Major Reasons Behind The Rise of Buddhism and Jainism

Gautama Buddha
The Sixth Century BCE is considered one of the most remarkable centuries in the World History. It saw some of the most influential thinkers of all times such as Gautama Buddha, Mahavira, Heraclitus, Zoroaster, Confucius and Lao Tse. These thinker not only questioned the authority, but established new socio-religious norms. Later their humble followership grew into new religions and their teachings became new words of authority.

As mentioned earlier, the Sixth Century BCE India saw the rise in the followership of Gautama Buddha and Mahavira. Both of them emphasised that true happiness does not lie in material prosperity or performance of rituals, but in non-violence, charity and good social conduct. However, there are some other factors which also attributed their rise. These are

1. A Reaction to Rigid Varna System
In post-Vedic era, the Indian society was clearly divided into four varnas: Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Brahamans placed themselves at the top of the hierarchy and enjoyed various privileges such as exemption from taxes and punishment. This irked other three classes. The Kshatriyas and Vaishyas reacted vehemently to the Brahmanical authority. As they were the one who is working toward building the geo-political boundaries of the state. Interestingly, both Buddha and Mahavira were Kshatriya by the birth. Moreover, in some Buddhist Pali text, Kshatriyas were placed above Brahmanas.

2. Rise of New Agricultural Economy
At the same time, the political and economic epicentre of India shifted from the Indus Plains of Punjab to the more fertile Gangetic Plains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. People started using iron tools and ploughshares in a large number due to the proximity of iron ore sites and factories in Bihar. However, these new tools required the use of bullocks, which were at time snatched away for sacrifices. This unnecessary slaughtering of animal hindered the progress of agriculture and economy. Thus for the growth of the new economy, this slaughtering need to be stopped. Since both Buddha and Mahavira preached non-violence and strongly opposed any form of sacrifice, they attracted masses.

3. Desire to Return to Normalcy
The rising income gave way to inequality and social conflict. There was a drastic increase in violence, cruelty, theft and hatred. Common people yearned to return to a normal life. Henceforth, when Buddha and Mahavira talked about peace and simplicity, a lot of people welcomed the new ideas.