Siddhartha, the handsome and respected son of a Brahmin, lives with his father in ancient India
. Everyone in the village expects Siddhartha to be a successful Brahmin like his father. Siddhartha enjoys a near-idyllic existence with his best friend, Govinda, but he is secretly dissatisfied. He performs all the rituals of religion, and he does what religion says should bring him happiness and peace.
Nonetheless, he feels something is missing. His father and the other elders have still not achieved enlightenment, and he feels that staying with them will not settle the questions he has about the nature of his existence. Siddhartha believes his father has already passed on all the wisdom their community has to offer, but he longs for something more.
One day, a group of wandering ascetics called Samanas passes through town. They are starved and almost naked and have come to beg for food. They believe enlightenment can be reached through asceticism, a rejection of the body and physical desire. The path the Samanas preach is quite different from the one Siddhartha has been taught, and he believes it may provide some of the answers he is looking for. He decides to follow this new path. Siddhartha's father does not want him to join the Samanas, but he cannot dissuade Siddhartha. Govinda also wants to find a path to enlightenment, and he joins Siddhartha in this new life.