The Jaina and Buddhist Religious Organisations:

Although Samgha is not an indispensable part of the Jaina; religious organisation yet, the Jainas have innumerable monasteries.

Jainism is essentially a religion of the people who have forsaken the world, for, it was not possible to follow the tenets of the Jaina religion by the householders.

As such there had to be maths, viharas and sangharams that is, monasteries of various kinds for the Jainas.

The Jainas had to follow Chaturjama i.e. four kinds of self-control, such as non-violence, truth, non-stealing and non-attachment. Mahavira had added the vow of continence to these four-fold self- control. These five principles had to strictly followed by the Jaina monks and nuns in their speech, work and behaviour.


In the Buddhist religious organisation Samgha is an indispensable organ. The Buddhist recluses who renounced the world would live in Buddhist Samghas. But those who lived in the Samghas had to follow certain rules of conduct. At first they had to shave off their hair and take initiation from the Guru, weir saffron coloured dress and show greatest self-control in speech, behaviour and activities.

If they would satisfy their superiors in the hierarchy of the Buddhist monks they would be called Vikshus or Vikshunis that is, monks or nuns. It was obligatory for the Vikshus and Vikshunis to live in Samgha or monastery. They could receive food and drink, dress and medicines from their disciples among the house holders. The kings would also supply the daily requirements of the Buddhist monks and nuns within their respective kingdoms.

Strict discipline of conduct had to be observed within the Samgha or monastery. Twice every month, the monks would meet to judge the cases of transgressions on the part of the monks or nuns. The punishment would depend on the nature of the offence of the monk whose case would be adjudicated by the general body of the monks.

In administration of the Samgha democratic principles had to be strictly followed and decision had to be taken after consulting the entire body of the monks. To begin with there was no provision for the entry of nuns in Samgha. Later, however, the nuns were also admitted to Samghas. With spread of Buddhism all over India, a huge number of Samghas, Viharas and Chaityas were built.

Jaina and Buddhist Arts:

From the ancient times till the rise of the Muslim State in India art and architecture in different parts of India had developed under the influence of Buddhism. In sculpture and paintings also the influence of Buddhism was noticeable. In Bodhgaya, Sanchi, Bharut, Sarnath, Amaravati and many other places excellent proofs of the Buddhist art, architecture and sculpture still exist. Speciality of the Buddhist architecture is to be seen in monasteries, stupas, railings round the stupas, gates of monasteries and stupas etc.


The Sanchi Stupa, its railing and the gate are still in existence as best specimens of Buddhist art and architecture. The speciality of the Buddhist sculpture is that ornamental work on the walls of the stupas, railings, gates depict the events and incidents of the life of Buddha as well as the stories of the Jatakas. Gandhara, Amaravati, Mathura etc. were specially noted for Buddhist sculpture depicted in life-like statues of Buddha. In the sculpture at Gandhara a mixture of the Graeoo-Roman-Buddhist schools can be seen.

In the Buddhist Sutra-Sahitya description of cities of similar architectural features lead many to think that in those cities the Buddhist architectural methods were followed. In the Buddhist architecture use of stone, bricks and wood were made according to climatic conditions of different places. In Milindapanho and Megasthenes’ description, references to the influence of the Buddhist architecture on the buildings and palaces are found.

In the descrip­tion left by the Chinese travellers reference to the wooden Chaitya of 400 feet in height made by Kanishka at Peshwar is found. Caves cut out of standing rocks is another speciality of the Buddhist architecture. The caves in Barabar hills and in the Nagarjun Mountains may be referred to in this connection. Making of stone pillars with animal capitals had been another noteworthy character­istic of the Buddhist sculpture. Even after hundreds of years these pillar force our admiration.


The Buddhist art had also expressed itself in different kinds of paintings. The pleasure Hall of king Prasenjit was beautifully deoorated by wall paintings. This we have from the Benoy Pitaka. Buddhist art of painting was of three different kinds, such as, Lepya Chitra, LeKhya. Chitra and Dhudi Chitra.

