• Buddhism and Jainism emerged as significant driving forces for artistic activity in various parts of ancient and medieval India.
  • These religions left a profound influence on different artistic spheres such as painting, sculpture, and architecture, as well as literature, while also impacting the way of life of the people.

Reasons behind the rise of Buddhism and Jainism:

  • Social cause: The rigid caste system created inequality in society, and the domination of the priestly class was resented by the Kshatriyas. Both Buddha and Mahavira belonged to Kshatriya origins.
  • Religious unrest: Complex rituals and ceremonies dominated worship in the Later Vedic period, which was not acceptable to the common people. The elaborate and expensive rituals, coupled with blind faith and superstitions, led to confusion among the masses.
  • Economic cause: The growth of trade improved the economic conditions of the Vaisyas, who sought to enhance their social status. However, the orthodox Varna system prevented them from doing so. Additionally, Jainism and Buddhism’s principles of nonviolence suited settled agrarian communities better, as they abstained from animal sacrifices for religious ceremonies.
  • Brahminic supremacy: Priests considered themselves superior and interpreted religion in Sanskrit, making it inaccessible to the common masses. In contrast, Jainism and Buddhism were open to all and preached in local languages like Prakrit and Pali, appealing to a wider audience.


  • Various rulers of ancient India, such as Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Gupta, and Pala rulers, patronized both Buddhism and Jainism.
  • The economically emerging classes, especially traders and businessmen, provided support to these religions. Jainism gained popularity among the trading community, while Buddhism was accepted by the masses.

Impact on Culture, Art, Architecture, Philosophy, and Way of Life:

  • Culture and Literature: Jaina’s contributions to Prakrit and Kannada literature, and Buddhism’s influence on the development of Pali and other local languages.
  • Painting: The exquisite paintings in the Ajanta caves, with themes related to Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. Western India’s painting activity was motivated by Jainism, leading to the Malwa and Rajasthan schools of painting styles.
  • Art and Architecture: The magnificent Jaina temples at Mount Abu in Rajasthan and the credit given to Buddhism for the construction of chaityas and viharas in various parts of India.
  • Stupas: The construction of stupas at Amaravati, Sanchi, Barhut, Saranath, and Gaya, with Ashoka’s stupa in Sanchi being one of the earliest and largest.
  • Philosophy: The values of Satya, Ahimsa, and Aparigraha taught by Jainism, and Buddha’s eight-fold path, which gained popularity among the masses.
  • Way of Life: Both religions offered simple principles that were easily followed and promoted political progress through institutions like Sabhas and Samiti. Some of their tenets became integrated parts of Hindu society.


  • Buddhism and Jainism had a profound impact on Indian society, enriching its philosophy, art, and culture while offering an alternative way of life to those uncomfortable within the stagnant Hindu society of ancient and medieval India.
  • These religions continue to inspire the masses and remain popular in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, showcasing their enduring legacy to this day.
Legacy Editor Changed status to publish February 27, 2024