The present monograph seeks to study the emergence and early growth of the Sramanism in India's religions and religious life. Its author Professor S. R. Goyal is a well-known scholar of ancient Indian religious history. His present work is divided into ten chapters in which the history of Sramanism and its role in ancient Indian religions and religious life has been delineated in detail. The first chapter of the monograph discusses the main features of Sramanism while the next four chapters deal with the various aspects of early Sramanism with special reference to the place of Sramanic ideas in the Vedic society. The next two that is the sixth and seventh chapters deal respectively with the lives and thought of the first twenty-three Jaina Tirthankaras and Sramana Mahavira. The two chapters following them are devoted to the life and thought of Sramana Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. The last, that is the tenth chapter discusses the data found in the early Dharmasastras, including the Manusmrti, the Indica of Megasthenes, the Arthasastra of Kautilya and the inscriptions of Ashok on the Sramanas of the Maurya period. Thus the present monograph seeks to provide a comprehensive picture of Sramanism and Sramana religions of India upto c. 300 B.C.
About the Author:
Dr. S. R. Goyal is the retired Professor and Head, Department of History, J. N. V. University, Jodhpur. Described as 'one of the five best recent historians of ancient India' by Professor David N. Lorenzen, the great Mexican Orientalist, Professor Goyal combines all the qualities associated with scientific scholarship. He has authored about forty-five voluminous works and over 150 research papers which cover so diverse fields as political history, religious history, literature, biographies, numismatics and epigraphy.
Among the major works of Professor Goyal are included his doctoral thesis, A History of the Imperial Guptas, three 'corpus-like' volumes on ancient Indian inscriptions, two volumes respectively on Kautilya and Megasthenes, a three volume authoritative study of ancient Indian history in about two thousand pages, a three volume study of ancient Indian numismatics, four volumes on great rulers of ancient India and a monograph on the recently discovered inscriptions.
Professor Goyal is deeply involved with the study of the history of Indian religions. Apart from the present monograph he has published A Religious History of Ancient India(Vol. I, 1984; Vol. II, 1986), Harsha and Buddhism (1986) and A History of Indian Buddhism (1987). All these works of his have been highly acclaimed and admired both in India and abroad.
Professor Goyal was honoured with the General Presidentship of the Silver Jubilee Congress of the Epigraphical Society of India held at Udupi in 1999 and was elected the Honorary Fellow of the Society. He is also to preside over the 90th Annual Conference of the Numismatic Society of India to be held at Santiniketan (West Bengal) on December 1-3, 2006. He has also been honoured with several festschrifts, including Reappraising Gupta History for S. R. Goyal (1992), S. R. Goyal: His Multidimensional Historiography (1992), Rajasthan Bharati in two volumes (1995) and a four volume festschrift entitled Reconstructing Indian History for S. R. Goyal (2003).
Sramanism was an integral part of ancient Indian religious life. The Sramanas generally believed in nivrtti ideal as opposed to the pravrtti ideal of the Vedic Brahmanical society. But whether the nivrtti ideal was pre-Vedic and non-Vedic or it developed within the Vedic tradition itself is a question which cannot be answered easily. In the present monograph we have argued that Sramanism, of which nivrtti ideal was one of the main features, was partly Vedic and partly non-Vedic and was characterised by numerous other features such as peripatos or wandering, tapas or asceticism (intense physical austerities including yoga and dhyana), brahmacharya or celibacy, bhikshacharya (begging of food), grha-tyaga (renunciation of householder's life), belief in samsaravada (theory of transmigration), karmavada, and anisvaravada (denial of the existence of god/gods), rejection of the authority of the Vedas, belief in tirthankaras (as the founders of various tirthas or sects), opposition of caste system, rejection of the superiority of the Brahmanas and above all organisation of the like-minded renouncers into a monastic order, for 'Sramanism is essentially asceticism which developed into monasticism.'
These features are found in greater or lesser degree in all the Sramana sects of the sixty-fifth century B.C. But in the Vedic age they developed only gradually partly as a result of the internal evolution of the Vedic thought and partly due to the impact of the non-Vedic people such as the authors of the Indus culture. When in the Santiparvan of the Mahabharata Yudhishthira resolves to renounce the world and discusses his resolve with his brothers, wife Draupadi and some other (Chapters vii to xxxii), he speaks only of the nivrtti, dharma, tapas, wandering, bhikshacharya and living a life without family (brahmacharya). Further, he speaks of becoming and individual renouncer only, not of joining some order or sangha of renouncers. Other features of Sramanism are also not even alluded to by him. Therefore, it may easily be conjectured that the features of Sramanism not mentioned by him had either not emerged by the time these chapters of the Santiparvan were composed or were confined to a very small circle of the Vedic society.
However, by the age of the Buddha and Mahavira Sramanism had become fully developed and numerous Sramana religions or sects - Jaina, Buddhist, Ajivika and others - had come into existence. Further, numerous Sramana ideas has become integral part of the Vedic way of life itself (via the philosophy of the Upanishads), the institution of the four asramas and the Purushartha doctrine). As Professor G. C. Pande opines, the Upanishads on the one hand present a natural development of the Vedic thought and on the other 'a half turn' towards Sramanic asceticism. That is why Manu declared that the Vedic acts are two-fold (pravrttam cha nivrttam cha dvividha karma Vaidikam - Manusmrti, XII. 88). Acts which secure the fulfillment of wishes in this world or in the next world are called pravrtta and acts performed without desire for a reward preceded by the acquisition of true knowledge (jnana-purva) are declared to be nivrtta." (Ibid., XII. 89). At a later date Sankaracharya also declared that the Vedic religion is two-fold - Pravrtti-lakshana and Nivrtti-lakshana. We have discussed all these developments in the present monograph covering the period upto c. 300 B.C. In the post- 300 B.C. period Sramanic thought-currents influenced the Brahmanical religious sects in several other ways which we hope to discuss in a separate volume.
In the preparation of the present volume I have received ungrudging help from Professor P. K. Agrawala of the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, and Professor Mahesh Vikram Singh of the Kashi Vidyapeetha, Varanasi. They sent me books and material form journals which were not easily available to me at Jodhpur.
I am also grateful to my wife Mrs. Kusum Lata, son Dr. Shankar Goyal, M.A., Ph.D., D. Litt. and grand-daughter Km. Meghna Goyal for the help they gave whenever and in whatever form it was needed by me.
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