The age of Mah�v�ra can be regarded as one of the most creative epochs in Indian history. This age is marked by outstanding achievements in different spheres � religion, politics, society, economy, art & literature. It saw the beginning of the political unification of India under the hegemony of Magadha and the propagation of Buddhism, Jainism and other heterodox religious sects. A social code for the observance of the people was prescribed. Because of the flourishing of trade and commerce during this period, there was all-round prosperity. There was a revival of urban life. The script was probably discoursed, and the use of coinage started.


The age of T�rthankara Mah�v�ra (6th century B.C.) was of far-reaching religious reformist activities not only in India but also throughout the ancient world. It was an age of enlightenment for the human race. The materialistic interpretation of history would attribute this change in human consciousness to a change in social milieu. The idealist historiography would see here an unfoldment of the spirit or the progress of thought through its autonomous dialectic. Suddenly and almost simultaneously and almost certainly independently, there started religious movements at separate centres of civilization. Zoroaster gave a new creed to Iran; Confucius and Loa-tse taught in China; the Jews in ther Bablyonian captivity developed their tenacious faith in Jehova, and the Sophists in Greece began tackling the problems of life.

Even in India, this was an age of freedom of thought which gave rise to new religious movements and brought about radical changes for the better in the old ones.  The S�ma��aphala Sutta and the Brahmaj�la Sutta in the Digha Nik�ya of the Buddhists mention about sixty-three different philosophical schools � probably all of them non-Br�hma�a existing at the time of Buddha. In the S�trak�it��gaBhagavati, etc., of the Jainas, we find a far larger number of such heretical schools. These statements about the number of sects may have been influenced by the tendency to exaggerate which was widespread in ancient India. We should not assume that they were independent religious sects or schools because these are distinguished only by very subtle and minor differences in matters of doctrine and practice. It is not possible today to prove once for all that all these sects originated at the same time. Some of them may have owed their origin to a time far more remote than that of Mah�vira.


There are divergent views among the scholars about the origin of these ascetic intellectual movements. According to T.W. RHYS DAVIDS1, the growth of the wandering bodies of religieux, the Paribb�jakas, was the result of an intellectual movement before the rise of Buddhism which was, in a large measure, a lay-movement, not a priestly movement. However, it is difficult to understand this movement as a lay-movement. It was in fact neither priestly nor lay. It originated neither in Brahmanical reform nor in Kshatriya revolt; nor was it a middle class effort. It was a classless and casteless movement, and it had no special affinity with the attitude and interest of any particular social classes.

MAXMULLER,2 G. BUHLER,3 H. KERN,4 and H. JACOBI5 ï¿½ all contend that the Brahmanical ‘ascetic’ was the model of the Buddhist, the Jaina, and the other heretical sects of this age. It has also been suggested that these arose out of the antiritualistic tendency gaining ground within the religion of the Br�hma�as. G.C. PANDEY6 has tried to show that the antiritualistic tendency within the Vedic fold is itself due to the impact of an asceticism which antedates the Vedas. Some of the sects, such as Jainism and the �jivik�sm, may represent a continuation of this pre-Vedic stream.

There was not one but several factors which have rise to these religious movements. It was an age of frequent and bloody wars, which made people long for peace. The great economic prosperity also filled some of them with despair of material life. There was considerable social distress because of the rigid caste system. The clash of rival schools and sects also led the people to spiritual quest.


The sects of this age were divided into many classes, but the main division was between the two ï¿½rama�a or Non-Brahmanical sects and Brahmanical sects. The main differences between the two were as follows :

  1. The attitude of the Brahmanical sects towards secular life was not so uncompromising, for they emphasized renunciation only after the proper fulfilment of social duties. On the other hand, in the �rama�a Sects, their followers practised a detached life with a view to liberating themselves from all worldly attachments. They could take to a life of renunciation (pravrajy�) any time after ceasing to be under age.
  2. In Brahmanical sects, only a Br�hma�a orDv�jacould become a Parivr�jaka, while in the �rama�a sects all members of the community, irrespective of their social rank and religious career (Var�a and ï¿½ï¿½rama), could be admitted to their church.
  3. The difference in scriptures and in the attitude towards them was another dividing line between the two sects. The �rama�as challenged the authority of theVedas.
  4. The orthodox sects did not permit renunciation for women, who however, could and did join some of the heterodox ascetic Orders.
  5. The Brahmanical sects emphasised the rituals, while the followers of the �rama�a Sects observed a set of ethical principles.

Some of Mah�vira’s chief contemporary religious teachers belonging to the �rama�a sects were : P�ra�a Kassapa, Pakudha Kachch�yana, Makkhali Go��la, Ajita Ke�akambalin, Sa�jaya Bela��hiputta, and Buddha. The following account of their views based on the Jaina and Buddhist texts is both breif and lop-sided and, therefore, it may not give us a correct picture.


From the Jainaand Budhhist8 records, it is clear that P�ra�a Kassapa (P�r�a K��yapa) was an old, experienced, and respectable teacher. Though his date is not definite, it is presumed that he might have lived in the sixth century B.C. as is evident from references to him as a contemporary of king Aj�ta�atru of Magadha. He was the head of a religious order and the founder of a school (titthakara). He was followed by a large body of disciples and honoured throughout the country. It seems from his name that he was born in a Br�hma�a family. The name P�ra�a (P�ra�a) indicates that he was believed to have been fully enlightened and perfect in wisdom.


P�ra�a Kassapa is known to be the exponent of the ‘no-action’ theory (Akriy�v�da). It is said that Aj�ta�atru once visited P�ra�a Kassapa, who expounded his views thus :”To him who acts or causes another to act, mutilates or causes another to mutilate, punishes, or causes another to punish, causes grief or torment, trembles or causes another to tremble, kills other creatures, takes what is not given, breaks into houses, commits dacoity or robbery or tells lies, to him, thus acting, there is no guilt�� no increase of guilt would ensure� In giving alms, in offering sacrifices, in self mastery, in control of senses, and in speaking truth, there is neither merit nor increase of merit.”9 This is called an exposition of the ‘no-action’ theory (Akriy�v�da). According to it, man is an irresponsible agent, because his action brings neither any merit nor any demerit. In other words, this doctrine was amoral because one might do whatever one wanted to do without becoming sinful or virtuous.

The S�trak�it��ga10 furnishes a parallel passage where the doctrine is expressly called Akriy�v�da. ��l��ka calls it Ak�rakav�da and implicitly identifies it with the  S��khya view. The identity between the view of P�ra�a Kassapa and the Ak�rakav�da is probable, not certain.


Most probably, Kassapa was, as B.M. BARUA11 states, an advocate of the theory that the Soul was passive (nishkriya), that no action could affect it, and that it was beyond good and bad, a vew which many previous Vedic thinkers had enunciated. When we act or cause others to act, it is not the soul that acts or causes others to act. Whether we do good or bad, the result does not affect the soul in the least.


Kassapa is said to be an upholder of the ‘No-cause theory’ (Ahetuv�da). It is reported in the words of the Buddha that no hetu (cause) and no pachchaya (condition) are accepted by P�ra�a Kassapa as instrumental in either defiling a person or purifying him.12 Abhaya says that Kassapa accepts no cause for n��a (knowledge) and dassana (insight).13 B.M. BARUA14 tries to bring his view under Adhichchasamupp�da (fortuitous in origin) referred to in the Brahmaj�la Sutta, i.e. Ahetuv�da. G.C. PANDEY15 does not subscribe to the view that P�ra�a Kassapa held to the doctrine of Adhichchasamupp�da. Events may “have  nothing to do with the soul,” and yet may not be fortuitous in origin.


In the passage of the A�guttara Nik�ya,16 two Lok�yatika Br�hma�as are said to have stated that according to P�ra�a Kassapa’s theory only an infinite mind can comprehend the finite world, whereas according to Niga��ha N�taputta’s theory the finite world can only be a context of finite knowledge. P�ra�a Kassapa has been described as one always in possession of ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½adassana(introspective knowledge), while walking or staying etc., and that he perceived the finite world through infinite knowledge.17 In another passage, Buddha is said to have represented Kassapa, along with other heretical teachers, as possessing the power of divining where a particular dead person was reborn.18


In a pasage of the A�guttaranik�ya,19 ï¿½na�da expounds to P�ra�a Kassapa Makkhali Go��la’s doctrine of the six classes of human beings (Chhal�bhij�tiyo), such as Kai�h�bhij�ti (black class of being), n�l�bhij�ti (blue class of being) etc. A.L.BASHAM20 has tried to prove that P�r��a, a heretical leader of long standing who maintained a fatalistic doctrine with tendencies to antinomianism, came in contact with Makkhali Go��la, a younger teacher with doctrines much the same as his own, but with a more successful appeal to the public. Recognizing his eclipse, he admitted the superiority of the new teacher, and accepted the sixfold classification of men, which placed Makkhali Go�ala and his forerunners, Nanda Vachcha, and Kisa Sa�kichcha, in the hgihest category.


Pakudha Kachch�yana was an elder contemporary of the Buddha. He was a leader of some religious body and was held in great esteem by the people of the time. Buddhaghosha says that Pakudha is his personal name and Kachch�yana his family (gotra) name. The term ‘Pakudha’ has been traditionally interpreted as prakrudha, furious. Its alternative form is Kakudha or Kakuddha which means the same thing. Assuming ‘Kakuda’ to be original and correct form meaning ‘a man having a hump on his back,  B. M. BARUA connects this K�ty�yana with Kabandh� K�ty�yana, one of the pupils of the sage Pippal�da of the Pra�na Upanishad.21 The suggestion, though ingenious, lacks a convincing proof.

As Pakudha Kachch�yana has left us no records of his own, we have to depend for a knowledge of his doctrine on thepra�nopanishad, the S�ma��aphalasutta, and the S�trak�it��ga. In the Pra�nopanishad, in answer to K�ty�yana’s question to Pippal�da as to the roots of things, he was told that the roots were Matter (Rayi) and Spirit (Pr��a). Buddhaghosha records that Kachch�vana never used to touch cold water.22 He never even crossed a river or a marshy pathway, lest he should transgress his vow.


In the Buddhist S�ma��aphalasutta,22 Kachch�yana’s philosophy is described as the doctrine of seven categories (Sattak�yav�da). He has been represented as saying : “The following seven things are neither made nor commanded to be made, neither created nor caused to be created; they are barren (so that nothing is produced out of them), steadfast as a mountain peak, as a pillar firmly fixed. They move not, neither do they vary; they trench not one upon another, not avail aught as to ease (pleasure) or pain or both. And what are the seven ? The four elements � earth, water, fire and air �, and ease (pleasure) and pain, and the soul as a seventh. So there is neither slayer  nor causer of slaying, hearer or speaker, knower or explainer, when one with sharp sword cleaves a head in twain, no one therby deprives any one of life, a sword has only penetrated into the interval between seven elementary substances.”23 K�chch�yana accepted seven elementary substances as permanent and eternal, neither created nor caused to be created. This Sattak�yav�da furnishes an instance of what the Buddhists called Sassatav�da. Its plurality of substances recalls Vai�eshika; its denial of interaction between soul and matter as well as the aloofness of the soul from Sukha and Dukha recalls S��khya.


The S�trak�it��ga24 presents the system of six categories omitting pleasure and pain, adding ether or space in their place. ��l��ka named it ‘the doctrine of soul as a sixth category (�tmashash�hav�da) which somehow resembles the doctrines of Pakudha. It is also somewhat different because the existence of ï¿½k��a (ether or space) is distinctly recognised, and it omits sukha anddukha. �il��ka identifies the doctrine of soul as a sixth category with the doctrine of the Bhagavad G�ta, as well as with the S��khya and some of the �aiva systems. There is no doubt about some sort of historial relationship existing between them.


Like Kassapa, Kachch�yana denied not the appearance, but the reality of action and also asserted that the soul was really untouched by change and was therefore superior to good and evil. It is perhaps not too much to imagine that this doctrine was formulated in opposition to the doctrine of Sa�s�ra according to which the soul suffered and was itself responsible for its sufferings. Go��la accepted the process ofSa�s�ra but gave of it a new explanation. Being apparently Br�hma�as, Kassapa and Kachch�yana were probably acquainted with the Upanishadic speculation and were still more radical in their denial of the real existence of the problem itself.


The fragment of the S�tra-k�it��ga clearly shows that Kachch�yana adopted the Gotamaka or Eleatic postulate of being that nothing comes out of nothing.26 It appears from the fragments of both the S�trak�it��ga and the S�ma��a-phala-sutta that the term Eternalism27 was strictly applied by Mah�v�ra and Buddha to the doctrine of Kachch�yana. It also comes under the definition of what Mah�v�ra calls Pluralism (A�ikka v�da).28

Mah�v�ra and Buddha considered Kachch�yana’s doctrine to be a doctrine of non-action (akriy�-v�da). If the elements are eternally existent and unchangeable by their very nature, if they mechanically unite or separate by Pleasure and Pain inherent in each of them, if there is no volitional activity of consciousness, there is no ground for the conception of or distiction between good and bad, between knowledge and ignorance, and so forth. From this it follows that in reality, there is no act of killing or hearing or instructing. The act of killing, if it is possible at all in the world, means nothing but the act of separating from one another the elements of being in their organic unity.


B.M. BARUA29 compares Kachch�yana and Empedocles, looking upon the former as the Empedocles of India. Both of them maintained that the elements of being are so distinct qualitatively from one another that there is no transition from the one to the other. Just as Empedocles is called, justly or unjustly, an Eleatic, so is Kachch�yana called an Eternalist, an Eternalist being but an Indian Eleatic. In the view of both becoming is impossible. Both conceive being as a plurality of unchangeable elements. According to both, the four roots of all things are the four elements, which are in their nature permanent, that is, they know no qualitative change. Just as Empedocles conceives some ground or cause of change, similarly Kachch�yana regards Pleasure and Pain (Sukha, dukha) as the two principles of change. Finally, they resemble each other in admitting that there are pores (vivara) in organic bodies, and they also deny the void. The only point of difference between the two thinkers is that while in the case of Empedocles, it is not known whether he left any room for the conception of soul in his scheme of existence, in the case of Kachch�yana, it is positive that he did.


Ajita Ke�akambalin is known to be the historical founder of Indian Materialism. He was held in great esteem by the people of his time. He was called Ke�akambalin because he put on a blanket of human hair. The philosophical and religious ideas of Ajita Ke�akambalin are known from the S�ma��aphala Sutta.30 There are two aspects of his philosophy, negative and positive.


Ajita was antinomian in ethics. It is remarkable that his categorical assertions are all negative in form. According to him, there is no merit in sacrifice or offering, no resultant fruit from good and evil deeds. No one passes from this world to the next. No benefit results from the service rendered to mother and father. There is no afterlife. There are no ascetics or Br�hma�as who have attained perfection by following the right path, and who, as a result of knowledge, have experienced this world as well as the next and can proclaim the same.

There is no existence of individuality after death. The four elements of existence constitute a living body. When a man dies, earth returns to earth, water to water, heat to fire, air to air, and the sense faculties pass into space. It is a doctrine of fools, this talk of existence after death, for all alike, the foolish and the wise are cut off, annihilated, and cease to be after death.31 Ajita in the negative aspect of his doctrine resembles Epicucurs, while on the positive side of his speculations he seems to be more a Stoic than an Epicurean, his fundamental point being that nothing but the corporeal is real.32


Ajita’s doctrine was described by Mah�v�ra and Buddha as Ta�-jiva-ta�-sar�ra-v�da, in contradistinction to the doctrine of the soul being distinct from the body (A��a�-j�va-a��a�-sar�ra-v�da). Ajita was not so much against the dogmas of the Brahmanic faith as against the doctrine of Kachch�yana and others who made a hard and fast distinction between the body and the soul, between matter and spirit, in short, who conceived the soul as an entity existing independently of anything corporeal or material. Thus 1in one sense like a Stoic, he identified the corporeal with the mental, and in another sense he did not. His intention was not to identify the body with the soul, judged as concepts, for what he sought to establish was that the real fact of experience is always a living whole, a whole which the apprehending mind can conceive in its various aspects.33 Hence the distinction which Kachch�yana made between the elements of being is in the view of Ajita untenable, the distinction being only an act of our mind. No such distinction exists in the living concrete individual taken as a whole.

Ajita’s view was followed by P�y�si, and it was made more intelligible. The soul is not an entity distinct from the body. We cannot separate the soul from the body like him who draws a sword from the scabbard and says, �This is the sword and that the scabbard.34 We cannot say this is the soul and that’s the body. Ajita and P�y�si viewed the corporeal from the point of view of the self on the ground that form cannot exist apart from matter.


According to Mah�v�ra, by denying future life, Ajita taught men to kill, burn, destroy35 and enjoy all the pleasures of life. The truth seems to be quite the contrary. He taught us to believe rather in life than in death and to show proper regard to persons when they are alive rather than honour them when they are dead. In another Jaina passage, we are told that Ajita was an Akriy�-v�din, as he upheld the doctrine of non-Being. The study of the views of ��l�nka and S�ya�a M�dhava leads us to believe that the foundation of Ajita’s doctrine was laid in a statement of Y�j�avalkya which is : the intelligible essence emerging from the five elements vanishes into them at death.36


Sa�jaya Bela��hiputta was one of the religious teachers of the sixth century B.C. As is obvious from the S�ma��aphala Sutta, he was a wanderer and the founder of a religious Order as well as of a school of thought in R�jag�ha. He is believed to be identical with Parivr�jaka Sa�jaya, teacher of S�riputta and Mogall�na described in the Vinaya Mah�vagga, and the Dhammapada. Such as identification is possible, because Parivr�jaka Sa�jaya is known to be a sceptic. Still, we are not definite as the name Parivr�jakaSa�jaya is not found along with Sa�jaya Bela��hiputta in the early Buddhist work named S�ma��aphala Sutta.

Sa�jaya Bela��hiputta was celebrated for an opinion which was a blend of scepticism on the one hand and a primitive stage of criticism of knowledge on the order, like that of the Sophists in Greek philosophy. From the point of view of their philosophical doctrine his disciples were known as Agnostics, Sceptics, or Eel-wrigglers, and from the point of view of their moral conduct, as friends or Good-natured ones.


The Jainas mention the theory of Aj�anav�da or Agnosticism of which Sa�jaya Bela��iputta seems to be the chief advocate. ��l��ka says : �Literally, the �Agnostics� as those in whom there is �ignorance� or �who walk about in ignorance�. They think : even if we avowedly maintain a view � ï¿½That this is good� (Ku�ala), we are conscious that we are not acquainted with truth, the matter is not familiar to our knowledge. Indeed, we have not as yet got beyond �perplexity� � perplexity which is blindness and delusion of the mind.

�Some conceive the existence of an all-seeing soul, while others controvert it. Some speak of an all-pervading self; others contend that the body being such an entity, it cannot be all-pervading. Some estimate that soul is equal to a digit in size, while others say that it is equal to a grain of rice. Some posit a soul that has a material form while others maintain that it is formless. Some point out that the heart is the seat of soul, while others oppose them by saying that the forehead would be the right place �

�How can there be an agreement of views among these philosophers ? Many moral injuries may result from the issues of such antagonistic blunders. For us, ignorance is far better than these follies.�37


According to the S�ma��aphala Sutra,38 Sa�jaya’s doctrine was neither a doctrine of acceptance nor a doctrine of denial. He neither denied the existence of the next world nor accepted it. Whether the beings are produced by chance, or whether there is any fruit of good or bad action, or whether a man who won the truth continues after death � to all these questions he gave the same answer.

A follower of this sect has been described in the Brahmaj�la Sutta39 as Amar�vikkhepika, who, when asked a question, would equivocate and wriggle out like an eel. B.M. BARUA40 thinks that the Aviruddhakas mentioned in the A�guttara Nik�ya were also followers of Sa�jaya, that they were called Amar�vikkhepikas for their philosophical doctrines and Aviruddhakas for their moral conduct.


The very fact that Sa�jaya’s opponents were compelled to put his views to the hardest test demonstrates that these could not be so easily dismissed. He had a large following, a fact which goes at once to prove that there was some truth in his teaching that could appeal to so many thoughtful men. He suspended his judgements only with regard to those great questions of which a decisive answer will ever remain a matter of speculation. He called away the attention of the philosopher from fruitless inquiries and directed it towards the Summum bonum, which is the attainment and preservation of mental equanimity.

Sa�jaya may be considered to be a true precursor of Mah�v�ra who propounded a doctrine of antinomies (Sy�dv�da) and of the Buddha who advocated a critical method of investigation (vibh�jyav�da). Both Mah�v�ra and the Buddha agree that there are some important questions of cosmology, ontology, theology and eschatology on which no finality is possible.


Mah�v�ra’s contemporary leader of the �j�vaka sect was Ma�khali Go��la who seems to have been preceded by Nanda Vachchha and Kisa Sa�kichchha.41 He was born at Sarava�a near S�vatthi. His father was Ma�khali and his mother’s name was Bhadd�. His father was Ma�kha, that is, a dealer in pictures. Go��la himself followed his father’s profession in the beginning and hence he was so named.42 As he is said to have been born in the cow-shed, he was called Go��la. In the Buddhist records, the name is also spelt : �Makkhali�, which means one who stumbled in the mud. The true name seems to be Maskarin, the Jaina-prakrit form of which is Ma�khali, and the Pali form Makkhali. This name indicates a school of Wanderers or Sophists who were so named not because they carried a bamboo staff about them but because they denied the freedom of the Will.


When Go��la grew up, he left home for some unknown reason and became a homeless wanderer, spending twentyfour years as an ascetic. After his meeting with Mah�v�ra at Pa�iyabh�mi, he spent six years with him. Probably because of this association we find some points of similarity in Jaina and �j�vika doctrine and practice. From the account of the Bhagavati S�tra, it is known that Go��la became a disciple of Mah�v�ra. Afterwards, Go��la parted company with Mah�v�ra on account of doctrinal differences and went to �r�vast� where he spent sixteen years as a religious leader of the �j�vika sect. The two years intervening between these two periods were no doubt filled with a journey to Kum�rag�ma, six months’ penance, and preliminary wanderings before making �r�vast� his headquarters.


It is not likely that Go��la resided for sixteen years continually at S�vatthi; probably like his great rivals Mah�v�ra and the Buddha, he travelled from place to place among the towns and villages of the Ga�ga valley, preaching and gathering converts. There is evidence that the �j�vikas, both ascetics and laymen, existed in a fairly large number at this time. His mission consisted largely in knitting together local �j�vika holymen and their followers, regularising their doctrines and gaining converts by the display of pseudo-supernatural powers. He obtained the strongest support for this sect at S�vatthi. The Ko�alan king Pasenadi was more favourably disposed towards this sect than was his contemporary Bimbis�ra of Magadha.


When Go��la made his headquarters at S�vatthi in the workshop of the potter woman H�lahal�, he was surrounded by many disciples. At this time, he was visited by six di��charas, in consultation with whom he codified the �j�vika scriptures. The scriptures of the �j�vikas consisted of ten Puvvas, i.e., eight Mah��imittas and two Maggas, like the fourteen P�rvas of the Jainas. The dialect adopted for their scriptures was closely allied to Ardha M�gadhi, a few stereotyped fragments of which have survived in the Jaina and Buddhist literatures.

Soon after the visit of the six di��charas, Mah�v�ra exposed Go��la openly with the result that the relations between the two sects became very hostile. Afterwards Go��la suffered from delirium and died. His death took place sixteen years before that of Mah�v�ra.

The comparison of the Buddhist references with those found in Jaina sources enables us to form a tolerable picture of the doctrines of Go��la. While discussing these doctrines, we must also keep in mind that both Go��la and Mah�v�ra lived together for some time and that the scriptures of the �j�vikas and the Jainas are said to have some common sources of origin.


Go��la was the propounder of a �doctrine of change through re-animation� (pau��aparih�rav�da) or, better still, of a theory of natural transformation (pari�amav�da) which he came to formulate from the generalisation based on the periodical re-animations of plant life.44 He came to the conclusion that just as the sesame seeds after having completely perished come to life from their inherent force or will-to-be, so are all living beings capable of re-animation.


The basic idea underlying the above doctrine implies a process of purification through transmigration.45 In the Buddhist phraseology, purification is the equivalent of �the end of pain� (dukkhassanta), and the word transmigration signifies the passing of soul from one state of experience to another. According to this theory of purification through transmigration, one will put an end to pain after wandering through various births for the allotted term. There are eighty-four hundred thousand periods during which both fools and wise, wandering in transmigration, shall at last make an end of pain. Neither the wise nor the fool can get rid of the Karma ï¿½ there can be no increase or decrease thereof. Everything is predestined. Just as a ball of string when unrolled, spreads out as far as and no farther than it can unwind, so shall both fools and wise alike, wandering in transmigration exactly for the allotted term, make an end of pain.


Go��la offers for his theory of perfection through transformation no less than three explanations : Fate or Necessity, Class or Species, and Nature.46

As a rigid determinist, Go��la exalted fate (Niyati) to the status of the motive factor of the universe and the sole agent of all phenomenal change.47 Man’s destiny is pre-ordained, human effort could effect no change in it, and emancipation was to be obtained only through a long series of transmigrations. Pleasure and pain are not caused by the souls themselves nor by others, but by destiny. There is no such thing as exertion or labour or power or vigour or manly strength, but that all things are caused by destiny which is unalterably fixed. The S�m���phala Sutta also gives an account of Go��la’s teachings from where we get the same denial of the usefulness of effort or manly vigour.

The attainment of a certain peculiar condition, and of a certain peculiar character on the part of all things, all lives, all beings, depends in part on the class or type to which they belong. It is partly according to their position this class or that that they possess certain special properties, that they have certain physical characteristics, that they inherit certain peculiar habits, develop certain faculties, and so on. Thus fire, for example, is hot, ice is cold, water is liquid, stone is hard, a thorn is sharp, a peacock is painted, the sandal tree possesses fragrance, the elephant’s cub, if it does not find leafless and thorny creepers in the green wood, becomes thin; the crow avoids the ripe mango, etc.48

Buddhaghosha explains Go��la term �nature� as �the peculiar nature of each being�.49 The world originates and develops from its inherent force or immanent energy. It is also probable that he sought for an explanation of the diversity of appearances, characteristics, habits and behaviour of things in nature. He conceived Nature as a self-evolving activity. Nature has two modes of operation : by one made things come to pass and by the other they cease to be (prav�tti and niv�tti). More accurately, he seems to have understood by Nature the specific faculties or characteristics of a living substance other than those which it possesses in common with the race or species.50


Go��la’s views on Kamma appear to have been peculiar. The classifications found in S�ma��aphala passages are obscure, and Buddhaghosha sheds little light. From this it appears that once earned, the inheritance of Kamma was held to be independent of individual will and supposed to work its way out along its own logic. From the statement just made, it appears that Kamma was considered to be in some way casually connected with Sukha-dukha. How, then, was it supposed to be related to the triad of Niyatisa�gatibh�va ? Since individual initiative is denied, Niyati probably, was considered to be the cause of Kamma prior to the attainment of liberation. Go��la, in short, considered man bound to the cycle of rebirth by a force � Kamma or Niyati over which he had no voluntary control.


Go��la’s classification of human beings into six abhij�tis51 (groups) according to their psychic colour is as follows : black (Ka�ha) includes all who live by slaughter and cruelty, such as hunters, thieves, fishermen and others; blue (nila) contains �monks who live as thieves�; red (lohita) probably applies to all monks of Jaina type; (4) green (halidda) seems to refer to�j�vika laymen; (5) white(sukka) is related so �j�vika ascetics of both sexes; and (6) Supremely white (Parama-sukka) contains only three names, that is, those of Nandi Vachcha, Kisa Sankichcha, and Makkhali Go��la. The Abhij�tis have much is common with the Jaina le�y�s, and it is possible that both Go��la and Mah�v�ra might have derived from some common source. By urging this doctrine, Go��la wants to emphasize that the supreme spiritual effort of man consists in restoring the mind to its original purity, i.e., rendering it colourless or supremely white by purging it of all impurities that have stained it.


Go��la advocated that there are eight stages of development through which every man must pass for the attainment of perfection in order to become a Jina.52 The first stage is babyhood which begins with the birth of a person. Babyhood is followed by the play-time, and that again by the third stage when the child attempts to walk. This period of trial is duly succeeded by the period when the child is able to walk. When he becomes older, he is sent to learn under a teacher. In course of time, he renounces the world and equips himself, sooner or later, with all that his teacher knows. Then comes a time when he realizes that what his teacher taught him was not all, that in fact it was nothing. The ï¿½ï¿½rama theory of the Dharma��stras was based on the notion of the gradual development of the self but it was formulated as a biological principle of evalution in its application to education.


We also know about the penances of the �j�vikas. The Bhagavati S�tra says that they abstained from eating umbara (ficus glomerata), va�a (ficus indica), bora (jujube), satara (?) and pila�khu (ficus infectoria), all fruits, and also from eating roots, etc. The Sth�n��ga S�tra53 says that the �j�vikas practised four kinds of austerities, viz., severe austerities, fierce austerities, abstention from ghee and other delicacies, and indifference to pleasant and unpleasant food. They observed the fourfold brahmacharya consisting of (1) tapassit�, asceticism; (2) l�khachariy�, austerity; (3) jeguchchita, comfort-loathing; and (4) pavivittat�, solitude. The Aupap�tika S�tra54 describes the system of collecting alms as adopted by the �jivika ascetics. Some of them begged in every second or third or fourth or fifth or sixth or even in every seventh house; there were seven who accepted lotus stalks only as alms under certain conditions; some begged in every house, but did not accept alms if there was a flash of lightening. There were some ascetics who practised penances by entering into big earthen vessels.


Both the Buddhists and the Jainas regarded the �j�vikas as amoralists and proceeded to condemn them as immortal in practice. On the evidence of Jaina scriptures, A.F.R. HOERNLE55 accuses Go��la of hypocrisy and incontinence.

B.M. BARUA56 on the other hand considers these strictures merely sectarian. According to him, Go��la’s theory ofPari��mav�da seeks to establish even with the help of its fatalistic creed a moral government of law in the universe where nothing is dead, where nothing happens by chance, and where all that is and all that happens and is experienced are unalterably fixed as it were by a pre-determined law of nature.

It teachers that as man is pre-destined in certain ways and as he stands highest in the gradations of existence, his freedom, to be worth the name, must be one within the operation of law, and that the duty of man as the highest of beings is to conduct himself according to law, and to act and behave in a manner that does not induce him to trespass upon the rights of others, to make the fullest use of one’s liberties, to be considerate and discreet, to be pure in life, to abstain from killing living beings, to be free from earthly possessions, to reduce the necessaries of life to a minimum, and to strive for the best and highest, i.e. Jinahood, which is within human powers.

This fatalistic creed, which is a logical outcome of Pari��mav�da, confirms popular Indian belief that action has its reward and retribution and that heaven and hell are the inevitable consequences hereafter of merits and demerits of this life.57


Apart from those relating to practice, the chief differences between the �j�vikas and the Niganthas concerned the nature of will and of the soul. As to the latter, Buddhaghosha informs us that while Go��la held the soul to be R�p�, Mah�v�ra considered itAr�p�. Among the striking similarities between the two doctrines : one may mention the common expression Sabbe Satt� p��� bhuta� Jiv�, the division of animals into Ekendriya, Dvindriya, etc. Belief in the omniscience of the released was also common. Go��la and Mah�v�ra both enjoined the practice of nudity for saints.


Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was the junior contemporary of Mah�v�ra. We possess no authentic accounts of his life and teachings. Two poems in the Sutta Nip�ta and a few early Suttas supply us with some data but for details, we have to depend upon comparatively later works, which appear to have preserved older traditions.


