Rise of Gautama Buddha and Buddhism in India: Indian History for Competitive govt. job Exams.

Gautama Buddha & rise of Buddhism in India

Sixth century B.C. had witnessed the rise of religious movements (Buddhism & Jainism) in India. Gautama Buddha & Mahavir Jain sermonized new doctrines. Buddhism and Jainism had developed in the post-Vedic period, known as the period of Urbanisation or the Age of Buddha.

Gautama Buddha & Buddhism

Life of Gautama Buddha

Gautama Buddha and Buddhism
Gautama Buddha

Gautama Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. He was born on the Vaisakha Purnima day at Lumbini, near Kapilavastu in 563 B.C. His father Suddhodhana was the Republican King of Kapilavastu and mother Mahamaya was the Princess of Kollia Republic. Mahamaya Devi died after seven days of Buddha’s birth. Then he was brought up by his stepmother and aunt Mahaprajapati Gautami.

Gautama was not familiar with the dominant religious teachings of his time. He was motivated by the existential concern for the human condition. Fearing his son’s reflective cast of mind, his father married him at an early age to beautiful Yashodhara, Princess of Shakya dynasty with whom they had a son, Rahul.

Four sights – an old man, a dead body, a diseased person, and saintly appearance of an ascetic proved to be a turning point in his life. One night at the age of 29, he left home, wife, and son and renounced the worldly life.

At the age of 35, under a pipal tree at Uruvella (Bodh Gaya) on the bank of river Niranjana (Now Falgu) he attained ‘Nirvana‘ (enlightenment) after 49 days of continuous meditation. After that, he extended the teaching of two elder saints, ‘Aalra Kalama‘ & ‘Uddaka Ramaputta‘. According to Buddhism, there is no-self, no God, no soul, and no spirit.

Buddha delivered his first sermon at Sarnath to his five disciples known as Dharmachakra Pravartana (Turning of the wheel of law). He died at the age of 80 in 483 B.C. at Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. His death is known as ‘Mahaparinirvana‘.

Buddhism & Buddhist Philosophy

Gautama Buddha taught the famous “Four Noble Truths” and “Eightfold Path,” which allows people to achieve enlightenment. The Buddha taught that every action has a consequence. Things, we are facing today because of previous conditions. If one practices the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, then one will no longer be subject to the cycle of existence samsara (conditioned existence).

Four Noble Truths:

  1. The world is full of sorrows.
  2. Desire is the root cause of sorrow.
  3. If the desire is conquered, all sorrows can be removed.
  4. Desire can be removed by following the eight-fold path.

Eight-fold Path:

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thought
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

Buddhist Literature:

Buddhist texts were initially passed on orally by monks but were later written down and composed as manuscripts in various Indo-Aryan languages which were then translated into other local languages as Buddhism spread.

I. Pali Texts: Tripitaka

The traditional term of the Buddhist scriptures referred to as ‘Tripitaka‘. ‘Pitaka’ means basket and it was called so because the original texts were written on the palm-leaves and kept in baskets. The Tripitaka was composed between about 500 BCE to about the start of the common era. Each Buddhist sub-tradition had its own Tripitaka for its monasteries, written by its Sangha, each set consisting of 32 books, in three parts of teachings.

  1. Sutta Pitaka – Consists chiefly of discourses delivered by Buddha himself.
  2. Vinaya Pitaka – Deals with the rules and regulation, which the Buddha propagated.
  3. Abhidhamma Pitaka – Contains the profound philosophy of the Buddha’s teachings.

II. Sanskrit Texts:

Buddha Charita, Saundarananda, Sutralankar, Vasumitra’s Mahavibhasha Shastra etc. are some sacred Buddhist texts.

Sects of Buddhism:

There are many subdivisions within Buddhism, but most can be classified into three major branches; Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.

1. Hinayana (i.e. the Lesser vehicle)

  • The Hinayana followers believed in the original teachings of Buddha.
  • They solve individual salvation through self-discipline and meditation.
  • They did not believe in idol worship.Hinayana is a religion without God.
  • They preferred Pali language.
  • It is known as ‘Southern Buddhist Religion‘ because it prevailed in the South of India (Srilanka, Burma, Thailand)
  • The oldest school of Hinayana Buddhism is the ‘Sthaviravada‘ or the ‘Doctrines of elders‘.

2. Mahayana: (i.e. the Greater Vehicle)

  • The Mahayana followers believed in the heavenliness of Buddha.
  • They solve individual salvation through the grace and help of Buddha and Bodhisattva.
  • They believed in idol worship.
  • They favored the Sanskrit language.
  • It is known as ‘Northern Buddhist Religion’ as it prevailed in the North of India (China, Korea, Japan etc.).

3. Vajrayana: 

  • The Vajrayana followers believed that salvation could be solved by acquiring the magical power, which they called ‘Vajra‘ (thunder-bold).
  • The new divinities of this sect were ‘the Taras(wives of the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas).
  • It became popular in Eastern India, mainly Bengal and Bihar.

Three Ratnas of Buddhism:

  1. Buddha
  2. Dhamma
  3. Sangha


Buddhism proved to be one of the greatest civilizing forces, which India gave to the neighboring countries. Buddhism broke the isolation of India and helped in the establishment of intimate contacts between India and foreign countries.

Now Read:

MCQ on Religious Movements in India during sixth century BC


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