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Materialistic Outlook In The Epics and Puranas

Materialistic Outlook In The Epics and Puranas
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Item Code: NAD807
Author: Sharbani Chattopadhyay
Publisher: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar
Edition: 2009
Pages: 143
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
weight of the book: 289 gms

Indian philosophy and Sanskrit, the mother of about all modern vernacular languages of India have been depending on each other since thousands of years ago. At present they are considered as different subjects in the field of education. But the study of each subject remains incomplete except the study of other. It is because almost all ancient books of Indian philosophy have been written in Sanskrit. So without acquiring knowledge of Sanskrit, nobody would be able to understand Indian philosophy properly. On the other hand, Indian philosophy has been holding an important position in Sanskrit literature. It has become clear to me, when I was a student of graduate level. My honours and subsidiary subjects were Sanskrit and Philosophy respectively. These two subjects helped me to understand both properly. But at the time of the examinations, when I was preparing the questions and answers, based on the Cãrväka philosophy, one of the branches of Indian philosophy, I had to deal with scanty material. It was also noticed that these insufficient materials can not help us to build up vast knowledge regarding this philosophy. This problem is one of the reasons, which made me interested in the field of the heretic philosophies. After completion of M.A, when I was thinking for a suitable topic for my Ph. D. thesis, I informed my supervisor about my interest and curiosity regarding this philosophy. It was a matter of great pleasure for me that my supervisor suggested a topic which is connected with the unorthodox philosophies of India. In this dissertation, I have tried my best to give an account of the condition of heterodox philosophy in India, although the material available was not always plentiful.

This thesis has been written under the supervision of Dr. Bijoya Goswami, Department of Sanskrit, Jadavpur University, whose scholarship I always respect. I am grateful to her as she earnestly helped me since the beginning of my thesis. Without her guidance, valuable advice and help, it was not possible for me to finish this work. At the same time I am indebted to my parents Dr. Asit Kumar Chattopadhyay, Reader in Sanskrit, Surendranath College, Kolkata and Srimati Minu Chattopadhyay. They always inspired me and helped me to continue this hard work.

I am thankful to the Managing Committee of Tollygunge Girish Chandra Institution, Kolkata, for allowing me to do my research work. I also express my gratefulness to my esteemed colleagues who encouraged me to carry on my study. I also have to acknowledge with thanks the co-operation rendered by the staff of the Jadavpur University Library and the Asiatic Society Library. Lastly I want to thank all who helped me directly and indirectly in my research work.


Indian philosophy consists of two categories, i.e. orthodox and heterodox. The heterodox or the heretic systems of philosophy are mainly three in number— Jaina, Bauddha and Crväka. Among the heterodox philosophers or Nastikas, the Cãrväkas are totally concerned with the materialistic views. The Cärväkas were not only against the Vedic tenets, but also they did not admit of fate, did not believe in life after death and was totally derisive of the view that performances of sacrifices were sacred things. The Cärvkas did not support the supremacy of the higher castes. Due to their views against the Vedic doctrines, they had to meet strong opposition from the orthodox philosophers. It is believed that the orthodox philosophers, in their struggle with materialistic theories, destroyed the original texts of this system. In this context we can mention the opinion of W. C. Deb— “Religion is divisive. Because each religion considers itself the best and truest and treats all other religions as unholy and barbaric”.’ He also opined— “Religion, on the other hand identifies man as obedient to God with no sovereignty of his own”. The orthodox philosophers also possessed own religious believes based on the Vedic tenets. So they treated the heretics as unholy and barbaric as they were against the tenets of the Vedas. As sufficient source materials of the Cãrvãka philosophy are not available at present, so for collecting information about this system, we have to depend mostly on secondary sources. In this dissertation an attempt has been made to find out the materials of Sanskrit epics, Purãas and literatures, concerned with the Cärväka Philosophy or the Nästikas.

This dissertation has five chapters. At the outset i.e. in chapter I, discussions have been made about the reasons behind the origin of the heterodox philosophy in India, the stages of its development, the approximate period of its existence in our country. The discussions have been made about the different names concerned with the Cärväka or the heterodox philosophy and their views too.

In the second chapter of this dissertation, an attempt has been made to find out the materialistic outlook in the epic Rãmãyana. It is a fact that this epic is the religious book of the ancient Indians who generally held the orthodox views. In spite of that there are considerable number of conversations, advises, suggestions holding various opinions similar to the doctrines of the heterodox philosophy. In this chapter a discussion has also been made to display materialistic outlook of the royal priest Jäbãli, who was a critic of the doctrines of the Dharmaãstras. Beside this materialistic attitude of Rakasa king Ravaria and Vãli’s wife Tarä has been discussed in this chapter. An attempt has also been made to highlight the different purposes of composition of this epic.

In the next chapter, an attempt has been made to find out the materialistic thoughts in the epic Mahãbhãrata. In spite of its religious characteristics, the materialistic thoughts are also available here. This chapter consists the examples of peaceful coexistence of Lokayata philosophy and Vedic studies at the time of this epic. The episodes of Bihaspati-Manu, Pañcasikha-Janaka, Indra-Jackal and Kayapa are cited here as they consist of Lokayata views. Duryodhan&s friend and well-wisher Cärvãka is also mentioned in this chapter as he was a critic of the mainstream i.e. Brahminism and also the activities performed by so-called Dharmaraja Yudhisthira. The episode of Satyavati-Santanu is mentioned here as a proof of the inhumane treatment of the so- called lower castes by the Brahmins. The speeches of Draupadi and Bhima are mentioned here, as they consist of materialistic views. The episodes of Abhimanyu and Ekalavya and the advices of Kira towards Arjuna are also discussed in this chapter, because the shadow of materialistic attitude is reflected here.

In the fourth chapter of this dissertation, I have tried to find out the materialistic views in the Purãas. There are a large number of Puraas, composed in Sanskrit language. It is a fact that the Puranas mainly consist the views of the orthodox ancient Indians.

In this chapter, an attempt has been made to find out the materialistic attitude in the so-called major Puranas. This chapter consists the story of Bhaspati, in which he is presented as the propounded of the heretic philosophies. Beside this, severe consequences of meeting with a heretic which is available in a story of the Visu Purã,a and the materialistic attitude of king Verja which is available in various Puranas, are also discussed in this chapter. .

In the last chapter, an attempt has been made to focus on the Lokäyata aspects in the post-epic Sanskrit literatures. A huge number of literatures in Sanskrit have been composed after two religious epics, i.e. the Rãmãyana and the Mahãbhãrata. It seems impossible to discuss all of them in the limited preview of this thesis. It is also a fact that most of them are based on the orthodox views. So the Lokayata aspects in these literatures are not sufficient for quench our thirst. However, the Prabodhacandradaya of Ksria Mira, the Verisarnhãra of Bhaanarãyai1a, the Kirãtãrjuniyam of Bharavi and the Naisadhacaritam of riharsa, consist the doctrines of the heretic philosophies. So they are discussed in this chapter.


Preface. i
Chapter I Genesis of the heterodox philosophy in India1
Chapter II Materialistic outlook in the Rämãyaa19
Chapter III Materialistic thoughts in the Mahabharata45
Chapter IV Materialistic views in the Puranas77
Chapter V Lokãyata views in the postepic literature99

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