Jainism (Vardhaman Mahavira, Digambara, Svetambara etc)

Jainism is one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced religions.

It traces its spiritual ideas and history through a succession of twenty-four leaders or Tirthankaras, with the first being Rishabhadeva, whom the tradition holds to have lived millions of years ago.

The twenty-third tirthankara Parshvanatha, whom historians date to 9th century BC and the twenty-fourth tirthankara, Mahavira around 600 BC.

Parsvnath was born in Varanasi and belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty.

Jainism came into prominence in 6th century BC, when Lord Mahavira, the last Tirthankara propagated the religion.

Jains believe that animals and plants, as well as human beings, contain living souls.

Jains are strict vegetarians and live in a way that minimises their use of the world's resources.

Jains believe in reincarnation and seek to attain ultimate liberation - which means escaping the continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth so that the immortal soul lives for ever in a state of bliss.

There are no gods or spiritual beings that will help human beings.

The supreme principle of Jain living is non violence (ahimsa).

Vardhaman Mahavira (540-468 BC)

Vardhamana Mahavira, the 24th and last Tirthankara, was born in 540 BC in a village called Kundagrama near Vaishali.

He belonged to the Jnatrika clan and was connected to the royal family of Magadha.

His father Siddharta was the head of the Jnathrika Kshatriya clan and his mother Trishala was a sister of Chetaka, the king of Vaishali.

At the age of 30 years, he renounced his home and become an ascetic.

He practised austerity for 12 years and attained the highest spiritual knowledge (complete intellect) called Kaivalya (i.e conquered misery and happiness) at the age of 42 years.

He delivered his first sermon at Pava.

Jamali who was also the son-in-law of Mahavira was the first disciple of Mahavira.

A symbol was associated with every Tirthankara and Mahavira's symbol was a lion.

His missions took him Koshala, Magadha, Mithila, Champa etc.

He passed away at the age of 72 in 468 BC at the Pavapuri in Bihar.

Three Jewels or Triratna
Right Faith Samyakdarshana
Right Knowledge Samyakjnana
Right Action Samyakcharita

Mahavira rejected Vedic principles and did not believe in God's existence. According to him, the universe is a product of the natural phenomenon of cause and effect.

He believed in Karma and transmigration of the soul - the body dies but the soul does not.

Mahavira stressed on equality but did not reject the caste system, unlike Buddhism.

Five Doctrines of Jainism
Ahimsa Non-injury to a living being
Satya Do not speak a lie
Asteya Do not steal
Aparigraha Do not acquire property
Brahmacharya Observe continence

Sects of Jainism

Jain order has been divided into two major sects: Digambara and Svetambara. The division occurred mainly due to famine in Magadha which compelled a group led by Bhadrabahu to move South India.

During the 12 years famine, the group in South India stick to the strict practices while the group in Magadha adopted a more lax attitude and started wearing white clothes.

After the end of famine, when the Southern group came back to Magadha, the changed practices led to the division of Jainism into two sects.

Digambara (sky clad)

Monks of this sect believe in complete nudity, male monks do not wear clothes while female monks wear unstitched plain white sarees.

Follow all five vows (Satya, Ahimsa, Asteya, Aparigraha and Brahmacharya).

Bhadrabahu was an exponent of this sect, they believe women cannot achieve liberation.

Major Sub-Sects: Mula Sangh, Bisapantha, Terapantha, Taranpantha or Samaiyapantha.

Minor Sub-Sets: Gumanapantha, Totapantha

Svetambara (white clad)

Svetambara monks wear white clothes and follow only 4 vows (except brahmacharya).

Sthulabhadra was an exponent of this sect, they believe women can achieve liberation.

Major Sub-Sects: Murtipujaka, Sthanakvasi, Terapanthi

Jain Councils
First council Held at Pataliputra in the 3rd century BC.
Presided by Sthulabahu.
Second Council Held at Vallabhi in Gujarat in 512 AD.
Presided by Devardhigani.
12 Angas was compiled here.

Anekantavada is the Jain doctrine about metaphysical truths that emerged in ancient India.

Their religious literature was written in Ardhamagadhi.

Lord Gometeshwara statue was constructed in 981 AD by Chamundaraya, a Ganga warrior, it is carved out of a single block of granite and looms on the top of Vindhyagiri Hill.


Ajivika, an ascetic sect that emerged in India about the same time as Buddhism and Jainism and that lasted until the 14th century; was founded by Goshala Maskariputra, a friend of Mahavira.

Ajivikas rendered that "Fate assigns everything, human is incapable".

Barabar Caves were used by ascetics from the "Ajivika sect".

Samadhi Maran

Samadhi Maran or sallekhana is embracing death voluntarily when both householders and ascetics foresee that the end of life is very near either due to old age, incurable disease, severe famine, etc.

It is a supplementary vow under the ethical code of conduct of Jainism.

It is a practice of voluntarily fasting to death by gradually reducing food intake into the body.

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