Towards the end of the later Vedic period, there was emergence of other teachings and religious sects, which ere against the Brahmanical system. Buddhism and Jainism were the most prominent out of these religious sects.

Causes for the rise of new religious sects

  • Vedic religion had become very complex

Elaborate rituals and ceremonies were becoming unaffordable for the common man.

  • The caste system had become rigid

People were discriminated based on their caste. Society was divided into four varnas: –

Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. People of upper caste looked down upon lower varnas.

  • The Vedas were in Sanskrit, which was not easily understood by the common man

The simple language for religious texts was the need of the people.

  • Increasing importance of trade

With increasing importance of trade, the importance of Vaishyas also increased. In earlier periods, Vaishyas were looked down. New religious sects did not attach any importance to the varna system. This suited the needs and interests of the Vaishyas.


  • Early life of Buddha

His real name was Siddhartha. He was born in 563 BC in the forest of Lumbini, Kapilvastu in the foothills of Nepal. His father Shuddodhana was the head of the head of Shakya Gana and was a Kshatriya. His mother Mahamaya passed away when he was just seven years old. His wife was Yasodhara and son named Rahul. He left his home at the age of 29. He got enlightenment under the peepal tree at Bodhgaya in Bihar. After that, he was known as Buddha or The Wise One. He passed away at the age of 80 in 483 BC at Kusinara in Uttar Pradesh. He delivered his first preaching at Sarnath near Varanasi.

Teachings of Buddhism

  • Four Noble Truths
  • The life is full of sufferings.
  • The cause of suffering is desire or tanha.
  • Suffering can be ended by overcoming desires.
  • We must follow eight-fold paths to end desires and sufferings.
  • Eight-Fold Paths
  • Right Thought
  • Right Belief
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Means of Livelihood
  • Right Effort
  • Right Meditation
  • He believed in Ahimsa or Non-Violence.
  • He believed that all people are equal. He was against the Caste System.
  • He believed that the results of our action or Karma, whether bad or good, affect us not only in this life but also in our next life
  • He didn’t believe in costly rituals and sacrifices. Buddha taught in Prakrit, the language of the ordinary people, so that everybody could understand his message.


                        Vardhamana Mahavira is the founder of Jainism. He was 24th Tirthankara or teacher of Jainism. He was born at Kundograma near Vaishali in Bihar in 599 BC. His father Siddhartha was the head of the Kshatriya clan. His mother, Trishala was a princess of Lichchhavi clan. He married to Yashoda. At the age of 30, he left home in search of truth.

Teachings of Jainism

  • People must follow very strictly the rules of Ahimsa(non-violence).
  • People shouldn’t speak a lie.
  • People should not steal.
  • Do not acquire property.
  • Observe continence(brahmacharya).

            Mahavira taught his teachings in Prakrit language.

Upanishads: – this means sitting and approaching near. It means to sit at the feet of the guru to receive his teachings. There are 108 Upanishads and 11 are the main. For Example: – Katha, Taittriya, Chandogya etc. Upanishadic thinkers tried to answer many questions.

  • They wanted to know life after death.
  • Why sacrifices should be performed.

            Many of these thinkers felt that there was something permanent in the universe that would last even after death. They described this as the atman or the individual soul. They believed that ultimately, both the atman and the brahman were one.

  • Most Upanishadic thinkers were men especially brahmins and rajas.
  • There is no mention of women thinkers, such as Gargi who was famous for her learning and participated in debates in royal courts.
  • Poor people rarely took part in the discussions. One famous exception was Satya Kama Jabala, who was named after his mother, the slave women Jabali.  He was accepted as a student by a brahmin teacher named Gautama.
  • Upanishad were later developed by the famous thinker Shankaracharya.

Panini, the Grammarian: – he prepared a grammar for Sanskrit. He arranged the vowels and the consonants and then used these to create formulae. He used those to write down the rules of the language in short formulae.

The Sangha

          It was an association of those who left their homes in search of true knowledge.

Vinaya Pataka

            It was the rule book of Buddhist Sangha. This book informs us about the separate branches of the Sangha for men and women. Anybody can join the Sangha. But those who were dependant had to take the permission of their guardian.

Life at the Sangha: – people who joined the Sangha, meditated most of the time. They led a very simple life. During fixed hours, they visited cities and villages to beg for food. They were regarded as Bhikkus.

Monastery: – permanent shelters where the monks of the Sanghas lived and prayed. They were also called Viharas.

Jaina: – the followers of lord Mahavira. The word Jaina is derived from the term Jina meaning conqueror.

The System of Ashramas

                  The system of ashramas was developed by Brahmins. They were the stages of life. There were four Ashramas.


Brahmin, kshatriya and Vaishya were expected to lead simple lives and study the Vedas during the early years of their life.


Men had to marry and live as householders.


Men had to live in forest and meditate.


Men had to give up everything and become Sanyasis.

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