Gautama alias Siddh�rtha was born in 563 B.C. at Lumbinivana, now identified with Rumminidei on the border of Nepal. His father Suddhodana of the S�kya clan was the ruler of Kapilavastu. His mother M�y� died seven days after his birth, and he was brought up by his mother’s sister Mah�praj�pati Gotam�. When he grew up, he married Ya�odhar�, and had a son, R�hula.

The idea of renunciation, according to the later text, came into his mind from seeing four persons in four different stages � an old man, a cripple, an ascetic, and a corpse. In the early texts like the Sutta Nip�ta, it is simply stated that looking at the miseries of the world, he embraced the life of a wandering hermit at the age of twentynine.

Passing through a number of villages, Gautama at last reached Vai��l� where he stayed at a hermitage of the teacher �r��a K�l�ma. There he became his disciple and learnt the S��khya doctrine from him. Since evidently he was not satisfied, he left the hermitage of �r��a to become a disciple of another teacher Rudraka R�maputra, who was then living in the outskirts of R�jag�ha. Not satisfied with Rudraka either, he left him and began to observe severe penances along with five other Br�hma�a ascetics. He was deserted by the Br�hmana companions when they noticed slackness on his part in observing penances, and he decided to take food just sufficient to sustain his body.

After leaving Rudraka’s hermitage, Gautama went to Uruvilva where he took his seat under a p�pal tree. After spending seven weeks in meditation under this tree, he finally realized the Truth. He thus became the Buddha (the Enlightened One). With his attainment of both insight and knowledge, he became emancipated from birth and rebirth. He then turned his attention to his five Br�hma�a companions who were then residing at �ishipattana (S�rn�th) near Banaras. He proceeded there and delivered before them his first sermon, which is metaphorically represented in Buddhist literature as �turning the wheel of the Law�.


Along with these five Br�hma�a companions, Buddha went to Banaras where he converted Ya�a, a rich Se��hi’s son and other followers. From Banaras, he proceeded to R�jag�iha where he spent the second, third, and fourth Vass�s (retreats). In Magadha, at this time, there were many Brahmanical and non-Brahmanical teachers and wandering monks. The Buddha spent much of his time and energy in refuting their doctrines and convincing them of the excellence of his teaching. He succeeded in making a large number of converts, the most notable among them being S�riputra and Maudgaly�yana, who were formerly disciples of Sa�jaya Bela��hiputta, the Brahmanical ascetics, the Ja�ilas, Up�li Grahapati, and Abhayar�jakum�ra, all staunch followers of Niga��ha N�taputta; An�thapi��ika a merchant possessing fabulous wealth; kings Bimbis�ra and Aj�ta�atru, and later, king Mu��a. Besides R�jag�iha, Buddha visited Gay�, Uruvilva, N�land�, and P��aliputra.

Buddhism gained a footing even at Ko�al� (S�vatthi) where the Buddha spent the last twentyone vass�s. His favourite resort was the famous Jetava�a monastery, which was purchased for him by An�thapi��ika at a fabulous price. King Prasenajit (Pasenadi) became interested in his discourses while his queen Mallik� and his two sisters, Som� and Sakul�, became lay-devotees. Another influential supporter was Vis�kha, who built the Pubb�r�ma monastery for him.

The Buddha visited Kapilvastu and converted the members of his family including his son R�hula and foster-mother Mah�praj�pati Gomat�. Buddha also spent the fifth Vass� at Vai��l�, where Ambap�l�, the famous courtesan became his devotee and offered her mango grove to the Sa�gha. The Buddha passed the ninth Vass� at Kau��mb� where queen S�mavat� of Udayana became his follower. He visited a distant place Vera�j� (near Mathur�) to spend his twelfth Vass� there and deputed his disciple Mah�kachch�yana of the propagation of Buddhism in Avanti. He converted king Pradyota and others to Buddhism. He made his last journey to Malla’s capital Kusin�r� where he gave up his body after a fatal illness and attained parinirv��a at the age of eighty.


The earliest available source of our knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings is the P�li Pi�aka which consists of the five Nik�yas, viz., D�gha, Majjhima, Sa�yutta, A�guttara and Khuddaka. As many alterations and additions were made in it from time to time by the succeeding generations, it cannot be called homogeneous, nor is it possible to state definitely what actually were the original teachings of the Buddha.

Buddhism, like Jainism, was originally a moral code rather than a metaphysical or religious system. The Buddha instructed his followers to pursue practical methods in order to arrive at the Truth. For the removal of ignorance, thirst, attachment, etc., for instance, he advocated the four ï¿½ryasatyas (Noble Truths), viz., (1) that worldly existence is full of misery (dukkha); (2) that thirst, attachment, etc., are the causes of wordly existence (samudaya); (3) that worldly existence can be ended (nirodha) by the destruction of thirst, etc. The Path is the well-known Eightfold Way, viz., right speech, right action, right means of livelihood, right exertion, right mindedness, right meditation, right resolution, and right point of view. The first three practices lead to physical control (��la), the second three to mental control (chitta), and the last two to intellectual development (praj��).

The exposition of the Eightfold Path is said to be the Buddha’s first discourse. It is also widely known as the Middle Path (madhyama pratipat) as it keeps clear of the two extreme ways of life, one being that of ease and luxury and the other of rigorous ascerticism. This path allowed a monk to live a life of moderate comfort, with the bare requirements of food, clothing and residence, but with the wind intent on achieving the goal.

The second discourse, which is said to have been delivered by the Buddha, strikes the keynote of his teachings, viz., that the five constituents which make a being are without a self (an�tma), impermanent (anitya), and are not desirable (dukkha). He who realizes the absence of soul or substance in the constituents knows that he does not exist as an individual and as such there can be no relationship between himself and the objects around him. There is nothing in this world to make him happy or sad and so he is free (vimukta), he is an arhat� perfect.


The Brahmanical ascetics were probably divided into two classes, i.e., the one retiring to the forests V�naprasthins and then passing to the stage of Sanny�sa, and the other consisting of the T�vasa, the Geruya or Parivr�jaka etc. The J�takas most probably depict the life of the V�naprasthins and the Sanny�sins, but there is no line of demarcation drawn between the two. It is only in the Dharmas�traliterature of a later period that a clear distinction is made between the two stages of life. Now the question is : how far does the account of theJ�takas correspond with that of the Dharmas�tra. According to the Baudh�yana-Dharmas�tra, to cite one example, one could renounce the world after the student life, or after being a householder, or from the forest.58 ï¿½pastamba and Vasish�ha allow one to have the option of becoming an ascetic after the completion of the Brahmcharya stage or after becoming a householder.59 Thus we find the Brahmanical sources supporting the Buddhist account.


The T�vasas lived in forest where they occupied themselves with meditation, sacrificial rites, self-torture, and in reading the scriptures. They gathered fruits and roots for their sustenance and visited the villages for alms. On one of the journeys he made during his ascetic life, Mah�v�ra put up in a hermitage (�samapada) in Sannivesa.60 He came across another hermitage named Kanakakhala in Uttarav�ch�la where five hundred hermits were staying;61 still another hermitage is referred to in Poya�apura where Vakkalach�ri was born.62

The Ov�iya S�tra63 mentions the following classes of V�napattha T�vasas residing on the bank of the Ga�ga. It is possible that some of the classes might have belonged to the later period than that of Mah�v�ra but we are not in a position to distinguish them positively.

Hottiya : They offered sacrifices.

Kottiya : They slept on the bare ground.

Pottiya : They put on a special kind of clothes.

Ja��a� : They performed sacrifices.

Sa��hai : They belonged to the devotional class of ascetics.

Th�la� : They carried all their belongings with them.

Humbau��tha : They carried a water vessel with them.

Dantukkhaliva : They lived on fruits and used their teeth as mortar.

Ummajjaka : They bathed taking only a dip.

Sammajjaka : They bathed without taking a dip in water.

Nimajjaka : They remained in water only for a short time.

Sampakkh�la : They rubbed and cleansed their limbs with mud.

Dakkhi�ak�laga : They dwelt on the south bank of the Ganga.

Uttarak�laga : They dwelt on the north bank of the Ganga.

Sa�khadhamaga : They blew a conch-shell to keep people away.

K�ladhamaga : They blew a conch-shell on the river bank to keep people away while they took their meal.

Miyaluddhaya : They killed animals.

Hatthit�vasa : They used to kill an elephant every year with arrows and lived many months on its flesh. The motive was to spare the lives of other animals for as long as the flesh of the elephant would last.They claimed that they committed but one sin in a year, the killing of the elephant, which was counterbalanced by the merit earned by not killing other lives during this time.64

U��a��aya : They moved about raising their staff and are referred to along with Bo�iya and Sasarakkha mendicants who went about naked and used the hollow of their hands as alms-bowl.65

Dis�pokkhi : They sanctified all sides by sprinkling water and then collected flowers and fruits. The Bhagavati66 refers to the royal sage �iva of Hattin�pura, who joined the order of the Dis�pokkhiyas on the bank of the Ganga. He practised cha��hama (a fast, broken at sixth meal), and on the day on which he broke his fast, he sprinkled the eastern quarter, propitiated Soma, the lord of the east, and collected bulbous roots, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and green vegetables. Then he returned to his hut, cleaned the sacrificial altar (Vedik�) and went to bathe in the Ganga. He made another altar with grass and sand, kindled a fire by the friction of pieces of wood, and keeping ritualistic paraphernalia by his side, offered honey, ghee, and rice to the fire. Then he prepared Charu (oblation), worshipped Vaissadeva and the guests, and then took his meal. Then �iva observed the Cha��hama fast again and proceeded to the south to propitiate Yama, then to the west to propitiate Varu�a, and finally to the north to propitiate Vesama�a. Somila was another hermit of V�r�nas� who belonged to the same order and was a worshipper of the four di��s.67 King Pasannachand also belonged to the same order which he joined along with his queen and the nurse.68

Vakav�s� : They put on a dress of bark.

Ambuv�s� : They lived in water.

Bilav�s� : They lived in caves.

Jalav�s� : They remained submerged in water.

Velav�s� : They lived on the sea-coast.

Rukkham�lia : They lived under trees.

Ambubhakkhi : They lived by drinking water only.

V�ubhakkhi69 : They lived by inhaling air only.

Sev�labhakkhi70 : They lived by eating moss.

The T�vasas followed the rules of the V�naprastha ��rama. Like other ascetics, they also moved in a body. We hear of three hermits, Ko�inna, Dinna and Sev�l�, who were followed by a body of five hundred disciples each. They lived on roots, bulbs, decayed leaves, and moss; they set out to pay a visit to A��h�vaya.71


Though they formed a distinct and separate group, the Parivr�jakas belonged to the class of ascetics. According to T.W. RHYS DAVIDS,72 ï¿½the Paribb�jakas or the wandering mendicants were teachers or sophists who spent eight or nine months of every year wandering about, and they were often lodged in the public halls where conversational discussions were held on philosophical and religious questions. Besides, they lived on alms collected from door to door.� B.M. BARUA73 mentions that these Br�hman wanderers were in a position to learn the languages, customs, and usages of the people living in different parts of the world in which they themselves lived. In those early ages of civilization, when there was neither any printing press nor any easy means of communication between one country and another, elements of knowledge could be gathered, disseminated or utilised for scientific purpose by no better means than such travelling.

The Parivr�jakas or the wanderers were the great teachers of the Brahmanic lore and were highly respected. In the Vasish�ha Dharmas�tra, it is stated that a Parivr�jaka should shave his head, clothe himself with one piece of cloth or skin, cover his body with grass pulled off by cows, and he should sleep on bare ground.74 The Parivr�jakas maintained their regular monasteries (Avasaha) and wandered from place to place in order to propagate their teachings. From the Ov�iya, we know that they were versed in the four Vedas, Itih�sa, Niggha��u, six Ved��gas, and six Up��gas. They preached the doctrine of charity (D�nadhamma), purity (soadhamma), and that of bathing at holy places. According to them whatever was impure became pure by applying mud to it and by being washed with water. They believed that they were pure themselves and that by taking bath they would attain heaven. They never travelled in a cart or a litter, never entered a lake or a river for bathing, never rode a horse or an elephant, never visited the performance of a dancer or a bard, never trampled upon or rubbed green vegetables, never indulged in talks regarding women, food, country, king, and thieves, never kept any costly pots except a bottle gourd, wooden, or an earthen pot, never put on garments of various colours except one pair dyed with red-clay, never wore any ornaments except one copper ring, never wore any garland except a pair of flower earings, never besmeared their body with any fragrant substance except the clay of the Ganga, and they took only one Magadha prastha (a measure used in Magadha) filtered (Parip�ya) water for drinking purposes.

From the Bhagavat�s�tra,75 we know about one wandering mendicant, Ajjakhanda of Kachch�yana gotra, a disciple of Gaddabh�li, who was putting up in S�vatthi. Once he took his ritualistic objects, viz., triple staves, water pot (Ku��i), rosary (Ka�cha�iy�), earthen bowl (Karo�iy�), seat (bhisiy�), sweeping duster (Kesariy�), teapoy (cha���liy�), hook(ankusaya), ring (pavittaya), and the forearm ornament (kal�chik�), and taking an umbrella and wearing shoes and dyed robes, proceeded to pay a visit to Mah�v�ra. He was well-versed in Vedic literature.

In the early Buddhist records,76 we have frequent mention of a number of such Parivr�jakas (wanderers), all of whom were the contemporaries of the Buddha, e.g. Po��hap�da, D�gha-nakha, Sakula Ud�yi, Anna-bhara, Varadhara, Pot�liya or Po�ali-putta, Uggaham�na, Vekhanassa Kachch�na, M�ga��iya, Sandaka, Uttiya, three Vachchhagottas, Sabhiya, and Pilotika Vachchh�yana. Besides these wanderers, we have to take into account many celebrated Br�hma�a teachers of the Buddha’s time, such as Pokkharas�ti(Pushkaras�di), Sonada��a (�aunadanta or �aunaka), Ku�adanta, Lohichcha, Ka�ki (Cha�ki), Tarukkha (T�rukshya),J�nussoni (Jata�ruti), Todeyyas, Todeyya-putta or Subha, K�pa�hika Bh�radv�ja, Aggika Bh�radv�ja, Pi��ola Bh�radv�ja, K�si Bh�radv�ja, V�se��ha, Assal�yana, Moggall�na, P�r�sariya, Vassak�ra, and others.77

Most of these religious teachers belonged to Magadha, and R�jag�iha was the centre of their activities. The famous Parivr�jaka Sa�jaya lived at this place with two hundred and fifty disciples among whom S�riputta and Moggall�na were the foremost. S�riputta was the first to resolve to embrace the faith and was followed by Moggall�na.78 These two friends tried to persuade their teacher, Sa�jaya, to see the Buddha, but failing to convince him, abandoned him and went over to the Buddha, followed by all the disciples of Sa�jaya.79Sakula-Udai was also residing at R�jag�iha. Po�aliputta and Dighanakha also established their headquarters at his place. Moliyas�vaka and Sabhiya are said to have met the Buddha here. The Niguttara Nik�ya80 refers to Annabh�ra Sarabha and others as staying in the Parivr�jak�r�ma on the bank of the Sappiniya river. Anug�ra and Varadhara are mentioned as staying at Moraniv�pa Parivr�jak�r�ma in R�jag�iha which had several delightful spots like Veluvana, Ghijjhak��a mountain, Moraniv�pa, the Parivr�jak�r�ma on the bank of the Sappiniya river, Tapod�r�ma, J�vaka’s �mravana, S�tavana, Maddakuchchi, and so on which were resorted to by a large number of Parivr�jakas. These had made Rajag�iha famous as a halting place for the wandering monks.

There was another pleasant and delightful ï¿½ï¿½rama at Uruvela on the bank of the river Nera�jara. Pav�rika’s mango grove at N�land�, Ghaggara Pokkhara�� at Champ�, Mah�vana near Vai��li, Mallik�r�ma in �r�vast�, and others were important places meant for the Parivr�jakas during this period. Vachchhagotta stayed at Vai��l� in the Pu��ar�ka Parivr�jak�rma. Jambukh�daka is known to have met S�riputta at N�lakag�ma (in Magadha) and Ukkavela (in Vajji). Uggham��a had seven hundred Parivr�jakas under him.81 The leaders of the Br�hma�a ascetics were known as the Ga�asatth�s.82

Besides these, other parivr�jakas too have been mentioned.83

Charaka : It is said that they begged alms while moving in company and kept on moving even while eating. They accepted cleansed alms and put on a lion-cloth. It is said that these mendicants were the direct descendants of Kapilamuni.84

Chirika : They picked up rags from the road side.85

Chammakha��ia : They either wore a dress of hide or else their religious requisites were made of hide.

Bhikkahu��a : They would eat nothing except what had been obtained by alms and would not take cow-milk etc. They are considered identical with Buddhist monks.

Pa��ura�ga or Pa��araga : There were �aiva mendicants who besmeared their body with ashes. According to the N��itha ch�r�i, however, the disciples of Go�ala were called Pa��arabhikkhu. The Anuyogadv�rach�r�i identifies them with the Sasarakkha (Sarajaska) Bhikkhus.

Then there were other Parivv�yagas.

Sa�kha : They followed the S��khya system.

Joi : They followed the Yoga system.

Kavila : They followed the atheistic S��khya system and regarded Kapila as their master.

Bhiuchcha : They were the disciples of Bh�igu.

Ha�sa : They lived in mountain caves, roads, hermitages, shrines, and gardens and entered a village only to beg.

Paramaha�sa : They lived on river banks, the confluence of streams and discarded clothes before they died.

Bah�daga : They lived one night in a village and five nights in a town.

Ku�ivvaya : They lived in their own house and considered getting victory over greed, illusion, and egotism as their goal.

Ka�haparivv�yaga : They woshipped the N�r�ya�a.


Some Brahmanical hermits were called the Ja�ilas on account of their matted hairs.86 These ascetics lived in large groups in forests, had group leaders, engaged in austerities, tended fire, and performed sacrifices. They were also called Aggika Ja�ilk�.

Uruvel�, the place of the Buddha’s Sambodhi, was then a great centre of Vedic religion. There were three settlements or colonies of the Ja�ilas on the banks of the river Nera�jara under three Kassapa brothers, Uruvela Kassapa, N�di Kassapa, and Gaya Kassapa, each at the head of 500, 300 and 200 Ja�ilas respectively.87 They were born in a Br�hma�a family on Magadha and were highly respected by the inhabitants of A�ga and Magadha.88 Most probably they were Naish�hika Brahmach�rins. It is said that Uruvela Kassapa used to perform annually a great sacrifice which was attended by the neighbouring people with abundant food.89 On the occasion of the Ash�akas, in the snowy-cold winter nights, they are described as plunging into the river Nera�jara and emerging out of it repeatedly on account of their belief in purification by bathing.90

That these three brothers had gathered quite a large number of followers and had made three colonies of them, shows that they had developed a congregational life. In the opinion of B.M. BARUA, there was no corporate life, and among the Ja�ilas forming three distinct groups, the tie in each group was rather domestic than congregational.91 To convert these Br�hma�a ascetics who performed Vedic rites and enjoyed the respect of their people, was the principle aim of the Buddha, for that would, he thought, produce a magical effect on popular monks. According to Mah�vagga, he was successful in changing the heart of 1000 Ja�ilas along with their leaders who entered the Order.92


There is a reference to the Lok�yatas in the Dighanik�ya. A Brahma�a well-versed in the Lok�yata doctrine asking the Buddha a series of questions has been mentioned.93 A J�taka passage refers to Lok�yatika doctrine.94 The teachers and the student of this doctrine were both known as Lok�yatika. The name of this school was identical with the theory of elements as the prime cause (Bh�tav�da andUchchhedav�da).



The S�trak�it��ga95 describes the four heretical creeds of the time of Mah�v�ra, creeds called Kriy�v�da, Akriy�v�da, Aj��nav�da, and Vinayav�da. These four great schools comprise three hundred and sixty-three schools : Kriy�v�da consists of one hundred and eighty schools; Akriy�v�da of eighty-four schools, Aj��nav�da of sixty-seven schools, and Vinayav�da of thirty-two schools.


Kriy� denotes the existence of the soul (jiva), and those who believe in the existence of the soul are called Kriy�v�dins. It is stated that one who knows the tortures of beings below in hell, one who knows the influx of sin and its stoppage one who knows misery and its annihilation, is entitled to expound Kriy�v�da.


The Akriy�v�dins deny the existence of the soul, etc., for according to them everything is of a momentary existence, and a state comes to an end the moment it comes into existence, and, therefore, it cannot have any kriy�. Without continuity of existence, no kriy� is possible; the existence itself is the cause and effect of it. They are identified with the Buddhists, who hold the doctrine of Ksha�ikav�da.Akriy�v�dins were also called Viruddhas, since they held to doctrines opposed to those of other heretics.


The Aj��nv�dins deny the necessity or importance of knowledge to attain salvation, since there is assertion of contradictory statements in it.


The Vinayav�dins or Vainayikas are mentioned as Aviruddhakas in the A�guttara.96 They do not accept signs, external rules of ceremony, and the scriptures, but uphold the supremacy of reverence as the cardinal virtue leading to perfection. The upholders of this faith paid equal reverence to eight classes of beings, viz. god and master, ascetics, men, aged persons, inferiors, mother and father, and they maintained that to each of these eight classes of persons reverence may be shown in four ways, i.e., physically, mentally, verbally and with gifts. Vas�ya�a was a Vinayav�di ascetic who was practising p���m� pavajj� with his arms uplifted when Mah�v�ra and Go�ala arrived in Kummag�ma.97

Besides these, the names of some other sects too have been mentioned in Jaina literature.

Attukkosiya : They belonged to the class of ascetics who were proud of themselves.

Bh�ikammiya : They administered ashes to the people suffering from fever, etc.

Bhujjo bhujjo Kouyak�raka : They administered auspicious baths for procuring good luck. They are also known as �bhiogias.

Cha��idevaga : They had hangers (sikkaka) as their ritualistic paraphernalia.

Dagasoyariya : An adherent of the Dagasoyariyas, also known as Suiv�di, who took bath after cleaning his body sixty-four times if touched by anybody, has also been mentioned. A Dagasoyariya ascetic, it is said, was putting up in the N�r�ya�a Ko��ha in Mathura. After breaking his three-day fast he pretended to have taken cow-dung; he never uttered the word itthi (woman) and observed silence. People were so much attracted by his practice that they offered him robes, food, and drink. According to Malayagiri, however, these ascetics were the followers of the S��khya religion.

Dhammachintaka : They studied religious books, and contemplated on the Dharmasa�hit�s composed by Y�j�avalkya and other sages, and acted accordingly.

Giyarai : They devoted themselves to songs and pleasures of love.

Goama : They earned their living by painting and decorating a young bull with cowries in his neck and performing tricks of touching feet etc., and created amusement for the people. These ascetics lived on rice.

Govvaia : They behaved like a cow, and in order to support their bovine character, followed a cow wherever it went grazed, drank water, returned home, and slept. They lived only on grass and leaves.

Kamm�rabhikhu : They led a procession with idols.

Kuchchiya : They grew beard and moustaches.

Parapariv�iya : They spoke ill of other ascetics.

Pi��olaga : They remained very dirty, and their body which was an abode of lice emitted a foul smell. A Pi��olaga is said to have crushed himself under a rock on the mountain Vebh�ra.

Sasarakkha : They were adepts in casting spells, etc., and stored dust for the rainy season. They moved about naked, and used the hollow of their hands as alms bowl.

Va�imago : They were greedy of food and begged alms by exhibiting themselves to the devotees of ��kya, etc. They put themselves in a pitiable state, and in order to divert the attention of the donors spoke pleasing words.

V�ribhadraka : They lived on water or moss and engaged themselves in bathing and washing their feet.

V�rikhala : They washed their pot with mud twelve times.


The Brahmaj�la Sutta in the Digha Nik�ya classifies the contemporary philosophical thought into sixty-two schools which were in existence in the sixth century B.C. The four schools of Eternalists or Sassatav�das held that the soul and the world are both eternal. The first three schools held this view as a result of their having perceived through a recollection of the memories of past lives that the soul and the body have always been in existence, and the fourth school held this view not as a result of memory but on logical grounds.

The four schools of Semi-Eternalists or Ekachcha-Sassatikas were also well-known. The first school believed that while Brahm� was eternal, individual souls were not. The second school believed that debauched souls are not eternal but that undebauched souls are. The third school believed exactly the same thing as the second school except that in the case of the former the debauchery of the gods is mental unlike the debauchery of the gods of the latter school which is physical. The fourth school held that the soul was eternal but not the body.

The first of the four schools of Extentionists or Ant�nantikas held that the world was finite, the second that it was infinite, the third that it was infinite sidewise but finite upward and downward, and the fourth that it was neither finite nor infinite.

The four schools of Eel-wrigglers or Amar�vikkhepikas did not give categorical replies to any question but avoided them by ambiguous and equivocating replies, and different only in respect of the motive for giving such replies.

The two schools of Fortuitous-Originists or Adhichchasamuppannikas held that the soul and the world came into being without a cause. The first came to this conclusion as a result of the remembrance of past lives and the second as a result of logical reasoning.

The thirty-two schools of consciousness-maintainers or Uddham�ghatanikas believed that the soul after death passed into various states of existence, viz., conscious or unconscious, subject to decay or not subject to decay, neither conscious nor unconscious, and all in respect of the form, finitude, different modes of consciousness, and happiness of the soul.

The seven schools of Annihilationists or Uchchedav�dis maintained that the soul is annihilated after death and identified it with the body, essence of the body, mind, infinite space, infinite consciousness, or with the boundless and with that which is beyond ideas.

The five schools of Nirv��ists or Di��hadhammanibb�nav�das believed that a soul was capable of obtaining complete emancipation in this visible world through full enjoyment of the pleasures of the senses or through each of the four stages of dhy�na.


People had not forgotten the Vedic pantheon and religious practices because of the rise of different religious sects and schools during the time of Mah�v�ra. The Vedic rituals were scrupulously performed by a large section of people. Though their number grew smaller and smaller, they never died out altogether.

The Jaina and Buddhist literary sources throw some light on Brahmanical religion and practices. The Sotthiyas and the Brahmana Mah�s�las of the age were custodians of the Vedic religion which was mostly sacrificial. The Br�hma�a Mah�s�las sometimes performed sacrifices for themselves, and sometimes officiated as priests in the Yaj�as performed for kings. Descriptions of the preparations for the Mah�yaj�as of the Br�hma�a K��adanta of Magadha98, of the Br�hma�a Uggatasar�ra of S�vatthi99 and of king Pasenadi of Ko�ala100 throw considerable light on the method of performing these Yaj�as. Animals sacrificed included cows, bulls, steers, goats, sheep, etc. The number of animals used for sacrificial purposes sometimes rose to 500 or 700.

There are references to the performance of the Assamedha, the Parisamedha, the Sammapasa and the V�japeya sacrifies.101 Yaj�aswere performed with pomp and grandeur, and people flocked from neighbouring places to witness it. They were attended by big feasts, offerings, gifts of cows, beds, garments, women, chariots, carpets, and even places filled with corn. The picture of the Yaj��s thus revealed by the Buddhist sources is similar to the painted by the Brahmanical sources leaving aside a few exaggerations.

The Br�hma�as appear as teachers representing various Vedic schools, such as the Addhariyas (Aitareyas), Tittiriyas (Taittiriyas), Chhandokas (Chh�ndogyas), Chhand�vas, and so on.102 They worshipped Indra, Soma, Varu�a, ���na, Praj�pati, Brahm�, Mahiddhi, Yama, etc. They invoked them and offered prayer.103


Because of the new notions regarding religion current during the time of Lord Mah�v�ra, the functions of the old gods underwent modification and alteration, and new gods were created. Contact with indigenous cults at this time was responsible not only for the importation of new objects of worship, but also for the incorporation of new mythologies of the older cult. Not only from Brahmanical literature, but from Buddhist and Jaina literature also, we know about the popular deities worshipped during the sixth century B.C.


Indra, the chief of all other gods, is the Vedic god of great antiquity, and it appears that he was one of the most popular deities. In the Kalpas�tra,104 Indra has been described as enjoying divine pleasure in heaven in the company of various gods, eight chief queens, three assemblies, seven armies, seven commanders-in-chief, and body-guards. Indramaha was most prominent among all other mahas in ancient days. The festival of Indra was celebrated with great pomp and show. In Buddhist literature, he is mentioned by various names such as Sakka,V�savaMaghav�, and so on. He is also described as descending to this world for helping the virtuous punishing the evil-doers.105 He resides in the place known as Sudhamm�, Vejayanta, and Missakas�ra in the beautiful T�vatinsa heaven.106


During the period of the Br�hma�as, Praj�pati occupied the supreme position and was looked upon as the creator. In the sixth century B.C., he was called Brahm�. In the Buddhist Nik�yas, it is this personal Brahm� of the popular religion that is pictured, attacked, and ridiculed. In fact, his unity is not recognized, and many Brahm�s with different appellations such as Sanatkum�ra, Saha�pati, and so on were conceived for worshipping.107


Agni (Fire-god) occupied an important place in Brahmanism on account of the importance of Agnihotra. The G�ihyas�tras and the Dharmas�tras prescribe a number of domestic sacrifices for which Agni is needed. Agni was given a high position due to his use in yaj�a.The Buddhist writers108 ridicule Agni-worship probably due to the association of fire with yaj�a which involves slaughter of living beings.


In the Vedic period, the Sun occupied an important position but the moon was insignificant. From Buddhist literature, it appears that both were popular deities as they were worshipped by a fairly large number of people.109


Siri and Sirim� the goddesses of Fortune and Luck, were the popular deities of this period. They are referred to also in the Kalpas�tra.110 In Buddhist literature, Siri has been regarded as the daughter of ï¿½akra while Sirim� as the daughter of Dh�itar�sh�ra.111 Of the abstract deities that were worshipped,112 some were Vedic and others new additions. Saddh� (�raddh�) is a Vedic deity, but �s� and Hiri are non-Vedic.

Ajj� and Ko��akiriy� were two different forms of the goddess Durg� who is also called Cha��iy�. The�ch�r��ga refers to the worship of Cha��iy� with the sacrifice of goats, buffaloes, and human beings to please an inferior type of god.113 The peaceful goddess Durg� is called Ajj�, and when she rides on a buffalo she is called Ko��akiriy�.


There are four Lokap�las (Ch�tumah�rajika Devas)114 in the four quarters. Dhatara��ha Mah�r�ja, Virulhaka Mah�r�ja, Virupakkha Mah�r�ja, and Vessava�a Mah�r�ja are the lords of the East, the South, the West and the North respectively.115


From the Brahmanical, the Jaina, and the Buddhist sources, it appears that Yakshas were objects of worship. In Vedic literature, the word �Yaksha� signifies a supernatural being, or a ghost-like appearance. In the sixth century B.C., the worship of the Yakshas or Jakkhas became very popular, and so every important city had its own shrine dedicated to the Yaksha. The Yakshas sometimes granted worldly desires, especially progeny and wealth while some of the Yakshas have been associated with cosmological functions, others are looked upon as malevolent beings who take possession of men’s persons inducing in them symptoms of frenzy.

Yaksha Ga��itinduga of V�r��as� guarded the great sage M�ta�ga in the Tinduga garden.116 Bihelaga was another Yaksha who paid reverence to Lord Mah�v�ra when the latter was engrossed in meditation.117 Ga�gadatta,118 Subhadda,119 and Bhadd�120 were blessed with a child by the worship of the Yakshas. The Yakshas are also said to have cured diseases, P�r�abhadra and Ma�ibhadra, both Yakshas, seem to be more popular, for to them offerings of food were made.121 Some of the Yakshas caused trouble to the people and often were satisfied only after killing them. We hear of S�lap��i Jakkha who used to kill persons who happened to stay in his shrine.122 Another strange belief regarding the Jakkhas was that they enjoyed sexual intercourse with human maidens. The Ga��itindurga Jakkha is said to have had sexual intercourse with the princess Bhadd�.123

Like Yakshas, the V��amantar�s or the Jakkhi��s also played an important part in ancient Indian life. The V��amantr� Salejj� is said to have paid reverence to Mah�v�ra124 whereas Ka�ap�tran� gave him trouble.125 Various feasts and festivals were celebrated in honour of the Jakkhas. Bha���rava�a, the abode of Bha���ra Jakkha, a popular deity of Mathur�,126 drew a large number of pilgrims.

