Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Among many factors that led to the emergence of heterodox religions in the 6th CBC, the intensification of social stratification is the main one. Do you agree?

Sixth C BC is considered as an age of individual and spiritual fermentation. Philosophy and ascetic(ism) formed the core of this process. 62 heterodox sects were said to be evolved during this era. With the onset of urbanization, prospering economy and dominance of Vedic religion created a conflictive environment for the breeding of heterodox religions.

The liberal republican states provided a climate conducive for the emergence and spread of anti-Vedic religions. In the economic context, trading class was greatly affected by the imposition of the ban overseas trade and trading in liquids, food grains etc. Also Vedic religion condemned the act of money lending which adversely curbed the trade and commerce. With the large scale animal sacrifices, even the farming community suffered by the scarcity of cattle. During 6th C BC, the tyranny of the priestly class was at peak and Vedic practices were highly rigid and ritualistic.

Apart from the above, the social stratification based on Varna which was started in later Vedic age was further intensified by 6th C BC. The extreme dominance of the microscopic minority of the Brahmans caused disgruntle and unrest in the society. The Vedic religion propagated Brahmanical supremacy and caste discrimination and class bifurcation was intense. The intermediary varnas namely Kshetriyas and Vaishyas felt a notable difference in their social and economic hierarchy. The denial of dvija and moksha to sudras was still continued in 6th C BC.

The outcasts were termed as ‘hina’ jati. Women were denied equality and subordination of women created great unrest among the communities. Similarly, the exploitation of socio-economically backward classes is seen.

On the contrast, the heterodox sects specifically Jainism and Buddhism promised social and gender equality to all irrespective of their Varna or class. These sects preached in Pali and Prakrit which were simple and appealing to the common man. Also, the practices and conduct of life and religion was of simplified nature in contrast to the highly complex Vedic rituals. Even moksha was offered to everyone by the heterodox sects.

In conclusion, the intensification of social stratification acted as the main catalyst in the emergence o heterodox sects in the 6th C BC. However, to get a comprehensive and rational view, even religions, political and economic factors have to be considered.

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