Buddha, (Sanskrit: “Awakened One”)clan name (Sanskrit) Gautama or (Pali) Gotama, personal name (Sanskrit) Siddhartha or (Pali) Siddhatta, (born c. 6th–4th century BCE, Lumbini, near Kapilavastu, Shakya republic, Kosala kingdom [now in Nepal]—died, Kusinara, Malla republic, Magadha kingdom [now Kasia, India]), the founder of Buddhism, one of the major religions and philosophical systems of southern and eastern Asia and of the world. Buddha is one of the many epithets of a teacher who lived in northern India sometime between the 6th and the 4th century before the Common Era.
His followers, known as Buddhists, propagated the religion that is known today as Buddhism. The title buddha was used by a number of religious groups in ancient India and had a range of meanings, but it came to be associated most strongly with the tradition of Buddhism and to mean an enlightened being, one who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and achieved freedom from suffering. According to the various traditions of Buddhism, there have been buddhas in the past and there will be buddhas in the future. Some forms of Buddhism hold that there is only one buddha for each historical age; others hold that all beings will eventually become buddhas because they possess the buddha nature (tathagatagarbha).
All forms of Buddhism celebrate various events in the life of the Buddha Gautama, including his birth, enlightenment, and passage into nirvana. In some countries the three events are observed on the same day, which is called Wesakin Southeast Asia. In other regions the festivals are held on different days and incorporate a variety of rituals and practices. The birth of the Buddha is celebrated in April or May, depending upon the lunar date, in these countries. In Japan, which does not use a lunar calendar, the Buddha’s birth is celebrated on April 8. The celebration there has merged with a native Shintō ceremony into the flower festival known as Hanamatsuri.
Guru Gobind Singh
Gobind Singh, original name Gobind Rāi, (born 1666, Patna, Bihār, India—died Oct. 7, 1708, Nānded, Mahārāshtra), 10th and last Sikh Gurū, known chiefly for his creation of the Khālsā, the military brotherhood of the Sikhs.
Gobind Singh inherited his grandfather Gurū Hargobind’s love of the military life and was also a man of great intellectual attainments. He was also the son of the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahādur, who suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He was a linguist familiar with Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit as well as his native Punjabi. He further codified Sikh law, wrote poetry, and was the reputed author of the Sikh work called the Dasam Granth (“Tenth Volume”).
Giving the Sikhs a firm military basis was Gobind Singh’s greatest achievement. According to one tradition, one morning after services, he sat in meditation before a great number of Sikhs and asked if any would sacrifice himself for the faith. Finally one man stepped out. The Gurū and his victim disappeared into a tent. A few minutes later Gobind Singh appeared with his sword dripping with blood, calling for another sacrificial volunteer. This ceremony continued until five men had volunteered. All five men then reappeared; according to one tradition the men had been slain but were miraculously restored to life, and according to another Gobind Singh had merely tested the men’s faith and slaughtered five goats instead. Initiated with amrit (sweetened water or nectar) and given the title pañc-piāra (the five beloved), they formed the nucleus of the great Sikh military brotherhood known as the Khālsā (“pure”), founded in 1699.
Every move Gobind Singh made was calculated to instill a fighting spirit in his Sikhs. He created a body of martial poetry and music. He developed in his people a love of the sword—his “sacrament of steel.” With the Khālsā as the guiding spirit of the reconstituted Sikh army, he moved against the Sikhs’ enemies on two fronts: one army against the Mughals and the other against the hill tribes. His troops were totally devoted and totally committed to Sikh ideals, willing to risk everything in the cause of Sikh religious and political freedom. He paid a heavy price for this freedom, however. In one battle near Ambāla, he lost all four of his sons. Later the struggle claimed his wife, mother, and father. He himself was killed by a Pashtun tribesman in revenge for the death of his father.
Gobind Singh proclaimed that he was the last of the personal Gurūs. From that point forward, the Sikh Gurū was to be the holy book, the Ādi Granth. Gobind Singh stands today in the minds of Sikhs as the ideal of chivalry, the Sikh soldier-saint.
Mahavira, (Sanskrit: “Great Hero”) also known as Vardhamana, (born c. 599 BCEtraditional dating, Kshatriyakundagrama, India—died 527 traditional dating, Pavapuri), Epithet of Vardhamana, the last of the 24 Tirthankaras (“Ford-makers,” i.e., saviours who promulgated Jainism), and the reformer of the Jain monastic community. According to the traditions of the two main Jain sects, the Shvetambara (“White-robed”) and the Digambara (“Sky-clad,” i.e., naked), Mahavira became a monk and followed an extreme ascetic life, attaining kevala, the stage of omniscience or highest perception. Teaching a doctrine of austerity, Mahavira advocated nonviolence (ahimsa) in all circumstances and the acceptance of the mahavratas, the five “great vows” of renunciation.
