Impact of Buddhism on Indian Culture and Society

Buddhism provided a fresh momentum to the Indian culture in the intellectual, literary, artistic and architectural field even it has completely vanished from India, its birth place. Like Jainism, Buddhism went a long way in influencing the Indian culture and mind set of the people.


Lord Gautam Buddha gave us four guiding principles. These are: there is suffering in life; the ground of suffering is desire; ending desire implicates ending suffering; and following a controlled and moderate lifestyle will end desire, and consequently end suffering. During the Indian National Movement, the major force of Satyagrahi which was based on Ahimsa—came from Buddhism.

Buddhism has deeply affected every aspect of Indian culture


The basic philosophy of the Buddhism was to shun the limits of life in terms of addiction to worldly gratification or a life of painful austerity along with self-mortification. Buddhism was mainly concentrated in the awareness that life is temporary and so as the sorrow. It also teaches us where sorrow and change prevail and the idea of an immortal or permanent soul is meaningless.

Opposition to Caste System

Buddha strongly discarded the ugly practice of caste system in Indian society during that remote phase of history. Due to his opposition, the complication of caste system was removed from the society. The society breathed a healthy atmosphere. This movement sustained because of which Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar also adopted this principle of Buddha and were admired by the society since then.


Gautam Buddha always conveyed his ideas using simple languages. Initially he used Prakrit language. Later on, he started using Pali language. With the gradual march of time, Sanskrit became the medium of preaching Buddhism. In this way, languages developed.

The writings on the pillars and the rocks give us an insight about the script of the period, which was brahmi—which later became the basis for many northern languages like Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, etc.


Vinayapitaka was read by Anand when Buddha departed. It deals with the code of conduct of the Buddhist monks. Suttapitaka deals with the Buddist religion and the prose. Abhidhamma pitaka was created in 4th council when Buddhism was divided between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddism. All these texts were written in Pali language. Mahabivasha was another book on Buddhism written in Sanskrit. Sariputta Prakarana, Vajra Suchi and Sutralankara were other Sanskrit books on Buddhism. Thus, literature also flourished due to rise of Buddhism.

Buddhist art and architecture

Buddhism contributed to a large extent in the field of art and architecture. A lot of information can be gathered from the pillars and Buddhist caves of Ashoka. The Sarnath pillar on the inverted lotus is fine example. The stupa constructed during Ashoka time represents Buddhism which later got modification from other Rajput rulers or the traders in later periods.

The figures of Buddha and Bodhisatva, Gandharva, Yaksha, trees, birds, creepers, etc. carved out on rocks manifested the growth of art and architecture in our country. The Buddhist paintings in Ajanta, Ellora, Karle, Bagh reflects the talent of Indian painters. Hence it can be interpreted that art, architecture, painting, etc. grew due to Buddhism.

Gandhara School of Art

  • It was developed in first century AD during reign of Kushana emperor Kanishka.
  • It is known for the first sculptural representations of the Buddha in human form.
  • Based on Greco-Roman norms encapsulating foreign techniques and an alien spirit. It is also known as Graeco-Buddhist School of art. In this art, Buddha was depicted as four types of hand gestures such as:
  • Abahayamudra—Don’t fear
  • Dhyanamudra—meditation
  • Dharmachakramudra—a preaching mudra
  • Bhumisparshamudra— Touching the earth

Mathura School of Art

  • It was developed in first century AD during reign of Kushana emperor Kanishka.
  • It is indigenous in character because of its vitality and ability to be absorbed mentally was a result of the religious zeal of Brahmanism, Jainism and Buddhism.
  • The sculptures were made on White-spotted red stones.

Amaravati School of Art

  • It flourished during the Kushana time was at Amaravati and Nagarjunkonda in Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is an intense art, depicting the joys of the people who had adopted the way of the Buddha as the new path of freedom and not as rift from the world.
  • It depicted the cultural story of a glorious people who had adopted Buddhism as their creed and linked it with their dynamism both on land and sea as merchants and mariners.
  • Mahayana religious movement in the Andhra country invested the life of the people with a golden halo whose brilliance is fully reflected in the sculptures of Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda.

Buddhist Paintings

The Ajanta paintings were marvel of all periods, dealt with the Buddha’s life stories from Jatakas. New form of wall painting was evolved in India.

Buddhism has affected every aspect of Indian culture and other religious philosophies find roots to Buddhism and all classes of life from traders to poor in the countryside have been streamlined by Buddhism. Hence, it has played major role in unifying all people together and sense of brotherhood helped in Indian national movement.

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