The abode of a Yaksha is often referred to as cheiya, a term which was applied to the whole sacred enclosure containing a garden grove or park and shrine. Mah�v�ra, the Buddha, and many other religious ascetics are represented as halting or resting in these shrines. From the Uv�saga-das�o, we learn that Mah�v�ra visited the shrine of P�r�abhadra at Champ�, the shrine called Dvipal�sa of Va�ijagr�ma, the Kosh�haka shrine of V�r��as�, the garden called Sa�khavana of �labh�, the garden called Sahasr�mravana of Kampilyapura, Sahasr�mravana of Pol�sapura and the shrines called Gunasila and Kush�haka of R�jag�iha.

Buddhist literature refers to the cities and haunts of the yakkhas. Their cities were known as Yakkhanagaras, which were usually situated in islands, deep forests, and deserts. A J�taka story mentions a Yakkhanagara called Sirisavatthu in Tambapa��id�pa127 and another in a forest.128 But some had individual haunts.129 More than thirty individual Yakshas are known by name.130 Yakkha S�chiloma had his haunt near Gay�.131 The Sa�yutta-Nik�ya and the Sutta-Nip�ta describe him as discoursing with the Buddha.132 Yakkha Indrak��a made the Indrak��a hill at R�jag�iha his abode.133 For yakkha Ma�im�la, there was the Ma�im�la chetiya.134Ajakal�paka resided at P��aliputra in the Ajakal�paka chetiya.135


Naga worship seems to have a non-Aryan origin. Its emergence as a cult may be traced to the time of the civilization of Mohenjod�ro as it is clear from the two seals where it appears in an attitude of devotion to a figure in Yogic posture. It appears that this cult was adopted by the Aryans partly as a consequence of the absorption of non-Aryan deities into the Brahmanical fold, and partly as a protection against snake-bites.

References to N�ga-worship, like those to the worship of Yakshas, are abundant in the Jaina136 and the Buddhist137 sources. Jainism and Buddhism had to admit the serpent in a subordinate capacity in their own religious systems. P�r�van�tha has a serpent as his special symbol. It is said that the Buddha received the homage of Muchilinda and El�pattra. The Buddha advised the Bhikshus to honour the royal families of the N�gas, so that they could be protected from snake-bites, and the regions which were covered with dense forests may have given impetus to snake worship. As Magadha was originally a non-Aryan land, it remained a centre of N�ga worship from the earliest times. The Mah�bharata refers to the images and temples of the N�gas at R�jag�iha. The Buddhist sources tell us that the N�gas were worshipped by the offerings of milk, rice, fish, meat, strong drink, and the like.138 According to the G�ihya-s�tras, they were offered fried grain, flour of fried barley, and flour over which ghee had been poured.139


That the tree was a non-Aryan object of worship is clear from some of the seals of the Indus-Valley Civilization. These seals show that the Pippal tree was worshipped by the people in two forms, i.e., in its natural form and in the form of the spirit of the tree which was shown emerging from the tree. Because of the absorption of the non-Aryan tribes in the Aryan fold, many non-Aryan objects of worship were also gradually incorporated in Brahmanism.

During the time of Mah�vira, tree-worship seems to havebeen well known. Trees were considered to be the residences of some divine spirits who were worshipped by people for the fulfilment of their desires for sons, daughters, honour, wealth, and so on. Sometimes they were regarded as abodes of evil spirits like Pretas, and people worshipped them out of fear so that these malignant spirits may not harm them. The tree cult became further popular when the custom of using trees as symbols of saints and worshipping them as such became fashionable. The Bodhi tree, for instance, was one such tree for the Buddhists.


Besides the celestial gods worshipped by their devotees, people seem to have worshipped various animals and birds too, such as elephants, horses, bulls, cows, dogs, and crows.140 The Buddhist sources141 speak of the honour shown to the bull, sometimes in normal course and sometimes on occasions like his death. The custom of showing reverence to the bull was probably on account of his indispensability to agriculture.

Rivers and sacred streams began to be venerated, and tirthas or sacred spots on their banks came into existence and began to be thronged with worshipful pilgrims. People made pilgrimages to these holy places because facilities for travel were available.

The dread of demons must have driven people to take recourse to rites in order to keep them in good humour. Magical formulae and incantations must have been largely used to placate the invisible spirits and to control their vagaries. There are numerous allusions to persons versed in demonology (bh�yav�iya). There were dealers in antidotes as well as charmers who knew the science of spirits, and by means of various ceremonies, enchantments, and preservatives cured those possessed.142 The B�ihatkalpabh�shya referes to a shop called Kuttiy�va�a143 where everything living or non-living was available. It is said that there were nine such shops in Ujje�t during the reign of Cha��apajjoya.

From about the sixth century B.C., the old Vedic religion and practices gradually underwent transformation, and formed some sort of a new religion. Although the final form of this new religion is not clearly perceptible, its beginnings were marked in this age by the adoption of theistic Vaish�avism and �aivism within the fold of the Brahmanical religion. These two theistic religions centred round two deities, Vish�u and �iva, and they both emphasized devotion.

The first step in the evolution of Vaish�avism was the identification of V�sudeva-K�ish�a with the Vedic deity Vish�u, standing originally for the �Sun�. This reference in the Chh�ndogya Upanishad seems to point to a date in the seventh or sixth century B.C. Next, that V�sudeva-K�ish�a-Vish�u was identified with a sage N�r�ya�a, is clear from the Baudh�yana Dharmas�tra. This Bh�gavata or Vaish�ava religion seems to have originated first with the Y�dava-S�tvata-V�ish�i people of the Mathura area.

The cult of �iva probably goes back to a very early period. That it was current among the non-Aryans of the pre-Vedic period is obvious from the fact that some scholars have identified the figures on seals with �iva who is also identified with the Vedic god Rudra. In the ï¿½vet��vatara Upanishad, ï¿½iva figures as the Great God (Mah�deva) superior to the Vedic pantheon.

Belief in heaven and hell was widespread at this date and it was said that those who perform various noble acts attain heaven, while those who indulge in evil acts go to hell.


Since at the time of Lord Mah�v�ra, there was no paramount power in North India, the region was divided into many independent states. The period, however, was politically very important in ancient Indian history and marked the end of the tribal stage of society, while it also gave rise for the first time to those organized states which were known as sixteen great countries Solasamah�janapada. These states formed some definite territorial units and included both monarchies and republics. A trial of strength was taking place amongst the monarchies, and, what is more, between the monarchical and the non-monarchical forms of government. It led to the decline of the republics, the rise of absolutism, and the growing success of Magadhan imperialism.

The Jaina, Buddhist, and Pur��ic texts furnish catalogues of these states. In spite of the striking resemblances between one list and another, there are also important differences, a fact which leads to the assumption that the lists were originally drawn up at different times, and they reflect the difference in their author’s knowledge of or interest in or even his intimacy with the different parts of the country.

The Jaina Bhagavati S�tra,144 (otherwise called Vy�khy�-Praj�apati), provides a list of sixteen Mah�janapadas at the time of Lord Mah�v�ra as follows :

(1) A�ga, (2) Ba�ga (Va�ga), (3) Magaha (Magadha), (4) Malaya, (5) M�lava (ka), (6) Achchha, (7) Vachchha (Vatsa), (8) Kochchha (Kachchha), (9) P��ha (P���ya or Pau��ra) (10) L��ha (L��a or R��ha), (11) Bajji (Vajji), (12) Mol� (Malla), (13) K�si (K���), (14) Kosala, (15) Av�ha and (16) Sambhuttara (Su�hottara).

The Buddhist texts,145 which testify to their existence in the sixth century B.C., only incidentally refer to them. Among them, theA�guttaras Nik�ya is the most important as it is the earliest. The sixteen states enlisted in it are as follows :

(1) K�si (K��i), (2) Kosala (Ko�ala), (3) A�ga, (4) Magadha, (5) Vajji (V�iji), (6) Malla, (7) Chetiya (Chedi), (8) Va�sa (Vatsa), (9) Kuru, (10) Pa�ch�la, (11) Machchha (Matsya), (12) S�rasena, (13) Assaka (A�maka), (14) Avanti, (15) Gandh�ra and (16) Kamboja.

The Janavasabha Suttanta (D�gha Nik�ya, II) refers to some of them in pairs, viz., K�s�-Kosala, V�iji (Vajji)-Malla, Chedi-Va�sa, Kuru-Pa�ch�la, and Matsya-��rasena. The Chullaniddosa adds Kali�ga to the list and substitutes Yona for Gandh�ra. The Mah�vastu list agrees with that in the A�guttara Nik�ya save that it omits Gandh�ra and Kamboja and mentions �ivi and Da��r�a instead.

A�ga, Magadha, Vatsa, Vajji, K�si, and Kosala are common to both the Bhagavatis�tra and the A�guttara Nik�ya lists. M�lava of the Bhagavat� is probably identical with Avanti of the A�guttara. Mol� is probably a corruption of Malla. The other states mentioned in the Bhagavati are new, and indicate a knowledge of the far east and the far south of India. E. J. THOMAS146 suggests that the author of this work lived in South India, and that the more extended horizon clearly proves that its list belongs to a later period than the one given in the Buddhist A�guttara. Along with the monarchies, both the Jaina and Buddhist texts mention the existence of republics which formed the distinctive feature of Indian politics in the sixth century B.C. P��ini, in his Ash��dhy�y� (500 B.C.), mentions both classes of states, viz., the Republics, to which he applies the term Sa�gha or Ga�a, and the kingdoms called Janapadas. Baudh�yana in his Dharmas�tra mentions states like Sur�shtra Avanti, Magadha, A�ga, Pu��ra, and Va�ga.


The Jaina Praj��pa�� ranks A�ga and Va�ga in the first group of Aryan peoples. A�ga seems to have comprised the districts of Bhagalpur and Monghyr. Dadhiv�hana is known to Jaina tradition147 as having ruled over this region in the time of Lord Mah�v�ra. His daughter Chandan� or Chandrab�l� was the first female who embraced Jainism shortly after Mah�v�ra had attained the Kevaliship. There is another tradition148 that when �re�ika (Bimbis�ra) conquered A�ga, he posted his son K��ika (Aj�ta�atru) as its Governor.

The capital of A�ga was Champ� which stood at the confluence of the river of the same name. A. CUNNINGHAM149 points out that there still exist near Bh�galpur two villages Champ�nagara and Champ�pura, which most probably represent the actual site of the ancient capital. At the time of Mah�v�ra, the capital was a beautiful and prosperous city, a detailed description of which is given in the Ov�iya.150 It was one of the ten important capitals, a big centre of trade, from where merchants travelled as far as Mithil�, Ahichchhatr�, Pihu��a, and other places with their merchandise.

The D�gha Nik�ya also refers to Champ� as one of the six principal cities of India. It was noted for its wealth and commerce, and traders sailed from it to Suvar�a-bh�mi in the Trans�Gangetic region for trading purposes.151 Other important cities in A�ga were Assapura (A�vapura) and Bhaddiya (Bhadrika).152


The K��� was more powerful than most of the contemporary Janapadas, including Kosala, is clear from the combined testimony of many J�takas and the Mah�vagga. The kingdom of K���, whose extent is given in the J�takas as three hundred leagues, was wealthy and prosperous. The twenty-third Jaina T�rtha�kara P�r�van�tha, who attained Nirvana 250 years before Mah�v�ra, i.e. in or about 777 B.C., was the son of King A�vasena of Banaras. K��� was conquered by Kosala some time before Mah�v�ra. K��� and Kosala were known for their eighteen confederate kings (Ga�ar�j�), who fought against K��iya on the side of Che�aka. Several J�takas bear witness to the superiority of its capital Banaras over the other cities. It was also a commercial centre of repute.


Kosala was one of the most important kingdoms in Northern India during the life-time of Lord Mah�v�ra. It exactly corresponds to modern Oudh. It was probably bounded by the Sad�n�ra (Gandak) river on the east, Pa�ch�la on the west, the Sarpik� or Syandik� (Sai) river on the south, and the Nepal hills on the north. Kosala contained three great cities, namely Ayodhy�, S�keta, and S�vatthi or �r�vast�, besides a number of minor towns like Setavy� and Ukka��h�.

The only kings or princes in the Pur��ic list, who are known from the Vedic and early Buddhist texts to have reigned in Kosala or over some outlying part of it, are Hira�yan�bha, Prasenajit, and �uddhodana. Though the Pur��ic chroniclers make Hira�yan�bha an ancestor of Prasenajit, they are not sure of his position in the dynastic list.152

Prasenajit of Kosala, a contemporary of Mah�v�ra, figures as one of the most important rulers of the time. Under him, Kosala became a powerful kingdom. First of all, he annexed K�s� to his kingdom. That he soon extended his supremacy over the S�kyas of Kapilavastu, probably also over the K�l�mas of Kesaputta, and other neighbouring states, is clear from the evidence of the Agga��a Suttanta153and the introductory portion of the Bhaddas�la J�taka.154 His relations with �re�ika (Bimbis�ra) of Magadha were cordial. He married �re�ika’s sister and gave him the dowry of a village in K�s� with a revenue of 100,000. But after the death of �re�ika, he carried on a protracted struggle with K��ika (Aj�ta�atru). The Jaina texts present Aj�ta�atru as the conqueror of the powerful political confederacy which included the Ga�a-R�jyas of K��� and Kosala.155 Vi�u�abha, who succeeded him, seems to be the last ruler. The rivalry with Magadha ended in the absorption of the kingdom into the Magadhan empire.


The V�ijji (Vajji) territory lay north of the Ganges and extended as far as the Nepal hills. At the time of Lord Mah�v�ra, it was ruled by the Vajjian republic, about the constituent clans of which we are in the dark. On the basis of the name of a Judicial committee of the Republic � A��hakulaka (Ash�akulak�) some scholars156 assumed that the confederacy consisted of eight Kulas (clans). Of these, the old Videhas, the Lichchhav�s, the J��trikas, and the V�ijis were the most important. The remaining seem to be the Ugras, the Bhogas, the Aikshv�kavas, and the Kauravas because these are associated with the J��t�is and the Lichchhav�s as subjects of the same ruler and members of the same Assembly.157 The A�guttara Nik�ya158 too refers to the close connection of the Ugras with Vai��li, the capital of the V�ijian confederation.

There is no reason to believe that the eight members of the judicial court represented the eight clans of the republic. YOGENDRA MISHRA159 has tried to prove that Videhas of Mithil� did not form part of the Vajjian Republic. V�iji was only the name of the confederacy but not of the constituent clan. Only the six clans may be treated as inhabiting the Vajjian territory. The Lichchhav� capital was definitely at Vai��l�, which is represented by modern Besarh (to the east of the Ga��ak) in the Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. The J��t�ikas were the clan of Siddh�rtha and his son Mah�v�ra, the Jina. They had their seats at Ku��apura or Ku��agr�ma and Koll�ga, suburbs of Vai��li. Though dwelling in suburban areas, Mah�v�ra and his fellow clansmen were known as Ves�lie, i.e. inhabitants of Vai��l�.160 The remaining people of the confederacy, viz., the Ugras, Bhogas, Kauravas, and Aikshv�kavas, resided in the suburbs, and in villages or towns like Hatthig�ma and Bhoganagara.161

The Lichchhav�s were on friendly terms with king Prasenajit of Kosala. Their relation with the neighbouring Mallas was on the whole friendly. The Jaina Kalpas�tra162 referes to the nine Lichchhav�s as having formed a league with the nine Mallak�s and eighteen clan-lords of K���-Kosala. We learn from the Niray�vali S�tra that an important leader of this alliance was Che�aka whose sister Tri�al� or Videha-datt� was the mother of Mah�v�ra, and whose daughter Chellan� or Vaideh was, according to Jaina writers, the mother of K��ika-Aj�ta�atru. The great rival of Vai��l� was Magadha. According to tradition, the Vai��lians sent at army to attack Magadha at the time of Bimbis�ra.163 The matrimoninl alliance was, according to D.R. BHANDARKAR, the result of the peace concluded after the war between Bimbis�ra and the Lichchhav�s. In the reign of Aj�ta�atru, this great confederacy V�iji was utterly destroyed.


Originally, the Mallas had a monarchical form of Government, but at the time of Mah�v�ra, they were a Sa�gha or corporation, of which the members were called R�j�s. The Jaina Kalpas�tra164 refers to the nine clans of the Mallas, and each of them ruled over a separate territory. Among these, two were prominent : one with its headquarters at Ku��n�r� and the other with P�v� as its chief town. The river Kakutsth� (Kakutth�) formed the boundary between the two territories. Ku��n�r� is identified with K�si� on the smaller Gandak about 56 km. to the east of Gorakhpur, and P�v� with Padaraona 19 km. to the north-east of Kasi�.165 In the Sa�g�ti Suttanta, we have a reference to the Mote Hall of the P�v� Mallas named Ubbha�aka.166 There were some other Malla towns, namely, Bhoganagara lying between Jambugr�ma and P�v�, Anupiy� between Ku��n�r� and the river Anom� and Uruvelakappa.

The relations between the Mallas and the Lichchhav�s were sometimes hostile and sometimes friendly. They became allies for self-defence at the time of K��ika-Aj�ta�atru’s invasion, though the Bhadas�la J�taka167 offers us an account of a conflict between them.

Jainism and Buddhism found many followers among the Mallas. From the Jaina Kalpas�tra, we learn that the nine Mallakis or Malla Chiefs were among those that instituted an illumination of the day of the new moon, saying, �Since the light of intelligence is gone, let us make an illumination of material matter.�168 At the time of the Buddha’s death, we find both the main sections of the Mallas claiming a share of his bodily remains. This also proves that these two main clans retained their distinctive independence.

Soon after the Buddha’s death, the Mallas appear to have lost their independence with their dominions annexed to the Magadhan empire.169

CHEDI (Cheti)

The Chedis were one of the most ancient tribes of India. They had two distinct settlements, of which one was in the mountains of Nepal and the other in Bundelkhand. D. R. BHANDARKAR170 maintains that Cheta or Chetiya corresponds roughly to modern Bundelkhand. Sotthivat�nagara, probably identical with �ukti or �uktimat� of the Mah�bh�rata, was its capital. Other important towns of the Chedis were Sahaj�ti and Tripuri. Sahaj�ti lay on the trade route along the river Ganga.171 We learn from the Vedabbha Jataka172 that the road from K�s� to Chedi was unsafe on account of its being infested with roving bands of marauders.

The Mah�bh�rata and some of the Jatakas mention the names of the early kings of Chedi, but their accounts are legendary and cannot be relied upon for genuine historical purposes.


Vatsa or Va��a was the country south of the Ganga of which Kau��mb�, modern Kosam, on the Yamuna, near Allahabad, was the capital. The king of Vatsa in the time of Mah�v�ra was Udayana.

According to the Pur��ic evidence, Udayana was a scion of the Bh�rata Kula. There is no unanimity in regard to the names of even the immediate predecessors of Udayana. His father’s name is said to be �at�n�ka II.173 He married a princess of Videha on account of which his son is called Vaideh�putra.174 He is said to have attacked Champ�, the capital of A�ga, during the reign of Dadhiv�hana.175

There are legendary traditions about Udayana Vatsar�ja of Kau��mb� and his contemporary Pradyota of Avanti. A critical examination of these legends will yield a number of historical facts of considerable importance. Udayana and Pradyota, both rulers of two adjoining kingdoms, appear to have been connected by marriage and to have engaged in war. It seems that later on cordial relations were established between them. According to the Priyadar�ik� he conquered Kali�ga and restored his father-in-law, D�i�havarman, to the throne of A�ga. The latter is probably the same as Dadhiv�hana who, according to another legend, was defeated by Udayana’s father.

Udayana had a son named Bodhi, but we do not know anything definite about Vatsa after Udayana, not even whether Bodhi ever succeeded his father to the throne.


In the time of T�rtha�kara Mah�v�ra, Magadha corresponded roughly to the present Patna and Gaya districts of South Bihar. The boundaries were probably the Ganga to the north, the Son to the West, a dense forest reaching to the plateau of Chot� Nagpur to the south, and A�ga to the East. The river Champ� formed a boundary between Magadha and A�ga : but in Mah�v�ra’s time A�ga was subject to Magadha. Its earliest capital was Girivraja or R�jg�iha.

Mah�v�ra’s contemporary rulers of Magadha were Bimbis�ra and Aj�ta�atru. In their reign, Magadha was the first among the states of the sixth century B.C. to make a successful bid for the establishment of its supremacy over them. By his conquests and matrimonial alliances, Bimbis�ra enlarged his influence and power. Afterwards, his son crushed the great republic of the Lichchhav�s after sixteen years of struggle, vanquished Kosala, and annexed K���. The kingdom of Bimbis�ra is stated to have been 300 leagues in extent, to which an addition of 200 leagues was made by Aj�tasatru’s conquests.

Jaina writers mention two early kings of R�jag�iha, Samudravijaya and his son Gaya.176 Bimbis�ra, who belonged to theHarya�ka-Kula, occupied the throne of Magadha immediately after the fall of B�ihadratha dynasty in the sixth century B.C. According to the Mah�va��a, he was fifteen years old when he was enthroned by his father. This would show that he was not the founder of the royal family. D.R. BHANDARKAR has inferred that Bimbis�ra, who was originally a Sen�pati probably of the Vajjis, made himself the king.

Bimbis�ra was helped in his political career by his matrimonial alliances. His first wife was a sister of Prasenajit, the king of Kosala, who gave him the dowry of a village of K��� with a revenue of 100,000. His second wife was Chellan�, daughter of the Lichchhav� Chief, Che�aka. His third wife was Vaideh� V�sav�. His fourth wife was Khem�, daughter of the king of Madra (Central Punjab).

Not content with these matrimonial alliances, Bimbis�ra embarked upon his career of conquest and aggrandisement. His father was defeated by Brahmadatta, king of A�ga. It was probably to avenge this defeat that Bimbis�ra led a campaign against A�ga. He was completely successful and enlarged Magadha by conquering and annexing this powerful and prosperous kingdom. He appointed his son K��ika as the Governor at Champ�. According to Jaina legend, Pradyota of Avanti set out to attack R�jag�iha even during the lifetime of Bimbis�ra but he was foiled in his attempt by the cunning art of Prince Abhaya.177 Bimbis�ra is known to have friendly relations with Pradyota and with Pushkaras�rin, king of Gandh�ra. When the king of Avanti was suffering from jaundice, he sent his own physician J�vaka.

According to Buddhist traditions, Bimbis�ra lost his life at the hands of his Aj�ta�atru who was incited to the crime by Devadatta. But Jaina tradition is more charitable to Aj�ta�atru. It does not represent him as a parricide. It relates that in his eagerness for the throne, he put his father in prison, but Bimbis�ra took poison and killed himself.

Aj�ta�atru added largely to the extent of the kingdom by his conquests. He started with a war against Kosala because Prasenajit revoked his gift of the K��� village after the death of the Kosalan princess. Aj�ta�atru was defeated and had to surrender himself to Prasenjit along with his army. In the end, peace was concluded between the two by Prasenjit restoring to Aj�ta�atru his liberty, army, and the disputed village of K��� and even giving his daughter Vaj�r� in marriage to him.

The Jaina texts present Aj�ta�atru as the conqueror of the powerful political confederacy which dominated Eastern India at that time and comprised thirtysix republican states � nine Mallak�, nine Lichchhav�s, and eighteen Ga�ar�jyas of K��� and Kosala.178 The overthrow of this confederacy resulted from Aj�ta�atru’s conquest of its most powerful member, the Lichchhav� republic, although the cause of the conflict between the two is differently stated in different texts.

(1) According to the Buddhists, a jewel mine was discovered at the foot of a hill at a port in the Ga�g� and it was agreed that Aj�ta�atru and the Lichchhav�s would have an equal share of the gems. The Lichchhav�s violated this agreement and so brought on the conflict.

(2) According to the Jaina version,179 the bone of contention was the Magadha state elephant �reyan�ka and a huge necklace of eighteen strings of pearls which were given by Bimbis�ra to his sons Halla and Vehalla. They carried off the elephant and the necklace to Vai��l� and sought the protection of their grandfather, king Che�aka, against Aj�ta�atru. Having failed to obtain them peacefully, K��ika-Aj�ta�atru declared war on Che�aka.180

(3) It is also stated that Pam�vat� incited her husband Aj�ta�atru to this conflict.

It was not easy to conquer the Lichchhav�s who were then at the zenith of their power as the head of a vast confederacy. Their leader Che�aka actually mustered up the confederate powers, including the Ga�a-r�j�s (republican chiefs) of K��� and Kosala and inspired them to fight.181 They all maintained their high traditions and were ready to stake everything for the success of the republic. Aj�ta�atru proved equal to his difficult task and took recourse to three means for the subjugation of the hostile state � machination, military strength, and strategy. He deputed his minister Vassak�ra on the mission of sowing seeds of disunion among the Lichchav�s at Vai��l�. Infected with jealousies and quarrels between the different classes, between the rich and the poor and the strong and the weak, the Lichchhav�s became a changed people, lacking the social unity of former days.

But Aj�ta�atru had to plan his military preparations for the conquest on a large scale. R�jag�iha was too far inland to serve as a base of operations against the distant Lichchhav�s on the other side of the Ganga. Therefore he selected a convenient site directly on the Ganga for the construction of a fort and laid the foundation of P��aliputra, his new capital. He also made secret weapons of war which may be compared to modern tanks.

The construction of the fort was followed by his expedition against Vai��l�. The war between Aj�ta�atru on the one hand and these various republics under the leadership of Che�ana of Vai��l� on the other was a long-drawn-out and arduous affair. It must have lasted for at least sixteen years. Aj�ta�atru came out successful on account of his manifold and well-designed preparations.

These conquests of Aj�ta�atru by which he became the paramount power of Eastern India provoked feelings of hostility in his equally ambitious rival king Cha��a Pradyota of Avanti. He was planning an attack upon his capital at R�jag�iha. Aj�ta�atru applied himself to the task of strengthening its fortifications. But the king of Avanti could do nothing against him. He thus extended the boundaries of his kingdom and laid the foundations of the Magadhan empire on solid grounds.


Kuru is identified with modern Kurukshetra or Thaneshwar. As is apparent from the Mah�-sutasoma Jataka,182 it was three hundred leagues in extent. The capital of the Kurus was Indraprastha near modern Delhi, which extended over seven leagues. Another important town was Hastin�pura. Besides other small towns and villages known to us, were Thullako��hita, Kamm�ssadamma, Ka��i, and V�ra��vata.

The Jatakas183 mention the names of some Kuru kings and princes such as Dhana�jaya, Koravya, and Sutasoma, but we are not sure of their historicity in the absence of further evidence. The Jaina Uttar�dhyayana S�tra mentions a king named Ishuk�ra ruling at a town, Ishuk�ra, in the Kuru country.184 It seems that the Kuru realm was divided into small states of which Indraprastha and Ishuk�ra were apparently the most important. �Kings� are mentioned as late as the time of the Buddha when one of them paid a visit to Ra��hap�la, son of a Kuru magnate, who had become a disciple of the ��kya Sage.


Pa�ch�la roughly corresponds to the modern Badaun, Farrukhabad, and the adjoining districts of the Uttar Pradesh. In very early times, this country was divided into northern or Uttara-Pa�ch�la and southern or Dakashi�a-Pa�ch�la. The Northern Pa�ch�la had its capital at Ahichchhatra (identified with modern R�mnagar in the Bareilly district) while Southern Pa�ch�la had its capital at K�mpilya, i.e. Kampil in the Farrukh�bad District.

The history of Pa�ch�la from the death of Prav�ha�a Jaivali to the time of Bimbis�ra of Magadha is obscure. A great Pa�ch�la king named Chulani Brahmadatta is mentioned in the Mah�-Ummagga Jataka,185 the Uttar�dhyayana S�tra,186 theSvapnav�savadatta,187 and the Ram�ya�a.188 In the Uttar�dhyayanas�tra, Brahmadatta is styled a universal monarch. The story of the king is, however, essentially legendary, and little reliance can therefore be placed on it.

The Uttar�dhyayana S�tra mentions a king of K�mpilya named Sa�jaya who gave up his kingly power and adopted the faith of the Jinas.189 It is difficult to assign any definite date to this ruler. It seems that in the sixth century B.C., the Pa�ch�las like others established a Sa�gha form of Government of the R�ja-�abd-opaj�vin type and its leaders assumed the title of R�j�s. One of these R�j�s was apparently the maternal grandfather of Vi��kha Pa�ch�l�putra, a disciple of the Buddha.190


The Matsya or Machchha country corresponds to the modern territories of Jaipur and Alwar. Its capital was Vir��anagara (modern Bair��) named after his founder king Vir��a. Upaplavya was another city of Matsya kingdom where the P���avas transferred themselves from Vir��a on the completion of the period of their exile. The Mah�bh�rat�191 refers to a king named Sahaja who reigned over the Chedis as well as Matsyas. The Matsyas had no political importance of their own during the time of Mah�v�ra. In P�li literature, the Matsyas as a people are usually associated with the ��rasenas.


Mathur� was the capital of ��rasena which is identified with the region round Mathur�. In the Mah�bh�rata and the Pur��as, the ruling family of Mathur� is labelled as the Yadu or Y�dava family. The Y�davas were divided into various branches, namely, the V�tihotras, S�tvatas, etc.

At the time of Lord Mah�v�ra, Avantiputra was the ruling chief of ��rasena country. It may be inferred from the epithet �Avantiputra� that Avanti and ��rasena were bound to each other by a matrimonial alliance. Avantiputra, king of the ��rasenas, was the first among the chief disciples of the Buddha through whose help Buddhism gained ground in the Mathur� region. Mathur� was also a centre of considerable importance for the Jainas. It is said to have been visited by Mah�v�ra, Ajja Ma�gu, and Ajja Rakkhiya.


Sindhu Sauv�ra is the Lower Indus Valley, Sindhu being the name of �the inland portion lying to the west of the Indus� while Sauv�ra includes the littoral as well as the inland portion lying to the east of the Indus as far as Multan. V�tabhaya was the capital of this province.192 Udayana was a very powerful monarch of Sindhu Sauv�ra. He was converted after he heard Mah�v�ra’s sermon at V�tabhaya. In course of time, he anointed Ke��kum�ra, his sister’s son, king over Sindhu Sauv�ra and joined the order under Mah�v�ra.193 On the other hand, according to the Buddhists, Udr�ya�a, king of Roruka, accepted Buddhism and was ordained by the Buddha.


The early Buddhist texts refer to A�vaka as Mah�janapada the capital of which was Potana or Potali corresponding to Paudanya of the Mah�bh�rata. This A�vaka of Buddhist literature was a south Indian country and it was located either on the God�var� or comprised the region of Mah�r�sh�ra.

The Kingdom of A�vaka is believed to have been founded by Ikshv�ku chiefs. The Mah�govinda Suttanta mentions Brahmadatta, king of the Assakas, as a contemporary of Sattabhu, king of Kali�ga, Vessabhu, king of Avanti, Bharata, king of Sauv�ra, Renu, king of Videha, Dhatara��ha, king of A�ga, and Dhatara��ha, king of K���.194 The Chulla K�li�ga Jataka mentions Aru�a, a king of Assaka, and his Minister Nandisena, and refers to a victory which they won over the king of Kalinga. We are not definite about the historicity of these early rulers. In the sixth century B.C. at the time of Lord Mah�v�ra, the ruler of Assaka was a king whose son was prince Suj�ta.


