NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History Chapter 4 - Thinkers, Beliefs & Buildings—Cultural Development

Question 1:

Were the ideas of the Upanishadic thinkers different from those of the fatalists and materialists? Give reasons for your answer.


Yes, the philosophers of the Upanishads had different perception than that of the fatalists and the materialists. The main points of difference are as follows :

(i) The Views of the Fatalists and the Materialists. The fatalists believed that no one can escape the fruits of one’s Karma. No one can change pleasure or pain in the course of life. They can neither be lessened nor increased. The wise people thought that they can get rid of their Karmas through their noble qualities and meditation. But it is not possible. All men have to face both pleasure and pain.
Similarly the materialists do not believe in alms, sacrifice or offerings. They believe that there is no such thing as this world or the next. A human being is made up of four elements. When he dies, the earthy part in him returns to the dust. The fluid in him goes to the water. His heat goes to the fire and the windy part in him merges in the air. All his senses pass into space. In other words, nothing remains after death. So the talk of gifts is a doctrine of fools. It is an empty lie.

(ii) The Philosophical Views in the Upanishads. The above mentioned views have no place for soul or God. So according to the Upanishads, the aim of human life is the meeting of the soul with God.

Question 2:

Summarise the central teachings of Jainism.


Explain the basic idea of Jain Philosophy.


Describe the message of Lord Mahavira on life and Karma.


“The principle of ahimsa and renunciation emphasised by Jainism has left its mark.” Support the statement with Lord Mahavira’s messages.


The important teachings of Jainism are as follows :
(i) The entire world is animated. It is believed that even the stones, rocks and water have life.
(ii) No living being should be given any injury. The basic philosophy of Jainism is not to harm or cause injury to human-beings, animals, plants and insects. There is a great emphasis on the principle of ahimsa.
(iii) The cycle of birth and re-birth is shaped through Karma. If one is to escape this cycle of Karma, one must practise asceticism and penance. It is possible if one renounces the world. So one has to live in a monastry to attain salvation.
(iv) Jain monks and nuns used to take five vows such as : (i) Not to kill anyone (ii) Not to steal anything (iii) Not to tell a lie (iv) Not to possess property (v) To observe celibacy.

Question 3:

Discuss the role of the Begums of Bhopal in preserving the stupas at Sanchi.


“The Begums of Bhopal played a significant role in preserving the remains of Stupa at Sanchi.” Support this statement with a suitable evidence.


The contribution of Shahjahan Begum and her successor Sultan Jehan Begum was praise worthy in the preservation of the stupas at Sanchi. Their contribution can be described as follows:
(i) They donated money for the up-keep of the Stupas at Sanchi.
(ii) Sultan Jehan Begum contributed a lot of money for the erection of a museum and a Guest House.
(iii) John Marshall lived in that guest house and wrote many books. He dedicated his important books on Sanchi to Sultan Jehan Begum.
Thus, the stupas survived due to the wise decisions of the Begums of Bhopal.

Question 4:

Read the short inscription and answer the questions that follow:
In the year 33 of the Maharaja Huvishka (a Kushana ruler), in the first month of the hot season on the eight day, a Bodhisatta was set up at Madhuvanaka by the Bhikkhuni Dhanavati, the sister’s daughter of the Bhikkhuni Buddhamita, who knows the Tipitaka, the female pupil of the Bhikkhu Bala, who knows the Tipitaka, together with her father and mother.
(a) How did Dhanavati date her inscription?
(b) Why do you think she installed an image of the Bodhisatta?
(c) Who were the relatives she mentioned?
(d) What Buddhist text did she know?
(e) From whom did she learn the text?


(a) Dhanavati dated her inscription with the help of the Maharaja Huvishka, a Kushan ruler. This date was the eighth day of the first month of the hot season during the thirty third year of his rule.
(b) Dhanavati had deep faith in Buddhism which is why, she got the statue of Bodhisatta installed.
(c) She mentioned the name of her maternal aunt Buddhamita, her guru Bhikkhu Bala together with her parents.
(d) She knew the Buddhist texts like Tipitaka.

