A History of Buddhism (Sanchi Stupa): NBSE Class 12 (Arts) notes

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Get summary, textual answers, solutions, notes, extras, PDF to NBSE Class 12 (Arts) History (Themes in Indian History) chapter “A History of Buddhism: Sanchi Stupa”. However, the educational materials should only be used for reference and students are encouraged to make necessary changes.

Buddha, illustrating the chapter A History of Buddhism Sanchi Stupa

Introduction

The chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the religious and philosophical beliefs, practices, and literature of ancient India. It covers a wide range of topics, including the life and teachings of Vardhana Mahavira, the Buddha, and the religious beliefs of Vedic Hinduism. The chapter also discusses the development of sculpture and architecture associated with the rise of Vaishnavism and Shaivism, as well as the growth of religions and new religious movements after Buddhism.

One of the key themes of the chapter is the importance of religious literature in shaping the beliefs and practices of ancient Indian society. The chapter discusses the Vedic religious literature, which includes the Vedas, Upanishads, and Brahmanas, and their role in shaping the religious beliefs and practices of ancient India. It also explores the Puranas, which are a storehouse of Indian philosophy and ancient Aryan history, and their role in propagating religion and morals and creating the fear of God in the minds of people.

Another important theme of the chapter is the role of religious institutions and practices in shaping the social and cultural norms of ancient Indian society. The chapter discusses the Ashram system, which divided an average man’s life into four Ashrams or periods, each of twenty-five years plan, and the rigorous discipline that was expected of individuals during each period. It also explores the Sangha, which was a community of Buddhist monks and nuns who renounced worldly life and dedicated themselves to the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment.

The chapter also provides a detailed account of the development of sculpture and architecture associated with the rise of Vaishnavism and Shaivism. It discusses the construction of stupas, which were built to enshrine the relics of the Buddha and other important Buddhist figures, and their role in promoting the spread of Buddhism. The chapter also explores the important features of the Sanchi Stupa, which is one of the most famous and well-preserved stupas in India.

In addition to providing a detailed account of the religious and philosophical beliefs and practices of ancient India, the chapter also includes a number of activities and discussion questions designed to help students engage with the material. These activities include collecting pictures of sculptures, paintings, and stupas described in the chapter and discussing their features and importance with a teacher, as well as describing the buildings used for religious activities today and comparing them with early stupas and temples.

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Textual questions and answers

I. Very Short Answer Questions

1. Who worshipped nature?

Answer: The Aryans worshipped nature.

2. Write the name of the oldest and the most important part of Vedic literature.

Answer: The oldest and the most important part of Vedic literature is the Rig Veda.

3. What do you know about chatur varnas?

Answer: In the Later Vedic Age, the whole society was divided into four Varnas- Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. The Brahmanas occupied the highest place in social organisation while the lowest class in the society was that of Sudras. 

4. Write the names of six schools of Hindu philosophy.

Answer: The six schools of Hindu philosophy are: the Sankhya school of Kapila, the Yoga system of Patanjali, the Nyaya school of Gautama, the Vaisheshik system of Kanada, the Purvamimansa of Jaimini, the Uttar Mimansa of Vyasa.

5. Who built Sanchi Stupa?

Answer: The Sanchi Stupa was built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE.

6. Where is Kailashnath Temple situated?

Answer: The Kailashnath Temple is situated in Ellora, Maharashtra, India.

II. Multiple Choice Questions

(A) ‘Kutagarashala’ is the place of:

Answer: (i) Debates

(B) Hagiography is a biography of:

Answer: (iii) Saint or Religious Leader

(C) The most important idea in Jainism

Answer: (i) The entire world is animated

(D) The first woman to be ordained as a bhikkhuni is:

Answer: (ii) Mahapajapati Gotami

(E) Stupa is venerated as emblem of:

Answer: (iii) Both (i) & (ii)

III. Short Answer Type Questions-l

1. Give any two features of the Vedic religion.

Answer: The Vedic religion did not involve building temples or making images of gods for worship. The common way of worship was the offering of sacrifices or Yajnas to secure earthly happiness, get children and cattle, or to overpower one’s enemies. Another important feature of the religious life of the early Aryans was the absence of a separate priestly class. Every householder was a priest who lighted the sacrificial fire in his own home and chanted the hymns.

2. Name the six schools of Hindu philosophy.

Answer: The six schools of Hindu philosophy are: the Sankhya school of Kapila, the Yoga system of Patanjali, the Nyaya school of Gautama, the Vaisheshik system of Kanada, the Purvamimansa of Jaimini, the Uttar Mimansa of Vyasa.

3. What was the motive behind offering sacrifices?

Answer: In the Vedic religion, the motive behind offering sacrifices or Yajnas was to secure earthly happiness, get children and cattle, or to overpower one’s enemies. The belief was that by offering sacrifices, one could please the gods and seek their blessings for material prosperity and success. The Hotri recited the Vedic hymns during the sacrifice.