The kingdom of Avanti seems to have comprised roughly modern Malwa, Nimar, and the adjoining parts of Madhya Pradesh. It was named after Avantis, one of the branches of Haihayas. It seems that when the V�tihotras and Avantis passed away, the country of Avanti was divided into two kingdoms, one placed in the Dakshi��patha having M�hishmat� for its capital, and the other, i.e. the northern kingdom, having its capital at Ujjayin�. The southern kingdom, with its capital M�hishmat�, was ruled by Vi�vabh�, one of the seven contemporary kings of the line of Bharata.195 At Ujjain, a Minister named Pulika (Pu�ika) is said to have killed his master and appointed his own son, Pradyota, the ruler in the very sight of the Kshatriyas.196 Pradyota was thus Punika’s son, and with him commenced the Pradyota dynasty.

Pradyota was one of the most powerful monarchs of North India in the days of Lord Mah�v�ra, and during that period Avanti rose to a high position. It was no less than Magadha in strength and position. According to the Buddhist text Mah�vagga,197 Pradyota was a great soldier; and, according to the Pur��as, he reduced many of his contemporary rulers to subjection. The Pur��as do not give us a detailed list, but those subjugated may have been among the rulers of Sho�a�a-Mah�janapadas.

The relations of Pradyota with Bimbis�ra of Magadha were cordial. Bimbis�ra sent his famous physician J�vaka to cure Pradyota when he fell ill. On the other hand, the Jain legends mention that Pradyota went forth to attack R�jag�iha, even during the lifetime of Bimbis�ra, but the attempt was foiled by the cunning prince Abhaya.198 It is however definite that Pradyota’s relations with Bimbis�ra’s son. Aj�ta�atru became strained. Aj�ta�atru adopted an aggressive policy of attacking and conquering Vai��l�. Being an ambitious ruler himself, Pradyota could not tolerate the aggression launched upon him by Aj�ta�atru. Both of them wanted to establish their supremacy in northern India. Pradyota was planning an attack upon his rival’s capital at R�jag�iha.199 Apprehending this invasion by Pradyota, Aj�ta�atru fortified his capital.

Pradyota wanted to consolidate and extend his kingdom. In his neighbourhood, there was the powerful kingdom of Kau��mb� ruled by his rival Udayana Vatsar�ja of the celebrated Bharata family. Pradyota seems to have engaged in war with Udayana200 but later on amity between them was restored. Pradyota gave his daughter V�savadatt� in marriage to Udayana.

Pradyota engaged in hostilities with Pushkaras�rin of Taxila but he was unsuccessful in his war.201 Pradyota seems to have established close relations with the ��rasenas of Mathura. The king at this time was known as Avantiputra, a name signifying the existence of some relationship between Pradyota and the ruler of ��rasenas. The Lalitavistara202 gives the personal name of the king of Mathura as Sub�hu.

Pradyota is said to have ruled for twenty-three years. That he was cruel is evident from the sobriquet Cha��a and from the fact that he hardly ever followed a good policy. His younger brother, Kum�rasena, was killed when he tried to put a stop to the practice of selling human flesh in the Mah�k�la temple.203


Gandh�ra comprised the region of the modern districts of Peshawar and Rawalpindi. Its capital was Taksha�sil�. It was an ancient seat of learning where people from different provinces came for learning. It was also a great centre of trade and its distance from Banaras was 2,000 leagues.204

The Pur��as represent the Gandh�ra princes as descendants of Druhyu.205 Jaina writers inform us that one of the early kings, Nagnajit, who is reported to have been a contemporary of Nimi, king of Videha, and other rulers, adopted the faith of the Jainas.206 As P�r�va (777 B.C.) was probably the first historical Jain, Nagnajit, if he really became a convert to his doctrines, must be placed between 777 B.C. and 544 B.C., the date of Pushkaras�rin, the Gandharian contemporary of Bimbis�ra.

In the time of Lord Mah�v�ra, the throne of Gandh�ra was occupied by Pushkaras�rin. He is said to have sent an embassy and a letter to king Bimbis�ra of Maghadha, and waged war on Pradyota of Avanti who was defeated.207 He is also said to have been threatened in his own kingdom by the P���avas who occupied a part of the Punjab. In the latter half of the sixth century B.C., Gandh�ra was conquered by the king of Persia. In the Bahistan inscription of Darius, Cir. 520-518 B.C., the Gandh�rians (Gadara) appear among the subject people of the Achamenidan or Achaemenian Empire.


K�mboja, which is included in the Uttar�patha is generally associated with Gandh�ra in ancient literature. The K�mbojas occupied roughly the province surrounding Rajaori or ancient R�japura, including the Hazara district of the North-West Frontier Province and probably extending as far as Kafiristan. Dv�rak�, mentioned by T.W. RHYS DAVIDS as the capital in the early Buddhist period, was not really situated in this country, though it was connected with it by a road.208 Their capital seems to have been R�japura, while Nandi Magura was another important city.

Though the Vedic texts do not mention any king of K�mboja, they do refer to a teacher named Aupamanyava who was probably connected with this territory.209 The Mah�bh�rata210 mentions their kings Chandravarman and Sudakshina, but we are not definite about them. In latter times, the monarchy gave place to the Sa�gha form of government.


Besides these sixteen big states in the time of Lord Mah�v�ra, there were also small republics ruled by autonomous or semi-independent clans such as the ��kyas of Kapilavastu, the Koliyas of Devadaha and R�mag�ma, the Bhaggas (Bhargas) of Su�sum�ra Hill, the Bulis of Allakappa, the K�lamas of Kesaputta and the Moriyas of Pipphalivana.

The ï¿½ï¿½kya state was bounded on the north by the Himalayas, on the east by the river Robi�i, and on the west and on the south by the R�pti. Their capital was Kapilavastu, represented most probably by the ruins of Tilaura Ko� near Lumbin�vana now identified with Rummindei in Nepal Tarai. Another town was Devadaha which they appear to have shared with their eastern neighbours, the Koliyas. They acknowledged the suzerainty of the king of Ko�ala.

The Koliyas of R�magr�ma were the eastern neighbours of the S�kyas on the side of the river Rohi�i which helped to irrigate the fields of both the clans. A. CUNNINGHAM places the Koliya country between the Koh�na and Aumi (Anom�) rivers. The Anom� seems to have formed the dividing line between the Koliyas on the one hand and the Mallas and Moriyas on the other.

The Bhaggas (Bhargas) are known to the Aitareya Br�hma�a211 and the Ash��dhy�y� of P��ini.212 In the latter half of the sixth century B.C., the Bhagga state was dependent on the Vatsa kingdom � a fact evident from the preface to the Dhonas�kha J�takain which we are told that prince Bodhi, the son of Udayana, king of the Vatsas, dwelt in Su�sum�ragiri of Bhagga State and built a palace called Kokanada.

About the Bulis and the K�l�mas, we possess little information. The Dhammapada commentary refers to the Buli territory as the kingdom of Allakappa and says that it was only ten leagues in extent. Allakappa was perhaps not far away from Ve�had�pa, the home of a famous Br�hma�a in the early days of Buddhism who set up a cairn over the remains of the Buddha in his native land.

The K�l�mas were the clan of the philosopher �l�ra, a teacher of Gautama, before he attained Sambodhi. They seem to have acknowledged the suzerainty of the king of Ko�ala because their town, Kesaputta, was annexed by this state in the sixth century B.C.

The Moriyas (Mauryas) were the same clan which gave Magadha its greatest dynasty. They are sometimes spoken of as ��kyan in origin, but the evidence is late. The name is derived, according to one tradition, from Mora (May�ra) or peacock. Pippahalivana, the Moriya capital is identical with the Nyagrodhavana or Banyan Grove mentioned by Hiuen Tsang.


The age of Lord Mah�v�ra witnessed a number of important changes in the political sphere. The tribal stage of society gradually disappeared, giving place to organized states. Magadha, Vatsa, Ko�ala and Avanti became very powerful. The position and fucntions of the king gained in importance. The Samiti of the Vedic period was replaced by the Council of Ministers. The income of the states considerably increased on account of the induction of new resources. The government machinery became complicated and new officers were appointed to meet the new requirements.

We may divide the states of this period into two groups, monarchical and non-monarchical. We shall first discuss the government machinery of the monarchical states.


King and Kingship

In ancient India, a king was absolutely necessary and was considered an essential factor for the well-being of the people. He was regarded as the head of men.213 Generally, the rulers of these monarchial states belonged to the Kshatriya caste. Though an absolute despot, the king was to follow the ten prescribed traditional duties of the king (dasar�jadhamme) : giving alms, a moral course of life, sacrifice, truthfulness, mildness, self-denial, forgiveness, not to cause any pain to anybody, patience, and a yielding disposition.214 These are but prescriptions of the general Buddhistic morality applicable to all lay disciples.

According to the Ovaiy�, king K��ika-Aj�ta�atru had all the qualifications of the royalty; he was honoured by the people, he belonged to a pure Kshatriya family, was duly consecrated on the throne, and was compassionate. He was a warden of the marchers, an upholder of peace, and a protector of the janapada. He was the master of palaces, bedrooms, seats, carriages and vehicles in large quantity. His treasury was full of gold and silver, and his people had ample food. He was the master of the slaves of both sexes, of cows, buffaloes, oxen and sheep. His treasury, granaries, and armouries were brimming to the full.215

Very often we see in kings an unrestrained tyrant guided by his own whims and caprices, who oppresses and puts down his subjects by punishments, taxes, torture, and robbery. He suffers from many vices such as drunkenness, cruelty,216 corruptibility,217 untruthfulness, and unrighteousness.218

There are instances of tyrannical rulers being removed from the throne or killed by the people. In the Padakusalam��ava J�taka,219there is probably a trace of authentic history; in spite of its legendary garb, it may have preserved the memory of actual facts. It is narrated how a young Br�hma�a, after discovering by magic the treasures stolen and concealed by the king and his purohita, calls the king a thief in the presence of the assembled people who resolve to kill the bad king so that he may not plunder them any more. Another example of such a violent removal of the unrighteous king is found in the Sachcha�kira J�taka.220 Here also the king is driven out of the town by the enraged Khattiyas, Br�hma�as, and other citizens, and in his place, a Br�hma�a is installed king.

P�laka, the ruler of Avanti, was reputed to have been a tyrant. The populace headed by the President of the guild merchants of the capital deposed him, and, having brought out Gop�la from the prison, put him on the throne.221

Those were the times when wars and quarrels among these states were very frequent as were internal rebellions too. Under such circumstances, the first and foremost duty of the king was the protection of the subjects against internal and external enemies. The people on their part bore the cost of administration of the state, the army, and the court by paying taxes. Gradually, with the growth of civilization, there came other interests as well into the foreground like the king’s own cares : the land was made fertile, cities were built, and trade and commerce were encouraged.

According to the J�takas, kingship was generally hereditary and when there were several sons, it was the eldest who succeeded his father to the throne, while the second son became the viceroy (Upar�jan). As a rule, only the sons of the eldest queen (aggamahisi) who must be of the same caste as the king himself and thus a Khattiya, were deemed legitimate. If the king was without a male heir and if he had a daughter, his son-in-law became heir to the throne. If there was neither a male heir nor a kinsman who could succeed to the throne, the successor was chosen by the ministers. The Jaina texts mention two types of kings, viz., S�vekkha and niravekkha. The former established the crown-prince on the throne within his life-time thus avoiding civil wars and other calamities. In the latter type, however, the crown-prince succeeded after the death of the king.222 The question of succession to the throne was sometimes complicated by the ambitions and jealousies of the princes. The prince K��iya-Aj�ta�atru of R�jag�iha succeeded to the throne after putting his father �re�ika-Bimbis�ra into prison.

The ceremony, which accompanied the accession to the throne was, according to the Jatakas, the same as that which we know from the Vedas and the epics. The priest or the Purohita consecrated the king and sprinkled water upon him. Originally its significance may have been only a religious one, as symbolizing an act by which the blessings of the gods were showered or, more correctly expressed, invoked by magic, upon the king. It signified a certain dependence of the king upon the priest consecrating him.

The king lived with his court in a fortified town. The Pa�chaguru J�taka223 describes the royal entry of a prince how he went to the spacious hall of the palace and took his seat in godly pomp upon a throne studded with precious stones, over which a white umbrella was spread; surrounding him, there stood, bejewelled with all their ornaments, the ministers, the B�hamanas, the Gahapatis etc., and the princesses, while sixteen thousand dancing girls skilled in dancing, singing, and music, sang and played.

The Jaina canons224 give exaggerated account of the royal palaces. They are described as seven-storeyed, adorned with towers and pinnacles and supported by many columns. They are described as lofty, touching the sky and decorated with flags, banners, umbrellas, and garlands. They had domes and their floors were richly studded with various gems and jewels. The harem, (anteura), which was a part of the royal pomp,225 played an important role in the inner and outer politics of the country. The kings were fond of enriching their harem with beautiful women and girls without any distinction of caste. The harem was a great source of danger to the king and was, therefore, carefully guarded by eunuchs and old men. Besides, the Jaina texts mention the type of guards who should keep watch over the inmates of harem.


The handing over the Viceroyalty (Upar�ja) to the king’s eldest son generally took place after the completion of his studies.226 If he was still minor, the eldest among the younger brothers of the king would go to Upar�ja.227 On ceremonial occasions, the Upar�ja sat behind the king on the back of an elephant,228 a seat which was otherwise occupied by the Purohita. In the evening, the Viceroy would do the king’s work. We read repeatedly of the king’s fears that the Upar�jan might one day become very powerful and dominate him and of disciplinary measures taken by him to guard against such an eventuality. When �re�ika annexed A�ga to his kingdom of Magadha, he posted his son K��ika as Viceroy. The heir apparent thus got an opportunity of having considerable administrative experience before succeeding to the throne.

In addition to the Upar�jan (Viceroy) there was the Sen�pati, a kinsman of the king. From the Devadhamma J�taka, we learn that the king gave his younger brother the office of Upar�ja and his step-brother that of Sen�pati.229


The Council of the Ratnins disappeared and its place was taken by the council of Ministers variously described as Mantrins, Sachivas and Am�tyas. The number of Ministers usually depended upon the size of the state but the Ministry usually consisted of five members only. Among the Ministers of the king, Rajjug�haka am�chha (Surveyor) occupied an important position. The Atthadhamm�nus�saka am�chchha guided the king in worldly and spiritual matters. The Sen�pati was the Minister of War. The vinichch�yamchchha (Minister of Justice) not only gave judicial decisions but also advised on matters of law and morality.

The influence of Ministers upon the course of internal and external politics depended upon the ability of the ruler. When there was a weak ruler, these Ministers had a dominating voice. The decision regarding the successor was often left to the Ministers. Indeed, allusions to the actual exercise of sovereign powers by the Ministers are also found. In the Gha�a J�taka, for instance, the king sick of worldly life hands over the reins of government to his Ministers.230

When there was a powerful and self-willed ruler like Bimbis�ra upon the throne of Magadha, some Ministers were dismissed for giving bad advice, others were degraded for inefficiency, while a few were promoted for the wise counsel they gave.231 Vassak�ra and Sun�dha were the Ministers of Aj�ta�atru;232 his contemporary in Ko�ala, king Prasenajit, relied upon the advice of his Ministers, M�igadhara and �r�v�idha, in carrying out important schemes.233


The Secretariat might have gradually evolved in the post-Vedic period. The art of writing was coming into more extensive use; kingdoms were developing into empires, and functions of government were becoming more numerous. It may safely be presumed that some kind of Central Secretariat must have existed in the courts of historical emperors like Bimbis�ra and Aj�ta�atru.

The important officials at headquarters were called Mah�m�tras and were divided into three classes, viz., (1) the Executive (Sabb�tthaka), administering all affairs and interests; (2) the Judicial (Voh�rika); and (3) the Military (Sen�n�yaka). In addition to these, there were other officers too as is evident from the J�takas.

Purohita : The family priest of the king, the Purohita, occupied an extremely peculiar position in the court. For the performance of sacrifices and magical chantings, the king needed a Purohita. The sacrifice was meant to protect the king from imminent misfortune and to help him in acquiring a city which was difficult to conquer. He not only guarded the king’s treasures � this was part of his duties but also acted as a judicial officer.

There were officers who increased the wealth of the king. Rajjug�haka234 was the officer of survey. Do�am�paka235 was one who measured with a dry measure. Balipa�igg�hakas, Nigg�hakas, and Balis�dhakas were the tax-collectors who sometimes plundered and oppressed the people by levying heavy taxes.236 R�jabhoggas237 were Royal officers appointed and paid by the king whose orders they had all to obey.

S�rathi238 was the king’s charioteer. The Keeper of the king’s purse was known as Hera��ika239 and the superintendent of the king’s storehouse as Bha���g�rika.240 Dov�rika241 had for his duty the closing of the gate of the city at night, while Nagaraguttika242was charged with the duty of arresting and executing the robbers of the city. Choragh��aka243 occupied the public office of the executioner of thieves.


In provincial administration, a considerable degree of autonomy was allowed. We hear not only of a sub-king at Champ�, but of Ma��alika r�j�s244 corresponding perhaps to the Earls and Counts of medieval European polity. In the small towns and villages, the king’s power must have been represented by his officers.

The superintendent of the village, the G�mabhojaka,245 held a position of power and honour. He collected the taxes of the village and exercised judicial powers in the village, insofar as he settled quarrels and made the guilty to pay a fine. He issued prohibitory orders against the slaughter of animals and against the sale of intoxicating liquors.

While according to the J�takas the villages transacted their business themselves246 evidence corroborating the existence of any regular Council or Standing Committee is not found in these works. Initiative was usually left with the headman, but if he acted unreasonably or against the established customs of the locality or realm, the village elders could set the matter right by pointing out his mistake.247

With the growth of the royal power, self-government was increasingly and proportionately reduced. In the Magadha kingdom, the G�mabhojaka (village Superintendent) remained under the personal supervision of the king, as it is clear from a passage of the Vinaya Pi�aka.248 To the king Bimbis�ra, the overlordship of 80,000 villages was apportioned; he collected together the chiefs (G�mikas) of these villages and gave them instructions in worldly things.


In times of peace, the principal work of the king was to attend to the administration of justice. In the R�jov�da J�taka, it is said of the king that he gave decisions in law-suits. The final decision in law-courts as well as the final word regarding the punishment for breaking the law remained with him.249 The legal life of the smaller towns and villages passed very much out of the direct sphere of action of the king and remained a matter for his representatives as long as no appeal was made against the judgements of these to the king as a higher authority.

The Ministers, especially the Vinichchay�machcha, and also the Purohita and the Sen�pati, both took part in the administration of justice, advised the king and, in some cases, had some influence upon his judgements. Vinichchay�machcha was the Minister of justice. His judgement was final in the case of aquittal; in other cases, the matter was referred to the Voh�rikas.250 He not only gave judicial decisions, but also advised on matters of law and morality. The Gr�mabhojaka also exercised judicial powers in the village. The penal code in the reign of Bimbis�ra included as punishments imprisonment in jails (K�r�), mutilation of limbs, and the like.251


As wars and frontier troubles were very common in those days, the state had necessarily to keep and maintain a well-equipped and organized military force always at its command. The army consisted of four branches, namely, chariots (raha), elephants (gaya), cavalry (haya),and infantry (p�yatta).

A chariot was a very important means of conveyance in olden days. Excellent horses were yoked to it and it was provided with an accomplished charioteer. The king’s chariots bore special names. For instance, the chariot of Pajjoya (Pradyota) was called Aggibhiru (fire proof) and was considered to be one of the four jewels.252

The elephant played an important part in the army as well as on certain royal occasions. The kings were very fond of elephants, and the state-elephants bore special names. We hear of the elephant Sechan�ga over which a great battle was fought between K��ika-Aj�ta�atru and Halla and Vehalla.253 The Bhagavati254 refers to two other elephants of K��ika, viz., Ud�yin and Bh�t�nanda. Nalagiri, another elephant which belonged to Pajjoya, was considered one of his four precious possessions.255 Bhadravat� belonged to Udayana who successfully carried off V�savadatt� on its back from Ujjayin� to Ko��mb�.256 King Udayana was an adept in the art of winning over elephants by music.257

While the third constituent of the army was the cavalry, the foot-soldier formed its main portion. The whole army was under the control of the Sen�pati whose duty was to enforce discipline among the soldiers.

Realizing the terrible loss of both men and money, people tried to avoid wars in general. They first tried the four diplomatic means, viz., S�ma, d�na, da�da, and bheda, failing which they had to declare war. Before the two parties actually entered into war, a D�ta or a courtier, who conveyed the royal proclamation to the opposite party, was deputed with the message. We learn that before entering into war with Che�aga, K��iya sent his D�ta to his opponent thrice, finally giving him orders to place his left foot on the foot-stool of the enemy (in a spirit of defiance) and deliver him the letter keeping it on the edge of the spear.258

The art of warfare together with its various tactics, stratagems, and practices, was well known in those days. Jaina texts give some interesting details of the military operations of the Magadhan forces. The saga�av�ha (waggon array) and garu�av�ha (eagle array) are mentioned in Niry�valiy�o.259 The army of Che�aga formed the former while that of K��ika the latter. K��ika for the first time made use of two secret weapons of war. The first, the Mah��il�ka��aka, was a kind of catapult hurling heavy pieces of stone. The other was the Rathamussala, a chariot which created havoc by wheeling about and hurling destruction by its attached rods.260

Siege-warfare, which was the usual mode of fighting, sometimes continued for a considerable time. K��ika is said to have besieged the city of Vai��l� for a long period.261 It was for this reason that the cities of those days were strongly fortified. Since R�jag�iha was too far inland and remote to serve as an efficient base of operations, K��ika had to construct a new base, a fort at a convenient site on the river Ga�g�, and thus was laid the foundation of the new capital, P��aliputra. It was constructed under the supervision of his chief ministers, Sun�dha and Vassak�ra.

Strategy and diplomacy played an important part in this type of warfare. Manoeuvres and novel tactics were adopted to compel the other party to surrender. We are told as to how Abhayakum�ra, by a clever subterfuge which consisted in burying counterfeit coins in the enemy’s camp, created suspicion in the mind of Pajjoya about the fidelity of his soldiers and thus foiled his attack on R�yagiha.262 A regular system of espionage was another feature of siege-warfare. Spies were regularly employed to watch, over the activities of the enemy. K��ika deputed his Minister Vassak�ra on the nefarious mission of sowing seeds of disunion among the Lichchhav�s at Vai��l�.


About the system of taxation during this period, we possess little information. J�takas may be presumed to give us a glimpse of this age, but the information they give is meagre. They tell us how good kings levied only legal taxes and how the bad ones so oppressed the subjects by illegal impositions that they would often flee to forests to escape from tax-collectors.263

Besides the taxes, there were certain privileges of the king which he could use for filling up his treasury. The unclaimed property belonged to the king.264 If anybody died without heirs, his succession would devolve upon the king. Sometimes the entire wordly possession of a person who renounced the world went to the ruling chief.265


Along with the monarchical states, there existed some republican states too in the time of Lord Mah�v�ra. The terms Ga�a and Sa�gha have been used for these republican states as distinguished from the monarchical ones. A Jaina work warns a monk that he should avoid visiting a country which has no king, or has a crown prince as its ruler or two kings fighting with each other or is governed by the Ga�aform of government.266 This passage denotes a definite form of government in which the power was vested not in one person but in a Ga�aor group of people. These ancient republican states do not satisfy the modern definition of �republic� in which the power is vested in the whole body of citizens. There were republican states like Sparta, Athens, Rome, and Medieval Venice where sovereignty was not vested in one individual, but sometimes either in a small number of persons or in a fairly numerous class.

There is paucity of evidence regarding the constitution and administrative machinery of these ancient Indian republics. The early authentic literary works make only general statements about these republics, while the detailed information given by the J�takas is also undependable unless confirmed by some other evidence. These ancient Indian republics possessed certain common features, though they reveal at the same time certain significant differences which were due to their needs and temperaments.


When Varsh�k�ra, the chancellor of the king of Magadha, wanted to know the opinion of the Buddha on behalf of his master, as to the advisability of invading the Vajjis � the Lichchhav�s and the Videhas � the Buddha indicated to �nanda their seven points of excellence. These may be regarded as the directive principles of state policy. It is not improbable that similar directive principles might have been followed by other contemporary republic states. These principles are as follows :267

  1.       The Vajjians hold full and frequent public Assemblies;
  2.       They meet together in concord and rise in concord and carry out Vajjian business in concord;
  3.       They enact nothing not already established, abrogate nothing that has been already enacted, and act in accordance with ancient institutions of the Vajjians as established in former days;
  4.       They honour and esteem and revere and support the Vajjian elders, and regard it as a point of duty to hearken to their words;
  5.       No women or girls belonging to their clans were detained among them by force or abduction;
  6.       They honour and esteem and revere and support the Vajjian shrines (chaityas) in town or country, and do not allow the proper offerings and rites, as formerly given and performed, to fall into desuetude; and
  7.       Rightful protection, defence, and support is fully provided for the Arhants among them, so that they may enter the realm from distant lands, and may live therein at ease.


It seems that the right of citizenship was not granted to the whole population but was confined to the aristocratic Kshatriyas who had a voice in the administration of their respective countries. The artisans, farmers, servants and serfs had no such privileged position. When a quarrel arose between the farmers and servants of the Koliyas and the ��kyas about the distribution of the water of Rohi��, they reported it to the officer of their own state, who in turn apprised, their R�j�s of it. It is the latter who decided to go on war with the enemy state. This incident therefore shows that the commoners did not have much influence on the momentous decisions taken by the central government on important topics, such as peace and war, that affected the whole population.

Although there was a privileged system of citizenship, outsiders were eligible to it if they settled in the realm permanently. Kha��a, who was a refugee of Videha country, settled in Vai��l� and rose to the post of Sen�pati and Ga�apramukha.268 Thus, once a person acquired citizenship, he was offered all opportunities to show his abilities in the political life of the country.


There were separate Supreme Assemblies in each republic state. The Assembly of the ��kyas seems to have been composed of 500 members. A few details of the Supreme Assembly of the Lichchhav�s of Vai��l� are preserved in the J�taka stories. The Ekapanna J�taka269 speaks about the number of members of this Assembly. The Chullak�li�ga J�taka270 informs us that these members were given the right of argument and disputation. Further, the Bhadas�la Jataka271 refers to the tank in the Vai��l� city from where the families of the kings drew water for ceremonial sprinkling.

  1. P. JAYASWAL272interprets the passage of Ekapanna J�taka in this way : �The rule vested in the inhabitants, 7707 in number, all of whom were entitled to rule. They became Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Commanders-in-Chief and Chancellors of Exchequer.� What the J�taka means to say is that 7707 of the inhabitants, probably the foundation families, were the ruling class, that it is they who became the executive office holders. The natural meaning and interpretation of the Jataka text would make it mean that 7707 R�jans lived at Vai��l� and that the number of Upar�jans, Sen�patis, and Bha���g�rikas was the same in each case. As regards K. P. JAYASWAL’s view that the R�jan, the Upar�jan, the Sen�pati and the Bha���g�rika constituted the Cabinet of the executive authority, it seems to be a mere hypothesis unsupported by facts. So far as the monarchical state is concerned, the J�taka evidence conclusively proves that the R�jan, the Upar�jan, etc. formed successive grades in the official hierarchy instead of forming a co-ordinate body.
  2. C.MAJUMDAR273 thinks that while the number 7707 may be dismissed as a purely conventional one, it may be accepted that the Supreme Assembly of the state consisted of a pretty number of members and must as such be held to be a popular one. Again, he says that the reference to the like number of Viceroys, Generals, and Treasurers would imply that each member of the Supreme Assembly possessed a full suite of officers requisite for the administration of a state. In other words, the whole state consisted of a number of administrative units, each of which was a state in miniature by itself and possessed a complete administrative machinery. The business of the state as a whole was carried on by an Assembly consisting of the heads of these states who were in their turn attended by their principal officers. R. C. MAJUMDAR concludes with the observation that those who are familiar with the Cleisthenian Constitution of the city state of Athens cannot fail to find its prototype in the city of Vai��l�.
  3. R.BHANDARKAR274 makes the Lichchhavi state a federation of small principalities. He writes, �The number of the kings constituting the Lichchhav� Ga�a was pretty large. It again seems that each Lichchhavi king had his separate principality where he exercised supreme power in certain respects. Nevertheless, the Ga�a as a whole had power to kill, burn or exile a man from their kingdom which meant to aggregate of principalities of the different kings.� Again he says, �The Lichchhavi Ga�a was a Federation of the chiefs of the different clans of a tribe who were also each the ruler of a small principality. Each confederate principality maintained its separate autonomy in regard to certain matters and allowed the Sa�gha to exercise supreme and independant control in respect of others affecting the kingdom.� D. R. BHANDARKAR concludes by suggesting some points of resemblance between the constitution of the Lichchhav� Sa�gha and the confederation of the German States called the German empire.
  4. S.ALTEKAR275 has tried to justify the famous Jataka statement that there were 7707 kings and an equal number of Upar�j�s, Sen�patis and Bha���g�rikas in the Vai��l� State. When the Aryans came and occupied this territory, it seems to have been divided into about 7707 Kshatriya families, who were something like so many Zamind�r families of the state. They were all Kshatriyas and were known as R�jans. The heads of these families lived in the capital while their managers stayed in the countryside and were known as their treasures. If the Kshatriya householders were known as R�jans, their sons were naturally called Upar�jans or Yuvar�jas. When they were unable to lead their army themselves, they used to nominate a Sen�pati or General to act for them.
  5. N.GHOSHAL276 points out that the statements in the Jataka text belong to a late chronological stratum, while all references in order and more authentic canonical tradition describe the Lichchhavi constitution in very general terms simply as Sa�gha or Ga�a. There are therefore grave reasons for doubting the genuineness of the later account.

The number of Vai��l� nobles exercising sovereign power is 7707, not a round number. It means that there were nobles enjoying privileges who lived outside Vai��l�. There is no mention of priests, traders and farmers. How, then, could they form a popular body ?

The reference to as many R�jans, Upar�jans, etc. is not corroborated by any other text. To base a definite conclusion on the authority of a single belated and uncorroborated text seems to be opposed to all canons of history. It is, however, hard to understand how a cumbrous constitution of the kind sought to be found in the J�taka text which puts a premium upon disruptive tendencies, could work in actual practice.

The analogy of the Cleisthenian constitution seems to be hardly convincing. The ten Cleisthenian tribes consisting of the inhabitants of different demes were groups of citizens scattered over the whole of Attica, and their function was to elect five hundred members. On the other hand, according to the interpretation suggested above, the Lichchhavi R�jans with their staff of Upar�jans, etc. would also be resident at the capital, each forming a state in miniature.

Equally unwarranted is the analogy of the constitution of the late German empire. In this constitution, the emperor was the head of the army and controlled a considerable portion of the imperial finance. Among the Lichchhavis on the other hand, the constituent provinces had their separate armies and treasuries while there was no single ruler in charge of the federal army and finance. Again, the German princes, unlike the Lichchhavi princes, ruled their states from their respective capitals.

  1. C.MAJUMDAR277 has published an article in support of his earlier views and has thrown some new light on the constitution of the Lichchhavis. His observations are as follows :

The analogy of the Lichchhavi Constitution with the Cleisthenian constitution of Athens is not unfounded. The main object of the Cleisthenian constitution was the substitution of the deme for the clan. The transition from the principle of kinship to that of locality was also achieved by Athens.

The recently discovered Vinaya text of the M�lasarv�stiv�das sheds some interesting light on the constitution of the Lichchhavis which we do not find in Pali texts. According to it, Vai��li was divided at this time into three quarters inhabited by the high, the middle, and the low classes. The Vinaya text does not favour the view that the Supreme Assembly of the state consisted merely of the Lichchhavi nobles. For we find even new comers to Vai��l� not only admitted into the assembly but also elected to the highest post. It also demonstrates the popular character of the Assembly. It contains strong sentiments against hereditary privileges and enunciates the principle of free election by theGa�a to all important posts, including that of the Commander-in-chief which seems to have been the highest in the state.

