The sixth century BC saw the emergence of thinkers such as Zoroaster in Persia, Confucius in China, and Mahavira and Gautam Buddha in India. The main causes for the rise of Jainism and Buddhism are
Causes for the Rise of Jainism and Buddhism
Reaction against Ritualism
Rituals had become an important part of religious ceremonies and festivals. They had also become very expensive. The priestly class did not realize the sufferings of the common people. As a result, people were attracted to the simple faiths of Buddhism and Jainism.
Corruption in Religion
The priestly class forced the people to perform yajnas, sacrifices, and household rituals beyond their means. The Kshatriyas also protested the domination of the priestly class over society. Jainism and Buddhism attracted people because of their simple doctrines and simple religious practices.
Rigid Caste System
The Aryan society was divided into four castes. While Brahmins and Kshatriyas occupied the top position in society, Shudras were considered outcastes. Mobility within the caste system was not allowed. Many people considered the caste system oppressive. They were fascinated by Jainism and Buddhism which totally renounced the caste system and believed in the equality of all human beings.
Difficulty in Understanding Sanskrit
Most of the Aryan literature was composed in Sanskrit. Priests chanted mantras in Sanskrit and gave discourses in it which was extremely difficult for the common people to understand. Because Mahavira and Buddha spread their teachings in the local Prakrit language, people were easily able to understand and emulate their teachings.
In the sixth century BC, Magadha had emerged as a powerful kingdom, whose rulers Bimbisara and Ajatashatru were tolerant of other religions. They not only condemned social evils which existed in society but also provided patronage to Jainism and Buddhism which later spread far and wide.
Many farmers embraced Buddhism and Jainism as the killing or sacrifice of animals was against the interests of the farming community. Animals were used while plowing the land. They wanted a religion that could protect animals. Both Buddhism and Jainism preached against violence and animal sacrifice.
Also, Read India in the Sixth Century BC