Cārvāka (or charvak), which is a sub-ideology within Hinduism, contains highly conflicting ideals with the core religious views. For example, it's dominantly atheistic (and that sort of defeats the purpose of a religion).

Moreover, according to this ideology:

  • There's no soul.
  • Metaphysical concepts ― like reincarnation, an extracorporeal soul, the efficacy of religious rites, other worlds (heaven and hell), fate, and accumulation of merit or demerit through the performance of certain actions ― don't exist.
  • There's no afterlife.
  • There's nothing wrong in sensual pleasure.

And so on.

How can this ideology exist within Hinduism?

  • @senshin: what did you edit?
    – Abhimanyu
    Jul 18, 2014 at 13:03
  • As you can see by clicking on the "edited Jul 7 at 20:14" link, it was minor grammar fixes, changing the spelling of the tag, and adding the question in your title to the body of your question.
    – senshin
    Jul 28, 2014 at 7:17
  • cArvAkism is nAstika vAda. It is not a subset of Hinduism. All these theories were successfully defeated by sages like Sankaracharya.
    – user1195
    Dec 23, 2014 at 18:10
  • according to this ideology : there's no afterlife - TRUE. but there's no soul-FALSE. It gives "precedence to body over soul".
    – KNU
    Apr 14, 2016 at 13:50

5 Answers 5


There will always be two groups of people. One who will believe in afterlife, God, etc. (the theists) and the other who will not believe in afterlife, God, etc. (the atheists). The ideology of Cārvāka fills the atheistic position in Hinduism. However, the thing to note is that this school of thought being faulty has already lost its prominence being refuted by other theist schools of thought hundreds of years back. Hence, the number of people who believe in God, afterlife, etc. are more than the number of people who do not believe in such things.

Now the reason that such school of thought existed was simple, to delude people. Charvak was a rishi (sage), sometimes even the ideology is attributed to sage Brihaspati. In the ancient time people were doing vedic rituals, sacrifices, etc. with great effort to attain a better afterlife. To drag their attention away from heavily indulging in such kinds of act such faulty ideologies were spread.

Another reason present in the Maitri Upanishad (7.9) is that, Brihaspati, the Guru of Indra (king of heaven) introduced such a faulty ideology intentionally so that people will not perform Vedic sacrifices such as the aswamedha yanjya which award the seat of Indra in heaven. The faulty ideology will lure people of demonic nature away into lower level of existence. Hence, by not following vedic rites and sacrifices the position of Indra will remain secured.

The bottom line is, the hedonistic Cārvāka philosophy is faulty and serves the purpose of luring people away from the right path. If there are doctrines that lead people to heaven and salvation, then should not there also be doctrines that lead people to hell and damnation? How else do you think the seats in hell will get filled up?

  • 2
    If there are doctrines that lead people to heaven and salvation, then should not there also be doctrines that lead people to hell and damnation? - I disagree with this conclusion. There is no necessity of having an opposing view to 'lead people to hell'. When people digress from the righteous path, which they often do, the consequence is hell. So, to say, the sole idea behind Cārvāka school of thought is to lead people to hell, is not correct. Jun 19, 2014 at 17:36
  • 1
    I'm an atheist actually (a secular humanist) and so I don't subscribe to beliefs of hell and heaven, but for scholarly research on Hinduism, it's necessary to assess the nature of this sub-ideology. You say about heaven and hell. You said that charvak dictates there's no hell. But actually, it states there's neither. Nor even heaven. So how can it be flawed?
    – Abhimanyu
    Jun 20, 2014 at 8:24
  • 1
    Charvaka is an old philosopher, how does that make him Hindu?
    – Amala
    Jul 14, 2014 at 15:09
  • 2
    Your answer was the best out of these given, but if you weren't biased and just ANSWERED the question, I would've liked it more. For example, if Charvak was created to "drag their attention away from heavily indulging in such kinds of act", acts like sacrifices, you say such kind of "faulty ideologies" were spread. If some people wanted people to stop sacrifising and be modern instead and not like ancient Egyptian people, then how are they faulty? Even if they are, let's say, that doesn't give you the right to bias your answer. It hits the professionalism of the Q&A site.
    – Abhimanyu
    Jul 18, 2014 at 13:07
  • 1
    This answer is highly biased and by all means written by a "theists". You can never judge the real message of "Charvaka" with a theist eye.
    – KNU
    Apr 14, 2016 at 14:03

Atheism is accepted as a Nastika branch of Sanatana Dharma because of the importance given to conscience in Sanatana Dharma. After all even the Gita shloka 18.63 says:

Thus have I imparted to you wisdom which is more secret (profound) than all that is secret (profound). Reflecting over this whole teaching, do as you think fit.

