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Chapter: 6th Social Science : History : Term 2 Unit 2 : Great Thinkers and New Faiths

Great Thinkers and New Faiths

Learning Objectives • To learn the causes for the rise of new faiths in the sixth century BC (BCE). • To have knowledge in the teachings of Mahavira and Buddha. • To know the similarities and dissimilarities between Jainism and Buddhism. • To understand the differences between Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism. • To know the influence of Jainism and Buddhism in Tamil Nadu.

Unit 2

Great Thinkers and New Faiths


Learning Objectives

• To learn the causes for the rise of  new faiths in the sixth century BC (BCE).

• To have knowledge in the teachings of  Mahavira and Buddha.

• To know the similarities and dissimilarities between Jainism and Buddhism.

• To understand the differences between Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism.

• To know the influence of Jainism and Buddhism in Tamil Nadu.


Intellectual Awakening

The Sixth Century BC (BCE) is regarded as an important period in the history of ancient India. As a land mark period in the intellectual and spiritual development in India, historian Will Durant has rightly called it the “shower of stars”.



Literary sources

• Angas – Jain texts

• Tripitakas and Jatakas - Buddhist texts


Causes for the Rise of Intellectual Awakening and the Birth of Buddhism and Jainism

There were several reasons for the rise of new intellectual awakening. Some of the exploitative practices that paved way for new faiths include:

* The complex rituals and sacrifices advocated in the later Vedic period

* Expensive sacrificial ceremonies

* Superstitious beliefs and practices that confused the common man.

* Upanishads taught as alternative to sacrificial rites were too philosophical, which a layperson could not understand.

* Slavery, caste system, gender discrimination also contributed to the new awakening.


Origin of Jainism

Jainism is one of the world’s oldest living religions. Jainism grounds itself in 24 Tirthankaras. A ‘Tirthankara’, is the one who revealed religious truth at different times. The first Tirthankara was Rishabha and the last one was Mahavira. Jainism gained prominence under the aegis of Mahavira, during the sixth century BC (BCE).

Original name - Vardhamana

Place of Birth - Kundhagrama nearVaishali, Bihar

Parents - Siddharth, Trishala

Place of Death - Pavapuri, Bihar

The word Jain derives from the Sanskrit word Jina, which means conquering self and the external world.


Mahavira (The Great Hero)

Vardhamana, meaning ‘prosperous’, was a kshatriya prince. However, at the age of 30, he renounced his princely status to adopt an ascetic life. He undertook intense meditation.

After twelve and a half years of rigorous penance, Vardhamana attained omniscience or supreme knowledge, known as Kevala.

Omniscience – It is the ability to know everything or be infinitely wise.

Thereafter, he became Jina meaning ‘one who conquered worldly pleasure and attachment’. His followers are called Jains. Mahavira reviewed the ancient Sramanic traditions and came up with new doctrines. Therefore he is believed to be the real founder of Jainism.


Unique Teachings of Jainism

* Jainism denies God as the creator of Universe.

* Basic philosophy of Jainism is Ahimsa or ‘non –Violence’.

* Ultimate aim of Jainism is attaining moksha or ending the cycle of birth – death – rebirth.

* Jains reject the belief in Last judgement, where God, a supreme being, decides who goes to heaven or hell.

* Jainism advocates that the goodness or quality of one’s life is determined by one’s karma.

What is Karma?

The belief that a person’s actions in this life determine the quality of his or her later part of the current life and the next incarnation.


Tri–rathnas or Three Jewels

Mahavira exhorted the three – fold path for the attainment of moksha and for the liberation from Karma.

They are:

• Right Faith

• Right Knowledge

• Right action

Moksha - Liberation from the cycle of birth and death


Jain Code of Conduct

Mahavira asked his followers to live a virtuous life. In order to live a life filled with sound morals, he preached five major principles to follow.

They are:

• Ahimsa - not to injure any living beings

• Satya - to speak truth

• Asteya - not to steal

• Aparigraha - not to own property

• Brahmacharya – Celibacy

Gautama Swami, a chief disciple of Mahavira, compiled the teachings of Mahavira, called Agama sidhantha.


Digambaras and Svetambaras

Jainism split into two sects.


* Digambaras are orthodox and conservative followers.

* Monks of the digambara sect, do not wear any clothing and live naked. They are forbidden to have any kind of possessions.