Although tradition dictates that Mahavira was born about 599 BCE, many scholars believe this date to be as much as 100 years early, in that Mahavira probably lived at about the same time as the Buddha, whose traditional birth date has also been reassessed. The son of a Kshatriya (warrior caste) family, he grew up in Kshatriyakundagrama, a suburb of Vaishali (modern Basarh, Bihar state), where both Jainism and Buddhism originated. His father was Siddhartha, a ruler of the Nata, or Jnatri, clan. According to one Jain tradition, his mother was Devananda, a member of the Brahman (priestly) caste; other traditions call her Trishala, Videhadinna, or Priyakarini and place her in the Kshatriya caste.
The 7th to 5th century BCE was a period of great intellectual, philosophical, religious, and social ferment in India, a time when members of the Kshatriya caste opposed the cultural domination of the Brahmans, who claimed authority by virtue of their supposed innate purity. In particular, there was growing opposition to the large-scale Vedic sacrifices (yajna) that involved the killing of many animals. Because of the popularity of the doctrine of continual rebirth, which linked animals and humans in the same cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, unnecessary killing had become objectionable to many people. Economic factors may also have encouraged the growth of the doctrine of nonviolence. The leaders of the anti-Brahman sects came to be regarded as heretical. Mahavira and his contemporary Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, were two of the greatest leaders in this movement.
Although accounts of the life of Mahavira vary for the two Jain sects, he apparently was reared in luxury, but because he was a younger son he could not inherit the leadership of the clan. At the age of 30, after (according to the Shvetambara sect) marrying a woman of the Kshatriya caste and having a daughter, Mahavira renounced the world and became a monk. He wore one garment for more than a year but later went naked and had no possessions—not even a bowl for obtaining alms or drinking water. He allowed insects to crawl on his body and bite him, bearing the pain with patience. People frequently harangued and hit him because of his uncouth and unsightly body, but he endured abusive language and physical injuries with equanimity. Meditating day and night, he lived in various places—workshops, cremation and burial grounds, and at the foot of trees. Trying to avoid all sinful activity, he especially avoided injuring any kind of life, thus developing the doctrine of ahimsa, or nonviolence. He fasted often and never ate anything that was expressly prepared for him. Although he wandered continuously during most of the year, Mahavira spent the rainy season in villages and towns. After 12 years of extreme asceticism, he attained kevala, the highest stage of perception.
Mahavira may be regarded as the founder of Jainism. According to tradition, he based his doctrines on the teachings of the 23rd Tirthankara, Parshvanatha, a 7th-century BCE teacher from Banaras (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh), Mahavira systematized earlier Jain doctrines as well as Jainism’s metaphysical, mythological, and cosmological beliefs. He also established the rules of religious life for Jain monks, nuns, and laity.
Mahavira taught that people can save their souls from the contamination of matter by living a life of extreme asceticism and by practicing nonviolence toward all living creatures. This advocacy of nonviolence encouraged his followers, monastic and lay, to become strong advocates of vegetarianism. Mahavira’s followers were aided in their quest for salvation by the five mahavratas. Attributed to Mahavira (though they show connections with contemporary Brahmanical practice), these great vows were the renunciation of killing, of speaking untruths, of greed, of sexual pleasure, and of all attachments to living beings and nonliving things. Mahavira’s predecessor, Parshvanatha, had preached only four vows.
Mahavira was given the title Jina, or “Conqueror” (conqueror of enemies such as attachment and greed), which subsequently became synonymous with Tirthankara. He died, according to tradition, in 527 BCE at Pava in Bihar state, leaving a group of followers who established Jainism. Through their practice of nonviolence, they have profoundly influenced Indian culture.
Ashoka, also spelled Aśoka, (died 238? BCE, India), last major emperor in the Mauryan dynasty of India. His vigorous patronage of Buddhism during his reign (c. 265–238 BCE; also given as c. 273–232 BCE) furthered the expansion of that religion throughout India. Following his successful but bloody conquest of the Kalinga country on the east coast, Ashoka renounced armed conquest and adopted a policy that he called “conquest by dharma” (i.e., by principles of right life).
