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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a materialist doctrine in ancient and medieval India—a late variant of, and sometimes identified with, the Lokayata. No written work by followers of this school, or Charvakas, has been preserved.

The Charvakas rejected the orthodox Indian religious-philosophical systems whose authority was derived from the Vedas and Vedic principles; they not only denied the existence of an absolute god and of the soul (the brahman and atman) but also rejected the concepts of dharma and karma as the basis of morality. The Charvakas held that only what is directly perceived is true; this world is all that exists, and matter is the only reality. Concentrating on the development of ethical concepts, the Charvakas regarded the notion of good and evil as an illusion created by the human imagination. In their view, only the pain and pleasure of sensory existence are real. They rejected the ascetic restrictions imposed by the rules of the Indian religious-philosophical systems, asserting that the achievement of pleasure is the one goal of human existence. They held that one should strive toward the goal even though the pleasure may be coupled with suffering.

The Charvaka’s consistent materialism and hedonism make it a unique phenomenon in the history of Indian thought, even with respect to unorthodox Indian philosophical systems.


Shcherbatskoi, F. I. “K istorii materializma v Indii.” In Izbr. trudy russkikh indologov-filosofov. Moscow, 1962.
Anikeev, N. P. O materialisticheskikh traditsiakh v indiiskoi filosofii. Moscow, 1965.
Radhakrishnan, S. Indiiskaia filosofiia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from English.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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