Membership of the Assemblies depended upon whether the aspirant belonged to the privileged order or he did not. There was no electoral roll giving a list of qualified voters; nor were there any periodical elections. Had any such existed, they would have been referred to in the literature bearing upon the science of polity.

The place where the General Assembly met was called Santh�g�ra. In the Assembly, there were different groups known as vargya, g�ihya, and pakshya who clashed from time to time for power, a phenomenon so common that it has been referred to even by the grammarians. The term dvandva was used to denote the rival parties and the term Vyutkrama�a to their rivalry.

The rules of procedure and debates in these Assemblies seem to be the same as those of the Buddhist Sa�ghas which were modelled on Sa�gha or Ga�a states. Transaction of the Assembly business strictly required a quorum without which it was considered to be invalid.278P��ini referes to ga�a-titha as the person whose attendance completed the quorum in a Ga�a and the Sa�gha-titha as one who completed the quorum of the Sa�gha. The person who acted as a �whip� to secure the quorum was known as Ga�ap�raka.279There was an officer known as ï¿½sanapa���paka (seat regulator) who was in charge of the allotment of seats. Probably the executive officers had their seats on a dais and other members were grouped partywise in their front. A person who acted as a Polling Officer in the Assembly who known as ï¿½al�k�grah�paka,280 or he who collected votes. The technical term for vote was Chhanda, which meant free choice. The Sa�ghamukhya or the President of the state presided over the Assembly and regulated its debates. He was expected to observe strict impartiality; if he failed, he was furiously criticised.

Definite rules were laid down regarding the method of moving resolutions in the Assembly. Generally a proposal was repeated thrice, and if no objections to it were raised, it was taken as passed. In case of objection, it was determined by votes of the majority. When the ultimatum was received by the ��kyas from the Ko�ala king, who was besieging their capital, their Assembly sat to deliberate whether they should open the gates or not. Some favoured the proposal, others opposed it. Eventually, therefore, votes were taken to ascertain the majority view, which, it was discovered, favoured capitulation.281 Accordingly action was taken. This practice must have been followed by other assemblies also.

Voting was sometimes done by the secret method (g�thaka), sometimes by whispering method (Sakar�ajapakam), and sometimes by the open method (vivatakam).282 Generally, complicated questions were referred for settlement to different Committees.283 It seems that there were clerks in the Assembly who kept records of its proceedings. Matters, when once properly and finally decided, were not allowed to be reopened.284

The evidence of Buddhist literature shows that the General Assemblies of the republics controlled foreign affairs, entertained ambassadors and foreign princes, considered their proposals and decided the momentous issues of war and peace.285 Generally, this Assembly controlled the Executive. Though there is no specific evidence, it is almost certain that the appointments to the state services were made by this Assembly. That must have been one of the reasons for the keen contest for power that was often witnessed in that body.

The Assembly Hall also served that the purpose of a social club, where social and religious topics were discussed at times. The Mallas of Kusinagara discussed the problems of the funeral of the Buddha and the disposal of his ashes in their Assembly Hall. They, as well as the Lichchhav�s, are known to have requested the Blessed One to perform the opening ceremonies of their new Assembly Halls by first using them for delivering a sermon to a congregation assembled therein. The matters concerning commerce and agriculture were also deliberated there.


The membership of the Executive varied with the size and traditions of each state. The Malla state, which was small, had an Executive of four members only, all of whom are known to have taken a prominent part in the funeral of the Buddha. The Jaina Kalpas�tra refers to a passage Navaga�a R�y��o,286 the exact sense of which is uncertain. It may stand for the nine kings or Executive officers of the Lichchhav� Ga�a. The confederation of the Lichchhav�s and the Videhas had an Executive of eighteen members.287 It appears that normally speaking the Executive of a Republic consisted of four to twenty members. The General Assembly must have elected the members of the Executive Council, because it is inconceivable that the affairs of a state could have been managed by it.

The President (R�j�), the Vice-President (Upa-R�j�), General (Sen�pati), and B�a���g�rika seem to be the designations of the four Executive members. The President of the Executive was probably the President of the Assembly also, a person whose main function was the general supervision of the administration. Besides, he was to ensure internal harmony by promoting concord and preventing quarrels. The general looked after the army. The treasury was in charge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There must have been also the portfolios of foreign affairs and of justice. In the course of time, the posts of Executive Members became more or less hereditary, and they assumed the title of R�j�.

The members of the Executives of the Republic States must have been normally capable captains and dauntless leaders, competent to guide the State on occasions of emergency. In addition, they were men of tact and experience, energetic in action, firm in resolution and well grounded in the laws, customs, and traditions of the country. Che�aka, the Head of the Lichchhav� republic, was an influential leader of eighteen confederate kings (Ga�ar�j�) of K��� and Ko�ala who were his vassals.288 His sister, Tisal�, was, as pointed out earlier, the mother of Mah�vira, the son of Siddh�rtha, a petty chief of Ku��iyapura near Vai��l�. Kha��a and his son Si�ha, who were competent enough, were elected to be Generals (Sen�pati) in succession.289 The President of the ��kya republic bore the title of R�j� which in this connection does not mean king, but rather something akin to the Roman Consul or the Greek Archon. At one time, Bhaddiya, a young cousin of the Buddha, was R�ja, at another the Buddha’s father �uddhodana, held that rank.290


The Lichchhav�s, according to Buddhist documents, formed a league with the Videhas and were together called the Vajjis. We also know from a Jaina S�tra that the Lichchhav�s had once formed a federation with their neighbour, the Mallas.291 The Federal Council was composed of eighteen members, nine Lichchhav�s and nine Mallak�s.292 The members of the Federal Council are designated Ga�a Raj�s. The composition of the Federal Council shows that the Federal states had equal votes and that the federation was based on terms of equality. Though the Mallas were not so great a political power as the Lichchhav�s, yet in Federal Council, both had an equal number of members, i.e., equal voice. Leagues were naturally formed to oppose the great powers amidst whom they were situated, namely, Magadha and Ko�ala.


It seems that the Judicial administration of the republic states was remarkable, and the liberty of the citizens was efficiently guarded. A person was not declared guilty unless his crimes were proved by all the courts.

The A��hakath�293 throws light espically on the judiciary of the Lichchhav�s of Vai��l�. A criminal was at first sent for trial to the officer called Vinichchya Mah�matt�. If he found the accused innocent, he acquitted him but if in his opinion, he was guilty he could not punish him but had to send him to the next higher tribunal viz., that of the Sutt�dhara. If he considered him guilty, there were three other tribunals with similar functions viz., those of A��hakulaka, Sen�pati, and Upar�j�, each of which could acquit the accused, if innocent, but had to send him to the next higher tribunal if found guilty. The last tribunal, viz., that of the R�j�, had alone the right to convict the accused, and in awarding the punishment, the R�j� was to be guided by the book of precedents. Thus a person could be punished only if seven successive tribunals had unanimously found him guilty, and he was quite safe if but one of them found him innocent.

U.N. GHOSHAL294 expresses doubt in the Judicial system of the Lichchhav�s described above. The first difficulty in accepting the above interpretation lies in the lateness of the Sinhales tradition which has come down to us only as prescribed by Buddhaghosha who flourished some eight centuries after the fall of the Vajji republic. Again, the very elaborate procedure described above for which there seems to be no parallel elsewhere, is enough to raise suspicion about the genuineness of the whole account. But to suppose that no one in the Vajji state could be convicted unless unanimously found guilty by seven successive courts is to imply that the supreme authority in the state had little or no confidence in the judicial capacity or honesty of its own officers. In any case, a cumbrous procedure of the kind suggested above providing ample loopholes for the escape of criminals from the hands of justice would be attended with grave risk of abuse of liberty by the subjects.



The age of Lord Mah�v�ra is remarkable for many social changes. The religious reformers of this period opposed the caste system based on birth and even challenged the superiority of the Br�hma�as. The Sanny�sa ��rama became quite distinct fromV�naprastha during this period because of the influence of Jainism and Buddhism. Marriage was made gradually compulsory both for men and women. While society was based upon the joint-family system, the idea of proprietary rights had also begun to grow. The Gotra and Pravara came into existence. The old system of Niyoga gradually disappeared because of the growth of ascetic ideas in the society. Women enjoyed a high position. Because of the propagation of the doctrine of Ahi�s�, people began to prefer a vegetarian diet.


The four Var�as, Br�hma�as, Kshatriyas, Vai�yas and ��dras, which were formed more or less on birth during the later Vedic period, became gradually rigid and fixed. The influence of the Br�hma�as greatly diminished both in the intellectual and political field and their place was taken by the Kshatriyas who began to consider themselves superior to other classes on account of the great importance they attached to their purity of blood. Consequently, they occupied the first position in the caste hierarchy. This period also witnessed the deterioration in the position of the ��dras, with the result that a number of religious leaders raised their voice for their uplift. Mixed castes resulted from organizations like guilds of people following different arts and crafts. Inter-caste marriages also led to the origin of such castes.

The feeling of caste superiority was intense during this period. Both the Kshatriyas and the Br�hma�as considered themselves to be superior to other castes. This feeling of superiority was widespread even in certain groups of the same caste because they considered themselves higher than others. The Udichchha Br�hma�as who were proud of their origin, regarded themselves as higher than other Br�hma�as. The ��kya Kshatriyas regarded themselves as higher than other Kshatriya clans.

Both Mah�v�ra and the Buddha opposed the idea of a hereditary caste system, emphasising all the time that one’s caste should be determined by what one did rather than by the caste of the family to which one belonged. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that case distinctions were abolished once for all during this period. No doubt, both succeeded in removing caste distinctions in their monastic order, but they failed in their attempts to abolish it permanently from society.


During the time of T�rthankara Mah�v�ra, the Kshatriyas of the Eastern countries consisted of kings, nobles, ministers, military commanders, and other officers. In Jaina Suttas and Buddhist Pali texts, they are mentioned as occupying the foremost position in the caste order. It is believed that no T�rthankara was born in a family other than that of a Kshatriya. A legend tells us that before his birth, Mah�v�ra was removed from the womb of Br�hma�� Dev�nand� to that of Kshatriy��� Tri�al�.

 The Kshatriyas took keen interest in the intellectual activity of the time. It is clear from the Jatakas that they used to devote considerable time to the study of the Vedas and other branches of knowledge. Several princes used to go to Taxila at the age of sixteen for higher studies. Even in the spiritual field, the Kshatriyas of this time were not behind any caste. The doctrine of salvation was advocated by Mah�v�ra and the Buddha, who were Kshatriyas. The superiority of the Kshatriyas is clear from the legend in which the Buddha decided to be reborn as a Kshatriya and not as a Br�hma�a. In one of the Buddha’s discourses, there is between the Buddha and Amba��ha, in which the latter recognised the Buddha’s superiority.

There were certain factors which led to the feeling of superiority among the Kshatriyas. They enjoyed the highest privilege, the right to rule, that is, which could not be claimed by others. It is natural that the ruling class should enjoy power, prestige, and dignity. The head of the state was known to be the best among men. In was in the Kshatriya caste that the leaders of the two new schools of thought, Buddhism and Jainism, were born. It was but natural that the members of the caste from which emerged Mah�v�ra and the Buddha should have developed a sense of superiority. As both the Kshatriyas and the Br�hma�as received similar education under the same teacher, there was no valid reason for feeling inferior among the Kshat�iyas in the intellectual sphere.

Certain Buddhist texts also show that instead of following their own professions strictly, the Kshatriyas worked as potters, basket-makers, reed-workers, and cooks.295 We find Kshatriyas of the ��kya and Koliya clans cultivating their fields.


The Br�hma�as of this period may be divided into two broad categories : (1) true Br�hma�as and (2) wordly Br�hma�as. The true Br�hma�as included ascetics, Vedic teachers, and priests. In fact, the true Br�hma�a was one who attached value only to virtuous conduct. In a dispute between two youths as to whether a person is a Br�hma�a by birth or by his action, the Buddha is said to have given his decision in favour of the latter alternative. Mah�v�ra himself was styled �M�ha�a�296 or �Mah�m�ha�a.�297

The general duties of the true Br�hma�as were the study of the Vedas, teaching, performance of sacrifice for themselves as well as for others, making and accepting gifts, etc. From the J�takas we know of the Br�hma�as as renouncing the world and going to the forest either at an early stage298 or after passing through the successive stages of Brahmacharya and G�rhasthya.299 Br�hma�as have been described as well-grounded in the Vedas and versed in the different branches of learning such as Nigha��uVy�kara�a, andLok�yata.300 Br�hma�as like Su�etta,301 Sela,302 and others303 possessed vast knowledge and imparted education to a large number of students, some of whom came to be known as the teachers of world-wide repute.

The practice of offerings sacrifices was very common among the Br�hma�as. During his tour, Mah�v�ra is stated to have spent the rainy season in a sacrificial house of a Br�hma�a of Champ�.304 The Br�hma�as made sacrifices and assumed that the gods were willing to accept their offerings. On the occasion of these sacrifices, they used to receive d�na. In the Somadatta J�taka, it is narrated that the king gave a Br�hma�a 16 cows, ornaments and a village. With the spread of Jaina and Buddhist doctrines, the cult of sacrifice gradually declined. It is said that while Vijayaghosha was engaged in performing Brahmanical sacrifice Jayaghosha, a monk approached him for alms and converted him to his faith after telling him what true sacrifice really meant.305

The second category of the Br�hma�as, known as worldly Br�hma�as could not stick to their hereditary professions of teaching and priesthood but followed other professions under the pressure of social and economic necessities. According to �pastamba and Gautama, trade and agriculture were to be taken up by them in times of distress. From the Buddhist sources, it is gathered that the Br�hma�as in the ordinary walk of life appeared as farmers, craftsmen, businessmen, soldiers, administrators, and so on. The Da�a-Br�hma�a-J�taka306 states how Br�hma�as in those days pursued ten occupations against rules. They acted as : (1) physicians, carrying sacks filled with medicinal roots and herbs; (2) servants and wagon-drivers; (3) tax-collectors who would not leave a household without collecting alms; (4) diggers of the soil in the garb of ascetics with their long hairs and nails, and covered with dust and dirt; (5) traders selling fruits, sweets, and the like; (6) farmers; (7) priests interpreting omens; (8) policemen with arms to guard caravans and shops, like Gopas and Nish�das; (9) hunters in the garb of hermits killing hares, cats, fish, tortoises, etc.; and (10) menials of kings who helped them in their baths in the garb of Y�j�ikas. This may appear as over-exaggerated but in other Jatakas too, there are references to Br�hma�as practising as physicians,307ploughing the land,308 trading309 and hawking goods,310 working as carpenters,311 as shepherds,312 as archers313 and as hunters.314

There were others who expounded dreams315 and went about telling fortune (Lakka�a-P��haka),316 reading the past, future, and the character of an individual from the signs on his body (A�ga-Vijj�-P��haka),317 and reading the luck of swords (Asikkha�a P�thaka).318 Some of them worshipped demons and practised magic. They possessed Mantras like the Vedabbhamanta,319 thePa�havjayamanta320 and Chint�ma�ivijj�.321 The art of exorcism was also practised by a few.322 It appears from these references and from the account of the Brahmaj�la Sutta that the Br�hma�as could be found in all walks of life, and that some of them took up objectionable practices such as hunting, carpentary, and chariot-driving.

The picture of the Br�hma�as in J�taka literature is quite different from the one given in Br�hamnical literature. It is gloomy, especially in J�taka literature. The Br�hma�as are pictured as greedy, shameless, and immortal. While the shamelessness of the Br�hma�as is clear from Junha J�taka,323 the Sig�la J�taka324 shows that they were greedy. That their moral standards were not quite high is clear from the Sa�bhava J�taka.325

Brahmanical literature on the other hand makes it abundantly clear that the Br�hma�as enjoyed certain special privileges. For certain offences, for instance, they received milder punishment than those belonging to other classes. They were exempt from taxes. In the matter of treasure-troves, they were more favourably treated than the members of other classes. As a matter of fact, these privileges were granted only to learned Br�hma�as, not to all of them. Moreover the Br�hma�as did not occupy a privileged position in the eye of law. A criminal, whosoever he was, was executed, as is evident from a number of passages in the Jatakas, one of which also speaks of the execution of a Br�hma�a.


The Vai�yas were not homogeneous in their occupation but followed different professions. They were known as Gahapati or G�h�vai, Ku�umbika and Se�h�s. Gahapati or G�h�vais means, literally, a householder, but it seems to have constituted the high and rich middle-class families owning land and cattle. Jaina texts mention a number of G�h�vai who were adherents of the Jaina faith. One such G�h�vai was �nanda, a rich land-owner of V��iyag�ma, who possessed a large number of cattle, ploughs, and carts.326P�r�sara was another G�h�vai, prosperous in agriculture (kisi) and hence known as Kisip�r�sara; he had six hundred ploughs.327 Kuiya��a is described as another G�h�vai who is said to have owned a pretty large number of cows.328

The expression Ku�umbika is used to denote the head of a family,329 but during this period, he belonged exclusively to the Vai�ya community. We find him both in cities and in villages; in the former mostly as a businessman, dealing in corn,330 practising trade331 and money-lending332 and in the latter as a well-to-do cultivator.333 Some of the Ku�umbikas figure as very rich citizens.334

The Se�h�s were the richest aristocratic section of the Vai�ya caste. They are represented as respectable tradesmen, enjoying a high position of honour among the members of their caste. They rendered various services to the kings and tradesmen. It appears from the Jatakasthat some of them occupied an official position in the royal court. Nanda is mentioned as an influential Se�h� of R�jag�iha.335An�thapi��ika had spent considerable wealth for providing residence for Buddhist Bhikshus. They were usually charitable, and spent a good portion of their wealth in charities. Their sons received education along with the Kshatriyas and the Br�hma�a youths, and offered the teacher a handsome honorarium.336


The word ���dra� denotes a number of castes. In the contemporary Jaina and Buddhist literatures, we do not find a specific mention of a caste called ���dra�. But the occupation and status of a class of people living in those days make it clear that they were none other than the ��dras. Both Mah�v�ra and the Buddha tried their best to improve the general condition of these down-trodden people.

The artisans were developing into different castes all engaged in their hereditary professions. The potters (Kumbhak�ra),337 smiths(Kamm�ra),338 ivory-workers (Dantak�ra),339 carpenters (Va��aki),340 etc. belonged to hereditary families and had their own settlements.

There were a number of unorganised, unsettled, and wandering castes, who earned their livelihood by entertaining the people. There were the dancers and singers (N��a),341 acrobats (La�ghana�aka),342 tumblers,343 jugglers (M�y�k�ra),344 snake-charmers(�hitu��ika),345 mongoosetamers (Ko��adamaka),346 musicians (Gandhabba),347 drummers (Bheri V�daka),348 conchblowers(Sa�khadhamaka)349 and so on. Expressions such as Bheriv�dakakula,350 Sa�khav�dakakula,351 Na�akakula,352Gandhabbakula,353 and the like suggest that they formed separate castes of their own.

Similar in status to these people but leading a more settled life were the cowherds (Gop�laka), cattlemen (Pa�up�laka), grass-cutters (Ti��ah�raka), stick-gatherers (Ka��ah�raka), and foresters (Vanakammika) as they are described in the Majjhima-Nik�ya354 and Ku��la Jatakas.355 They probably lived an exclusive life, collecting together into villages of their own, away from the towns and cities which they visited for selling their produce to earn their livelihood.


There were certain castes which were looked down upon by the higher sections of society either due to their ethnic origin or on account of their following low professions. The Cha���las, the Ve�as, the N�sh�das, the Rathak�ras, and the Pukkusas appear as low castes.

Among the despised castes, the Cha���las were the most unfortunate. �Contemptible like a Cha���la� became a proverbial expression. He was the lowest and the meanest on the earth,356 and the Sig�la Jataka compares a jackal, low and wretched among animals, with a Cha���la.357 The Cha���las were not only untouchable but also unseable. The daughter of the Se�h� and wealthy merchant washed her eyes when she saw the Cha���la at the city gate. Food was polluted at the sight of a Cha���la.Sixteen thousand Br�hma�as were once ostracized because they committed the sin of eating the food served by a Cha���la. One Br�hma�a was starved to death because of the same sin. The wind, that had touched the body of a Cha���la, was considered impure. The Cha���las lived outside the city gates. Their dialect was different and showed their ethnic difference. They were often engaged as carriers of corpses and as slaughterers of criminals condemned to death by the king.

However, we also come across some Cha���las who were respected in the society. Harikeshabala, born in the family of Cha���las, became a monk possessing some of the highest virtues. He subdued his senses and observed the rules of walking, begging, speaking etc. He controlled himself and was always attentive to his duty. He protected his thoughts, speech and body from sins.358

Along with the Cha���las, there were Nish�das, Pukkusas, and others. The Nish�das were generally hunters and foresters. The Pukkusas used to pluck flowers and lived generally by hunting and only occasionally by dirty work like cleaning temples and palaces. There were carpenters, basket-makers, flute-makers, weavers, and barbers whose professions were considered to be low.


There must have been a steady increase in the mixed castes during this period, and these are found mentioned in the Dharmas�tras.These mixed castes arose not only as a result of the permitted anuloma marriages (a member of a higher caste marrying a woman or women of lower castes), but also as a result of the prohibited pratiloma marriages (where the husband’s caste was lower than that of the wife). Difference in occupation must have resulted sooner or later in an increase in the number of such mixed castes.

From the four Var�as, there came into existence several castes and sub-castes, such as Amba��ha, �yogava, S�ta, and Kar�a. A passage in the S�trak�it��ga359 names the following classes in this order � Ugras, Bhogas, A�kshv�kavas, J��tr�s, Kauravas, warriors, Br�hmanas, Lichchhav�s, commanders, and generals. Other passages of the Jaina scriptures add princes, artists,360 and Kshatriyas.361 The N�gas, too, formed a part of the country’s population.362 Many cities were named after castes or professions, e.g., Uttara-Kshatriya-Ku��apura (after Kshatriyas), Dakshi�a-Br�hma�a-Ku��apura (after Br�hma�as), N�tika (after J��tis or J��trikas), Bhoganagara (after the Bhogas), and V��ijyagr�ma (the village of commerce.)


During this period, slavery was quite common in the society, and both male and female slaves (d�sas and d�sis) were employed for doing all sorts of household work. Not only kings and wealthy people, but even ordinary families could keep slaves. The practice was confined not only to cities but was in vogue also in the villages. It was not restricted to a particular Var�a, but even Kshatriyas, Br�hma�as, and men belonging to the upper strata of society were reduced to slavery.363 It is said that P�ra�a Kassapa and Ajita Ke�akambal� had been slaves in their previous lives.364

There were different categories of slaves. Slaves born of slave mothers were known. That slaves were bought and sold is mentioned in the Jaina, Buddhist and Dharma��tra literatures. According to Nanda Jataka,365 seven hundred pa�as were enough for the purchase of a slave. The Sattubhakta Jataka366 reveals that one hundred K�rsh�pa�as were more than sufficient for having nine slaves.

The physical fitness of a male slave and the beauty of a female one might have been responsible for a higher price. Slaves were also given in gift. The Digha and A�guttara Nik�yas say that the Buddha had prohibited the Bhikshus from accepting the gifts of slaves, either male or female.367 According to a Jataka, a Br�hma�a demanded a hundred slave girls from a king along with other requisites as his gift, and his demands were fulfilled.368

War-captives, who were reduced to complete subjection, might have been either sold or given in gifts to others by their masters. Chandan�, the first female disciple of Mah�v�ra, was a slave of this type.369 Some people became slaves for paying off their debts. A widow who purchased two palis of oil from a grocer on credit, had, when unable to pay off the debt, to serve him as a slave girl.370 Slaves were made during famine for want of food.371 The Vidhura-pandita-Jataka refers to those men who were driven to slavery mainly on account of fear.372 Some were condemned to slavery as a punishment for their crimes.373

The nature of the work of a slave depended upon his own ability as well as the social and financial status of the master. In the case of rich masters, the qualified slaves could be kept as treasurers, store-keepers, and even private secretaries.374 Thus, from the Nanda-Jataka,375 it is known that the master showed his full faith in his slave by giving the latter all sorts of information relating to his treasure. In the N�nachchhanda Jataka,376 the Br�hma�a master is found taking the advice of Pann�, a slave girl, about the boon he would ask of the king.

In spite of all the commendable jobs given to slaves, there is no doubt that most of them were employed to perform ordinary household duties. U. N. GHOSHAL rightly observes, �A slave was ordinarily engaged in cooking, fetching water, pounding and drying rice,  carrying food to and watching the field, giving alms, ministering to the master when he retired, or handling the plates and dishes, bringing the spitoon and fetching the fans during meals, sweeping the yards and stables and other such duties.�377

As regards the regards treatment meted out to the slaves, it depended upon the temperament of the master. There are conflicting statements on this subject. Generally masters harassed their slaves but in a few cases, they showed kindness towards them. Slaves were punished for their acts of commission and omission. Sometimes they were ill-treated by their masters when the latter chose, in a wanton mood, to do so. The A�guttara-Nik�ya378 states that the slaves toiled with tearful faces for fear of the rod. One Jataka379 informs that the wanton daughter of a high treasurer used to revile and beat her slaves and servants. According to the N�masiddhi Jataka,380 the master of the slave girl Dhanap�l� used to beat her. She was also sent on hire to work for others. Slaves were given thrashing and kept in fetters by their masters.

No serious attempt was made to improve the lot of slaves. Even a great reformer like Mah�tm� Buddha did not have courage enough to admit any slave into his Order. The Lichchhav�s were not prepared to recognize the sons born of their female slaves as free men. V�savakhattiy� was not recognised by them as a member of the ��kya family only because she was the daughter of Prince Mah�n�ma’s slave girl N�gamu���.381

There are some instances to prove that some slaves received good treatment from their masters. They were given opportunities to learn reading, writing, and handicrafts along with their masters’ sons. Ka��haka grew up in the company of his master’s son, got his education along with him, learnt two or three handicrafts, and was appointed as the store-keeper of his master.382 Sometimes, the daughters of the masters fell in love with their slaves. In the Ka��haka383 and Kala��uka Jatakas,384 girls of some reputed families are found marrying their slaves and eloping with them.

Certain methods of liberating the slaves prevailed in the society. War-captives made slaves could get emancipation if the vanquished party subsequently regained its strength and conquered the enemy. Slaves could also be liberated either by accepting Sanny�sa (monkhood) or by the will of the masters or by paying them a ransom for their emancipation.


Even before the time of Mah�v�ra and the Buddha, the existence of the three well-known A�ramas (stages), namely, Brahmacharya, G�ihasta, and Tapas, is a fact evident from the Chh�ndogya Upanishad and the B�ihad�ra�yaka Upanishad. As a matter of fact, the number of ï¿½ï¿½ramas is four, not there, though there are slight differences in their nomenclature and in their sequence. All the four were known by their specific names to the Jab�lopanishad. From the time of the early Dharmas�tras, these four ï¿½ï¿½ramas with their successive stages became well known. The ï¿½pastamba Dharmas�tra385 says, �There are four ï¿½ï¿½ramas, viz., the stage of a householder, that of one staying in the teacher’s house, the stage of being a Muni, and the stage of being a forest-dweller. �pastamba places the householder first among the ï¿½ï¿½ramas probably on account of the importance of that stage to all other ï¿½ï¿½ramas. To Gautama386 the four ï¿½ï¿½ramas were Brahmach�ri, G�ihastha, Bhikshu and Vaikh�nasa. Vasish�ha Dharmas�tra387 names the four ï¿½ï¿½ramas as Brahmach�ri, G�ihastha, V�naprastha and Parivr�jaka. The Buddhist literature388 knew all the four stages into which the life of the three upper classes was divided.

The first part of man’s life is Brahmacharya in which he studies in his teacher’s house; in the second part he marries and becomes a householder, pays off his debts to his ancestors by begetting sons and to the gods by performing Yaj�as. When he sees that his hair is growing grey and that there are wrinkles on his body, he resorts to the forest, i.e., becomes a V�naprastha. After spending the third part of his life in the forest for some time, he spends the rest part of his life as a Sanny�sin.

It is believed that the scheme of the ï¿½ï¿½rama was so devised that the individual may attain the four goals of existence, namely, Dharma, Artha, K�ma, and Moksha. In the Brahmacharya stage, through the discipline of his will and emotion, he attains dharma. In the G�ihastha ��rama, he marries, becomes a householder, tastes the pleasures of the world, enjoys life, has sons, discharges his duties to his children, to his friends, relatives and neighbours and becomes a worthy citizen, the founder of a family. He is supposed to attain Artha and K�ma during this period. In V�naprastha, he is called upon to resort to a forest life for pondering over the great problems of the life hereafter and to accustom himself to self-abnegation, austerities, and a harmless life. In Sanny�sa, he may succeed in realizing the supreme goal of Moksha in this very life or he may have to continue to rise in spiritual height until after several births and deaths the goal is in view.

This ï¿½ï¿½rama system was related to the theory of the three debts � Rishi�i�a, Pit�i�i�a, and Deva�i�a ï¿½ and through this tripartite system, an attempt was made to pay them off. The debt to the ï¿½ishis was paid off by studying their works at the stage of Brahmacharya, the debt to parents by procreating sons and educating them at the stage of G�ihasta, and the debt to gods by performing sacrifices at the stage of V�naprastha.

It is difficult to accept the theory propounded by RHYS DAVIDS389 to the effect that the four orders of life were of Post-Buddhistic origin and that the Brahmanical class unable to cope with the progress of new ideas formulated the theory of ï¿½ï¿½ramas according to which no one could become either a hermit or a wanderer without having first many years as a student in the Brahmanical school. The theory of ï¿½ï¿½ramawas formulated long before the advent of Buddhism. It is possible that the separation of the last two orders, and particularly the development of the last one, may be due to the development of ascetic ideas stemming from the rise of Jainism and Buddhism.

No attempt was ever made to make the four stages obligatory except the first stage. It was not compulsory for an individual to enter into other stages. This system was never imposed arbitrarily with state legislation, ex-communication, perpetual banishment, or execution. The hold of the ï¿½ï¿½rama dharma on the life of the people was rather loose. Had it been strictly imposed on the whole population, the consequences would have been disastrous. It seems that it was confined only to the superior communities like the Br�hma�as without any binding obligation.


Throughout this period the system most in vogue was the joint-family system, and it included father, wife, children, mother, minor brothers, and sisters. The relationship between the different members of the family was mostly cordial and affectionate. The father was the head of the family, and he was respected by all the members. His wife was the mistress who performed her household duties, looked after the members of the family, and was obedient to the master. The mother was highly respected by one and all. We hear of king P�sanandi who was greatly devoted to his mother.390 The mother on her part had great love for her children. When prince Meghakum�ra decided to embrace the life of an ascetic, his mother became unconscious and fell to the ground like a log of wood. She was sprinkled over with water, fanned with a palm-leaf, and was consoled by her friends. Her eyes were filled with tears, and using some of the most pathetic words, she persuaded her son not to give up worldly pleasures.391

There are also instances which reveal that amity did not exist between one member of the family and the other. Daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law often sought refuge in nunneries to escape from the tyranny of one another. One daughter-in-law even conspired to kill her mother-in-law. In one case, four daughters-in-law drove their father-in-law out of the house. We have the case of a son who refused to marry on the ground that wives generally showed scant respect to their parents-in-law and even domineered over them.392

The conception of proprietary rights came into existence in the family circle. The reason was that trade and commerce prospered highly, and the number of professions increased. The members of the family began to earn their living independently. Some of the Dharmas�tra writers began to give due recognition to the self-acquired property of the son. Gautama says, �Among the brothers one who is Vaidya, need not give his own earning to those who are not Vaidyas.� Vish�u clarifies the point a little further, saying that if the Vaidya had acquired his knowledge with the help of the family property, he must share the property with others.

