Chapter 8 – Religion and Philosophy in Ancient India: Religion: Pre-Vedic and Vedic Religion, Unorthodox Religious Movements (For CBSE, ICSE, IAS, NET, NRA 2022)

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India is a beautiful, lovely and a lively country to be in. This is because religion has always been a significant factor in influencing the lives of people in India from the earliest times. The relationship between religion and philosophy has been an intimate one and hence their growth and development need to be studies in an interrelated manner.


  • Religion is the science of soul. Morality and ethics have their foundation on religion.
  • Religion played an important part in lives of the Indians from the earliest times.
  • Religion in India was never static in character but was driven by an inherent dynamic strength.
  • Every system of philosophy in India is a quest for Truth, which is one and the same, always and everywhere. The modes of approach differ, logic varies, but the purpose remains the same – trying to reach that Truth.
  • Indian spiritually is deeply rooted in ancient philosophical and religious traditions of the land. Philosophy arose in India as an enquiry into the mystery of life and existence.

Pre-Vedic and Vedic Religion

  • From the archaeological findings in the pre and proto-historic sites it seems that these people believed in the sanctity of the creative force and venerated the male and female aspects of divinity.
  • The nature of the religious beliefs and practices of the Aryans is also known from the Rig Veda, They believed in many gods like Indra, Varuna, Agni, Surya and Rudra.
  • Sacrifices and rituals offering of food and drink to fire in honour of the Gods, constituted the main religious practices.
  • The Sama Veda and the Yajur Veda elaborated in the Brahmanas.
  • The Atharva Veda contained a great deal of animistic beliefs.
  • India down the ages attempted to grapple with the fundamental problems of life and thought.
  • Philosophy in India began with a quest after the highest truth-truth not as mere objective certitude, but as being closely linked with the development of personality and leading to the attainment of the highest freedom, bliss and wisdom.

Unorthodox Religious Movements

  • The Religious movements associated with persons like, Mahavira and the Buddha in about the middle of the first Millennium BC fall under this category.
  • There were many other creeds during this time as well. The creeds preached by some of them contained elements that were not in keeping with the Vedic tradition.
  • They ignored the infallibility and supernatural origin of the Vedas. Unlike the Vedic seers who were Brahmin sages, many of these new teachers were Kshatriya.
  • Both Buddhism and Jainism were atheistic creeds in the beginning.

Theistic Religions

  • Creeds of theistic character evolved almost simultaneously with the non-theistic religions.
  • The important deities of these religions were not primarily Vedic ones but those that came from unorthodox sources.
  • Influence of pre-Vedic and post-Vedic folk elements were most conspicuous in their origin.
  • The primary factor that motivated these creeds was Bhakti, the single-souled devotion of the worshipper to a personal god with some moral link.
Religious Sects
  • This led to the evolution of different religious sects like Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Saktism, which came to be regarded as components of orthodox Brahminism.
  • These sects in course of time came to have a significant impact on the popular forms of Buddhism and Jainism.

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