Question 5:

Why do you think women and men joined the Sangha?


The men and women probably went to the Sanghas due to the following reasons:
(i) They wanted to remain away from the worldly pleasures.
(ii) The life in the Sanghas was simple and disciplined.
(iii) They could deeply study the Buddhist philosophy by staying in the Sanghas.
(iv) Many people entered the Sanghas to become teachers of Dhamma. They went on to become theris or respected women who had attained liberation.
(v) All were considered equal in the Sanghas. There were kings, wealthy men and grihapatis. There were also the humble-folk like the workers, slaves and craftsmen. Nobody had an earlier social identity after becoming a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni.
(vi) The internal functioning of the Sangha was democratic. It emphasised consensus through discussions. If there was no consensus, decisions were taken on the basis of votes.

Question 6:

To what extent does knowledge of Buddhist literature help in understanding the sculpture at Sanchi?


“Buddhist literature needs to be studied to understand the scripture at Sanchi and other places.” Justify the statement with examples.


Art historians had to acquire familarity with hagiographies of the Buddha to understand the sculptures of Buddha. Hagiographies describe that the Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating sitting under a tree. Many early sculptors tried to show Buddha’s presence through symbols instead of showing him in human form. For example, the empty seat was meant to indicate the meditation of the Buddha and Stupa became symbol of mahaparinibbana. Symbol of wheel was also used quite frequently. Wheel stood for the first sermon of the Buddha delivered at Sarnath. Actually, such sculptures literally are very difficult to understand. For example, the tree does not stand for a tree alone, but it was a symbol of an event in the life of the Buddha. In order to understand such symbols, historians need to understand the traditions of those who produced these works of art.

Popular Traditions : Probably many sculptures of Sanchi were not associated with Buddhism. They include few sculptures of beautiful women. Those women were shown swinging from the edge of the gateway and holding onto a tree. Initially, scholars were intrigued about importance of this sculpture because there hardly seem any relation of sculpture with renunciation. But after examining other literary traditions, they realised that this is a sulpture of Shalabhanjika described in Sanskrit language. According to popular belief, this Shalabhanjika was a woman whose touch caused trees to flower and bear fruits.
This Shalabhanjika motif suggests that many people who turned to Buddhism enriched it with their own pre Buddhist and even non-Buddhist beliefs, practices and ideas. Some of the motifs used in sculptures of Sanchi were definitely originated from these traditions. For example, some of the beautiful depictions of animals were found here. These animals include elephant, horses, monkeys and cattles. Probably these animals were depicted to attract the people. Also, animals were used as symbols of human attributes. For example, elephant was considered as a symbol of strength and wisdom.
Another motif of a women is shown surrounded by lotuses and elephants. Elephants are sprinkling water on her as if they are performing consecration. Few historians consider it as Maya, the mother of the Buddha and others indentify her as a popular goddess, Gajalakshmi. Gajalakshmi is the goddess of good fortune and is associated with elephants. It is quite possible that devotees who saw these sulptures identified the figure with both Maya and Gajalakshmi.
The serpent are found on several pillars. This motif is probably being taken from popular traditions which were not always recorded in texts. Interesting thing is that one modern historian James Ferguson has considered Sanchi as a centre of trees and serpent worship. Probably he was unfamiliar with Buddhist literature because most of them had not been translated during his time. They probably arrived at this conclusion by studying only the images on their own.

Question 7:

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


Vaishnavism was a form of Hinduism. It believed in the worship of Vishnu as the principal deity. Similary, Shaivism is a tradition of Hinduism in which Shiva is regarded as the chief God. In such worship, the emphasis was laid on Bhakti, that is, the bond between the devotee and the God was the one of love and devotion.