Formerly, the father had extraordinary powers. There was a time when the gift or a sale of a son was not regarded as beyond the power of the father. These practices came to be disallowed during this period, no matter whether this was due to a ��stric prohibition in the proper sense of the term or to an alteration in the conception about the extent of the father’s right over the son. With the beginning of the V�naprastha system, the joint-family system began to crumble. Before becoming a V�naprasthi, the father had to divide his property among his sons. Sometimes he had to divide his property among his sons against his will. The son started demanding his legitimate share in the property even against the wishes of the father. Some of the Dharmas�tras declared that a son, who would force a partition upon his father should not be invited to perform the latter’s Sr�ddha. This shows that such a procedure was disapproved by the society, but the son had legal rights and could get them enforced through the court of law. Gautama says that sons have rights by birth. �pastamba opines that the connection of the son with inheritance cannot be broken.


In the sixth century B.C., marriage was generally regarded as necessary and desirable for all. There are also exceptional cases where both males and females thought of leading an unmarried life by renouncing the world under the influence of religion. Sometimes such persons were unable to live up to their high ideals, and their lapses were furiously commented upon by the public. Hence it was the married who enjoyed real respect in society and felt elevated and dignified.


From the Jaina and Buddhist sources, it appears that Br�hma, Pr�j�patya, �sura, G�ndharva, and R�kshasa marriages were common during this period. Marriages referred to in the Dharmas�tras are of eight forms, viz., Br�hma, Daiva, �rsha, Pr�j�patya, �sura, G�ndharva, R�kshasa and Pai��cha. Br�hma and Pr�j�patya marriages were the most popular. In these two forms, marriage was settled by parents. Auspicious days were fixed for the marriage ceremony393 and the bridegroom’s party reached the house of the bride on a fixed day. The bride was carried in a car to the bridegroom’s place escorted by a number of people.394

The ï¿½sura form of marriage, in which a wife was procured by paying a substantial amount to her father, was also prevalent. The minister Teyaliputta wanted to marry the daughter of a goldsmith.395 A merchant, after leaving his negligent wife, married another girl by paying a large sum.396 A robber, who had plenty of money, paid the desired amount, and married a girl.397 From Buddhist literature we know that the father of Isidasi had received a bride as price for her in her marriage.398

The G�ndharva or love marriage was also popular among the nobles of the time. In this form of marriage, both the bride and bridegroom made their own choice by falling in love with each other without the knowledge of their guardians, and were married without rites or ceremonies. The marriage of Udayana with V�savadatt� is well known. We hear of King S�haraha of Pu��avaddha�a who married a girl in the G�ndharva way.399 Some Jataka stories400 also refer to this type of marriage. The Baudh�yana Dharmas�tra401refers with approval to the view of some thinkers that love-unions ought to be commended as they presuppose reciprocal attachment.

People sometimes resorted to the R�kshasa form of marriage. The forcible carrying of the girl to be married was the essential feature of this kind of marriage. There are many instances of elopement and abduction. Suvar���gulik�, a maid servant of Udayana, was abducted by king Pajjoya, Ruppi�i by Ka�ha, Kamal�mel� by S�garachanda,402 and Chella�� by king Se�iya. The Jaina texts403 also refer to the abduction of Dova� by king Pauman�va of Amaraka�ka. This type of marriage figures frequently in the J�takas,404 and it remained quite popular among the warrior class from very early times.

The Jaina and Buddhist texts of this period do not refer to the Pai��cha, �rsha, and Daiva marriages which are known from certain Brahmanical sources. In the Pai��cha marriage, the bride is either duped very often by making her overdrunk or physically overpowered by the bridegroom in order to make her yield to passion. Jainas and Buddhists do not regard it as marriage at all. When a daughter was offered in marriage to an officiating priest by the sacrificer, the marriage was designated as a Daiva one. This marriage was not practised among the Jainas and the Buddhists, who might have included it in the category of Br�hma and Pr�j�patya forms of marriage. In ï¿½rsha marriage, the bride’s father received a bull and a cow at the time of his daughter’s marriage. Since it was thought to be a variety of ï¿½sura marriage, it was probably not mentioned.

The most interesting type of marriage known as Svaya�vara (self-choice) was confined originally to the Kshatriya class, wherein a princess selected her husband of her own free will, from among the assembled suitors, or as a result of a tournament or contest in the use of warlike weapons. There are several instances of this type of marriage. The N�y�dhammakah� refers to the Svaya�vara of Dovai which was attended by various prominent kings and princes.405 The Uttar�dhyayana commentary refers to another Svaya�vara marriage of the princes Nivvui.406


During this period, caste and family (j�ti and kula) became important factors in determining marriages in order to preserve the purity of blood. Br�hma�as, Se�h�s, clansmen, treasurers, and others are mentioned as solemnising marriages with the members of their respective castes of equal family status. The Jaina and Buddhist accounts are supported by the Dharma��stras which prescribe that the bride should be of the same caste. Generally, endogamy was in practice, and restrictions were imposed on the intermixture of castes.

During the Vedic period, Gotra denoted a cow-pen, but it came to be used in the sense of lineage or ancestry at this time. When king Prasenajit asked the Gotra of A�gulim�la’s parents, the latter replied that his father was of the G�rgya Gotra, and his mother of the Maitr�ya�i.407 Opinions are divided about the consideration of Gotra in settling marriages. Some of the law-givers (e.g., Gautama and Baudh�yana) are silent on this point, but some of them prohibit Sagotra marriages. A verse in the Kachchhapa J�taka suggests that generally, parties united in wedlock belonged to different Gotras.408

There are during this period a few examples of brothers marrying their own sisters. Buddhist literature speaks of the ��kyas marrying their sisters for the sake of continuing their family line.409 Incestuous marriages were also prevalent among the Lichchhav�s.410 Marriage with one’s own cousin was also in vogue. Bambhadatta married his maternal uncle’s daughter.411 The J�taka stories refer to the marriages of K��� and ï¿½ivi princes with their maternal uncle’s daughters.412 The sister of the Ko�ala king Prasenajit was married to Bimbis�ra, and his daughter V�jir� was wedded to Aj�ta�atru, the son of Bimbis�ra.413 The marriage of Jyesh�h� to Nandivardhana, the elder brother of Mah�v�ra, also belongs to this category. Such marriages were not confined to the royal families, but were prevalent also among the common folk as is evident from several popular stories. Some Dharmas�tras refer to the custom of marrying one’s maternal uncle’s daughter, but this practice was confined to the South.414

Marriage was guided by two special laws among the Lichchhav�s of Vai��l�. One of them probibited the marriage of a Lichchhav� lady with any outsider.415 This law was so strictly followed that the secret marriage of Si�ha’s daughter416 with the romantic king Bimbis�ra of Magadha brought on the dreadful fight between the Lichchhav�s and the Magadha people, resulting in the discomfiture of the former and their resolve to make �a requital of enmity (Vairaniry�tana) even to the sons of the king.� They were so particular about it that this resolution was got recorded and kept in a box duly sealed.417

The second law was in connection with Str�ratna ï¿½the jewel of women� (the most excellent woman).418 According to this law, theStr�ratna was not allowed to be married for herself, but was to adorn and entertain the society in which she was brought up, for which she was called Nagara�obhini. She was thought to be one of the greatest treasures of the nation, a treasure which was not to be under the possession of an individual, however great he might be in position or in wealth. She was to belong to the whole Ga�a. At this time Ambap�l�, for example, was the most excellent girl, and was therefore made Nagara�obhin�.


The system of inter-caste marriages was not a common practice. Only the people of higher classes practised it, but not quite often. The marriage of a bridegroom belonging to a higher caste with a bride of a lower caste was known as Anuloma marriage, and the marriage of a high-caste girl with a low-caste boy was named Pratiloma marriage. We find in a Jataka that a king saw a beautiful girl named Suj�t�, daughter of a greengrocer selling jujubes, fell in love with her and made her his queen consort.419 A J�taka describes Sen�pati Ahip�raka as marrying Ummadant�, a merchant’s daughter.420


There seems to be no doubt that the usual age of the bride at the time of her wedding was sixteen. The bridegroom used to be older than his partner and it can well be presumed that he used to be at least eighteen or twenty. The Therig�th� states that Isid�s� in her former birth was married at the age of sixteen.421 Nuns like Vi��kh� and Ku��alake�a were sixteen years old at the time of their entry into the nunnery when their marriages were being contemplated. The commentary on the Dhammapada describes the girls of sixteen years as eagerly pining for being united with husbands.422 The J�takas clearly state that girls of this age were regarded as ripe for marriage and were possessed of rare beauty and grace.423

The G�ihyas�tras composed during this period lay down that the consummation of the marriage (Chaturthikarma) should take place on the fourth day after marriage. Some G�ihyas�tras also provide for the contingency of the bride being in her monthly course during the marriage ceremony. All this proves that the girl was married at an advanced age.


As far as the husband was concerned, he was allowed to remarry after the death of his wife. With regard to widow-remarriages, evidence is conflicting. There are cases of permission as well as prohibition. Some Brahmanical sources of this period taking an idealistic view disapprove of widow remarriage. Their rules were followed by the priestly class and the higher section of society, but the ordinary people generally followed local customs. It appears that only a few among the higher section of society took recourse to widow-remarriage. Widows having no issue might have found it easier to remarry than those who had the burden of looking after their sons and daughters. The term Punarbhu was used to denote a widow who remarried.424 The Brahmanical authors are of opinion that generally the remarriage of the widow should be confined to a member of the family of her deceased husband. The reason was the popularity of Niyoga from the earlier period.

It appears from the Buddhist sources that there was no such restriction. Probably liberal rules were followed by people of the eastern part of the country where widows had more freedom in the selection of their new husbands than those of Madhyade�a. According to the Nanda Jataka,425 a squire who had a young wife was apprehensive of her marrying after his death and transferring the movable family property to her new husband. The Susima Jataka426 describes a king’s priest marrying the widowed queen. In the A�guttara Nik�ya,427 we find a lady assuring her husband on his death-bed that she would never remarry, but would look after her household and her children.

Besides widowhood, a lady had to face the problem of remarriage when her husband either became a recluse or went abroad and did not return. Because of the rise of the new religious ascetic orders like Jainism and Buddhism, a large number of young men renounced the world in their youthful age abandoning their young wives. We know from the J�takas that some of them followed their husbands while others, whose desires and cravings for their youthful pleasures were still unsatisfied, remarried and restarted their conjugal lives. In some of the J�takas,husbands are represented as expressing their views to the effect that their wives would take new husbands after they had renounced the world.428Some Brahmanical sources tell us that in case a husband became an ascetic or went abroad and did not return, the wife was free to marry within a limited time.429

Marriage after divorcing the husband or wife on certain grounds was also prevalent in society. According to Vasish�ha, one can seek a new husband if the first proves to be impotent or mean or insane. The Buddhist J�takas also refer to such cases. It appears that marriage by divorce was common in the lower section of society, but in the higher classes, it was resorted to only in a few cases. The Piyaj�tika Sutta of the Majjhima-Nik�ya states that the relatives of a woman, who did not like her husband, intended to separate her from him and to unite her with another person.430 A J�takas relates the story of princess Phusati of Madra, who wanted to get rid of her ugly husband Kansa (the Bodhisativa) of Ku��vat� and to marry another prince who was handsome, according to her wishes.431

Family and local traditions also played an important part in controlling this custom. A J�takas story shows that in spite of the absence of any deep-rooted lover for the husband the wife did not exercise her right of divorcing him, but preferred to remain in her uncomfortable condition.432 It is said that a Br�hma�a who was asked, whether he would keep or abandon his wife found guilty of adultery, expressed his view against deserting her and remarrying.433


Generally monogamy was followed by the vast majority of the people, but polygamy was fashion among the rich and ruling sections of the society. The kings and princes considered it a privilege to have a crowded harem. In the J�takas, most of the princes have been described as polygamous.434 Kings like Bimbis�ra, Prasenajit, Udayana, and Aj�ta�atru were all polygamous. The rich house-holder of R�jag�iha, Mah�sayaga, had thirteen wives.435 The examples of Sal�bhadra, Dhanya Kumar, Jambu Kumar are well known in Jaina literature. The Ra��hap�la-Sutta describes Ra��hap�la, the son of a Br�hma�a, G�ihapati, as having several wives.436 In the A�guttara-Nik�ya, a wealthy and happy householder is described as being waited upon by four wives with all their charms.437 The Ther�g�th� tells us that Isid�s� in her former birth was married to a merchant’s son who had already another wife.438 The P�raskara G�ihyas�tra states that a Br�hma�a should have three wives, a Kshatriya two and a Vai�ya one, besides on ��dra wife to all.439


Courtesans became a special feature of city life during this age, especially in cities like R�jag�iha. Champ�, Vai��l�, Mithil�, S�keta and �r�vast�. People had become wealthy and begun to entertain themselves in different ways. As the courtesans were custodians of such fine arts as singing, dancing, and music, they occupied a respectable position in the society of the period. They were beautiful, graceful and pleasant. As their presence in a royal city was material to its citizens, they were especially installed with honour. They appeared even in royal palaces on festive occasions to give the finest exhibition of their artistic talent.

S�lavat� of R�jagriha and Ambap�l� of Vai��l� were two of the most well-known courtesans of this time. When Ambap�l� was installed as a courtesans of Vai��l�, her example was followed by installing S�lavat� as a courtesan of R�jagriha.440 Both were not only superbly charming but also well versed in singing, dancing and music. The fact that the Buddha accepted an invitation extended to him by Ambap�l� and went to her residence with the Bhikshu Sa�gha441 and that she dedicated the Ambap�l� grove to the Sa�gha,442 shows that a courtesan occupied no mean position. The way in which Ambap�l� proceeded to see the Buddha at Ko�ig�ma with a number of magnificent vehicles443 shows that her equipage was almost royal. She was supposed to be �the pride of the city� (Nagara�obhin�). King Bimbis�ra of Magadha was so much intoxicated by her beauty that he risked even his life to pay a visit to her at a time when a severe fighting was going on between Magadha and Vai��l�. He is said to have stayed with her for some time. And it was Ambap�l� who is said to have given birth to prince Abhaya, son of Bimbis�ra. That the great physician J�vaka was born of S�lavat�,444 the courtesan of R�jag�iha,445 shows that some of the sons of the courtesans could rise to eminence and occupy position that had a prestige value in society.

The J�takas inform us about S�m�,446 Sulas�,447 K�l�448 and other courtesans.449 K�l� is described in the Takk�riya J�taka as one possessed of the qualities of social decency and self-respect. The Sulas� J�taka represents Sulas� as a woman of rare wisdom and courage. About the income of these courtesans, the J�taka stories give exaggerated accounts which are not reliable. On the other hand, the information given by the Vinaya Pi�aka appears to be authentic and we may accept fifty to one hundred silver punch-marked coins as their daily income. Ambap�l� is described as earning 50 Kah�pa�as per night, whereas S�lavat� is said to have been charging 100 Kah�pa�as.450

The character of the courtesans has also its seamy side. Generally, they sold their flesh for money for which they were looked down upon by men and women alike. Their profession is described as a vile trade (nichakamma).451 Expression like �a house of ill fame� (nichch-gharaor ga�ik�ghara)452 and �a low woman,453 (duratthi kumbhad�s�) indicate that the profession of the prostitute was not considered respectable.


Both literary and archeological sources reveal that rice, wheat, and pulses were the main cereals which people consumed. Rice, no doubt, was known in the preceding age too, but wheat and pulses were added to the dietary system of this period. Rice was very popular. The chief varieties454 of rice were S�li, Ta��ula, H�yana, Shash�ika, and Niv�ra which seem to have been cultivated in this region. Rice of superior quality was taken by the rich sections of society, whereas the inferior variety was the food of the people belonging to the lower strata.455

Cooked rice was called Bhatta or Bhakta456, and by P��ini Odana.457 It was ordinarily eaten with s�pa (pulses) and vegetables.458P��ini tells us that meat, s�pa, vegetables, gu�a, ghee, etc. were added to Bh�ta.459 Rice-milk was highly praised by Buddha, and he recommended it for the Bhikshus as a morning breakfast.460 Honey was also mixed with it. Yav�g� (rice-barley gruel) was a common liquid food.

There were a few special preparations known to us. Sattu461 was also eaten during this period. Kumm�sa or Kulm�sha was a coarse food of the poor.462 Sweet cake now known as Puv� was a favourite dish. According to the Illisa J�taka, it was prepared from rice, milk, sugar, ghee, and honey. Pi���akhajjaka (Kh�ja) was another sweetmeat liked by all. S�riputta was fond of it but took a vow not to eat it, for it tended to make him greedy.463 Palala (modern tila-ku�a) was a delicious sweetmeat mentioned by P��ini.464 It was made of powdered Tila and sugar or Gu�a. Pish�aka, now known as Pith�, was prepared from the ground paste of rice.465

Milk and milk-products like curd, butter, and ghee were largely eaten.466 Vegetables like pumpkins, gourds, and cucumbers and fruits like mango and jamboo were included in the diet of the people.467

That during this period a large number of people were non-vegetarian is proved by the discovery of bones at different archaeological sites. It seems that the custom of meat-eating was so common that the Buddha prohibited it for the Bhikshus.

This practice of meat-eating during this period might have produced a natural reaction in the mind of T�rthankara Mah�v�ra which led to the propagation of the doctrine of non-injury to living beings. For the protection of animal life, he instructed both monks and laymen to abstain from meat-eating.

Drinking was fairly common during this period. There are references to Sur� and Meraya (Maireya) as intoxicating drinks.468 The kings, princes, nobles, warriors, and rich people called Se�h�s drank liquor. The religious people and the Brahmach�rins of all castes were to abstain from drinking. The Jaina s�tras probibit the Jaina monks from visiting festival gatherings in which people drank.469 According to the rules of the Vinaya, the novices were not to drink strong drinks and intoxicating liquors,470 and the same rule applied to the elders. We learn from the Dharmas�tras of �pastamba,471 Gautama,472 and Vish�u473 that the Br�hma�as were not allowed to indulge in drinking.

The Jaina and Buddhist sources inform us that the festive occasions were marked by feasting, drinking, and merry-making.474 There used to be a festival known as S�r�-Nakkhala (drinking festival) which was marked by unrestricted drinking, feasting and dancing,475 leading finally to brawls in which people broke their heads, feet, and hands.476

Liquor was manufactured or consumed on a large scale. Taverns (P���g�ra : Kappas�l�) where various kinds of wine were sold were common. From the J�takas stories, we know that there were crowded taverns, where liquor was kept filled in jars and sold.477 The owners of the taverns kept apprentices who helped them is their business.478 Generally, these taverns were managed by the Se�h�s who were the aristocratic Vai�yas owning considerable property. Some people used to go to these taverns for drinking with their wives.479


Besides the usual vastra and vasana denoting clothing in older literature, ch�ra, chela, and ch�vara began to be used during this period. There were different fabrics used for preparing clothes. The ï¿½ch�r��ga480 mentions some of them as wool (ja�giya or j��ghika), bha�ga (bhag tree), hemp (s��iva), palm leaves (pottaga), linen (khomiya), and t�la (t�lakada). It is started that a monk or a nun could beg for the garments mentioned above.481 Although cotton (k�rp�sa) was the material generally used, cloths made of silk (kau�eya); linen (kshauma), and wool (aur�a) were also in demand.

The dress of the people consisted of antarav�saka (under garment), uttar�sa�ga (upper garment), and Usha�isha (turban or headgear). The Vinaya texts482 refer to the variety of ways in which dhotis (undergarments) were arranged � hasti�au��ika (forming the trunk of an elephant), t�lav�intaka (in the shape of a fan), matsyav�laka (like a fish-tail), chatushkar�aka (having four angles), and ï¿½atavallika (having a hundred folds). The same texts refer to a complete weaving outfit. The cloth was fastened at the waist by aK�yabandha (girdle), and a variety of girdles are mentioned in the Vinaya Texts,483 such as Kal�buha (those made of many strings plaited together), de��ubhaka (those made like the head of a water-snake), muraja (those with tambourines or beads on them), or maddav�na(those with ornaments hanging from them). Both men and women wore Ka�chuka, a robe probably like the modern shirt.484 Women wore s�r�s known as sa��a-s���aka.485 Ladies of the upper strata of society wore coloured garments, while widows were dressed in white.

A Jaina monk was allowed to wear three robes, two linen (Kshaumika), undergarments (omachela) and one woollen (aur�ika)uppergarment.486 The Buddha also allowed three robes : a double waist cloth (sa�gh�ta), an upper robe (uttar�sa�ga), and a single undergarment (antarav�saka).487

Both from the Jaina488 and Buddhist489 sources, it is evident that sewing and stitching of clothes were coming into fashion. There are references490 to the needle, thread, scissors, etc. The monks were allowed to sew their clothes.

People also put on shoes. A large variety of shoes is also referred to in the Vinaya Texts, such as shoes with one, two, three, or even more linings; shoes adorned with skins of lion, tiger, panther, antelope, otter, cat, squirrel, and owl; boots pointed with horns of rams and goats, ornamented with scorpions� tails, sewn round with peacock feathers : boots, shoes, slippers of all hues, such as blue, red, yellow, brown, black, and orange. Sometimes, the shoes were ornamented with gold, silver, pearls, beryls, crystal, copper, glass, tin, lead or bronze. Poorer people used wooden shoes, shoes made of leaves of palmyra and date-palm, or of various kinds of grass. Shoes were also made of wool. The B�ihatkalpa Bh�shya491 prescribes the use of shoes for the Jaina monks, especially when they were on tours, and in the case of illness single-soled (egapu�a) shoes, pu�aga or Khallaka shoes to cover the foot sore, v�gur� shoes to cover the toes and also the feet,Kosaga shoes to cover the toes, Khapusa shoes to cover the ankles, and ardhaja�ghik� and ja�ghik� shoes to cover the half and full thighs respectively.

The difference between the male and female dresses and ornaments was not much marked. The ornaments, which decorated the bodies of both men and women, were costly and of various types and designs. Every part of the body from head to foot had its appropriate ornaments made of gold, silver, pearls, gems and precious stones. We know from the Vinaya Texts,492 that at first even monks used to wear ear-rings, ear-drops, strings of beads for neck, girdles of beads, bangles, necklaces, bracelets and rings. The only ornaments referred to as worn by women alone were waist-bands and anklets. The J�takas493 also mention earrings, frontlet pieces and torques round the neck. Among ornaments, P��ini refers to a�gul�ya (finger-rings)494 Kar�ika (ear-rings),4 lal��ika (ornaments of the forehead),496 and graiveyaka497(torques or necklaces). Some luxurious ornaments of this time like ear-lobes, torques of different shapes, necklaces, bangles, pendants, and rings made of different materials such as terracotta, precious stones, glass, ivory, bone and copper, have been discovered from North Indian sites.

There are elaborate references to toilet articles in the Vinaya Text. Hair was besmeared with pomade or hair-oil of bees-wax, and then smoothed with a comb. Scents, perfumes, garlands, and unguents were used, and faces were rubbed with ointment and painted. The body was also painted, and feet were rubbed with sandstone, gravel, and seafoam. To keep long hair seems to have been the fashion. Beards were also dyed blue, red, purple or green according to individual taste. Nails were polished or cut with nail-cutters, and tooth-sticks were used for cleaning the teeth. Some of the objects of toiletry discovered in the excavations included antimony rods of copper, hair-pins of bone, combs of ivory, terracotta flesh rubber, and nail parer.

When bathing, people used to rub their bodies ï¿½ thighs, arms, breast and back � against wooden pillars or walls. Chunam (lime) was also rubbed over the body by means of a wooden instrument in the shape of a hand or a string of beads. Special bathing pools or tanks are also referred to. They were floored or faced with brick, stone, or wood, and had walls or steps of the same material. To prevent water becoming stale, pipes were laid to drain it off. There were also arrangements for hot-bathrooms with chimney and fire-place, and the roof covered with skins. The bathers put scented clay over their faces and took their bath seated on stools. There were cells to be used as cooling rooms after the steam bath.498 The Brahmaj�la Sutta contains a stock list of dress-and-toilet processes comprising no less than twenty items.499 Of these items, P��ini500 refers to mirror, collyrium, garlands, perfumes, shoes, and staff.


The progress of civilization during this period brought with it certain amenities, such as furniture and utensils, to make life easy and the homes comfortable. The Vinaya Texts501 give a long list of the articles of furniture and utensils. There was a pretty large variety of chairs rectangular, cushioned, cane-bottomed, straw-bottomed arm-chair and state chair, and sofas with or without arms. There were also different types of bedsteads with legs carved to represent animals’ feet. Some bedsteads had lofty supports with arrangements for rocking backwards and forwards, and the bed, comprising mattresses stuffed with cotton and pillows half the size of man’s body, was strewn over with flowers. Bolsters stuffed with wool, cotton cloth, bark, grass or talipot leaves, and chairs and bedsteads covered with upholstered cushions to fit them were in use. For poorer people, there were mats made of grass and bedsteads made of laths of split bamboo.

For reclining their bodies people used lofty and large things such as large cushions, divans, coverlets with long fleece counterpanes of many colours, woollen coverlets, white or marked with thick flowers, mattresses, cotton coverlets dyed with figures of animals, ruga with long hair on one or both sides, carpets inwrought with gold or with silk, large woollen carpets with designs such as a nautch girl’s dance, couches covered with canopies or with crimson cushions at both ends. There were also rich elephant housings and horse-rugs or carriage-rugs. Sheep-skins, goat-skins, and deer-skins were used as coverlets, and fine skins, such as those of lions, tigers, panthers or antelopes, were either used for reclining upon or cut into pieces and spread inside or outside the couches and chairs. We also hear of sun-shades, mosquito-curtains, filters for straining water, mosquito-fans, flower-stands, and fly-whisks (ch�mara) made of tails of oxen and peacocks or of bark and grass.

Costly utensils were used such as bowls of various kinds made of beryl, crystal, gold, silver, copper, glass, tin, lead or bronze, and some of them were painted or set with jewels. Even circular supports of bowls were made of gold or silver. The increasingly large use of pottery vessels during this period is proved by archaeological excavations. The most remarkable is North Black Polished Ware which enjoyed the status of a de luxe ware of the period on account of its beauty and durability. Bowls and dishes of this ware have been found in a large number.


People amused themselves by participating in Samajjas (festival gatherings) which formed a regular feature of social life during this period. The J�takas inform us that the Samajj�s were special gatherings where crowds of men, women and children gathered together and witnessed various kinds of shows and performances, such as dancing and music, combats of elephants, horses and rams, bouts with quarter-staff and wrestling.502 The Jaina s�tra inform us that festive entertainments were characterised by feasting, drinking and amorous acts.503

Though the festive assemblies at this time were mostly secular, some of them were no doubt religious in nature. The centres of these festivals were the cities and towns where people gathered from the neighbouring villages to enjoy themselves. On the occasion of a festival the cities were decorated, displaying great pump and show. Generally these were organized by the kings themselves who went on elephants round the city in solemn processions. The beauty of the festivals lay in the nocturnal decorations when people in their fine and colourful garments came out of their houses to enjoy and entertain themselves. On the occasion of some festivals, people were given holidays. Some festivals lasted for seven days while some continued even for a month.

The Ch�turm�syas were old seasonal festivals. The ï¿½pastamb-G�ihya-S�tra504 tells us that there were three Ch�turm�syafestivals, each celebrated at an interval of four months, which indicated the advent of the three seasons, spring, rainy, and winter. They were celebrated on the full-moon days of Ph�lguna, of ï¿½sh��ha, and of K�rttika.

Jaina and Buddhist texts mention various other festivities. The Ch�turm�sya festival of the month of K�rttika was known as the Kaumudi or the Kattik�. On the day of Kaumud�mahotsava, men and women came out of their houses after sunset, and spent the whole night in wanton merriment.505 In the S�ma��aphala Sutta of the Digha-Nik�ya,506 king Aj�ta�atru of Magadha is described on the Kaumud� night as sitting on the upper terrace of his palace, surrounded by his ministers. The Sa�jiva-J�taka507 tells us that when Aj�ta�atru was the king of Magadha, the city of R�jag�iha was so lavishly decorated on the Kattik� festival days that it looked like a veritable city of gods.

The name of a festival Sur�-Nakkhata dedicated only to drinking points out that drinking was so much in vogue that people thought it necessary to organise festivals in honour of a popular habit. A drinking festival at R�jag�iha is mentioned in the Sig�la J�taka.508Another J�taka tells us of a drinking festival held at V�r��as�.509 The occasion was characterized by unrestricted enjoyment of drinking and dancing. Even ascetics, for whom drinking is strictly prohibited, were for a while led astray. Women also drank hard, danced, and sang in a large number.

The Hatthi-Ma�gala (Elephant Festival) was celebrated with a view to exhibiting the feats of elephants in a spectacular manner. The Susima J�taka510 describes this festival held annually in the royal courtyard. The chaplain of the king conducted the festival and was expected to know the three Vedas and the elephant-lore (Hatthisuttam). This festival was performed for the entertainment of the nobles and of those associated with royal dignity.

��labha�jik� festival was a popular festival during this period and a large number of people assembled on certain days in theS�la groves, plucked S�la flowers, sported, and spent the time in merry-making. The Avad�na�ataka511 gives a graphic account of this festival : �Once the Lord Buddha dwelt at �r�vast� in the Jetavana, the garden of An�thapi��ika. At that very time, the festival called ï¿½ï¿½labha�jik� was being celebrated at �r�vast�. Several hundred thousands of beings assembled there and, having gathered S�la blossoms, they played, made merry and roamed about.� The description of the ï¿½ï¿½labha�jik� festival celebrated in the Lumbini garden situated between the two towns, Kapilavatthu and Devadaha, has been given in the Nid�nakath�512 : �The whole of Lumbin� Grove was like a wood of variegated creepers, or the well-decorated banqueting hall of some mighty king. The queen beholding it was filled with the desire of disporting herself in the S�la grove; and the attendants entered the wood with the queen. When she came to the root of an auspicious S�la tree, she wanted to take hold of a branch of it. The branch, bending down, like a reed heated by steam, approached within reach of hand. Stretching out her hand, she took hold of the branch, and then her pains came upon her.� According to P��ini, this festival was peculiar to the eastern people.513

The people of R�jag�iha were very fond of festivals. In the Vinaya-Pi�aka, a festival celebrated at an elevated place at R�jag�iha is described as Girajjasamajja. That it took place at the top of a hill, probably a sacred place, points to the religious nature of the gathering. From the Visuddhimagga514 we learn that there was a festival at R�jag�iha in which five hundred virgins (Kum�ris) offered Mah�kassapa there a kind of cake which he accepted. There used to be held at R�jag�iha a festival known as the Nakkhattakilam (the spot of the stars) in which the rich took part. This festival lasted for a week.515 Chha�a and Sabbarttiv�ro were the most important festivals in which the Lichchhav�s of Vai��l� spent the whole night in merry-making.516

There was a ploughing festival which has been described in the K�ma-J�taka.517 It is said that on that day the king held the plough. Most probably the first ploughing at the beginning of the rains was observed as a sacred day and celebrated as a festival. In addition to these important festivals, there were other minor ones celebrated in honour of gods like Skanda, Rudra, and Mukunda; there were festivals to propitiate Demons, Yakshas, and N�gas : there were festivals to honour shrines and tombs, and there were festivals to worship trees, cows, wells, tanks, ponds, rivers, lakes, seas, and mines.518

Some household ceremonies too were celebrated with great rejoicings. Av�ha was celebrated before wedding when betel leaves etc. were served; viv�ha was the wedding ceremony;519 ï¿½hena was held at the time of the bride entering the bridegroom’s house; pahena was celebrated when she returned to her father’s house. Then hi�gola was celebrated in honour of the deceased person or a yaksha; in pi��anigara, food was offered to fathers. Then sammela or go��h� was a social gathering in which the relatives and friends assembled.520 According to the Jaina tradition it was king Bimbis�ra who first promulgated this feast.