4. What was the position of priestly class in the Later Vedic Age?

Answer: During the later Vedic age, religious rites and ceremonies became more elaborate, complicated, and expensive, and this naturally increased the importance of the priestly class of Brahmanas. There were certain sacrifices which could be performed only by 16 or 17 Brahmanas and lasted for months. The officiating priests (hotaries) were generously rewarded and given Dakshina or gifts.

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9. Where is the Sanchi Stupa situated? Name the first foreigner who first discovered its ruins?

Answer: The Sanchi Stupa is situated near the village of Sanchi. The first foreigner who first discovered its ruins was an officer in the British Army who climbed to the top of the majestic plateau near the village of Sanchi.

10. How have the Buddhist texts been preserved?

Answer: The Buddhist texts were preserved in manuscripts for several centuries in the monasteries in different parts of Indonesia. These have been translated from Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan into modern languages. Chinese pilgrims like Fa-Hien and Hieun Tsang visited India to collect Buddhist texts. They took these texts to their own country and translated them into Chinese.

11. What do the Stupas contain?

Answer: The Stupas contain the relics of the Buddha, such as the bodily remains or objects used by him. These mounds are known as the Stupas. The entire Stupa came to be venerated as an emblem of the Buddha and Buddhism.

IV. Short Answer Type Questions-II

1. Discuss the Middle Path as preached by the Buddha.

Answer: The Middle Path, also known as the Noble Eightfold Path or Arya Ashtmarge, is the right way of living according to the Buddha. It is the path between the two extremes of too much pleasure and comfort on one hand, and living like an ascetic without food and shelter on the other. By following the Middle Path, a person can attain Nirvana, which is the highest goal of a Buddhist. Nirvana is an eternal blissful state that knows no craving, no delusion, and no death.

The Noble Eightfold Path consists of the following steps:

i. Right View of Faith: It means the knowledge of the four truths which the Buddha told in his first sermon. By having right views, man can distinguish between sin and piety, good and evil.

ii. Right Belief: It is to be free from violence and desire. It is to renounce pleasure, to bear no ill-will, and to do no harm to others.

iii. Right Speech: It is to be polite and truthful. One should abstain from lying, slander, abuse, harsh words, and idle talk.

iv. Right Action: To do good deeds.

v. Right Living: To adopt a right means of livelihood.

vi. Right Endeavour: Making right efforts to control evil thoughts and actions.

vii. Right Recollection: It is right mindfulness, vigilance through self-examination and self-study.

viii. Right Meditation: To concentrate the mind on right things is right meditation.

2. Summarise the central teachings of Jainism.

Answer: The central teachings of Jainism include rigorous discipline, moral living, and the practice of penance and self-mortification. The religion emphasizes the principle of Ahimsa or non-violence, which requires Jains to abstain from killing or injuring any living being, including animals, plants, and insects. Jains believe that all living beings have souls, including plants, wind, and fire. After the death of Mahavira, the doctrines of Jainism were spread in India by Srutekevalins, and the religion has been carried to the extreme by Jain monks who go about in public with their mouths and noses covered with white cloth so that no living being should enter their bodies and get killed.

3. What are dissimilarities between the Hinayana and Mahayana sects of Buddhism?

Answer: The Hinayana and Mahayana sects of Buddhism differ in their interpretation of the teachings of Buddha and their approach to the path of enlightenment.

Hinayana, also known as Theravada, emphasizes the individual’s path to enlightenment through self-discipline and meditation. It adheres to the original teachings of Buddha and focuses on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Hinayana Buddhism does not recognize the existence of Bodhisattvas, who are believed to be enlightened beings who have postponed their own Nirvana to help others attain enlightenment.

On the other hand, Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the role of Bodhisattvas and the importance of compassion and altruism in achieving enlightenment. Mahayana Buddhism believes that anyone can become a Bodhisattva and that the ultimate goal is not just personal enlightenment but also the enlightenment of all sentient beings. Mahayana Buddhism also recognizes the existence of celestial beings and deities, which are not recognized in Hinayana Buddhism.

Another difference between the two sects is their attitude towards the monastic rules. Hinayana Buddhism adheres strictly to the monastic rules, while Mahayana Buddhism is more flexible in its interpretation of the rules and allows for greater participation of laypeople in the practice of Buddhism.

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7. Discuss how and why the stupas were built?

Answer: Stupas were built as a way to venerate the Buddha and Buddhism. They were built to contain relics of the Buddha, such as his bodily remains or objects used by him, and were considered sacred. The entire stupa came to be venerated as an emblem of the Buddha and Buddhism.

