This article will explore the Charvaka philosophy and the relationship between the Vedic period and Charvaka. We will discuss Charvaka schools and their relatedness with the branches of Philosophy at the end of this article.

India has long been known as a place of ideas. Our civilisation has progressed dramatically throughout time, as have our perspectives on the world. Our culture is steeped in philosophy. The Vedas, Puranas and even Buddhist and Jain schools of thought have left an indelible mark on our collective mythology and cultural legacy. Charvaka, also known as Lokayata, was one of the first materialist schools of thought, long before Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and before the west began to question its faith in God.

Meaning of Charvaka Philosophy

Charvaka was a philosophical system of thought that emerged in India around 600 BCE and emphasised materialism to understand and live in the world. According to materialism, everything that exists is a perceivable matter; ideas like the soul and other supernatural beings or planes of existence are just the creations of creative minds.

Any supernatural claims, religious authority and scripture, the acceptance of inference and evidence in determining truth and any religious ceremony or tradition were all rejected by the Charvaka vision. The philosophy’s fundamental tenets were:

  • The only way to establish and accept any reality is by direct awareness
  • What the senses cannot perceive and comprehend does not exist
  • The visible components of air, earth, fire, and water are all that exist
  • The only evil in life is suffering; pleasure is the ultimate good
  • The fundamental aim of human existence is to seek pleasure while avoiding misery
  • Religion is a creation of the powerful and smart to exploit the weak

Vedic period and Charvaka 

Charvaka was a reaction against India’s accepted religious worldview, which was based on the Vedas. The Vedas are the most important religious books in Hinduism (also called Sanatan Dharma, “Eternal Order” or “Eternal Path” by devotees). The four Vedas – Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda – contain the vital information required to comprehend the Eternal Order of the cosmos and one’s position in it.

The Vedic worldview gave rise to Brahmanism, a religious/philosophical movement that held that the Universe ran according to specific fixed laws that were observable and verifiable. These rules were known as Rita (‘order’), argued for a rule-maker. They named this rule-maker Brahman because they believed he was an incomprehensibly great entity who created the Universe.

Charvaka School 

It is a traditional Indian school. ‘Lokayata’, which means ‘that which is found among people in general’, was a moniker for materialist systems. Direct perception, empiricism, and conditional inference are appropriate forms of knowledge by Charvaka, who also accepts philosophical scepticism and condemns ritualism and supernaturalism. Brihaspati is the originator of Charvaka or Lokayata philosophy, according to legend.

The Charvaka were atheists who did not believe in karma, reincarnation or an afterlife. It was believed that physical pleasure was harmless. Because pleasure cannot exist without suffering, Charvaka believed that wisdom consisted in savouring pleasure while avoiding pain as much as possible. Many of the traditional religious beliefs of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Ajivakas, such as an afterlife, reincarnation, samsara, karma, and religious ceremonies, were discarded by Charvakas.

Charvaka School and Branches of Philosophy

Their epistemology placed a premium on perception/evidence (pramana) and observation (anubhava) of the actual material world and the ability to question the inferences drawn from them. That may have been the start of logic and scientific theory — a frequently misattributed legacy.

Charvaka’s ethics was a hedonistic one. They thought that sensuous pleasures were the sole genuine goal of life and that there were no duties for a hereafter or karma. However, a subjective moral norm existed of avoiding pain and suffering during the pleasure process. Because death was regarded as an unavoidable occurrence, living one’s life to the utmost was the only prudent course of action.


The Charvakas tell us that scepticism is the path to emancipation in a society where animosity is formed out of disparities in firmly established and seemingly irrefutable beliefs. The Lokayata is known for its liberal approach to faith. Rather than soothing us with the paradise of dharma and karma, it holds us accountable for our actions. Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist doctrines, which gave a more optimistic view of the afterlife and significance in one’s everyday living, finally surpassed Charvaka. Even if people could not wholly accept Charvaka’s idea of a life lived totally and solely according to one’s own particular beliefs without anticipation of reward or fear of punishment, his message would transform the way people perceived the world.