Besides participating in festivals, people amused themselves in different ways. They took keen interest in singing and dancing. King Udayana of Kau��mb� was a great musician who by his music could control elephants run amuch. He was asked by king Pradyota of Avant� to teach music to the princess V�savadatt�.521 A court-musician named Pa�cha�ikha of Sakka is known to have pleased the Buddha by his music.522 It seems that singing and dancing played an important part in �j�vika religious practices. The �j�vika scriptures namely two Maggas (paths) are said by Abhayadeva to have been those of song and dance.523 Possibly the �j�vika in their�j�vika-sabh� gathered together for ecstatic religious singing and dancing. �Wandering dancers and musicians�524 gave additional pleasure to the people by showing the skill. There were drummers and conch-blowers525 to entertain them.

The gatherings of religious preachers and learned philosophers526 certainly soothed their hearts and quenched their mental thirst. Besides, dramatic performances were also quite popular, and they might have been an important source of recreation. Painting527 and embroidery,528apart from proving sources of income, must also have charmed the people. The manufacture of clay figurines of both human and animal forms was an object of amusement for children. The performance of jugglers529 and snake-charmers (ahigu��hika)530 gave them special delight. As long as the festivities lasted, the youths had the pleasure of enjoying the company of the nagara�obhin�s.531

Parks and gardens with diverse flowers and fruits were also the places where people used to visit for recreation. The existence of several beautiful tanks532 and the nearness of rivers must have facilitated them in cultivating the habit of taking interest in swimming and sailing. There were forests where they took special delight in hunting animals and birds. Chariot-races, archery matches, wrestling, cock-and-peacock fights, and combats of buffaloes, bulls, horses and elephants533 were the noteworthy pastimes of the people.


The period of Lord Mah�v�ra was epoch-making in economic history because of the numerous important changes that occurred in it. States well organised came into existence for the first time, leading to the establishment of peace and order. As a result, this period witnessed an allround development of agriculture, industry and trade. The increased use of iron for different purposes resulted in the surplus of wealth and prosperity. Many new arts and crafts came into existence, and they became localised and hereditary. Both trade and industries were organized into guilds. The coined money was introduced, which facilitated trade and commerce. The merchants became very prosperous and a number of cities and towns came into existence. Population increased by leaps and bounds on account of better means of subsistence and living condition.


(i) Village

Rural economy had its centre in the gr�ma or village, a collection of g�ihas (houses) and kulas (families) numbering from 30 to 1000. It was closed by a wall or stockade provided with gates.534 Beyond this enclosure lay the arable land of the village, the gr�ma-kshetra, which was protected by fences535 and field watchmen536 against pests like birds and beasts. This land was divided into separate holdings cut off from one another by ditches dug for co-operative irrigation.537 Usually these holdings were small enough to be cultivated by their owners and families with the help of hired labour, if necessary.538

Large holdings were not unknown. We read of estates of 1000 Karisas (probably acres) and more, farmed by Br�hma�as.539 In the Suttas, again, the Br�hma�a K���bh�radv�ja employed 500 ploughs and hired men (bhatik�)540 to drive his plough and oxen.541

The rural economy at this time was based chiefly on a system of village communities of landowners. There was no such proprietary right as against the community. We hear of no instance of a shareholder selling or mortgaging his share of the village-field to an outsider; and it was impossible for him to do so at least without the consent of the village council. Nor had any individual the right of bequest, even to the extent of deciding the shares of his own family. No individual could acquire either by purchase or inheritance any exclusive right in any portion of the common grassland or woodland. The king granted not the land, but the tithe due, by custom to the government as yearly tax.

Adjoining the arable land of the village lay the grazing pastures542 of herds of cattle543 and goats,544 ï¿½ herd belonging to the king545 or commoners.546 Commoners customarily entrusted their flocks to a communal neatherd called Gop�laka whose duty was to pen up the flocks at night or to return them to their owners by counting heads. Besides pastures, villages had their suburban groves like the Veluvana of king Bimbis�ra at R�jag�iha, A�janavana of S�keta, or Jetavana of �r�vast�.

(ii) Different types of villages

G�ma,547 G�maka,548 Dv�rag�ma,549 and Pachchantag�ma550 mentioned in P�li literature seem to be different types of villages. The G�ma and the G�maka were probably the ordinary village and the hamlet respectively, the difference being only in size. The Nigama was probably a busy market village, distinct from the quiet agricultural one. The Dv�rag�mas were situated at the gates of cities, and probably were suburbs, most of them being industrial villages. The Pachchantag�ma was located at the border of the kingdom. Owing to border invasions, the economic condition of such villages always remained unstable.

Several industrial villages, exclusively inhabited by men of the same craft, came into existence during this period. Such villages were those of carpenters,551 smiths,552 weavers,553 and so on. Another feature of some of the villages was that they were peopled by the men of the same caste. Such caste villages were Br�hma�agr�ma named after the Br�hma�as,554 Kshatriyagr�ma555 after the Kshatriyas,Baniyagr�ma556 after the Vai�yas, Cha���lag�ma557 after the Cha���las, and Nes�dag�ma558 after the Nes�das. There were also villages of park-keepers (�r�mikag�ma)559 and robbers (Chorag�maka).560 Thus the economic factor of specialisation of labour was responsible for the localisation of various industries at separate villages and for the grouping of the people of the same profession and caste. The number of such villages, however, was small. Most of the villages had the mixed population of persons of different castes, occupations and trade, following their own professions.

These villages can be classified into two categories � the agriculture villages and the industrial ones. In the agricultural villages, the main occupation of the people was agriculture. With the growth and development of industries, there came into existence the industrial towns where the craftsmen migrated to pursue their crafts. It seems that the Dv�rag�mas, which supplied the needs of the cities, were industrial towns. Such expressions as Dv�rag�mav�si Va��haki,561 Dv�rag�mav�s� Kumbhak�ra,562 etc., probably refer to the inhabitants of such villages. The Uv�sagadas�o tells us of a village of 500 potters outside the city of Pol�sapura.563

(iii) Agriculture

(a) Methods : Agriculture was the main source of people’s livelihood. It made further progress during this period with the methods of cultivation becoming more perfect than those of the Vedic period. Vast areas were brought under cultivation. New devices were introduced for the irrigation of agricultural land. The literary sources of this period make references to the ploughing and fencing of the fields, irrigating them, sowing the seeds, getting the weeds pulled up, reaping the harvest, arranging the crops in bundles, getting them trodden, picking of the straw, removing the chaff, winnowing and garnering of the harvest as the various successive stages of the agricultural process.564

For the purpose of cultivation, big ploughs were also used.565 At some places, the land was ploughed with hundreds and thousands of ploughshares. We read of the g�h�vai ï¿½nanda who limited the cultivable land to five hundred ploughshares, each one ploughing one hundred acres (niyatta�a) of land.566 The ploughing of land and harvesting of crops became easy with iron sickles and hoes which began to be used.

(b) Crops : Some new crops seem to have been discovered during this period, crops which are conspicuously absent from Vedic literature. Vihi and Ta��ula are the terms used for rice in the P�li Nik�yas567 and the J�takas568 which probably denote its different varieties. In the Jaina canonical literature, Kalama��li,569 rakta��li, mah���li and gandha��li570 have been mentioned as different varieties of rice. Godh�ma (wheat), barley (Yava), and millet (Ka�gu) were also produced. Among pulses cultivated were grams(Kal�ya),571 beans (Mugga),572 pear  (M�sa),573 and Kolatthi.574 Among oil-seeds, castor oil seed (Era��a), sesame (Tila), and mustard oil-seeds were well known. The discovery of the cereals, namely, rice, wheat, and pulses in the excavations at Ter and Nevasa in the N.B.P. level, testifies that they were cultivated.

Among fibre-yielding plants, cotton (Kapp�sa) was the most important.575 Among other kinds of fabrics, silk (Kosseya), wool (u��iya), linen (khoma), and hemp (sa�a) may be mentioned. Probably indigo (guliya)576 and other chemical dyes were produced, for the mention of a variety of colours leads us to believe in their existence.

Among the spices mention is made of fresh ginger (si�gavera),577 dry ginger (su��ha), cloves (lava�ga), turmeric (haridr�), cumin (vesa�a), pepper (mariya), pippala (long pepper), and mustard (sarisavatthoga).578

Sugarcane (uchchhu) seems to have been a common crop. A sugarcane store-house (uchchhughara) is mentioned in Da�apura.579 The sugarcane press (Mahajanta Kolluka)580 is also mentioned, there were sheds for pressing sugarcane (jantas�la).581 Jantapila�a was an occupation specialising in crushing sugarcane, sesame, and other articles by machine.582 Pu��ravardhana was noted for sugarcane cultivation.583 Three varieties of sugar are mentioned, viz., Machcha��ik�puppottara, and  paumuttara.584 Gourds were grown585 and were used by the ascetics.586

Betel (t�mb�la)587 and arecanut (p�yaphali)588 were known. Vegetables called ï¿½ï¿½ka and m�la were grown in addition to vrinjal, cucumber, radish, p�la�ka (mod. p�lak), karella  (mod. Keret�), rubwe eoora (�luga), water-nut ���atala, (mod. si�gh���), onion, garlic, and gourd. Vegetable-gardens (kachchha) were known where radish, cucumber, etc., were grown.589 Among flowers, most important are navam�lik�, koran�aka, bandhuj�vaka, ka�era, j�ti, mogara, y�thik�, mallik�, v�sant�, m�igadantik�, champaka, kunda, and others.590 Among fruits mention may be made of mango, fig, plantain, date, wood-apple, citron, bread-fruit, pomegranate, grapes, cocoanut, and others.591 Ko��aka was a drying place for fruits; people used to gather fruits from jungles and store them at this place; they carried them in waggons, bundles  etc. to cities for sale. Among the miscellaneous products of this period mention may be made of saffron (ku�kuma), camphor (kapp�ra), lac, sandal,592 honey (mahu), and others.

For protection of the standing crops from animals and birds, various steps were taken by the farmers. They dug pitfalls around the fields, fixed stakes, set stonetraps, and planted snares.593 They also guarded the fields by fences and placards.594 Wealthy cultivators kept watchmen who guarded their fields day and night.595

Crops were also damaged by natural calamities like drought and flood.596 Their references are found in many a literary work. Famines are known to have broken out in the countries of Uttar�patha,597 Ko�ala,598 and Dakkhi��vaha.599 P��al�putra,600Ka�chanapura,601 and Sr�vast� suffered considerable loss due to floods.

Arrangements were made for irrigating the fields by drawing water from tanks and wells, the remains of which have been discovered in the archaeological excavations conducted at Ujjain, Vai��l�, etc. There were engineers who constructed canals for watering the fields.602The ��kyas and the Koliyas had made a dam on the river Rohi��,603 an example which might have been followed by others elsewhere too.

Agriculture depended upon cattle comprising cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, asses, camels, pigs, and dogs. The possession of these animals meant a sort of wealth for the people. In fact, cattle-rearing was one of their main occupations. The pasture grounds were known as gochara. During the day time, cattle were taken out to the grazing-land by the cowherds (Gop�lakas) and returned by the evening to the people.

There were large cow-pens (goma��ava) where the herds of cows, bulls, and calves were kept. Cattle-lifters (k��agg�ha) often went to the cow-pen and robbed the cattle at night.604 Quarrels among cowherds are frequently referred to. Cows were often attacked and devoured by lions and tigers in the jungle.605

Dairy farming was in an advanced state and the supply of milk, and its four products (gorasa), viz., curds, buttermilk, butter, and ghee, were abundant. People, therefore, could get highly nutritious food. References to the milk of cow, buffalo, camel, goat, and sheep are often met with,606 Khiraghara was known as a place where milk products were available in plenty,607 Bullocks were used for pulling the plough. The cattle were also utilized for the production of hide, bones, ivory nails, and hair.608 Slaughter-houses were known. A slaughter-house where five hundred buffaloes were slaughtered every day has been mentioned.609

Flocks of sheep and goats were confined in an enclosure (v��aga).610 They were utilized for woolproduction. Brooms (rayahara�a)and blankets were made of sheep wool.611 People used to kill sheep and eat their flesh seasoned with salt, oil and pepper.612 Mention is made of a young ram which was fed on rice and grass till it was fattened and killed on the arrival of the guest.613 Veterinary science also flourished.614


Near the village and town, forest tracts were located. A forest (a�av�) of eighteen yojanas is said to have existed near R�yagiha.615Many species of trees covered with fruits and flowers have also been mentioned : nimba, �mra, jambu, ��la, a�kola, bakula, pal��a, putra�jana, bibhitaka, �i��ap�, �ripar�i, a�oka ti��uka kapittha, m�tuli�ga, bilva, �malaga, pha�asa, d��ima, a�vattha, udumbara, va�a, nandi, tilaka, �irisha, saptopar�a, lodhra, chandana, arjuna, t�latam�la,and others.616

The trees provided people with wood for the supply of firewood and litter. Various kinds of bamboos, creepers, grass, medicinal herbs, and roots were found in plenty. Vanakamma is mentioned as the occupation of those who dealt in wood, an occupation which included the felling of trees. I�g�lakamma was another profession the followers of which prepared charcoal from firewood.617 There were wood-gatherers(Ka��hah�raga), leaf-gatherers (pattah�raga and grass-cutters (ta�ah�raga) whom we meet frequently roaming about in the forest.618

The forests also yielded other valuable animal products such as hides, skins, sinews, bones, teeth, horns, hoofs, and tails of such creatures as the leopard, tiger, lion, elephant, buffalo, yak, crocodile, tortoise, snake, and birds.


Arts and crafts made considerable progress during this period. The earlier industries continued to make progress, but there was a tendency towards specialization in different branches of the same industry. With the growth and development of urban life, some new arts and crafts also began to meet the needs. With the establishment of big kingdoms, military needs also increased. Wide use of metal further increased the efficiency of several industries.


Next to agriculture, spinning and weaving should be regarded as most important. References to the weaver (tantuv�ya),619 the loom(tanta),620 weaving appliances (tantabha��a),621 and weaving sheds622 (tantuv�ya��l�) in literary works suggest that weaving was fairly common in society. There were various textile fabrics such as linen (Khoma�), cotton (Kapp�sikam), silk (kosseyam), wool(Kambalam), and hemp (s��am) out of which threads were spun and woven into cloth of various varieties and qualities.622

There are references to what is called the K��� clothes which are said to be very fine.623 It is likely that other cities such are �r�vast�, Kau��mb�, R�jag�iha, Champ�, Vai��l�, Kusin�r�, and Mithil� manufactured plenty of textile goods of high quality both for domestic as well as foreign market.

Textile goods manufactured in those cities were of numerous varieties. Various kinds of garments, blankets, and curtains were among the finished goods. Costly and dainty fabrics of silk and gur are said to have been worked out into rugs, blankets, cushions, coverlets, and carpets.624 The J�takas tell us that embroidered clothes were also manufactured. Kings put on turbans worked with gold.625 State elephants were aborned with golden clothes.626 Various kinds of garments, blankets and curtains were among the finished goods of the period.

Then there was also the washing and dyeing industry. Washermen formed one of the eighteen corporations and soda (Sajjiy�kh�ra)was one of their washing materials. Mention must also be made of the existence of laundries (rayagas�l�).627 Clothes such as towels were dyed in saffron.628 Clothes dyed in red colour (k�s�i) were worn in hot weather.629


Carpentry, which was one of the important occupations during this period, made great strides. Prior to the development of stone-architecture, wooden architecture was common. Carpenters were employed for building houses, palaces, halls and staircases. Next to house-building, they built ships, boats, vehicles of all sorts, carts and chariots of different kinds, and various machines. They made furniture for houses, such as seats, chairs, bed-steads, pegs, boxes, and toys. Wooden Sandals (p�daleha�iy�) were made by clever artists from the wood of various trees,630 were set with vai�urya and excellent rish�a and a�jana (granite) and then ornamented with glittering and precious stones.631 Axe, hatchet, and other implements were known as the tools of a carpenter.632


With the rise of cities and towns, the house-building activity greatly increased. For building a house the services of different artists were required. Among them, the architect was the foremost and indispensable. He was skilled in divining good sites633 and was well grounded in the science of constructing houses. Masons who worked with bricks (I��hakava��haki)634 and clod-hoppers (Gahapatisippak�ra)635were also required for the construction of buildings. Apart from wooden structures, houses were built of bricks and mud. Probably such houses were of durable nature. Most probably houses of bricks and mud had wooden ceilings and roofs.

In the J�takas, the stone-cutter (P�sh��ako��aka)636 also figures as taking part in house-building. There is no direct evidence of stone architecture prior to the Mauryan age and the J�takas in this respect may be regarded as referring to the Mauryan and post-Mauryan periods. Stone was used for laying the foundations of buildings in the pre-Mauryan age, but whether it was cut into specific sizes is doubtful.

The J�taka description of the construction and decoration of a play-hall637 suggests that the practice of decorating the walls of buildings with various paintings was in vogue. It was the painter Chittak�ra who gave the finishing touch to the work of the architect, the carpenter, and the stonecutter. He probably painted frescoes on the clay and wooden walls after they were plastered.


Mining was an important industry at this time. The principal kinds of ores obtained from the mines were iron, copper, tin, lead, silver, gold and diamond.638 Iron and other metals were obtained by fusion.639 Besides metals, there were also several substances, such as salt (lo�a),Soda (�sa), yellow orpiment (hariy�la), vermilion (hi�gulaya), arsenic (ma�asila), mercury (s�saga) and antimony (A�jana).640


The economy of this period is marked by the widespread use of iron. The blacksmith (Kamm�ra) occupied an important position among the artisans. In literary works, we find mention of smith-shops (Kamm�ras�l� : aggikamma).641 Iron furnaces (ayako��ha) are referred to and it is said that they were filled with ore, and a man handled it with tongs (sa��as�), then it was taken out and put on the anvil (ahikara�i).642 The existence of the villages of the blacksmiths consisting of a thousand families suggests that this craft was in a flourishing condition.643

The discovery of different types of iron objects from the post-chalcolithic and pre-N.P. levels in the excavations at Ujjain, Nagda, Eran etc. confirms the wide popularity of iron to which the literary works of this period testify. Ujjain has yielded evidence of the existence of a kind of furnace meant for melting iron.644 Both from the literary and archaeological evidences, it is clear that iron was used for several purposes. Tools  and implements of warfare, such as daggers, knives, swords, arrow-heads, spear-heads, spikes and caltrops, were manufactured. Looking at the military needs of the time, production of war material must have been a large-scale industry that absorbed a number of blacksmiths. Articles of domestic use comprised blades, hooks, nails, chisels, drills, axes, lamps, ladles, bowls and rings. Iron had also penetrated into the sphere of agriculture in the form of hoes, choppers, hooks and sickles. The limitless potentialities of this new metal led to the quickening and expansion of agriculture, the utilization of forest wealth and the exploitation of mineral resources. It resulted in a surplus of wealth and prosperity. In the wake of the popularity of iron, use of copper became restricted. It was now used in the production of punchmarked and cast coins and also for manufacturing antimony rods, toys, rings, and beads.


Because of great general prosperity, the industry of precious metals made its mark. The goldsmiths (swar�ak�ras) and ma�ik�rashad a flourishing trade, Kum�ranandi is mentioned as a rich goldsmith of Champ�.645 Musiyad�raya was another goldsmith (Kal�ya) of Teyalipura.646 Gold was first collected in the form of an ore metal; it was then refined and afterwards used for making ornaments. Both men and women were fond of wearing ornaments. The Buddhist, Jaina and Brahmanical sources reveal that several types of ornaments for different parts of the body were made out of such metals as gold and silver. We find allusions to Pat�ik�, muddik� (ring), vallik� orku��ala (ear-ring), Key�ra or Graiveyaka (necklace), Suvar�am�l� or K��chanam�l� (golden chain), P�ma�ga(ear-drop), ovattik� (bangles) Hattharana (bracelet), mekhal� (waist-band), etc.647

Not only men and women but even elephants and horses were adorned with ornaments. The elephant wore neck-ornaments made of various gems and jewels and an upper garment. The horses were adorned with small mirrors (th�saga) on their waists and chowries.648May�r��gach�lik�s are referred to as ornaments of cows.649 The Sa�yutta-Nik�ya650 and the J�takas651 inform us that elephants, horses, chariots, etc., were decorated with golden ornaments (Sava���lak�ara), golden banners (Suva��adhaja),golden network (Hemaj�lapatichihh�dana) and the like.

The kings and nobles used golden bowls in which they ate and drank. The chair, bed-steads, thrones, and royal cars used by kings were inlaid with gold.652 Golden vases (bhi�g�ra) were not unknown. Silver (rajata) was used frequently for preparing household utensils.653


In Jaina literature, we find references to many precious stones, jewels, pearls, conches, corals, rubies,654 gomedaya (zircon), ruchaka, a�ka, spha�ika (quartz), lohit�ksha, marakara (emerald), mas�ragella, bhujagamochaka (serpentine), indran�la (sapphire),ha�sagarbha (a variety of rock-crystal), pulaka, saugandhika, (a ruby), chandraprabh�, vai��rya (cat’s eye), jalak�nta orchandrak�nta (moon-stone) and S�ryak�nta655 (sun-stone). Buddhist literature refers to mukt� (pearls), ma�i (crystal), beluriya(beryl), bhaddaka (luck-stone), sa�kha, sil�, pav�la (coral), lohita�ka (ruby), and mas�ragala which were obtained from the ocean.656 Most of the jems and precious stones mentioned above were used for making ornaments657 and inlaid work. The art of skilfully cutting precious stones and giving them various shapes was known. Nanda is mentioned as a rich jeweller of R�yagiha.658Bha���g�ra was known as a treasure-house where no less than sixteen kinds of jewels were preserved.659 We also hear of ten expert stringers (muttis).660


Ivory work (dantav��ijja) was also a well-known industry, and ivory workers were mentioned among important artisans (�ilpa-�rya). Some of the cities having separate quarters for the ivory-workers became the centres of this industry. These ivory-workers made bangles, trinkets, and articles of diverse forms.661 Costly carvings, ornaments, handles for mirrors, and inlaying of royal chariots were made by them.662 An instrument resembling a saw (kakacha or kharakakacha) is known to have been used for shaping the ivory pieces.663 Ivory was obtained from the forests, either from dead elephants or from the living ones.664 This industry has probably given rise to a class of people whose occupation was to collect elephant tusks from the forests.


Garland-making and perfumery were practised because flowers were grown in large quantities. The garland-makers made beautiful garlands and bouquets.665 Apart from being objects of daily consumption, these garlands were in special demand on the occasion of marriages and festivals. There was a garland-maker named Ajju�aya who had a flower garden (pupph�r�ma) in R�yagiha where flowers of different shades and colours were grown.666

The perfumer (gandhaka) used to manufacture several kinds of perfumes from various materials. His shop, known as gandhiya��l�, was also common in those times.667 The Mah�vagga refers to sandalwood, Tagara, black Anus�ri, K�liya, and Bhadramuktaka which were used for perfuming ointments.668 The Nik�yas refer to scents produced from roots (M�lagandha), s�ra, flowers (Papphagadha),Phegu, Tacha, Papa�i, fruits (phalagandha), leaves (pattagandha), and juice (rasagandha).669 Among flowers from which perfumes were produced were Vassika, Mallik�, lotus and Piya�gu,670 Agara, Tagara, and other flowers were also used for perfuming.


Literary as well as archaeological sources reveal that pottery was in a flourishing condition. The most important ware of this period is North Black Polished Ware. Smoothness and lustre are the characteristics of this pottery. It originated in the Indo-gangetic plains where much has been found in the excavations.

The J�takas tell us that there existed potters’ villages where various types of bowls, jars, and vessels of all types were made.671 Like weavers and blacksmiths, the potters also found favour with the Jaina ï¿½rama�as who frequently took shelter in their shops. Sadd�laputta is mentioned as a well-known potter of Pol�sapura who owned five hundred shops outside the city, shops where a number of servants were employed.672 H�l�hal� was another rich potter woman of �r�vast� in whose shop Go��la stayed.673

The usual way of making wares was this : lumps of clay (ma��iy�) were kneaded with water and mixed with ashes (ch�ra) and dung (karisa); the mixture was placed on a wheel (chakka) which was rotated in order to mould the mixture into various vessels. The wet vessels were then dried and baked. Besides the vessels, various types of toys were also produced.674 This is also confirmed from the finds of terracotta figures of various objects from the archaeological excavations at several sites.


From the Jaina and Buddhist sources, it is known that dyeing was the profession of Rajaka, both washerman and dyer, who dyed clothes after properly washing them. The Vinayapi�aka informs us that dyed clothes � blue, light yellow, crimson, brown, black, brownish yellow and dark yellow � were prohibited for the monks.675 This suggests that clothes of these colours were used by the laity. The J�takas mention garments, rugs, and curtains as dyed scarlet, orange, yellow, and red,676 and umbrellas as red.677 They also mention various colours such as white (seta), dark-blue (Nila), brown (Pi�gala), yellow (Halidda), golden (suva��a), silvery (rajatamaya), red (Ratta Indagopa), black (k�li), madder-like (Ma�je��ha),678 etc. It can be presumed that these colours were utilised for dyeing clothes.

The practice of dyeing clothes presupposes the existence of the industry of dye-making. Dyes were prepared from roots, trunks and barks of trees, leaves, flowers, and fruits.679 Dyes were first boiled in order to give a fast colour to clothes.680 Apart from dyeing clothes, dyes were needed for ladies who often painted their hands and feet.681


There were small industries of gums, drugs, and chemicals, all in a flourishing condition. The Mah�vagga mentions seven kinds of gums � Hi�guHi�gulakaSip�tikaTakaTakapattiTakapa��i, and Sajjulasa.682 Drugs and chemicals were made of various roots,683leaves,684 and fruits.685 For the mineral industry, acids were also produced.


From Jaina and Buddhist literatures, it is known that people earned their livelihood as sheep-butchers, pork-butchers, fowlers, hunters, and fishermen. This indicates that eating flesh was common in those days. This is further confirmed by the discovery of a large number of bones from different archaeological sites.

Hunting (miyavaha) is referred to in the Bhagavat�,686 there were regular hunters (migaluddhaya) whose occupation was to capture or kill the animals and earn their living by selling them. Hunting with hounds is also mentioned.687 Such hunters were called so�iya (�aunika), others who captured animals with the help of snares were known as V�gurika.688 Hunters were differentiated according to the animals or birds they used to catch or kill.689

The fowlers (sau�iya) are noticed with bow and arrow aiming at partridges, ducks, quails, pigeons, monkeys, and francoline partridges (kapi�jala).690 Birds were caught with hawks (vi�a�siya), trapped in nets (j�la), and captured with the help of bird-lime (leppa).691

Fishermen known as Machchhagh�takas and Keva�as caught fish with hooks (j�la) and in bow-net (maggaraj�la) and then cleaned and killed.692 There were colonies693 of fishermen who caught fish from rivers and sold them in the market.


Leather industry seems to have been in a fairly advanced condition. The cobbler, known as Chammak�ra or Padak�ra manufactured various types of leather goods, but shoemaking was his most important occupation. Shoes were made with skins of lion, tiger, panther, otter, cat, squirrel, and owl.694 Shoes and slippers could be blue, yellow, red, brown, black, orange, or yellowish.695 Sometimes they were set with gold696and wrought with various threads.697 Besides shoes, the cobbler also made leather socks,698 shields of hundred layers,699 and leather parachutes.700 He also seems to have been making ropes, sheaths and traps.701


The profession of a rasav��ijja or of a dealer in wine is also mentioned. The Jaina literature refers to the following varieties of wine : chandraprabh�, manisil�k�, varas�dhu, varav�ru��, �sava, madhu, meraka, rish��bh� or jambuphalakalik�, dugdhaj�ti, prasann�, tallaka (variant nellaka or mellaga), sut�u, kharj�ras�ra, m�idvik�s�ra, k�pi�yana, supakvaand ikshurasa.702 Most of the these wines were named after their colour and prepared from various fruits, flowers, and grains. Drinking wine seems to have been common in those days, and there were also wine-shops in the market.


Trade and commerce prospered greatly during this period owing mainly to plentiful production. Numerous crafs and industries sprang up for preparing manufactured goods. Facilities for transport and communication led to their proper distribution and utilisation. The beginning of coinage provided facilities for the exchange of goods.

In every village and town, there were markets with several shops (�pa�a). Arrows and carriages and articles for sale were displayed in the ï¿½pa�a703 or fixed shop or, it might be, stored within the antar�pa�a.704 Textile fabrics,705 groceries and oil,706 green groceries,707grain,708 perfumes and flowers,709 articles of gold and jewellery710 were among the items sold in the bazars. For the sale of liquors, there were taverns (p�n�g�ra�pa�a).711 Trade in strong drinks, poisons, flesh, daggers, and slaves was disapproved for those who cared for morals.712 The prices of goods were settled between the producer and merchant by haggling, competition, and custom.713 There were hawkers714 who earned their livelihood by retail trading. Local products were consumed in the villages and towns and the surplus, if any, was despatched to trade-centres in different parts of the country.


Many trade and industrial centres of this period are known. Champ� was an important industrial centre in those days. The N�y�dhammakah�715 describes the sea-faring merchants of Champ�, who loaded their waggons with various goods and proceeded to deep sea-harbours. Ji�ap�liya, Ji�arakkhiya,716 P�lita,717 and Dhana718 were famous merchants who dealt both in inland and foreign trade. R�jag�iha, Vai��l�, and Banaras were rich, happy and thriving commercial centres where wealthy merchants resided.

Ujje�� was another great centre of trade. During the reign of king Pradyota, nine great stores or emporiums are mentioned in Ujje��, where all sorts of goods, including diamonds, were available.719 Dhanavasu, a merchant of this place who left for Champ� with a caravan, was attacked by robbers.720 Ayala of this place loaded his boats with goods and journeyed to P�rasaula; he earned plenty of wealth there and anchored at Be���ya�a.721

Mathur� was another business centre. People lived here on trade, and there was, curiously enough, no cultivation of land in this town.722The merchants from Mathura used to go to the south on business.723 Sop�raya is described as another emporium of trade, a centre which was inhabited by five hundred tradesmen.724 Then there was Sura��ha725 which was joined with P���u Mathur� by sea.726 We hear of horse merchants arriving in B�ravai for trade.727 Vasantapura was another emporium whence traders used to journey ot Champ�.728 We hear of a merchant going from Khilpa��hiya to Vasantapura.729 Hattisisa was a commercial centre where a number of merchants resided. From here they journeyed to K�liyad�va where there were rich mines of gold, jewels, and diamonds and which was also noted for horses.730 A merchant named P�lita of Champ� went on business to the town of Pihu��a or Pithu��a a sea-coast town.731


With regard to inland trade, all we know is that there were several commodities that were exchanged. The sea-faring merchants of Champ� loaded their carts with four kinds of goods, viz., that which could be counted (ga�ima) such as betelnuts etc., balanced (dharima)such as sugar etc., measured (meya) such as ghee, rice, etc., and scrutinized (parichchhejja) such as cloth, jewel, etc.732 Gold and ivory were carried from Uttar�patha to Dakshi��patha for sale. Cloth seems to be an important exchangeable commodity. Mathur� and Vidi�� are mentioned as textile centres.733 The country of Ganda was famous for silken garments.734 Textile fabrics coming from the east to the country of L��a were sold at a higher price.735 T�malitti,736 Malaya,737 K�ka,738 Tosali,739 Sindhu,740 and Dakshi��patha741 were famous for various kinds of textile materials. Nepal was noted for fluffy blankets.742 Woollen blankets were sold at a high price in Mah�r�s�ra.743

The N�y�dhammakah� refers to various kinds of textile fabrics which were loaded in waggons and carried for sale.744 There was another important commodity that was exchanged in those days. K�liyap�va was known for beautiful horses, and it had mines of silver, gold, jewels, and diamonds.745 Another name celebrated for horses746 is Kamboja. Uttar�patha was famous for thorough-bred horses.747D�lav�liy� was noted for mules.748 Pu��ra was known for black cows,749 Bhera��a for sugarcane,750 and Mah�himavanta for gos�sa sandal.