* Digambaras believe that women cannot achieve nirvana or liberation directly.


* The Svetambaras are considered progressive.

* Monks of Svetambaras sect, wear white robes. They are permitted to have Rajoharana (broom with wollen threads), begging bowl and book.

* Svetambaras believe that women are equally capable of achieving liberation as men.


Reasons for the Spread of Jainism

The following are the main reasons for the wide acceptance of Jainism in India

*  Use of people’s language.

* Intelligible teachings.

* Support from rulers and traders.

* Perseverance of Jain monks.


Influence of Jainism (Samanam) in Tamil Nadu

* In ancient Tamil literature, Jainism is referred to as Samanam.

* There is a Samanar Hill or Samanar Malai in Keelakuyilkudi village, 15 km away from Madurai. The images of Tirthankaras created by Jain monks are found in the hill. It is a protected monument of Archaeological Survey of India.

* In Arittapatti, a small village 25 km from Madurai, on one side of Kalinjamalai hill there are Jain caves called Pandavar Padukkai. Pandavar Padukkai is the bed of Jain saints.

* There is a reference to Aravor Palli, place of living for Jain monks, in Manimegalai.

* According to Silapathikaram, when Kovalan and Kannagi were on their way to Madurai, Gownthiyadigal a female jain monk blessed the couple and accompanied them.

* Puhar, Uraiyur, Madurai, Vanchi (Karuvur), Kanchi all had Jain monasteries.

Jina Kanchi – Thiruparthikundram, a village in Kanchipuram, has two ancient Jain temples. This village was once called Jina Kanchi.



Gautama Buddha

Gautama Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. His real name was Siddhartha. LikeMahavira, he was also a Kshatriya prince belonging to the ruling Sakya clan. When Siddhartha was only seven days old his mother died. So he was raised by his step mother Gautami.


Four Great Sights

At the age of 29, Siddhartha saw four sorrowful sights. They were:

Original name - Siddhartha

Place of Birth - Lumbini Garden, Nepal

Parents - Suddhodana, Maya devi

Place of Death - Kushi Nagar, UP

* An uncared old man in rags with his bent back.

* An sick man suffering from an incurable disease.

* A man’s corpse being carried to the burial ground by weeping relatives.

* An ascetic



Buddha, the Awakened or Enlightened One, realised that the human life was full of misery and unhappiness. So at the age of 29 he left his palace and became a hermit. He sacrificed six years of his life towards penance. Nonetheless deciding that self-mortification was not a path to salvation, Buddha sat under a Pipal tree and undertook a deep meditation near Gaya.

On the 49th day he finally attained enlightenment. From that moment onwards, he was called Buddha or the Enlightened One. He was also known as Sakya Muni or Sage of Sakya clan.

Buddha delivered his first sermon at Deer Park in Sarnath, near Benaras. This was called “Dharma Chakra Pravartana” or the Turning of the Wheel of Law.


Buddha’s Four Noble Truths

* Life is full of sorrow and misery.

* Desire is the cause of misery.

* Sorrows and sufferings can be removed by giving up one’s desire.

* The desire can be overcome by following the right path (Noble eight-fold path)


Eight Fold Path

* Right view

* Right Thought

* Right Speech

* Right Action

* Right Livelihood

* Right Effort

* Right Knowledge

* Right Meditation

The teachings of Lord Buddha were simple and taught in a language which people used for communication. Since the teachings addressed the everyday concern of the people, they could relate to them. He was opposed to rituals and sacrifices.


Teachings of Buddha

* Buddha's teachings are referred to as dhamma.

* Buddhism accepted the Theory of Karma – meaning that the quality of man’s life depends on his deed.

* Buddha neither accepted nor denied the existence of God, but believed in the laws of universe.

* Buddha asserted that attaining nirvana is the ultimate aim of life.

* Buddha advocated ahimsa or non-violence.

* Buddha had rejected the caste system.

The Wheel of life – represents the Buddhist view of the world.


Buddhist Sangha

Buddha laid foundation for a missionary organization called Sangha, meaning ‘association’ for the propagation of his faith. The members were called bhikshus (monks). They led a life of austerity.

Chaitya – A Buddhist shrine or a meditation hall.

Viharas – Monastries / livi quarters for monks.

Stupas – Built over the remains of Buddha’s body, they are monuments of great artistic value.