In order to gain wide publicity for his teachings and his work, Ashoka made them known by means of oral announcements and by engravings on rocks and pillars at suitable sites. These inscriptions—the rock edicts and pillar edicts (e.g., the lion capital of the pillar found at Sarnath, which has become India’s national emblem), mostly dated in various years of his reign—contain statements regarding his thoughts and actions and provide information on his life and acts. His utterances rang of frankness and sincerity.
According to his own accounts, Ashoka conquered the Kalinga country (modern Orissa state) in the eighth year of his reign. The sufferings that the war inflicted on the defeated people moved him to such remorse that he renounced armed conquests. It was at this time that he came in touch with Buddhism and adopted it. Under its influence and prompted by his own dynamic temperament, he resolved to live according to, and preach, the dharma and to serve his subjects and all humanity.
Ashoka repeatedly declared that he understood dharma to be the energetic practice of the sociomoral virtues of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, mercifulness, benevolence, nonviolence, considerate behaviour toward all, “little sin and many good deeds,” nonextravagance, nonacquisitiveness, and noninjury to animals. He spoke of no particular mode of religious creed or worship, nor of any philosophical doctrines. He spoke of Buddhism only to his coreligionists and not to others.
Toward all religious sects he adopted a policy of respect and guaranteed them full freedom to live according to their own principles, but he also urged them to exert themselves for the “increase of their inner worthiness.” Moreover, he exhorted them to respect the creeds of others, praise the good points of others, and refrain from vehement adverse criticism of the viewpoints of others.
To practice the dharma actively, Ashoka went out on periodic tours preaching the dharma to the rural people and relieving their sufferings. He ordered his high officials to do the same, in addition to attending to their normal duties; he exhorted administrative officers to be constantly aware of the joys and sorrows of the common folk and to be prompt and impartial in dispensing justice. A special class of high officers, designated “dharma ministers,” was appointed to foster dharma work by the public, relieve sufferings wherever found, and look to the special needs of women, of people inhabiting outlying regions, of neighbouring peoples, and of various religious communities. It was ordered that matters concerning public welfare were to be reported to him at all times. The only glory he sought, he said, was for having led his people along the path of dharma. No doubts are left in the minds of readers of his inscriptions regarding his earnest zeal for serving his subjects. More success was attained in his work, he said, by reasoning with people than by issuing commands.
Among his works of public utility were the founding of hospitals for men and animals and the supplying of medicines, and the planting of roadside trees and groves, digging of wells, and construction of watering sheds and rest houses. Orders were also issued for curbing public laxities and preventing cruelty to animals. With the death of Ashoka, the Mauryan empire disintegrated and his work was discontinued. His memory survives for what he attempted to achieve and the high ideals he held before himself.
Most enduring were Ashoka’s services to Buddhism. He built a number of stupas (commemorative burial mounds) and monasteries and erected pillars on which he ordered inscribed his understanding of religious doctrines. He took strong measures to suppress schisms within the sangha (the Buddhist religious community) and prescribed a course of scriptural studies for adherents. The Sinhalese chronicle Mahavamsa says that when the order decided to send preaching missions abroad, Ashoka helped them enthusiastically and sent his own son and daughter as missionaries to Sri Lanka. It is as a result of Ashoka’s patronage that Buddhism, which until then was a small sect confined to particular localities, spread throughout India and subsequently beyond the frontiers of the country.
Chandragupta, also spelled Chandra Gupta, also called Chandragupta Maurya or Maurya, (died c.297 BCE, Shravanbelagola, India), founder of the Mauryan dynasty (reigned c. 321–c. 297 BCE) and the first emperor to unify most of India under one administration. He is credited with saving the country from maladministration and freeing it from foreign domination. He later fasted to death in sorrow for his famine-stricken people.
Chandragupta was born into a family left destitute by the death of his father, chief of the migrant Mauryas, in a border fray. His maternal uncles left him with a cowherd who brought him up as his own son. Later he was sold to a hunter to tend cattle. Purchased by a Brahman politician, Kautilya(also called Chanakya), he was taken to Taxila (now in Pakistan), where he received an education in military tactics and the aesthetic arts. Tradition states that while he slept, following a meeting with Alexander the Great, a lion began licking his body, gently waking him and prompting in him hopes of royal dignity. Upon Kautilya’s advice, he collected mercenary soldiers, secured public support, and ended the autocracy of the Nanda dynasty in a bloody battle against forces led by their commander in chief, Bhaddasala.