Architecture. When the Stupas at Sanchi developed, the temples also came into existence. These temples were built to house images of gods and goddesses. The early temple was a small square room known as the garbhagriha. It had a single door-way from which the worshipper entered to worship the idol. Slowly and steadily a tall structure was built on the garbhagriha. It was known as the Shikhara. The walls of these temples were decorated with sculpture. But the later temples had an elaborate structure. They had assembly halls, huge walls, big gateways and arrangements for the supply of water.
Most of these temples were carved out of huge rocks. The tradition of building artificial caves was quite old. In the 3rd century B.C.E., many such caves were built for those who renounced the world and for those who belonged to the Ajivika sect, on the orders of king Ashoka. This tradition continued developing. Its most developed form can be seen in the Kailashnatha Temple of the 8th century. It was carved out of the single piece of rock. A copper plate inscriptions showed the amazement of the chief sculptor when he completed the temple at Ellora. He expressed his wonder saying: ‘‘Oh, how did I make it !’’

Sculpture. Many avataras have been shown as idols. Such idols have also been made of other gods. Shiva has been shown in the lingum form. But in many other images, Shiva has been shown in human form. All these images were based on the depiction of gods. Many sculptures of gods and goddesses were grotesque figures as they had multiple arms and hands. They also had a combination of human and animal forms.

Question 8:

Discuss how and why stupas were built.


Describe the structure of Stupa with examples.


Describe the structure of the Stupa and give any two examples of important stupas.


Trade out how Stupas were built.


Describe the magnificent features of the sculpture of Sanchi Stupa.


From the earliest times, people considered the Stupas as pious and sacred. These Stupas had special trees, unique rocks and awe-inspiring beauty. They also had small shrines attached to them. They were sometimes called as Chaityas.
There are several Chaityas in the Buddhist literature. There is also the description of many places associated with the Buddha. For example, we find Lumbini where the Buddha was born, Bodh Gaya where Buddha attained enlightenment, Sarnath where the Buddha delivered his first sermon and Kusinagar where Buddha attained nirvana. All these places came to be regarded as sacred by the Buddhists. About 200 years after the time of the Buddha, king Ashoka erected a pillar at Lumbini to mark the fact that the Buddha had visited this place.

(i) Why were Stupas Built?

The Stupas were the mounds where the bodily remains or objects used by the Buddha were buried. So all these Stupas were regarded as sacred. Though Stupas have been there even before the Buddha, yet, they are mainly associated with Buddhism. They are venerated as emblems of Buddhism as they contain the sacred relics of the Buddha. According to Ashokavadana, a Buddhist text, Ashoka distributed portions of the Buddha’s relics to all important cities. He ordered the construction of Stupas over these relics. The important Stupas of Bharhut, Sanchi and Sarnath had been built by the second century B.C.E.

(ii) The Complex Structure of Stupas

The Stupa is a Sanskrit word meaning a heap. It is a simple semi-circular mound of earth. Later on it was also called as anda. Slowly and steadily, its structure became complex because an attempt was made to balance the round and square shapes. Above the anda, it had the harmika, a balcony like structure. This balcony represented the abode of the gods. Near the harmika, was a mast called the Yashti. It was often surmounted by a Chhatri or umbrella. Around the mound, there was a railing. It separated the sacred place from the secular world. The Stupas at Sanchi and Bharhut have stone railings. This railing was like a bamboo or wooden fence. It had four gateways. The worshippers mostly entered through the eastern gateway. They walked around the mound in a clockwise direction.

(iii) Money for the Construction of the Stupas

A lot of donation poured in for the construction and decoration of the Stupas. The kings like Satavahanas offered huge amounts. Similarly the guilds and the ivory workers financed part of one of the gateways at Sanchi. Besides hundreds of men and women also donated for this purpose. They mentioned their names along with the place from where they had come. They also mentioned their occupations and names of their relatives. The Bikkhus and the Bhikkhunis also contributed a lot for the construction of these monuments.