Lord Krishna does not say, 'Believe or else....'!

The Lokayats also claimed that the only reliable pramana (epistemological proof) is sensory perception and that using such a principle it can be shown that the Vedas have been written by buffoons and fools. Since various sects use various pramanas to make their case, it is not possible to deny atheists their right to choose the particular pramana that supports their case. Hindu Dharma acknowledges that at any age there will always be some people who will be sceptical of the theistic principle.

  • Carvaka is not part of Sanatana Dharma. He was just a materialistic philosopher who happened to exist a long time ago. He rejected the authority of any divine scripture and the soul. Lord Krishna says to deliberate. How is that related to Carvaka?
    – Amala
    Jul 10, 2014 at 19:24
  • @Amala for a good measure, you should post an answer that the ideology of Carvāka is not a part of Hinduism. Otherwise, this viewpoint is absent and visitors cannot vote.
    – MKaama
    Jul 14, 2014 at 11:51
  • @MKaama Thank you, I posted a separate answer.
    – Amala
    Jul 14, 2014 at 15:09

The Cārvāka philosophy is a non-vedantic, nastika school of thought that was widely known in ancient India.

The notions of divine/scriptural authority, religious rituals, and an afterlife are rejected.

Heaven/Hell, gods and demons were rejected as well.

To call it hinduism or not is just semantics.


Because The Lord is most liberal

I will not digress here what is Hinduism, but will answer in terms of Vedic culture.

Vedas are the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of God is complete. So, everything is included. There can only be one Absolute. Even those who do not believe in His/its existence or oppose Him, are still inevitably part of the Absolute. All possible philosophies are included in the Vedic knowledge, categorized and thoroughly analyzed.


In Bhagavad-gītā 7.2 Krišna says:

I am telling you complete knowledge with practical realization, knowing which, nothing else remains to be known.

Then in Bhagavad-gītā 11.7:

The entire Universe is here, in one place. Look now at the moving and non-moving beings inside my body and whatever else you want to see.

There are numerous stories in the Vedic literature about nišādas, mlēcchas, yavanas, rākšasas and others who do not follow the Vedic injunctions directly, but they are still given some roles and perform some functions under the indirect influence of the same Vedic authority:

The nature exhibits both moving and non-moving beings under my supervision. Because of this reason, the Universe is working.

(Bhagavad-gītā 9.10)

  • This is answer means anything is Hindu?
    – Amala
    Jul 10, 2014 at 19:25
  • @Amala Hinduism is a moot term. But Sanātana-dharma is indeed most liberal and all-encompassing. As is the Lord. He is the Lord of everything, demons and atheists included. And Christians, Muslims, Chārvākas etc. I presented some evidence how liberal it/He is.
    – MKaama
    Jul 14, 2014 at 11:25
  • @Amala But see meta.hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/137/jainism => probably Cārvāka-specific questions would be off-topic. It can exist within Hinduism, but is not in focus on this site.
    – MKaama
    Jul 14, 2014 at 11:48
  • If questions on Jainism/Christianity/Muslims are not applicable on this "Hinduism" forum, then is Charvaka philosophy any more Vedic?
    – Amala
    Jul 14, 2014 at 14:59
  • How do we know only Krishna said those lines. Maybe it is mere imagination of some people.
    – user9392
    Jul 29, 2017 at 7:58

Carvaka is not part of Sanatana Dharma. He was just a materialistic philosopher who happened to exist a long time ago. He rejected the authority of any divine scripture and the soul. So he had teachings in opposition to Vedic authority. You can think of him as a forefather of Richard Dawkins style philosophers.

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