Who are Carvakas?

Who were Carvakas? What was their philosophy of life?


Carvakas were the ancient exponents of atheistic/materialistic philosophy in India. To know more about the philosophy of Carvakas, the best place to start with is the original (though scarce) source materials. 

In English, there is an excellent compendium edited by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya.: Cārvāk/Lokāyata - An Anthology of Source Materials and Some Recent Studies, published (in 1990) by Indian Council of Philosophical Research. The book has the following source materials.
  • Chandogya Upanisad  (viii. 7-9): The Asura View
  • Maitri Upanisad (vii. 8-9) : On the Ancient Heretics
  • Payasi Suttanta : Denial of the Doctrine of Karma
  • Samanna-phala-Sutta : The Non-conformists in Buddhist India
  • Ancient Grammatical Literature
  • Arthasastra (ii.1): Earliest Enumeration of Philosophies
  • Epics and Puranas : See Muir's Article in Part II (No. 20), where all relevant sources are quoted
  • Nyayasutra with Vatsyayana's Commentary
      1. On Inference
      2. Bhuta-caitanya-Vada
  • Prasastapada-bhasya with Nyaya-kandali : Self as Distinct from Body etc
  • Jayanta Bhatta's Nyaya-manjari :
      1. Dehatmavada
      2. On Inference
      3. Stray References
  • Udayana's Nyayakusumanjali : Dehatmavada
  • Santaraksita and Kamalasila :
      1. On Lokayata
      2. On Svabhavada
      1. Saddarsanasamuccaya on Lokayata with Manibhadra's Commentary
      2. Gunaratna on Above
      3. Gunaratna on Bhutacaitanya-vada
      4. Gunaratna on Kalavada etc
  • Prabhacandra's Prameya-kamala-Martanda and Nyaya-Kumuda-Candra :
      1. Bhuta-caitanya-Vada
      2. Refutation of Anumana
      3. Akhyativada
The book has also reproduced the Sukhilaji Sanghavi and RC Parikh's introduction to the published text of Tattvopaplavasimha of Jayarasi Bhatta. In addition to the above source materials, the book also has a collection of essays by modern scholars of Carvaka System of Philosophy.

In addition to the above, one should also read the books Lokayata (1959), Indian Atheism (1969), What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy, Science and Society in Ancient India, and In Defence of Materialsim in Indian Philosophy by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya.

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya's (whose writings appear on our website) recently published Studies on the Cārvāka/Lokāyata (2009) is another book that we recommend for those interested in the Carvaka System of Philosophy.

Writings on Indian Materialist Philosophy in Ancient India Available on this Website:


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    [Note: To those who are not familiar with the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST), the word Carvaka is pronounced Charvaka (चार्वाक in Sanskrit). According to Wikipedia, IAST is a transliteration scheme that allows a lossless romanization of Indic scripts]

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