The Jainism probably arose in the later Vedic period and was only revived by Vardhmana Mahavira “the great hero” in the 6th century B.C. Mahavira was the 24th in the line of ‘path finders’ (Tirthankaras). The word Jainism is derived from the word JINA meaning spiritual conqueror. There are two principal sects of the Jainas known as Swatambaras and the Digambaras. The former are clad in white while the latter go naked. The Digambaras
firmly believe that whoever owns anything is not fit for attaining
salvation. Jainism believes in the transmigration of soul. The goal of
life is to help soul attain its salvation. Salvation could only be achieved
by following right faith, right knowledge and right action— the Three
Jewels or Three Ratnas.
It is believed that Buddhism began as a religion and became a
philosophy in its encounter against Brahmanism. Buddhism rejects
ritualism and emphasises on morality The real message of the Buddha
is to be found in the Four Noble Truths. The first truth is that life is
painful. The second is that the pain is caused by Trishna or Desire, a
constant craving for sensual delight, pleasures and material gains. The
third is that suffering could be removed by removing its cause i.e.,
when man becomes free from desires. The fourth is that suffering can
cease if one knows the right way. Buddhism was split into two sects—
Hinayna and Mahayana. The four noble truths are common to both.
The followers of Mahayana raised Buddha to the status of God and
began to worship him just like the Hindus. Images of the Buddha were made and placed in the Buddhist churches. The Mahayana monks preached and wrote their sacred books in the Sanskrit language instead of Pali.
Puranic Bralimaniam was another important faith which emerged in the country. It had faith in Puranas, Dharamshastra such as Manu Samriti, Vishnu Samriti and two great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. It is also styled as Sanatan Dharma or Eternal Religion because the Dharamshastra and the Puranas are without beginning and ever lasting. The Puranic Hinduism was divided into several sects most important of them being Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism.
Vedant Darshan: In the later period of ancient Indian history, a new religious sect called Bhakti saints emerged in the South. The followers of Bhakti cult worshipped their favourite gods. It gave rise to the Vaishnav and Shaiv religions. Shankaracharya, the greatest Indian religious philosopher propagated love of God and composed many devotional
poems. He elaborated the subtle and the most profound philosophy of Upanishadas. He restored the Brahmanical Hinduism and the authority of the Vedas to the position of intellectual leadership. He taught the
unqualified monism of the Vedas. He reformed the method of worship from the uncivilised and indecent practices of the Tantrics. He gave a pleasant and elevating system of worship of the deities— Shiva,
Shakti, Surya, Vishnu, Ganpati and Shamukha. He established four maths or monasteries in four corners of India i.e. at Shringeri, Pun, Dwarka and Badrinath.
Coming of Islam to India: Islam took birth in Arabia in the beginning of the 7th century. Indians came into contact with Islam in the
late seventh century A.D. through the Arab traders. Later, the Sufi saints came to India with Arab traders to spread the message of Lotus flower Symbol of Purity Islam. The Sufism had gained ground in India before the establishment of the Muslim rule in India by Maimud Ghazni. The Sufi saints condemned blind faith and useless rituals which had crept into Muslim society They had firm faith in One God. They asked their followers to shun wealth and life of luxury. They had firm faith in non-violence. They held that social evils could be eradicated only by peaceful methods. They preached love of mankind and universal brotherhood. The Sufis were successful in converting a large number of Hindus to Islam, especially the low castes. The Sufi movement spread all over India.
Bhakti Movements: During the Medieval period, Southern as well as Northern India witnessed the growth of the Bhakti movement. It aimed to purge Hinduism of its evils and to save it from the onslaughts of Islam. A series of Hindu saints and reformers started religious reform movements which adopted the method of devotion (Bhakti) to achieve salvation. Thus began the Bhakti movement. The most famous and popular among the reformers were Rama Nanda, Kabir, Sadna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Ravi Das and Guru Nanak. The Bhakti movement greatly influenced the social, religious, cultural and political life of the people. It saved Hinduism from degeneration. It condemned the caste system, untouchability wasteful rituals and ceremonies to restore Hinduism to its ancient glory The Bhakti movement thus protected Hinduism and it began to flourish. The Bhakti reformers preached universal brotherhood. As a result, people were no more inclined to embrace Islam and thus growth of Islam was checked.