned. Dandapasadhikarana represented the chief of the police. Ordinary police officials were known as dandapasika, chatas, bhatas, dandika and chauroddharanika. The king maintained a close liaison with the provincial administration through a class of officials called kumaramatyas and ayuktas. 

The provinces called bhuktis were usually governed by officers called uparikas. The governor of a bhukti has various designations in the official records-bhogika, gopta, uparika-maharaja and rajasthaniya. Bhuktis were subdivided into vishayas. These were governed by vishayapatis. The headquarters of the district was known as adhishthana and the executive officers of the district as samvyavahari and ayuktakas. The district magistrate was helped in his administration in his administration by a large staff. They were maharattaras(village elders), ashtakuladhi-karanikas(officers in charge of groups of eight kulas or families in the local area), gramika(village headman), saulkika (collector of customs and tolls), gaulmika(incharge of forest and forts), agraharika(in charge of the agraharas, settlements dedicated to Brahmins). The district records office called akshapatala was placed in charge of mahakshapatalika. There were also in the district office, sarbodhyakshas or general superintendents under whom were employed men of noble lineage called kulaputras to guard against corruption. The popular element played an important part in the district administration. The advisory district council consisted principally of four members namely the guild president, the chief merchant, the chief artisan and the chief scribe. The villages were under gramikas along with whom were associated mahattaras or the senior persons of different classes. The town administration was carried on by the mayor of the city called purapala who corresponded to nagaravyavaharakas of the Mauryan age.

Sources of Gupta Rule

The Kamandaka Nitisara was written in the time of Chandragupta II by Sikhara, Prime Minister of Chandragupta II. It is equivalent to Kautilya' s Arthasashtra. It gives us idea of polity and administration of the Guptas. The Devichandraguptam is a political drama attributed to Vishakhadatta, author of Mudrarakshas. It tells us about Ramagupta's defeat by a Saka ruler, murder of the Saka ruler as well as of Ramagupta by Chandragupta II, his accession to the throne and his marriage to Dhruvadevi. The Mudrarakshas of Vishakhdatta is another useful source. It gives an account of establishment of the Mauryan dynasty by Chandragupta Maurya and Kautilya. It throws light on the religion of the king and the religious condition of the people in the Gupta period. The Kaumudi Mahotsava is a drama of five Acts. It gives political condition of Magadha of that time and also throws considerable light on the origin and the rise of Gupta dynasty. It has enabled scholars to solve many riddles of the early Gupta history. Puranas occupy a very important place as a religious source. They are 18 in number but only the Vayu Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Matysa Purana, Vishnu Purana and Bhagvat Puranas give a full account of the Gupta empire, its various provinces and their boundaries. The Dharmashastras also give us a lot of useful information of the Gupta period. Inscriptions are also helpful in writing the history of the Gupta period.
They can be divided into two groups. Firstly those incised by private individuals and secondly those engraved on behalf of the ruling king. The private records mentioned the donations in favour of religious establishments or installation of images for worship. The official records are either in the nature of Prasastis or charters recording land grants known as tamra sasanas. The Prasastis and the tamrasasanas usually provide us information on the genealogy of the kings mentioned in them. A large number of seals have been found from Vaisali in the Muzzaffarpur district. They give an insight into the provincial and local administration. A lot of useful information for the history of Guptas is found in the coins of the Gupta Emperor. The legends on the coins possess great poetic merit. The fabric and style of a coin helps to form an idea of the political conditions determining the sequence of events and ideas. Both gold and silver coins were issued by these rulers.


Buddhism opened its doors not only to the Indians of all castes and creed but also to the foreigners who had settled in India-Indo -Greeks and Indo-Scythians. Buddhism was propagated to foreign countries too like Ceylon and Burma, Thailand and Cambodia, Central Asia and China, Nepal and Tibet and the Indonesian countries, Japan, Korea and Mongolia. Thus Buddhism occupies a unique place in the history of Indian religions. Buddha was born as prince Siddhartha in the Sakya tribe.
He was born in the Lumbini grove near the city of Kapilavastu. He was unhappy to see the sufferings of human life. He also left home and wandered as an ascetic for many years. Finally he felt that he received enlightenment i.e. he become Buddha and found the answers to the questions that arose in his mind. Buddha taught that the world is full of sufferings it is due to the desire for worldly things. He showed the path leading to the end of these sufferings and the path is called the Buddha's eight fold path.
Eight fold paths include eight kinds of action and thought which would show a man how to live a virtuous life. Eight fold include –
1. Right faith
2. Right resolve
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right living
6. Right effort
7. Right thought
8. Right concentration

Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath where his five former disciples had settled. To these five ascetics he preached his first sermon and called it Dharma Chakraparavartana. Buddha emphasised on the importance of non-violence and forbade the killing of animals as part of religious practices. He urged people to lead good life according to which the purpose of life was to purify the mind and attain Nirvana, i.e. no more rebirths. He started monasteries which were places where Buddhist monks lived and spent their lives praying and preaching Buddhism. These monasteries or viharas were used as schools also.
Many people joined Buddhism and very soon it spread in many parts of India. Buddha died at the age of 80 in 483 BC at Kushinagara in the Malla republic. His last words were 'all composite things decay, strive diligently.

