Wednesday, November 25, 2009


In the sixth century Be, there appeared as many as 62 religious sects in India. Of these there were many heterodox sects, Jainism and Buddhism being the most important among them.

There were several causes for the origin of these sects. Tensions were generated by the division of the society on the varna basis; the kshatriyas, and sometimes vaisyas, disputed the brahmana supremacy. Significantly, the founders of the new religions were kshatriyas. The vedic practice of killing cattle indiscriminately in sacrifices was inimical to the emerging agricultural economy based on the iron ploughshare; significantly, the new religions were against slaughtering animals. The old brahmanical religion stood in the way of progressive trade and commerce because of its condemnation of many of the commercial practices like usury; this was resented by the vaisyas who were now growing rich and were probably ready to encourage a religion which would improve their position. The vaisyas certainly supported Buddhism and Jainism extensively. Also, there was a growing dislike amongst some people for the heightened materialism in life, and they hankered after simple, indeed ascetic life. The new religions responded to their urge.

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