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AJIVIKA SECT AND THE BARABAR CAVES



  May 01, 2024

AJIVIKA SECT AND THE BARABAR CAVES



1. What was the Ajivika sect, and where did it originate?

The Ajivika sect was an ancient religious group in India, known for its deterministic beliefs. It originated around 2500 years ago, emerging during a period of religious and philosophical development alongside Buddhism and Jainism. The sect was founded by Makkhali Gosala in the region that corresponds to modern-day Bihar and was particularly active during the Mauryan Empire.

2. What are the Barabar caves, and what is their significance in the context of the Ajivika sect?

Located in the Makhdumpur region of Jehanabad district in Bihar, the Barabar caves are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India, dating back to the 3rd century BCE during the Mauryan Empire. These caves were primarily used by the Ajivika monks for meditation and retreat. The architectural finesse and the inscriptions in these caves provide critical evidence of the presence and patronage of the Ajivika sect.

3. Who was Makkhali Gosala, and what was his relationship with other contemporary religious leaders?

Makkhali Gosala, the founder of the Ajivika sect, was initially a contemporary and close associate of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. However, they parted ways due to fundamental differences in their doctrinal beliefs. Gosala’s philosophy also contrasted with that of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, marking him as a significant figure in the heterodox traditions of ancient India.

4. What were the core beliefs and doctrines of the Ajivikas?

The Ajivikas were known for their doctrine of Niyati (fate or destiny), which posited that the fate of all beings is predetermined by cosmic forces. This doctrine rejected the concept of free will, suggesting that all events in the universe, including human actions, are preordained and unchangeable.

5. What factors contributed to the decline of the Ajivika sect?

The decline of the Ajivika sect was multifaceted. Key factors included the dominance of Buddhism and Jainism, which offered more structured spiritual paths and community support. The esoteric nature of Ajivika doctrine, which emphasized determinism and denied personal agency, may have also made it less appealing to the broader populace.

6. Are there any surviving Ajivika texts?

No original texts from the Ajivika sect have survived to the present day. The primary sources of information about their beliefs and practices are second-hand accounts from Buddhist and Jain texts, which often portray the Ajivikas in an adversarial light.

7. Can tourists visit the Barabar caves today, and what can they expect to see?

Yes, the Barabar caves are open to tourists and are a significant archaeological site. Visitors can admire the polished sandstone interiors known as the “Mauryan polish” that give the caves a smooth, reflective surface. The caves also feature several inscriptions and architectural innovations like the ‘chaitya arch’ that are key to understanding early Indian rock-cut architecture.

These FAQs aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the Ajivika sect and the historical Barabar caves, enriching the understanding of their cultural and religious significance in ancient India. If you have additional questions or need further information, please feel free to ask!



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