Gautama Buddha
Gautama or Siddharata, the founder of Buddhism was born in 563 BC in Lumbini in the Sakya kshatriya clan of Kapilavastu. His mother was Maya, a princess of the neighbouring clan of the Koliyas. A Maya died in childbirth Siddharatha was brought up by his aunt and stepmother Prajapati Gautami. The sight of an old man, a sick man, a dead body and an ascetic intensified Siddharata's deep hatred for the world and made him realise the hollowness of worldly pleasures.
After the birth of his son he left home at the age of 29 in search of the Truth. This departure is known as the Great Renunciation. For 6 continuous years he lived as a homeless ascetic seeking instruction under two Brahmin religious teachers and visiting many places. Finding no satisfaction there he practised the severest penances the most rigid austerities and made fruitless efforts to find the Truth. He then gave up penances, took a bath in river Niranjana and sat under a pipal tree at Bodhgaya(modern). Here he attained supreme knowledge and insight. Revelation came to him that the great peace was within his own heart and he must seek it there.
This is known as Nirvana and since then he became Buddha(the Enlightened one) or tathagat(one who attained the Truth). From there he reach Sarnath where he gave his first sermon (dharmachakrapravartana) as a result 5 disciples joined him. Buddha's last teaching was heard by Subhadra a wandering ascetic and Ananda his favourite disciple. The most renowned among the early converts to his teaching were Sariputta and Moggallan, ascetics of Rajgriha who were converted by Assaji one of the five original disciples.
Five great events of Buddha's life and their symbols are
  • Birth- Lotus and Bull
  • Great Renunciation-Horse
  • Nirvana-Bodhi tree
  • First sermon-Dharamachakra or wheel
  • Parinirvana or death-Stupa

Buddhist Councils
The first Buddhist council took place in 483 BC at Sattaparni. Religious doctrine were compiled and embodied in Pali canon. The literature is known as Tripitakas. President of the council was Mahakashapa. Upali recited the Vinay Pitaka and Ananda recited the Sutta Pitaka. Vinay Pitaka was the rules of the order and Sutta Pitaka was the great collection of the Buddha's sermons on matters of doctrine and ethics. The second council was held in 383 BC, 100 years after Buddha's death at Vaishali under the presidentship of Sabbakami. Here Buddhism was divided into Sthaviras and Mahasanghikas. The third council was held in 250 BC at Patliputra in the reign of Ashoka. The president was Tissa Mogaliputta.
A decision was taken to send missionaries to various parts of the subcontinent. Here a new Pitaka or Abhidharmma Pitaka was added. Secondly canonical literature was precisely and authoritatively settled.
The fourth Buddhist council was held in the 1-2nd AD at Kundalavana, Kashmir in the reign of Kanishka under the leadership of Vasumitra and Asvagosha. Here Buddhism was divided into two broad sects the Mahayana and Hinayana. Hinayana treated Buddha as nothing more than a human being whereas Mahayanism treated him as God and worshipped his idol. Bodhisatva of Mahayanism was a saviour and would help every living organism in attaining Nirvana. The Mahayana sect adopted Sanskrit in place of Pali as their language. The earliest text is Lalitvistara. Later another sect Vajrayana appeared in eastern India. The chief divinities of this sect were the Taras. They did not treat meat, fish, wine etc as taboo in dietary habit and freely consumed them.
Ashoka, Kanishka, Harsha and Palas of Bihar and Bengal were great patron of Buddhism. Upagupta converted Emperor Ashoka to Buddhism. Ashvagosha was first biographer of Buddha who wrote Buddha Charitam in Sanskirt. Nagarjuna propounded the theory of Shunyavada. Pushyamitra Sunga persecuted the Buddhist. Shashanka the Gauda king cut the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya.

Buddhist Scriptures

Vinaya Pitaka:

Mainly deals with rules and regulations which Buddha promulgated. Also gives an account of the life and teaching of the Buddha.

Sutta Pitaka:

It consists chiefly of discourses delivered by Buddha himself on different occasions.

Abhidhamma Pitaka:

It contains the profound philosophy of the Buddha's teachings.


It contain regulations on the course of life in the monastic order and have two sections - Mahavagga and the Cullavagga.

Buddhist Philosophy
Buddha believed in the theory of actions or Karma. He held that one of the chief features of the universal law of Dharma is as a man acts so shall he be. We get the reward of our past actions in the present life and for our present actions we get rewarded in the future. Buddha had no faith in personal God. A belief in the supernatural was a weakness. He neither admitted nor denied the existence of God. However he believed that a supreme force controls the whole world. To it he gave the name of Dharma. Buddha's conception of religion was purely ethical. He did not care for worship or rituals. He put all his emphasis on conduct.
He was against useless sacrifices and rituals. According to Buddha, the highest goal of man's life is to achieve Nirvana. According to him Nirvana meant when there is no craving, no selfishness and no hatred or malice for others. It can be achieved by following the eight fold path.

