Ancient Religions of India

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World Civilizations I. Golden Religions of India Beginning around 500 B.C.E three of India’s major religions emerged. Mahavira was the founder of the Jain religion. He taught his followers to live abstemious lives, avoid doing harm to any living thing and to renounce evil thoughts and actions. The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama (or the Buddha), similarly taught his followers a path to nirvana that involved avoiding violence and freeing themselves from desires. In response to both Jainism and Buddhism the religion of Hinduism evolved. The evolution of Hinduism stems mainly from a response by the Brahman caste to Jainism and Buddhism’s failure to acknowledge the caste system. Hindu traditions validated animal sacrifices and the caste system but stressed the individual’s relationships to the worship of personal deities and recognized the need for material gain and pleasure. India has a long standing tradition of religious acceptance. Even during the periods of conquest by the Mongols, Persians and Greeks religions of other nationalities were accepted and integrated into the fabric of Indian culture. India’s place along major trade routes made disallowing the influence of other political, social and ideological themes impossible and would have surely led to the demise of Indian society had they opposed. However despite all the external influence ancient and modern India has a unique culture, illustrated in the complexities of its many religions. Hinduism is often regarded as the oldest religion in the world, with roots tracing back to prehistoric times. Hinduism, as we recognize it now, evolved as a response to Jainism and Buddhism’s disregard for the caste system. We see the beginnings of Hinduism form around 1000 B.C.E. Ear...

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...he first to establish in 1884 the antiquity of Jainism as an independent and pre-Buddhistic religion on the basis of the data available from the Pali Canon. Buddhist scriptures record philosophical dialogues between Buddha and Udaka Ramaputta, and the first of several teachers that young Siddartha Gautama studied with before his enlightenment. Buddhist scriptures attest that some of the first Buddhists were in fact Jains who converted, but were encouraged by the Buddha to maintain their Jain identity and practices. The complexities, differences and similarities of these religions make religious tolerance in India a necessity. Though Hinduism is still the primary religion of modern India there are still those that practice Jainism and Buddhism; continuing the historic fight against the oppressive caste system of Hinduism.

Works Cited

History of World Societies

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