In the age of the Buddha, stringent Brahamanical rules and societal structure of class based hierarchies, were viewed as obstacles in the path to moksha, or liberation from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. Some of these schools of heterodox thoughts embraced asceticism as a form of religious life. Ascetics, or Samanas (meaning "to strive", as in performing austerities), renounced Vedic society and culture as a reaction to the exclusive religious rights of the village Brahmins, and also renounced the role of a householder to eliminate karmic debts.
Through rigorous asceticism, including include celibacy, bodily mortification, homelessness, mendicancy, and upavāsa (fasting) the samanas sought to attain moksha, or acquire siddhis (magical powers). The Hindu god, Shiva, is regarding as the supreme wandering ascetic, and is depicted with matted hair, and wrapped in a tiger or elephant skin, an emaciated body smeared in ash from the funeral pyre.