Stupas, Maths and Viharas were also constructed under the influence of Jaina religion. But as Jainism did not receive the royal patronage as did Buddhism, the Jaina art and architecture did not develop to the extent that the Buddhist art and architecture did. There are, however, some specimens of Jaina art, architecture and sculpture in the caves of Udaigiri and Khandagiri in Orissa, Ellora Jaina temple, Jaina temples at Junagar and at Mount Abu. In painting on paper, the Jainas were the pioneers in India.

It may be mentioned here that the commercial and cultural relations that subsisted between India and Afghanistan, Central-Asia, China, Indo-China, Java, Sumatra and the Malayan archipelago in ancient times led to the spread of the Indian, particularly the Buddhist art and architecture as also sculpture in these regions.

Archaeological excavations in Kashgar, Khotan, Kucha, Turfan, Yarkhand etc. in Central Asia has brought to light many Indian temples, images of gods and goddesses and mural paintings of Indian origin. These were particularly of Buddhist origin. The Stupas, Viharas etc. in these areas were also constructed in imitation of the Buddhist architecture. The Gomati Vihara at Khotan was the finest specimen of Buddhist Vihara in Central Asia.

Buddhist Stupas and Maths were also constructed in China, Tibet, Ceylon, Indo-China and Sumatra. The Buddhist sages Kashyapa Matanga and Dharmaratna were invited by China to preach Buddhism there. A great Vihara named Sveta Asva Vihara was constructed for them. The Buddhist temple and the images of Buddha at Nanking were built after the Indian Buddhist architecture. In Tonkin as many as twenty Buddhist Biharas were constructed.

In Ceylon Asoka had sent Mahendra, his son according to some, and his brother according to others, for preaching Buddism, through which was spread the Buddhist art and architecture there. In Tibet, Burma, Sumatra, Java, Borneo etc. temples and images made in imitation of the Indian art and architecture are to be seen even now.

Importance of Jainism and Buddhism in the Indian History:

The simple and easy life which have been the basic character of the Indian society was particularly stressed by the Jaina and the Buddhist preachers. Formation of moral character, peace, charity and brotherhood were the essence of both the Jaina and Buddhist re­ligions. In place of extreme conservatism of caste-system, most com­plex system of Vedic religion both Jainism and Buddhism had preach­ed casteless, simple and most human type of religions.

Both Mahavira and Buddha had placed all men on the same footing of equality. True that the Buddhism had received greater patronage from the kings and emperors than Jainism did, yet from the point of view of basic truth and social ideal, both these religions had preached most liberal outlook of life. The Buddhist Samgha by doing away with caste-system had served as an asylum for many an unfortunate man and woman besides devout Buddhists.

Buddha’s religion drew in its fold both high and low, rich and poor. Bimbisara, king of Magadha, Prasenjit, king of Kosala, Ajatasatru, son of Bimbisara, middle class men like Sariputta, Moggalana and Anathpindada of the business community, low born people like Ananda and Upali, all were drawn within its fold by Buddhism.

Marching through the vicissitude of history, through rise and fall, Buddhism has lost its hold in the country, of its origin since long, yet the basic ideals of Buddhism, namely peace, charity and brother­hood, and the principle of live and let live, have not been lost in India.

Spread Jainism and Buddhism: Extinction of Buddhism in India:

Lack of royal patronage to Jainism as well as the extreme extension of non-violence etc. were mainly responsible for very limited spread of this religion in India. But compared to Buddhism the number of the followers of Jainism in India is quite large even today. It was mainly because the Jaina religion, gradually adjusted itself to Hinduism to some extent.

For instance the Hindu gods and goddesses were accepted by them. The result was that there did never develop any intolerance between Hinduism and Jainism. The reason why Jainism is existing side by side with Hinduism in different parts of India is this pragmatic adjustment. Today the number of the Jainas in India is a thousand times greater than that of the Buddhists.

Buddhism continued to exist as a local religion for a few centuries after the demise of Gautama Buddha. It was in the third century B.C. when Asoka extended his patronage to Buddhism and began to preach Buddhism both within India as well as to near and far off countries like Burma, Geylon, Sumatra, Egypt, Macedonia, Syria, Cyrene, Epirus etc. that Buddhism was made a world region from a local one. In the second century B. C. the Kushana king Kanishka, following the foot-steps of Asoka extended his patronage to Buddhism which spread into China, Tibet and Central Asia.