Contribution of Buddhism to Indian culture
Buddhism greatly influenced the Indian religion. It gave to Indian people a simple and popular religion. It rejected ritualism, sacrifices and dominance of priestly class. It has also left its permanent mark on Indian religious thought. Buddhism appealed to the masses on account of its simplicity, use of vernacular language in its scriptures and teachings and monastic order. Buddhism left deep impact on the society. It gave serious impetus to democratic spirit and social equality. It opened its doors to women and shudras. Buddhism encouraged abolition of distinctions in society and strengthened the principle of social equality.
The Buddhist viharas were used for education purposes. Nalanda, Vikramshila, Taxila, Udyantpuri, Vallabhi and others cities developed as high Buddhist learning centres. Buddhism helped in the growth of literature in the popular language of the people. The literature written both in Pali and Sanskrit were enriched by scholars of Hinyana and Mahayana sects. The Buddhist texts like Tripitakas, Jatakas, Buddha charita, Mahavibhasa, Miliand panho, Lalit Vistara are assets to Indian literature.
The main contribution of Buddhism to Indian life is in the domain of architecture, sculpture and painting. The stupas, viharas, chaityas that were built at Sanchi, Bahrut, Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Amravati, Taxila and other places are simply remarkable. The Sanchi Stupa with its beautiful ornamental torans is considered a masterpiece in architecture. The cave temples of Ajanta, Karle, Bhaja, Ellora etc show their achievement in rock cut cave temples. The Ajanta painting depicting touching scenes of Buddha's life are world famous.
They bear a testimony to the heights reached by them in the field of painting. This Buddhist art forms a glorious chapter in the history of Indian art and architecture. They fostered a new awareness in the field of culture. Buddhism established intimate contact between India and foreign countries. Indian monks and scholars carried the gospel of Buddhism to foreign countries from the 3rd century BC onwards and made it the prominent religion of Asia. These religious movements helped in carrying the message of Indian civilization to many distant countries of Asia. It also helped in assimilating foreign influence in Indian culture.


It is generally believed that the founder of Jainism was Mahavira.It is now recognized that Mahavira was the 24th Tirthankara.The sacred books of Jain tell us that their first Tirthankara was Rishab, the founder of Jainism. He was the father of Bharata the first Vedic king of India.Rishab was followed by 23 Tirthankaras.The Vishnu Purana and Bhagavat Purana describe Rishab as an incarnation of Narayana.His four main teachings were -
  • Not to injure life
  • Not to tell a lie
  • Not to steal
  • Not to possess property

Varadhmana Mahavira
·         Mahavira was born in village Kundagrama in district Muzzaffarpur in a Kshatriya family in 540BC.He was a prince and related to Bimbisara ,the ruler of Magadha.He was married to Yasoda and had a daughter called Priyadarsana.He became ascetic after the death of his parents. For 12 years he practised extreme mortification. During this period he fully subdued his sense. In the 13th year he reached Nirvana under a Sal tree becoming a Jina and a Kevlin an omniscient at Jhrimbikagrama.He now possessed the four infinities- Infinite knowledge, Infinite power, Infinite perception and Infinite joy. Thus he became a Jina (a conqueror) or Mahavira (a great hero).

·         From the remaining 30 years Mahavira moved from one place to another and preached his religion. He founded a new sect called Jains.He also met Ajatashastru, the king of Magadha and is said to have converted him. At the age of 72 he attained Kaivalya (death) at Pavapuri near Patna in 468 BC.

Doctrines of Jainism
Mahavira accepted most of the religious doctrines of Parsava and codified the unsystematic mass of beliefs into an organized and rigid religion. He rejected the authority of Vedas and the Vedic rituals. He did not believe in the existence of God. He believed in Karma and transmigration of soul. Attainment of Nirvana or Moksha was the most important human desire. It could be attained through Triratnas:
1. Right faith (Samyak Vishwas)
2. Right knowledge (Samyak Jnan)
3. Right conduct (Samyak Karma)

Teachings of Jainism
Jainism taught five doctrines-

Religions in Ancient India

The changing features of social and economic life such as the growth of towns, expansion of the artisan class and the rapid development of trade and commerce in the 6th BC were closely linked with changes in the religious field. It was a period of religious upheaval not only in the history of India but also in the rest of the world. In India various sects and reformers came into existence. They protested against the existing social and religious evils and attempted to reconstruct a new socio-religious order. As a result there arose a conflict between the established orthodoxy and the aspirations of newly rising groups in the urban centres.
These sects were regarded with scorn and Brahmans were particularly harsh towards them. Of all these sects two such came to stay were Jainism and Buddhism which later became independent religions.
Causes for the emergence of new religions
Ø  Complications and ritualism in Hinduism
Ø  Vedic religion had become complex and degenerated into superstitions, dogmas and rituals.
Ø  The sacrifices prescribed by the Vedas became complicated.
Ø  The Vedic mantras were complicated and went beyond the understanding of common man.
Ø  The supremacy of the Brahmans created unrest. They no longer led pure and holy life.
Ø  All the sacred Vedic texts were written in Sanskrit which was the language of the elite and not the masses.
Ø  The masses could connect with the new sects as Mahavira and Buddha spoke to them in their language.

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