Ashoka, a prominent emperor, distributed the relics of the Buddha to every important town in the empire and ordered the erection of stupas over them. The inscriptions on the railings and pillars of the stupas record donations by different types of people for erecting and decorating them. Some donations were made by the kings, such as the Satvahnas, while others were made by guilds, such as that of the ivory workers who financed a part of one of the gateways of the stupa at Sanchi. Bhikshus and Bhikshunis also contributed towards building the stupas.

The stupas were initially semi-circular mounds of earth, but gradually became more complex structures, with well-balanced round and square shapes. The stupas were built to contain the remains of dignitaries, and eight stupas containing the secret relics of the Buddha are believed to have been built by Ashoka at Sanchi.

V. Long Answer Type Questions-l

1. Describe briefly the life and teachings of Vardhana Mahavira.

Answer: Vardhana Mahavira, also known as Mahavira, is usually regarded as the founder of Jainism. He was born near Vaishali in North Biliar in 568 BC. He belonged to a well-known Kshatriya elan, and was related to the Lichchavi ruling family of Vaishali. His early life passed in royal luxuries. From his early age, he received good education. He had a bent towards meditation. He was married to a princess named Yashodha. He left the palace at the age of thirty and became an ascetic. Thereafter he practised severe penance for twelve years. All sorts of living beings gathered and crawled round his body but he went on meditating without caring for all the obstacles that came his way. He ultimately reached his goal and obtained the supreme knowledge in the thirteenth year. Since he controlled and conquered the indriyas (senses), he is known as Jina Mahavira (conqueror).

Mahavira taught five doctrines: (i) not to injure life, (ii) not to tell a lie, (iii) not to steal anything, (iv) not to possess property, and (v) to vow chastity (brahmacharya). Mahavira had no belief in God. He did not believe that God created this universe or exercised any personal control over it. The main purpose of Mahavira’s teachings is the attainment of salvation by freeing the soul from its earthly bondage. This could be achieved only by following Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right action- the Three Jewels or the Three Ratnas..

2. Present through words the life sketch of the Buddha.

Answer: Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha, was born in Lumbini around 563 BC to Raja Suddodhana, the ruler of Kapilvastu. Despite receiving a top-notch education from Brahman scholars, he remained unsatisfied with life. One night, after years of happy married life and fathering a son, Rahula, he renounced his luxurious life to become a wandering monk in search of truth. He was prompted to do so after seeing a helpless old man, a dead man, a sick man crying with pain, and a holy man, wondering about the cause of human suffering and how to overcome it.

Siddhartha initially lived in a forest near Rajgriha for two years with two famous Hindu scholars, Alara and Udarva, but was still unable to find the peace he sought. He then joined five ascetic monks, but even self-mortification did not bring him closer to the truth. He finally attained enlightenment while meditating under a Pipal tree on the banks of the river Niranjana near Bodh Gaya. From then on, he was known as the Buddha or the enlightened one.

The Buddha spent the rest of his life preaching the truth as he saw it, delivering his first sermon at the Deer Park in Sarnath near Benaras to his five ascetic disciples. He converted hundreds and thousands of people from all walks of life, organizing them into the great Buddhist Sangha or Order, which he endowed with rules and discipline. He died at the age of eighty at Kushinagara, believed to have been a contemporary of Magadha rulers Bimbisara and Ajathashatru.

3. Describe the religious beliefs of the Vedic Hinduism.

Answer: The Vedic religion, also known as Hinduism, is one of the oldest religions in the world. The religion is based on the Vedas, which are a collection of sacred texts that were composed in ancient India. The Vedas are considered to be the oldest scriptures of Hinduism and are divided into four main parts: the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, and the Atharvaveda.

The Vedic religion is polytheistic, meaning that it recognizes the existence of many gods and goddesses. The gods and goddesses are believed to have different powers and responsibilities, and they are often associated with natural phenomena such as the sun, the moon, and the stars. The Vedic people believed that the gods and goddesses controlled the forces of nature and that they could be appeased through sacrifices and offerings.

The Vedic religion also recognizes the existence of a supreme being, known as Brahman. Brahman is considered to be the ultimate reality and is often described as an all-pervading, eternal, and infinite consciousness. The Vedic people believed that Brahman was the source of all creation and that everything in the universe was a manifestation of Brahman.

Another important aspect of the Vedic religion is the concept of karma. Karma is the idea that every action has a consequence, and that these consequences determine the course of one’s life. The Vedic people believed that one’s actions in this life would determine their fate in the next life, and that the ultimate goal of life was to achieve liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

4. Discuss the development in sculpture and architecture associated with the rise of Vaishnavism and Shaivism.

Answer: The rise of Vaishnavism and Shaivism in India was accompanied by significant developments in sculpture and architecture. Vaishnavism and Shaivism were two important sects of Hinduism that worshipped Vishnu and Shiva respectively. The followers of these sects built magnificent temples and created beautiful sculptures to express their devotion to their deities.