During the period from the time of Asoka till the Gupta rule, Buddhism had also spread in different parts of India. The Chinese traveller Fa- Hien testifies to the fact that during the rule of the Guptas the Indian society was deeply influenced by Buddhism. Even during the seventh century A D. the influence of Buddhism was largely seen on the Indian society and Buddhism received the patronage of Harshavardhana. Under the Palas of Bengal Buddhism received royal patronage and it was during that period that the Bengalee savant Atisa Dipankar was invited to Tibet to effect some reformation of Buddhism there.

Later on, however, Buddhism began to lose its grip on the people and society in India. The reasons behind this gradual loss of appeal of Buddhism with the Indians were, first, the Buddhist religion had spread due to the royal patronage. In later times when it lost this patronage it naturally began to lose its appeal with the people. After all, in those days the religion of the king was more or less the religion of the people.

Secondly, with gradual growth of Tantrikism in Buddhist religion as well as formal worship of the image of Buddha in imitation of the Hindu worship, it became easier for Hinduism to bring back the Buddhists within the Hindu fold.

Thirdly, Sankaracharya, Kumaril Bhatta etc. had brought about a Hindu revival which the decadent Buddhism could not resist.

Lastly, the greatest blow to the decadent Buddhism was dealt by the Turkish invasion. As a result of the Turkish invasion whatever remained of Buddhism in India became extinct. The conservative Hinduism became a greater and stronger force to resist the invasion of Magadha and the Magadhan royal dynasties can be found.

But it may be mentioned here that although Buddhism has lost its grip upon the people of its land of birth, yet a very large part of the population of the world profess that religion even today. In China, Japan, Korea, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Burma etc. Buddhism is the main religion of the people.

The Rise of Magadha:

During the Sixteen Mahajanapadas period (6th century B.C.) the small kingdoms were often at war amongst themselves. The war between Kasi and Kosala may be referred to in this connection. But of all the kingdoms it was Magadha that had launched upon a career of imperial conquest.

This is borne out by ancient Hindu, Jaina and Buddhist literature. In the Puranas elaborate description of the Turks in so far as religion and society were concerned. But the dynastic lists contained in Ceylonese Buddhist writing Mahavamsa are regarded as more reliable by the modern historians.


In the Puranas it has been mentioned that Barhdratha dynasty ruled first at Magadha to be followed by the Pradyot dynasty which was in its turn followed by Sishunaga dynasty. It has also been, mentioned that Bimbisara was the fifth ruler of Sishunaga dynasty. But modern researches have proved that the Pradyot dynasty did never rule in Magadha.

It was the ruling dynasty of Avanti. It is also proved that Bimbisara ascended the throne immediately after the rule of the last king of the Barhadratha dynasty named Ripunjay. Thus the Puranic version that Bimbisara was the fifth ruler of Sishunaga dynasty is erroneous. Sishunaga was a ruler posterior to Bimbisara.

Asvaghosa, the author of Buddha Charit refers to Bimbisara as a scion of Haryanka dynasty. Modern historians like H. C. Roy chaudhuri and others consider the Buddhist source to be more reliable and accept the view that Bimbisara was a scion of Haryanka dynasty. Nothing is, however, known about the rise of this dynasty.

According to Ceylonese Buddhist literature Mahavamsa, Bimbisara was consecrated to the throne by his father at an early age of fifteen. Bimbisara’s father was Mahapadma Mahapadma was once defeated by Brahmadatta, king of Anga. But his son Bimbisara after ascending the throne introduced into Magadha a revolutionary instrument—a new type of army without tribal basis, loyal only to the king.

With this army he defeated the kingdom of Anga and thereby avenged the defeat of Mahapadma and launched Magadha upon a career of imperial conquest. Matrimonial alliances also- played an important part in his career of imperial expansion. His first wife was a sister of Prasenjit king of Kosala.

This marriage brought him a dowry of a village in Kasi with a revenue of one lakh while his second wife Chellana, daughter of the Lichchavi Chief Chetaka, third wife Vaidehi Vasavi and fourth wife Khema daughter of the king of Madra brought him much power and prestige. He maintained friendly relations with king Pukkasati of Gandhara and Pradyot, king of Avanti. By his organised system of taxation, diplomatic and matrimonial relations Bimbisara proceeded on his policy of imperial aggression with success.