Buddhist Sects


Causes for the Spread of Buddhism

* Simplicity of the teachings of Buddha in local language appealed to people.

* Buddhism rejected elaborate religious customs whereas the practice of orthodox Vedic religion insisted on expensive rituals and sacrifices.

* Buddha’s emphasis was on observance of Dhamma.

* Buddhist Sanghas played an important role in spreading the messages of Buddha.

* Royal patronage under Ashoka, Kanishka and Harsha also helped the causes of Buddhism.

* Viharas or the Buddhist monasteries became great centres of education. One such centre was Nalanda, where Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, studied for many years.


Frescoes (paintings)

Frescoes on the ceilings and walls of the Ajanta caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra – depict the Jataka Tales.

Middle path – It refers to neither indulging in extreme attachment to worldly pleasure nor committing severe penance.


Buddhist Councils

First – Rajagriha

Second – Vaishali

Third – Pataliputra

Fourth – Kashmir


Influence of Buddhism in Tamilnadu

* Buddhism spread to Tamil Nadu much later than Jainism.

* Manimekalai, one of the epics of the post-Sangam age is a Buddhist literature.

* There is an elaborate description about Kanchiipuram in classical epic Manimegalai.

* Kanchipuram was a famous Buddhist Centre, from where Dinnaga, the famous Buddhist logician, and Dharmapala, a great scholar of Nalanda University hailed.

* Hieun Tsang who visited Kanchipuram in the seventh century A.D(CE). noticed the presence of 100 feet stupa built by Ashoka there.


Jataka Story

The Jatakas are popular stories about the previous birth and life of Buddha, as human and as an animal. They teach morals.


The Woodpecker and the Lion (A Jataka Story)

Once upon a time, there lived a woodpecker and a lion. One day, the lion hunted a big bison and sat down to eat it. It so happened that while having his meal, a bigbone got stuck in the lion’s throat. He was not able to remove it and was in great pain.

A kind hearted woodpecker offered to help the lion. The woodpecker, however, told the lion that he would only take out the bone if the lion promised not to eat him while removing the bone. The lion gladly agreed and opened his mouth in front of the woodpecker. The woodpecker hopped inside the lion’s mouth, andeasily pulled out the bone. The lion kept his promise and let the woodpecker fly away.

Soon the lion recovered completely and killed another bison. The woodpecker also thought of joining the lion and asked for a small share of meat. To her utter disappointment the lion blatantly refused to share his meal with her. The Lion said, “How dare you ask me for more favours? I have already done so much for you!”

The woodpecker did not understand what the lion was talking about. The lionthen clarified, “You should be thankful to me that I did not devour you when you were taking out the bone from my throat. Now do not expect anything else from me and go away.” The woodpecker said to himself, “It was indeed a mistake to help such an ungrateful creature!” Nevertheless, it is not worth being angry or holding grudge against someone as unworthy as him.



* The Sixth century BC (BCE) was an important period of the intellectual and spiritual development in India.

* Jainism was a doctrine developed by 24 Tirthankaras.

* Mahavira exhorted the three-fold path – Right faith, Right knowledge, Right action.

* Gautama Buddha was the founder of Buddhism.

* Buddha’s teachings are referred to as dhamma.

* Buddhism crossed the frontiers of Indian sub-continent but Jainism was confined to India.

* Basic philosophy of Jainism and Buddhism is ahimsa or non-violence



Superstitious beliefs – belief in things that are not real or possible (மூடநம்பிக்கைகைகள்)

Preceptor - a teacher or instructor (ஆசான்)

Doctrine - set of principles or beliefs

Virtuous - having high moral standards (நல்லொழுக்கம்)

Sacred book - holy book (புனித நூல்)

Frescoes - a painting done in water colour on wet plaster (ஈரமான சுவற்றில் வண்ணக் கலவை கைாண்டு வரையப்ட்ட ஓவியங்கள்)

Corpse - a dead body (சடலம்)

Nirvana - A state of freedom from suffering and rebirth



Virtual Tour of Sittanavasal

Through this activity you will be able to see Virtual Tour about Cave Paintings in Tamil Nadu

Step-1: Open the Browser and type the URL or scan QR code which is given below.

Step-2: You can see Virtual Tour website. Click to allow “Adobe Flash Player” on the screen.

Step-3: Open “slide view” in menu bar and acces s control button

Step-4: Click “Red Arrow Button” you can see cave paintings




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