Ascending the throne of the Magadha kingdom, in present-day Bihar state, about 325 BCE, Chandragupta destroyed the sources of Nanda power and eliminated opponents through well-planned administrative schemes that included an effective secret service. When Alexander died in 323, his last two representatives in India returned home, leaving Chandragupta to win the Punjab region about 322. The following year, as emperor of Magadha and ruler of the Punjab, he began the Mauryan dynasty. Expanding his empire to the borders of Persia, in 305 he defeated an invasion by Seleucus I Nicator, a Greek contender for control of Alexander’s Asian empire.
Ranging from the Himalayas and the Kābul River valley (in present-day Afghanistan) in the north and west to the Vindhya Range in the south, Chandragupta’s Indian empire was one of history’s most extensive. Its continuation for at least two generations is attributable in part to his establishment of an excellent administration patterned on that of the Persian Achaemenid dynasty (559–330 BCE) and after Kautilya’s text on politics, Artha-shastra (“The Science of Material Gain”). Chandragupta’s son, Bindusara, continued to expand the empire to the south.
Traditionally, Chandragupta was influenced to accept Jainism by the sage Bhadrabahu I, who predicted the onset of a 12-year famine. When the famine came, Chandragupta made efforts to counter it, but, dejected by the tragic conditions prevailing, he left to spend his last days in the service of Bhadrabahu at Shravanabelagola, a famous religious site in southwestern India, where Chandragupta fasted to death.
Samudra Gupta, (died 380 CE), regional emperor of India from about 330 to 380 CE. He generally is considered the epitome of an “ideal king” of the “golden age of Hindu history,” as the period of the imperial Guptas (320–510 CE) has often been called. The son of King Chandra Gupta I and the Licchaviprincess Kumaradevi, he is pictured as a muscular warrior, a poet, and a musician who displayed “marks of hundreds of wounds received in battle.” In many ways he personified the Indian conceptionof the hero.
Samudra Gupta was chosen as emperor by his father over other contenders and apparently had to repress revolts in his first years of rule. On pacifying the kingdom, which probably then reached from what is now Allahabad (in present-day Uttar Pradesh state) to the borders of Bengal, he began a series of wars of expansion from his northern base near what is now Delhi. In the southern Pallavakingdom of Kanchipuram, he defeated King Vishnugopa, then restored him and other defeated southern kings to their thrones on payment of tribute. Several northern kings were uprooted, however, and their territories added to the Gupta empire. At the height of Samudra Gupta’s power, he controlled nearly all of the valley of the Ganges (Ganga) River and received homage from rulers of parts of east Bengal, Assam, Nepal, the eastern part of the Punjab, and various tribes of Rajasthan. He exterminated 9 monarchs and subjugated 12 others in his campaigns.
From inscriptions on gold coins and on the Ashoka pillar in the fort at Allahabad, Samudra Gupta is shown to have been especially devoted to the Hindu god Vishnu. He revived the ancient Vedic horse sacrifice, probably at the conclusion of his fighting days, and distributed large sums for charitable purposes during these ceremonies. A special gold coin that he issued commemorated this ceremony, while another showed him playing the harp; all were of high gold content and excellent workmanship.
The caste status of Samudra Gupta and his successors remains uncertain. It is reasonable to assume, however, that the Guptas supported caste distinctions, and they may have been responsible for the emergence of Brahmanism as a theological system as well as a code of social behaviour, which was carried into present Hindu society.
Sher shah suri
Sher Shah Suri was the founder of the Sur Empire in North India. After taking control of the Mughal Empire in 1540, he set up a new civic and military administration and implemented several reforms in the financial and postal sectors. He reorganized the empire and revived the historical city of Pataliputra as Patna which had been in decline since the 7th century CE. He was known to be a great warrior and an able administrator whose works laid the foundation for the later Mughal emperors. Born as one of the several sons of a horse breeder, he grew up to be a brave young man with an ambitious and adventurous spirit. He rebelled against his father and left home to join the service of Jamal Khan, the governor of Jaunpur. He then moved on to work for Bahar Khan, the ruler of Bihar, and impressed him greatly with his valour and courage. He soon rose through the military ranks and became the governor of Bihar following the death of Bahar Khan. Growing in stature with each passing day, he went on to conquer Bengal and at the Battle of Chausa he defeated the Mughal Emperor Humayun and assumed the royal title of Farid al-Din Sher Shah. Counted amongst the greatest Muslim rulers of India, he died during the siege of Kalinjar fort in 1545.BPCS Notes brings Prelims and Mains programs for BPCS Prelims and BPCS Mains Exam preparation. Various Programs initiated by BPCS Notes are as follows:-
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