From the Buddhist literature detailed description of the adminis­trative system of the Magadhan empire may be had. Villages used’ to enjoy considerable autonomy. The Chief of the village was called Gramaka. The Gramakas used to administer the villages with the help of the village Council.

The Central Government was divided into three distinct parts, namely:

(i) Sarbarthak that is, the Executive Department,

(ii) Voharika—the Judicial Department,

(iii) Senanayaka —the Military Department.

Bimbisara used to look after all the three departments personally. The method of punishment at that time was rather very cruel. Besides imprisonment, amputation of hands or legs was often resorted to.

Bimbisara was tolerant in his religious views. The Jainas and Buddhists received equally liberal treatment at his hand. In Jaina Uttaradhyana Sutra, Bimbisara is claimed to have been a Jaina convert and the meeting of Mahavira and Bimbisara is described in details. But on the other hand the Buddhist literature refers to the meeting of Bimbisara and Gautama seven years before latter’s attain­ment of Enlightenment and to a second meeting after he had become Buddha.

The Buddhist texts refer to the conversion of Bimbisara into Buddhism by Gautama Buddha himself. Bimbisara appointed his own physician Jivaka to treat Buddha as well as the inmates of the Samgha.

Both Jaina and Buddhist literature contain numerous stories about the death of Bimbisara. In the Buddhist literature Bimbisara is said to have been killed by his son Ajatasatru at the instigation of Devadatta, a cousin of Gautama Buddha. According to the Jaina literature, however, Ajatasatru kept Bimbisara imprisoned and during this period he had a bad sore in his fingure which was cured due to the nursing of queen Chellana.

This instance of Chellana moved Ajatasatru and he felt remorse for his earlier conduct and proceeded to free his father whom he had kept confined. But Bimbisara at the sight of Ajatasatru thought that the latter had come to kill him and to avoid the disgrace committed suicide. Whatever might have been the truth in the Buddhist or Jaina stories, it may not be wrong to suppose that Ajatasatru was responsible for Bimbisara’s death.


Bimbisara was succeeded by his son Ajatasatru in 490 B.C. He was a very powerful king and following the foot-steps of his father, he began to expand his empire by conquests. He declared war against Prasenjit, king of Kosala although the royal house of Kosala was related to him, for Bimbisara had married Kosaladevi, sister of Prasenjit. Kosaladevi did not survive the shock of the death of Bimbisara at the hands of Ajatasatru.

The death of Bimbisara at the hands of Ajatasatru and also Kosaladevi’s death due to the shock of the death of her husband were sufficient grounds for Prasenjit’s anger and he proceeded to punish Ajatasatru. At the initial stage Ajatasatru was victorious in the war against Prasenjit but ultimately the latter compelled Ajatasatru to surrender along with his huge army. A peace treaty was, however, signed between the parties and to mark the friendliness between them Ajatasatru married Vajira, daughter of Prasenjit.

Ajatasatru then proceeded to conquer the greatest republican federation of eastern India. This federation comprised nine Mallaka, nine Lichchavi and eighteen Kasi and Kosala republics. The real reason for the war, according to the Buddhist literature was that on the Ganges a mine of precious stones was discovered.

It was agreed that the produce of the mine would be divided equally between Magadha and the Lichchavi republic. But when the Lichchavis began to violate the agreement Ajatasatru declared war against the entire republican federation. In the Jaina literature, however, the story is different.

It is said that Bimbisara had made a gift of an elephant named Sethanka and a very highly priced jewel necklace to his sons Halla and Behalla born of his second queen, daughter of the Lichchavi Chief Chetaka. Ajatasatru wanted to grab the necklace and the elephant. Halla and Behalla took shelter with their maternal grandfather to avoid despoliation by Ajatasatru.

Ajatasatru demanded surrender of Halla and Behalla which Chetaka refused to do. This led to declaration of war against Chetaka by Ajatasatru. But it was not easy to defeat Chetaka, for all the republican states stood by him. In the circumstances Ajatasatru began to follow a double course of action.