There was a network of routes not only connecting the important cities and towns through roads and water-ways within the country but also leading to foreign lands. R�jag�ha, Vai��l�, �r�vast�, V�r��as�, and Champ� were the important towns of Eastern India. From the account of the journeys made by Mah�v�ra and the Buddha, we know about the routes connecting these towns. These cities had trade transactions through land routes with distant lands like Gandh�ra, Kamboja, Sind and Kashmir. Not only merchants but also warriors and saints traversed these routes.

There were several minor routes in Eastern India connecting towns and cities. As R�jag�ha was the capital of Magadha at this time, it was connected with Kapilavastu, �r�vast�, Mithil�, Champ�, and Kali�ga by separate routes as is apparent from Buddhist literature. From the itinerary of Mah�v�ra also, it seems that R�jag�ha was linked separately with Ku��agr�ma, �labhiv�, �r�vast�, Vai��l�, and Champ�.751 Besides, there were three distant routes which started from R�jag�ha to far off places.


This route connected R�jag�ha with Takshasil� and Pushkal�vat� which were great trade centres of North-west India. Taksha�il� became an international trade centre because it is through this place that India established trade relations with the West. This route has been referred to as Uttar�patha by P��ini752 and was known to the Greeks as �Northern Route�. It seems to have passed through P��aliputra, V�r��as�, Kau��mb�, Mathur�, Indraprastha, and S�kala. From Pushkal�vat�, it probably branched off to Kashmir to the North-East and to Bactria to the North-West. It is only by this route that students from various parts of Eastern India, such as R�jag�iha,753 Vai��l�, Mithila,754 and V�r��as�, used to go to Taksha�il�, the famous seat of learning.


According to P��ini, this route was known as K�nt�rapatha755 because it passed through a forest region. It is the same as the above route (K�jag�iha-Pushkal�vat�) up to Kau��mb�, from where it passed through Vansahvaya, Vedisa, Gonaddha, Ujjeni, Mahissati, and then Pati��h�na.756 Caravans going to Bharukachchha passed through this route up to M�hishmat� from where they had to branch off to Bharukachchha.


This route led westward to Sind, the home of horses and asses, and to Sauv�ra and its ports, with its capital called Roruka. Upto Mathur�, this western route was the same as the R�jag�ha-Pushkal�vat� route, but there it branched off to the Sindhu region. It passed through the desert of Rajasthan.


For inland trade through roads, the chief modes of conveyance were carts drawn by oxen, horse carriages, litters and sedan chairs. The merchant �nanda had five fundred carts for distant traffic and the same number for local use. While the rich rode on elephants, the ordinary people employed camels, horses, and asses.


Keeping in view the difficulties met with by the traveller on these land routes, merchants used to travel in a caravan. After loading their carts and animals with goods, these merchants started their long journey with their captain called Setthav�ha, who gave them directions regarding halts, inns, routes, fords, and danger-spots. The J�takas757 inform us that the caravan had to face five major difficulties and dangers � robbers, wild beasts, draught, demons, and famine. The Sattav�has had to have ample and proper equipment for a safe journey. The journey through the desert was hard as well as interesting. The guide, who led the caravan through the desert, was known as theThalaniy�maka758 (desert pilot). Equipped with his knowledge of the stars, he led the caravan in the right  direction. The�va�yakach�r�i759 gives an account of how a caravan suffered in passing through the desert due to scarcity of water. The Vinaya texts also refer to caravan going from R�jag�iha to the west.760


Besides land routes, there were also river routes. The great rivers, such as Ga�g�, Yamun�, Saray�, �o�a, Ga��ak�, Kosi, and others, served the purpose of communication and transport. The famous riverports Champ�, P��al�putra, V�r��as�, and Ko��mb� were connected by waterways. These waterports were connected with trade centres on the land. Sometimes, the river routes were more convenient and less costly, and safer and quicker than roads. Because of these river routes, there must have been brisk inland trade. Ships, big boats, and small sailing boats were used for the purpose of navigation. Sometimes heavy objects such as pillars and logs were transported from one place to another.


From the literary sources of this period, it is clear that Indians were carrying on brisk oversea trade. The Therag�th� speaks of merchants sailing on sea with the hope of earning wealth.761 The J�taka stories tell us of several shipwrecks,762 specious ships763 ship-building activities,764 and of seafarers sailing to different countries for trade. The N�y�dhmmakah� gives a beautiful description of a sea voyage. Arhannaga and other merchants of Champ� loaded their boats with merchandise and proceeded on their journey. There is a description of a shipwreck caused by a terrible cyclone.765 The Baudh�yana-Dharmas�tra766 shows that navigation was peculiar to Br�hma�as of the North. The mention of various terms associated with navigation leaves no doubt about the practice of travelling far and wide during this period.767

The J�takas inform us that traders from the river-ports on the Ga�ga went to the eastern lands across the sea. The Sa�kha J�takadescribes the journey of the Br�hma�a Sa kha from V�r��as� to Suvar�abh�mi (Purma and portions of Indo-Chinese Peninsula).768 There are references to voyages from Champ� to Suvar�abh�mi. Prince Mah�janaka is said to have travelled in a ship with approximately 350 men and reached there.769 Traders from Vai��l� also seem to have been going to Suvar�abh�mi and other places for trade. The V�lahassa J�taka speaks of trade between V�r��as� and T�mbapa�nid�pa.770 It seems that these traders of V�r��as�, Champ�, and Vai��l� sailed to eastern lands with their ships carrying locally manufactured goods. Though only Suvar�abh�mi and T�mbapa��id�pa are mentioned, it can be assumed that trade was carried on with many other islands of the East Indies. The Mah�niddesa tells us that India’s trade to the East existed with K�lamukha, Suva��abh�mi, Vesu�ga, Ver�patha, Takkola, T�mali, T�mbapa��i, and J�v�. The first two of these places can be identified with Arakan coast and lower Burma. The next two correspond to Ptolemy’s Besyngeitai, Barbai, and Takkala.771 T�mali has been identified by SYLVAIN LEVI with T�mrali�ga in the Malaya Peninsula. The Apad�na states that traders from Malaya and China visited India.772

There is archaeological and literary evidence for a maritime trade between India and the western countries during this period. A beam of Indian cedar in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 B.C.) at Birs Nimrud has been found. In the second storey of the temple of the Moon-god at Ur, rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus, TAYLOR found two rough logs of wood, apparently teak imported into Babylonia from India.773 The Baveru-J�taka774 relates the adventures of certain Indian merchants who took the first peacock by sea to Babylon. J. KENNEDY,775 who worked on this subject concluded that maritime commerce between India and Babylon flourished in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., especially in the 6th century B.C. Writing on India’s ancient trade, Jackson has observed that the Buddhist J�takas and some of the Sanskrit law-books too tell us that ships from Bhroach and Sop�r� traded with Babylon from the eighth to the sixth century B.C.776

The Supp�raka J�taka777 says that a band of travellers sailed from the port of Bharukachchha and passed through six seas, under the leadership of a skilled mariner. The seas, thus mentioned, are Khutam�la, Aggim�la, Dadhim�la, N�lakusam�la, Nalam�la, and Balabh�mukha. These seas have been identified with the Persian gulf, the Arabian coast, Nubia on the North-East corner of Africa, the canal joining the Red sea and the Mediterranean, the Mediterranean and some portion of the Mediterranean. If this identification is correct it can be established that Indians possessed the knowledge of a sea-route from the West coast to the Mediterranean.778

In the D�gha Nik�ya, there is an explicit reference to ships sailing out of sight of land. Certain Indian commodities, e.g. rice, peacocks and sandal-wood, were known to the Greeks and others with their Indian names in the fifth century B.C. It follows that they were imported from the west coast of India into Babylon directly by sea.779

India’s trade relations with Persia during this period are known. Ayala is said to have loaded his boats (V�ha�a) with goods and journeyed from Ujje�� to P�rasaula (Persia); he earned plenty of wealth there and anchored at Be�n�ya�a. Persia was used to export various commodities, such as ï¿½a�kha, phopphala, chandana, agaru, ma�ji��ha silver, gold, jems, pearls, and corals.780Trade relations between India and Persia were normal because Gandh�ra (Northern Punjab) became a part of the dominions of the Persian emperors in the sixth or fifth century B.C., and the Indians paid tribute in gold to them. Herodotus also refers to the Indian contingent of Xerxes’ army clad in cotton garments and armed with cane bows and iron-tipped cane arrows.

The description in the Ceylonese chronicles781 of prince Vijaya’s voyage to Ceylon from Bengal with his 700 followers presupposes a regular sea trade and commercial intercourse. We read of traders coasting round India from Bharukachchha on the west to Suvar�abh�mi and touching on the way at a port in Ceylon.782 It is said that the sea-going merchants halted at Simhala d�va (Ceylon) in the middle of their journey.783

The head of the mariners (Niy�makas) was known as Niy�makaje�haka. He was probably the captain, the owner of the ship, and the leader of travellers voyaging with him. It was his great responsibility to pilot the ship efficiently and unerringly.

The merchants, who returned to their country with valuables, sometimes practised fraud in order to avoid payment of royal taxes. The R�yapase�iya refers to those who traded in a�ka jewel, conch-shells or ivory, and to those who, instead of taking the regular highway, always chose the most difficult routes in order to evade taxes.784 We hear of the king of Be���ya�a who detected the trick of a deceitful merchant and had him arrested.785

The chief articles of export from India were spices, perfumes, medicinal herbs, pigments, pearls, precious stones like diamond, sapphire, turquoise, and lapis lazuli, iron, steel, copper, sandalwood, animal skins, cotton cloth, silk yarn, muslin, indigo, ivory, procelain, and tortoise-shell. The principal imports were cloth, linen, perfumes, medicinal herbs, glass, tin, lead, pigments, precious stones, and coral.

Progress in the sphere of trade and commerce is reflected in the general economic condition of the people. We have several references to very rich merchant-millionaires of those days in literature. One of them, An�thapi��ika, is said to have purchased the Jetavana park for the Buddha by covering the whole surface of it with gold coins. �nanda from V��ijagr�ma, K�madeva from Champ�, S�radeva from Banaras, Sardalaputra from Pol�sapura, and Mahasataka from R�jag�iha were famous wealthy of the middle merchants who became followers of Mah�v�ra. The wealth of the middle classes appears from their dress, ornaments, houses, and furniture. There is no reference to extreme poverty or to paupers as a class. On the whole, people lived happily in peace and prosperity.


The most remarkable feature of the economic life during this period was that trade and industries were organized for the first time into guilds known as ï¿½re�is. These ï¿½re�is were the corporation of the people belonging to the same or different castes but following the same trade and industry. These guilds were autonomous bodies and their members managed their own affairs. There was little interference by the state in the affairs of the guild.

The Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Jaina sources make references to guilds. The Gautama Dharma S�tra786 mentions the guilds of cultivators, traders, herdsmen, and artisans. The J�takas787 refer to eighteen guilds which, though a conventional number, show the extensive character of the organisation. There are various branches of trade and industry which, together, considerably exceed the number eighteen. The guilds of woodworkers, the smiths, the leather-dressers, and the painters are specifically mentioned.788 In Jaina literary works, the guilds of goldsmiths,789 painters,790 and washermen791 are mentioned, and about the rest, we do not know much.


The J�takas throw some light on the organization and constitution of these guilds. These guilds were, to begin with, well organized under their respective chiefs called Pamukha or Je��haka, an officer who was something like an alderman or a president. Among such craft-guild chiefs, the names of Ba��akije��haka,792 M�l�k�raje��haka,793 and Kum�raje��haka794 are important. These chiefs might be important Ministers in attendance upon and in favour with the king. In the S�chi J�taka,795 there is a description ofKum�raje��haka, a favourite of the king’s.

There were also merchant-guilds under the chiefs called Se��his. Because of wealth, they got special status in society. They visited the royal court as representatives of the business community. One such chief was An�thapi��ika, who was the Mah�se��h�, the president of a commercial federation, with numerous Anuse��h�s under him.796 Different guilds also federated under a common president, called Bh����g�rika, to check their internal disunion. Such a Bh����g�rika was acting in the city of Banaras.797 He was expected to be conversant with the affairs of trade and business and with the working of the guilds.

These guilds were gradually converted into hereditary castes on the basis of occupation. In ordinary times, the sons pursued their paternal occupation. Besides, these guilds became localized in particular areas. They gave impetus to specialization and efficiency of labour. Villages inhabited almost exclusively by one type of craftsmen came into existence. There are references to the villages of smiths, potters, carpenters, saltmakers, etc. Even in towns, there was provision for separate quarters and suburbs for the members of each guild.

The guilds were autonomous bodies having their own laws. The corporate existence of guild was recognized by the state.798 Guilds exercised considerable control over the members.799 Probably the settlement of disputes among its members and the solution of the problems of trade and business fell under the jurisdiction of the guild. It could also settle the disputes between wives and husbands.800 That guild organizations were well-disciplined and maintained solidarity is suggested by a J�taka story which describes the shifting of 100 families of carpenters overnight.801

A guild worked for the welfare of its members, and it had a right to approach the king and demand justice. A painter was ordered to be executed by prince Malladinna; the guild of the painters visited the king, explained the matter, and requested him to quash the sentence passed against the member of its union. The king was pleased to commute the sentence into banishment.802 Then we hear of a washermen’s guild approching the king in order to demand justice.803

Some of the guilds probably carried on banking business too. In cities like R�jag�iha, �r�vast�, Vai��l� and others, where brisk trade and business were carried on, the guilds of �resh�hins might have been functioning as banking institutions. They accepted money from others on interest and invested it in trade or lent it on interest to smaller tradesmen.

Some of these guilds might have issued coins. The earliest coins known as the punchmarked coins started in about the seventh or sixth century B.C. It is probable that some of them might have been issued by these guilds even in the sixth century B.C., because it seems, there was no state monopoly of manufacturing and of issuing coins. That Taksha�il� merchant guilds minted coins is almost certain in the light of the evidence yielded by Negama coins.804

The members of these guilds sometimes carried on their business in partnership. Some J�takas, such as K��ava�ika J�taka,805B�veru J�taka,806 and Mah�va�ija J�taka,807 describe business partnership of merchants. This enabled the smaller traders to transact business on a fairly large scale. Such an undertaking was much useful for the land-trader (S�tthav�has) transacting business under a Je��haka.808 The traders of S�vatthi became partners and went to the west with a large caravan. Similar may have been the case with traders of R�jag�ha, Vai��l�, P��al�putra, and other centres of trade. The partners divided their earnings either equally or in proportion to their investments, or as agreed upon among themselves.

The exact nature of the relations between the guilds and the state is not known. The king used to recognise the guild laws and also consulted with the guilds on matters of mutual interest. There was probably a permanent representative of the guild at the royal court or in the Ministry. The Uruga J�taka809 tells as that two of the guild leaders were included among the Kosala Mah�m�tras. A blacksmith is calledR�jaballabha in one of the J�takas, which suggests his close association with the royal court. In some of the stories, kings are described as summoning all the guilds (Sabbase�iya) on certain occasions. Probably the Se��hi visited the royal court as a representative of the business community, and the same may have been the case with the heads of the guilds.


The most remarkable feature of this period is the introduction of regular coins in business transaction. The ancient system of barter and of reckoning values by cows or by grains was gradually replaced by coinage. Before the beginning of the regular currency, there were ingots of gold and other metals of calculated weight. We find transition from this stage to that of the coin proper, i.e., a piece of metal of recognized weight and fineness guaranteed by the stamp of authority.

The coins in use during this period are known as puchmarked coins and cast coins. The punchmarked coins were punched by a number of symbols successive by different punches. Sometimes the symbols overlapped one another and sometimes they were but partly accommodated on the flan. Insofar as the cast coins were concerned, the symbols were already carefully arranged and engraved on the die before they were struck on the bank.

Punchmarked coins were known at the time of their issue as K�rsh�pa�as ï¿½ a term by which they are referred to in the Tripi�aka, the J�taka, and the Ash��dhy�y� of P��ini, some of the Dharmas�tras810 and Jaina canonical literature.811

Several hoards of punchmarked coins have been found throughout India, some of them containing even pre-Mauryan currency. The larger Bhir Mound812 hoard of punchmarked coins at Taxila found in the second stratum contained two coins of Alexander the great and one of Philip Ariadeus which were in the mint condition, besides 1055 silver punch-marked coins. The stratification of this hoard and the mint condition of the coins of the two Greek rulers show that the hoard was buried not much later than 317 B.C. As some of these punchmarked coins of this hoard were old, blurred and indistinct, it may be assumed that they were used at least about two centuries earlier. The Paila hoard813 contained about 1245 coins. These coins belong to very early times. They were probably the currency of Pa�ch�la before the rise of the Mauryan empire. The Golakhpur814 hoard of 108 coins and the Ramna hoard815 of 48 coins have been assigned to the pre-Mauryan age by G.H.C. WALSH. 709 out of 2873 coins of the Patraha hoard816 and about one-third of the Machhuatoli hoard817 fall under the category of pre-Mauryan currency. Early punchmarked coins have been found at R�jag�iha.818

An analysis of the punchmarked coins found in different hoards helps us in postulating some rough tests to determine the chronology of some of these coins. It may be presumed that the larger and thinner punchmarked coins belong as a general rule to an earlier date than the smaller and thicker ones. D.D. KOSAMBI has shown that generally the number of reverse marks on the early coins increases with their age while their weight decreases correspondingly.

A six-armed symbol with three arrow heads and three ovals was found on the coins in the Golakhpur hoard. It has therefore been suggested with great probability that this particular variety of the six-armed symbol belongs to the pre-Mauryan age. On the coins of the Bhir Mound hoard, we find the symbols of the Sun, the six arms, a hill above a tank with two fish, and a peculiar symbol surrounded with five taurineess. The coins with these symbols were current just before the foundation of the Mauryan empire. Coins having a hare on a hill and a bull on a hill were widely current in northern India on the eve of the Mauryan empire, and may have been issued by the kings of the time of Bimbis�ra and some by the rulers of the Nanda dynasty.

The number of symbols on the obverse is generally five. On some coins, there is a sixth symbol, but it probably represents an authentication mark punched later; 19 coins in the Bhir Mound hoard (1924) had a sixth mark. One coin in the Patr�ha hoard had also a sixth mark. There are also some coins having four symbols. Such for instance is the case with the coins of the Paila hoard. The bent bar coins have only two symbols along with a third one which may have been added later. The obverve symbols on ardha-K�rsh�pa�as and p�da-K�rsh�pa�as were naturally fewer. The tiny m�shaka pieces could with difficulty accommodate only one symbol.

The reverse side, which was originally blank, began to be punched haphazardly at different times with a number of symbols. On the coins of the later period, their number is reduced to one or two, and they seem to have been impressed on a definite plan and probably at one time. The symbols on the reverse are generally smaller in size than those on the obverse. Some of them are square, some rectangular, some oblong, some polygonal, some elliptical, and some circular. Some coins have become cupshaped owing to the punching of a number of symbols on their thin flans. Some are of the shape of a bent bar.

The punchmarked coins are usually found in silver and copper. Silver pieces are more numerous than the copper ones. Gold K�rsh�pa�as may also have been issued like the silver and copper ones. Their non-discovery is not a decisive argument against their existence.

The vast majority of the silver punchmarked coins follow the standard of 16 m�shakas of 32 ratis. The average weight of well-preserved punchmarked coins is approximately 56 grains. In ancient Ko�ala, we have found a number of punchmarked coins weighing only about 42 to 43 grains. It is, therefore, clear that ancient Ko�ala was following lighter-weight standard of 12 m�shakas or about 42 grains. The province of Gandh�ra was issuing silver punchmarked coins known at present as Bent-bar coins and probably called ï¿½yat�k�ra K�rsh�pa�as in ancient times. The largest denomination coins of this series weigh about 175 grains. This weight is equal to that of 100 ratis or double sigloi of the Achaemenian standard.

Dvi-K�rsh�pa�as of this weight standard are also found. Large Ko�ala coins, which weigh about 79 or 80 grains, are most probably dvi-k�rsh�pa�a pieces of the 12 m�shaka standard. Ardha-K�rsh�pa�as are frequently referred to in the Tripi�akas, the J�takas, and in the grammatical works. Quarter K�rsh�pa�as were often known as p�das. The chaturm�shaka, Trim�shaka, Dvi-m�shaka, Eka-m�shaka, Ardha-m�shaka, and K�ka�ika were also known. To carry on daily transactions, currency of small denominations was also issued.


The reverse marks on the earlier coins occur haphazardly. Usually, the more worn out a coin is the larger is the number of its reverse marks. The principal marks on the obverse appeared not haphazardly, but they had a definite significance. The most common symbols are the Sun and six arms. It is quite possible that this Sun symbol had a mythological significance. Solar dynasties were ruling at Ayodhy� and in Videha. It is, therefore, not improbable that the Sun symbol was originally intended to denote the Solar origin of the dynasty of the issuer, and when once it had become popular, it may have been mechanically copied on the coinage of other dynasties as well. This is also the tone of the coins bearing an elephant and a bull as symbols.

The symbols had probably some conventional, local or religious significance. The bull may denote Vatsa dynasty of Ko��mb�. The hill and tank marks in their different varieties may be different places or region marks.

On most of the punchmarked coins, there are five symbols on the obverse which have occasioned a number of conjectures to explain them. Two of these symbols, the Sun and six-armed symbol, are constant and do not carry much significance. DURGA PRASAD had suggested that the third symbol probably changed with the king, the fourth with the year, and the fifth with the locality. According to D.D. KOSAMBI, they may refer to the names of the ruling king, his father, and his grandfather. It is equally possible that one of the symbols may have stood for the Governor, the other for the mint master and the third for the place or province of issue.

D.D. KOSAMBI has also suggested that the symbol of the hill may denote descent. Thus the peacock and the elephant on the hill would denote descent of the dynasty of the issuer from the peacock or elephant or gods, having them as their mounts. G.H.C. WALSH has suggested that all coins having elephants upon them may be taken to have been issued by kings as distinguished from those issued by Sa�ghas.Elephants are almost universally associated with royalty.


In early Buddhist literature, we find the prices of every vendible commodity mentioned, prices of a dead mouse too as well as fees, pensions, fines, loans, stored treasures and incomes stated in figures of a certain coin or its fractions.819 In most cases, prices given are fantastic and fabulous. Only a few references may be regarded as mentioning the actual market-price of certain commodities. It appears that articles of food were cheap. According to the Vinaya texts, a small quantity of ghee or oil could be bought for a Kah�pa�a only.820 Meat for a chameleon could be bought for a K�ki�� or an Addha-M�saka,821 and a fish cost only seven M�shakas.822 A jar of liquor was available for one M�shaka.823 It is further said that a M�shaka was sufficient for an ordinary wage-earner to buy a garland, perfume, and some strong drink.824

Animals of interior quality were cheap while those of superior quality were costly. A thoroughbred horse cost 1,000 Kah�pa�as825 a donkey only eight Kah�pa�as826 a pair of oxen 24 Kah�pa�as,827 a nice plump dog on Kah�pa�a, and a cloak828 and a dead mouse only one K�ki��.829 As far as the price of land is concerned, a monastic cell (vih�ra) could be purchased for 500Kah�pa�as.830 A play-hall for 600 boys constructed by voluntary labour is estimated to have cost 1,000 Kah�pa�as.831 We are told that a partridge could be bought for one K�h�va�a832 and a cow for fifty coins;833 the price of a blanket varied from 18 r�pakas to a hundred thousand r�pakas.834

There are numerous references that show how prices were determined by haggling.835 The act of exchange between the producer and dealer during this period was a free bargain, a transaction unregulated by any system of statute-fixed prices.836 There was no authority which could fix prices and force the traders to sell at the rate fixed. No doubt, there was an official of the state known as the court-valuer (Agghak�raka, Aggh�panaka, Aggh�panika)837 whose duty was to fix prices of the articles bought for the royal household, but he was not concerned with the whole society.


Like prices, we find generally exaggerated statements about fees and salaries, but a few references do appear to be authentic. Thus the Mah�vagga tells us that a courtesan’s fee for one night was 50 to 100 Kah�pa�as.838 A teacher’s honorarium for the whole course was probably 1,000 silver Kah�pa�a.839 A labourer earned only 11/2 M�shaka daily according to a J�taka story.840 There are references to show that the earning of the labourer was not sufficient enough to ensure him a happy life, and that he lived in stark penury and misery.841


Loans and debts could be taken on interest. There was a money-lender �nanda of V��ijyag�ma.842 Money lending was looked upon as an honest calling. Letters of credit as substitutes for money were known. It is noteworthy that the Gautamadharmas�tra843 prescribes a limit to the interest chargeable by the creditor. The lawful limit is 11/4% per month or 15% per year. The interest cannot exceed the principal howsoever long the debt may remain unpaid.844


Because of the rapid progress in the sphere of trade and commerce, weights and measures were properly maintained. P��in�845mentions them as ï¿½ï¿½haka, Achita, Patra, Dro�a, and Prastha. According to the Vasish�ha Dharmas�tra,846 right measurement is necessary and the king should arrange for it. False weights and measures were considered to be crimes. According to �pastamba,847 if any one uses wrong measure, he should not be invited to a ï¿½r�ddha. The Buddha says that if a person earns money by weighing less, he is a liar.848In the Mah�n�rada Kassapaj�taka,849 there is a reference to a Weighing House, Weights made of steatite and jasper of different denominations discovered in excavations at Eran, Vai��l� and Chirand also prove that commodities were weighed and sold.


It is somehow difficult to give a detailed account of art and architecture during the age of T�rtha�kara Mah�v�ra,  primarily because no sufficient specimen are surviving. It is not unlikely that being made of perishable materials like wood, they have vanished. It is also likely that some of them might still be lying buried under the soil. The noteworthy feature of this period is the revival of urban life and coming into existence of a number of towns, the remains of some of which have been excavated. Along with the urban life, several new arts and crafts started. This period is noteworthy also for the introduction of a new fabric in pottery known as the North Black Polished Ware. Many a literary work throws abundant light on the art and architecture of this period.


  1. Secular Architecture

(a) Town architecture

Even before T�rtha�kara Mah�v�ra, there were towns and cities during the period of the Indus Valley civilization. The traces of such towns have been discovered at Mohenjod�ro, Harapp�, R�par, �lamgirpur, Sarasvat� Valley in Rajasthan, Lothal, and Ra�gpur. Vedic literature offers evidence of the existence of such towns as �sand�vant,850 K�mp�la,851 Ayodhy�,852 and Ka���mb�.853 The word Pura denoting rampart, fort, or stronghold frequently occurs in Vedic literature.854 Deities like Indra andAgni are involved in destroying enemy’s forts,855 many of which were wide and broad and had ramparts of mud or unbaked bricks, probably also a stone facing.856 The word Deh�, referring to defences or ramparts of hardened earth with palisades and a ditch, occurs in theRigveda.857 A passage in the ï¿½atapatha Br�hma�a shows that the moat or ditch was also known in the period of this Br�hma�a.858

Archaeological excavations reveal that in about 1025 B.C., Kau��mb� developed as a town fully equipped for its protection by the magnificent defences built on the Harappan pattern. The discovery of Harappan site at �lamgirpur (District Meerut, U.P.) has established definite evidence of the penetration of the Harappan culture into the Ga�g�-Yamun� Doab. Similarly the fortification of Kau��mb� built after the Harappan pattern is obvious. A rampart of mud with sloping sides revetted with a burnt brick wall, battered back to about 30� to 40�, of which the coarses are laid in the so-called English bond, leaving footings in succesive courses, reinforced by bastions and towers, square in plan, are elements of construction strongly reminiscent of the Harappan citadel. The defences, built on this model, continued for some time, and they also made use of a curved entrance, enclosing an underground passage built on corbelled arch. In about 885 B.C., the concept of defence was revolutionized by the construction of a most round the rampart, a feature not yet recorded from any Harappan city.859

Literary works of the days of T�rtha�kara Mah�v�ra contain the names of the principal cities of India. Some Jaina canonical works860 refer to ten capital cities of India � R�yagiha, Champ�, Mahur�, V�r��as�, S�vatthi, S�keya, Kampilla, Ko��mb�, Mihil�, and Hatthin�ura. The Buddhist canon861 testifies to the existence in India of populous cities with large buildings long before the time of the Buddha. P��ini862 refers to some important towns of his time : K�pi��, Takasha�il�, Hastin�pura, ���k��ya and K���. T.W. RHYS DAVIDS gives a list of the principal cities existing in India in the seventh century B.C. : Ayojjha, Baranasi, (Benares), Champa, Kampilla, Kosambi, Madhura, Mithila, Rajagarha, Roruka, the capital of Sauv�ra, Sagala, Saseva, Savatthi, Ujjeni, and Vesali.863

The existence of these cities shows progress in the art of town-planning (Nagara-m�pana) and architecture (V�stuvidy�). From different literary sources of this period, it is known that a well laid-out city was equipped with a multitude of buildings, both for its defence and for the practical needs of residence and business. The fortification consisted of moat, parapet wall, and gateways, while the civil architecture had its residential buildings, business quarters (�pa�a), interested by streets (Sa�chara), royal store-houses (Kosh�h�g�ra and Bh����g�ra), king’s council-hall (R�jasabh�), and a number of other buildings comprised under the general term ï¿½ï¿½l�, e.g., places of dramatic performance, dancing, music, concerts and sports.

It is known from Jaina canonical literature that the city of Champ� was solidly built and hard to enter. Its moat (Phalih�) was broad on top and cut deep down; it had discs (Chakka), clubs (Gaya), maces (Musu��h�), barriers (Graha), war-machines (Sayagghi), and double doors (Jamalakav��a); it was surrounded by a wall (P�g�ra) bent in a curve like a bow, and decorated with cornices (Kavis�sa) arranged in circles; its bastions (A���laya), rampat paths (Chariya), door-ways (D�ra), gates (Gopura), and arches (Tora�a) were lofty, its high roads (R�yamagga) duly divided; its gate bars (Phaliha) and bolts (Indak�la) were strong and fashioned by skilful artificers.864

It is said that Mah�govinda planned the city of R�jag�iha and several other capitals of Northern India and that he also designed palaces.865 The city of Vai��l� was surrounded by three walls at a distance of a G�vuta from one another, each provided with gates and watch towers.866 It was rich in a variety of buildings, chaityas, and palaces of its 7707 chiefs.867 There were beautiful parks, gardens, and lotus ponds. The city has also been described as �opulent, prosperous and populous.�868 It looked �like the loka of �akra� in the magnificence of its appearance and the happiness of its inmates who had continual festivities.869 The city comprised three districts.870 The first district had 7,000 houses with golden towers; the middle one had 14,000 houses with silver towers, and the last district possessed 21,000 houses with copper towers. These houses were under the possession of the upper, the middle and the lower classes, according to their positions.871 Jaina traditions inform us that KshatriyasBr�hma�as, and va�iks occupied their respective Upanagaras in Vai��l�.872

The existence of some of these cities in the sixth century B.C. is confirmed even by the archaeological evidence. The planning of the city of Girivraja873 or R�jag�iha874 in the sixth century B.C. was the work of a genius. It is surrounded on all sides by hills and its surviving city walls and fortification still show the architectural standard reached during that period. These city walls were built in cyclopaean fashion, of massive unheaven blocks of stone pierced by gateways, each flanked on either side