The architecture of Vaishnava and Shaiva temples was characterized by the use of stone and brick, and the construction of elaborate gateways, pillared halls, and sanctuaries. The temples were often built on high platforms and had multiple levels, with the sanctuaries located at the highest level. The sanctuaries were often decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures of the deities.

The sculptures associated with Vaishnavism and Shaivism were also highly developed. The Vaishnava sculptures depicted Vishnu in various forms, such as Rama, Krishna, and Narasimha. The Shaiva sculptures depicted Shiva in various forms, such as Nataraja, Ardhanarishvara, and Linga. These sculptures were often made of stone or bronze and were highly detailed and realistic.

One of the most famous examples of Vaishnava architecture is the temple of Jagannath in Puri, Odisha. The temple is built in the Kalinga style of architecture and is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, a form of Vishnu. The temple is famous for its elaborate carvings and sculptures, including the famous chariot festival.

Similarly, the Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, is a famous example of Shaiva architecture. The temple was built in the Dravidian style of architecture and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is famous for its towering gopuram (gateway tower) and the massive Nandi statue located in front of the temple.

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7. Discuss how and why stupas were built.

Answer: Stupas were built as a way to venerate the Buddha and Buddhism. They were considered sacred because they contained relics of the Buddha, such as his bodily remains or objects used by him, and were built over these relics. The entire stupa came to be revered as an emblem of the Buddha and Buddhism.

Ashoka, a prominent emperor, distributed the relics of the Buddha to every important town in the empire and ordered the erection of stupas over them. The inscriptions on the railings and pillars of the stupas record donations by different types of people for erecting and decorating them. Some donations were made by the kings, such as the Satvahnas, while others were made by guilds, such as that of the ivory workers who financed a part of one of the gateways of the stupa at Sanchi. Bhikshus and Bhikshunis also contributed towards building the stupas.

Stupas were initially semi-circular mounds of earth, but gradually became more complex structures, with well-balanced round and square shapes. They were built at places related to the Buddha’s life, such as Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment, Saranath, where he delivered his first sermon, and Kushinagara, where he attained Nirvana. With the passage of time, each of these places came to be regarded as sacred and places of pilgrimage.

8. Describe the important features of the Sanchi Stupa.

Answer: The Sanchi Stupa is considered to be the oldest stone structure in India and is an important Buddhist monument. It has four gateways with detailed carvings on each of the pillars. The uppermost part of the pillars has scenes from the childhood of Gautama, while another section has details of battle scenes. The lowermost part depicts death pyres and a single blank patch of stone denoting the existence of the formless God. The Stupa also has sculptures of elephants, horses, camels, lions, and men and women loving their lives of work and love, amidst natural surroundings. There are also yakshas or Yakshis, carved out beautifully and placed in strategic positions. The impact of Bramanical architectural style is evident in the Stupas erected later. One of them at the extreme right of the hillock is even decorated with the taandava nritya (the death dance) of Shiva. The Sanchi Stupa is also home to the famous female bracket figure on the eastern gate of Stupa-1, which has been interpreted in diverse ways by various art historians.

VI. Long Answer Type Questions-II

1. What are the problems in reconstructing histories of idea and beliefs when texts are not available?

Answer: When texts are not available, reconstructing histories of ideas and beliefs can be challenging. Some of the problems that arise in this process include:

i. Lack of primary sources: Without primary sources, it becomes difficult to verify the accuracy of secondary sources. This can lead to the propagation of myths and legends.

ii. Bias: Secondary sources may be biased towards a particular perspective or ideology, which can distort the interpretation of historical events.

iii. Incomplete information: Without complete information, it is difficult to understand the context in which historical events occurred. This can lead to misinterpretation of events and ideas.

iv. Interpretation: Historical events and ideas can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the perspective of the interpreter. This can lead to conflicting interpretations of the same event or idea.

v. Loss of information: Over time, information can be lost due to natural disasters, wars, or other events. This can make it difficult to reconstruct the history of ideas and beliefs accurately.

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4. Why do you think woman and men joined the Sangha?

Answer: Both men and women joined the Sangha for various reasons. The Sangha provided a community of like-minded individuals who were dedicated to following the teachings of the Buddha. For some, joining the Sangha was a way to escape the material world and live a life of simplicity and spiritual devotion. For others, it was a way to seek enlightenment and attain liberation from the cycle of rebirth. The Sangha also provided opportunities for education and intellectual pursuits, which may have been appealing to both men and women. Also, joining the Sangha provided a sense of social status and respect in ancient Indian society. For women, joining the Sangha may have provided a way to escape the restrictions and limitations placed on them in traditional Indian society.

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