On the one hand he began to strengthen his army and on the other to have recourse to create division among to the republican states through diplomacy. He strengthened the fortification at Rajagriha and established a second capital at Pataliputra at the confluence of the rivers Son and the Ganges. He sent his minister Varsaka or Bhasmakar to Lichchavi republic.

There by machination and secret propaganda Bhasmakar succeeded in creating division among the Lichchavis which ultimately created division among the republican states of eastern India. This made it possible for Ajatasatru to conquer the republican federation of eastern India. It, however, took long sixteen years to do so. In this war Ajatasatru is said to have used two new weapons of war called Rathamul and Mahasilakantaka.

Ajatasatru had added two hundred leagues to the already three hundred leagues in the extent of the Magadhan Empire. At the growth of the power and prosperity of Ajatasatru, Chanda Pradyot of Avanti became jealous and made preparations for invading Rajagriha, capital of Magadha but ultimately did not venture to do so. Ajatasatru enlarged his empire by occupying Vaisali and a part of Kasi as also by maintaining friendly relations with the King of Kosala, thus laying the foundation a vast empire.

Both the Jaina and the Buddhist literature claimed Ajatasatru to be their convert. In the Jaina literature it is also claimed that Mahavira was often visited by Ajatasatru along with the members of his family. It is also said that originally Ajatasatru was inimical to the Jaina religion, but after killing his father there was deep remorse in him and he got himself converted into Jainism.

That Ajatasatru was also on visiting terms with Gautama Buddha is borne out by carved scene on stone at Barhut. It is also claimed that great change had come upon him as a result of his meeting with Buddha. On hearing the news of the death of Buddha Ajatasatru hurried to Kushinagara and brought some of the physical relics of Buddha for ceremonial burial.

He renovated eighteen Mahaviharas in and arround Rajagriha and constructed metal Chaityas on all the four sides of Rajagriha. In the first Buddhist Council that was convened at Rajagriha after the death of Buddha, Ajatasatru played an important role. Five hundred Buddhist monks are said to have attended the Council, Ajatasatru arranged for their stay, food, drink, medicine, clothe etc.

Successors of Ajatasatru :

According to Buddhist literature Ajatasatru was succeeded by Udayabhadra who in his turn was succeeded by Anuruddha. Anuruddha was followed by Munda and Nagadasaka. Udayabhadra was none other than Udayabhadra referred to in the Buddhist texts who had ascended the throne by killing his father Ajatasatru.

According to the Buddhist source all kings of Bimbisara line from Ajatasatru were all patricides. From Udayabhadra to Nagadasak, a period of fifty-six years the patricide kings ruled over Magadha. It was the people of Magadha who in order to get rid of the patricide king’s rule elected Minister Sishunaga to the throne. This story is to be found in the Celonese chronicle Mahavamsa.

Sishunaga Dynasty :

After accession to the throne Sishunaga maintained the power and prosperity of Rajagriha, the capital of the Magadhan Empire. He protected the Magadhan Empire by warding off the invasions by Avanti, Kasi and Kosala. Not only that he defeated Avanti and having put an end to the rule Of the Pradyota dynasty attached Avanti to the Magadhan Empire. Vatsya and Kosala kingdoms also probably had been annexed by him. Sishunaga made Magadha the greatest empire of northern India.

Sishunaga was succeeded by Kalasoka or Kakavarna. It was during his reign that the Second Buddhist Council was convened. On the evidence of Bana and the Greek writer Quintus Curtius we learn that Kakavarna was stabbed to death by a barber. This barber killed all the ten sons of Kakavarna and himself occupied the throne. In this conspiracy the queen of Kakavarana is said to have played a secret role.

The Nandas :

That the founder of the Nanda dynasty was low born is men­tioned in the Jaina Parisistaparvana, the Purnanas and the Buddhist literature. But the name of the founder of the Nanda dynasty mentioned by the Puranas is Mahapadmananda. There is also reference to Ugrasena of the Mahabodhi dynasty as the founder of the Nanda dynasty.

Some modern historians think that the reference to Agrammes as the ruler of Magadha by the Greek writers when Alexander invaded India might have been a corruption of Augrasenya, i.e. son of Ugrasena. Thus it is possible that Ugrasena was the founder of the Nanda dynasty. There were altogether nine kings of this dynasty who ruled over Magadha, the last of whom was Dhanananda.

In the Puranas Mahapadmananda is mentioned as the founder of the Nanda dynasty and he is also called the Second Parasuram as he was responsible for the extirpation of many a Kshatriya royal dynasty. Ikshaku, Panchala, Kasi, Kalinga, Asmaka, Haihaya, Kuru. Mithila, Surasena, Bitihotra and other Kshatriya dynasties were defeated by Mahapadmananda and the Magadhan Empire was extended over their territories. In the Kathasaritsagar the Nandas have been described as the kings of Ayodhya.

From this, it may not be wrong to conclude that Kosala was also included in the Magadhan Empire. In the Hatigumpha Inscription of Kharvela reference is found of the conquest of Kalinga by the Nanda king. There is a place named Nabananda Dera on the river Godavari from which some historians think that the empire of Magadha under the Nanda kings extended to certain parts of the Deccan. Further, from the find of certain inscriptions in Mysore it is supposed that the Nanda rule had extended upto Kuntala in Mysore.

Mahapadmananda was the master of a vast empire no doubt, bus it was not simply the vastness of the empire that was the contri­bution of Mahapadmananda; he gave it both consolidation and a strong administration. On the foundations laid by Bimbisara and Ajatasatru, Mahapadmananda built a vast and strong empire.

The sixth and the fifth centuries B.C. marked a novelty in the political and religious history of India. It was a period during which the Kshatriya kings and princes were attracted to religion and quite a few of them became founders of new religious sects. On the other hand, contrary to the age long custom Sudras were emerging as rulers. For instance, Sudra king Mahapadmananda not only founded a royal dynasty but acquired unprecedented importance as a ruler by defeating a number of Kshatriya rulers.

Successors of Mahapadmananda:

The life and history of the seven rulers of the Nanda dynasty who succeeded Mahapadmananda are obscure. Some details about the personality and rule of the ninth and the last Nanda king Dhananada are, however, available from the writings of the Greeks and Kathasaritsagar. Dhanananda is said have been very greedy for which he earned the name Dhananada.

His empire extended as far as the borders of the Punjab and on the evidence of Quintus Curtius we know that he had an army comprising 2 lakh infantry, 20 thousand cavalry, 2 thousand chariots and 4 to 6 thousand elephants. But despite the vastness of his empire and largeness of his army he could not earn the love of his people because of the excessive burden of tax that he had levied on the people due to his greed for money.

Besides, he was looked down upon because of his low birth. In this connection Chandragupta Maurya’s suggestion to the Greeks that it would be easy for Alexander to defeat Dhananada because he had forfeited the confidence and love of the people because of his worthlessness as a ruler and his low birth may be mentioned. Poros is also said to have made similar remarks about Dhanananda.

Dhanananda had, however, escaped the invasion of Alexander as the latter’s army refused to proceed further after reaching the Beas, but retribution came from another quarter. He had insulted Chanakya in the open court for which the latter vowed to avenge the insult by uprooting the Nanda dynasty. He kept his promise by defeating and removing Dhanananda from the throne of Magadha with the help of Chandragupta.

The fall of the Nanda dynasty did not mean the end of the empire of Bimbisara. On the contrary, at the hands of Chandragupta Maurya, who had founded a new dynasty called the Mauryas, the empire received extension almost all over India. There were some special reasons for the continuance of the Magadhan Empire: First, the geographical situation of Magadha, and particularly of Pataliputra, was largely responsible for it. Pataliputra was situated on the confluence of the rivers Son and the Ganges and was protected by the rivers Gogra and Gandak in the north and by Son in the south. Further, these rivers provided good outlets for northern India into the sea. The old capital Rajagriha was equally protected by Nature. It was surrounded by seven hills.

Secondly, Magadha was cosmopolitan in nature and was the mingling place of diverse races, religions and cultures. The Vedic culture and conservatism did not strike deep roots here as in some other parts of India. Magadha which was the meeting ground of Brahmanical Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism naturally had become suitable for political liberalism. This liberalism was largely respon­sible for the continuance of the Magadhan Empire for a very long time since its foundation from the time of Bimbisara.