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Growth of Jainism


  • Jainism is an ancient religion that is rooted in the philosophy that teaches the way to liberation and a path to spiritual purity and enlightenment through disciplined nonviolence to all living creatures.
  • Jainism is an ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to live lives of harmlessness and renunciation.
  • Jainism, Indian religion teaching a path to spiritual purity and enlightenment through disciplined nonviolence (ahimsa, literally “non-injury”) to all living creatures.
  • The essence of Jainism is concern for the welfare of every being in the universe and for the health of the universe itself.

Origin of Jainism

  • Jainism came into prominence in 6th century B.C., when Lord Mahavira propagated the religion.
  • The word ‘Jain’ is derived from jina or Jaina which means the ‘Conqueror’.
  • There were 24 great teachers, the last of whom was Lord Mahavira.
  • These twenty-four teachers were called Tirthankaras-people who had attained all knowledge (Moksha) while living and preached it to the people.
  • The first Thirathankara was Rishabnatha (Father of King Bharata, the first Chakravarti of India).

Life of Mahavira

  • Vardhamana Mahavira was born in 599 BCE in a village near Vaishali (Capital of Videha). He is considered to be a contemporary of the Buddha.
  • His father Siddhartha was the head of a famous Kshatriya clan under Vajji of Vaishali and his mother, a Lichchhavi princess. They were connected with the royal family of Magadha; high connections made it easy for Mahavira to approach princes and nobles in the course of his mission.
  • Mahavira was married to Yashoda (daughter of Samarvira king) and a produced a daughter Anonja Priyadarshini whose husband Jamali, became the first disciple of Mahavira.
  • In the beginning, Mahavira led the life of a householder but in search of the truth, he abandoned the world at the age of 30 and became an ascetic. He wandered for 12 years practising severe austerities, fasting and meditation. 
  • At the age of 42, he attained perfect/infinite knowledge (kaivalya), on the banks of the Rijupalika River (Muzaffarpur, Bihar).
  • He delivered his first sermon at Pava to his 11 disciples (known as 11 Gandharas/Gandharvas).Later; he founded a Jain Sangha (Jain Commune) at Pava.
  • He propagated his religion for 30 years. Through Kaivalya, he conquered misery and happiness. Because of this conquest, he is known as ‘Mahavira’ or The Great Hero or ‘Jina’ i.e., the conqueror and his followers as ‘Jainas’.
  •  He passed away and became a Siddha (fully liberated) at the age of 72 in 468 BCE at Pavapuri near Patna.

Doctrine of Jainism

Triratna i.e. Three Gems of Jainism

The aim of existence is to attain through the Triratna of:

  1. Samyak Shradha/Viswas (Right faith): It is the belief in Thirathankaras.
  2. Samyak Jnan (Right Knowledge): It is the Knowledge of the Jain creed.
  3. Samyak Karma/Acharana (Right action/conduct): It is the practice of the 5 vows of Jainism.

Pancha Mahavaratas i.e. Five Vows of Jainism

  1. Ahimsa (Non-Violence)
  2. Satya (Non-Lying)
  3. Asteya (Non-Stealing)
  4. Aparigraha (Non-Possession)
  5. Brahmacharya (Chastity)

Types of Knowledge

  1. Mati Jnana: Perception through activity of sense organs, including the mind.
  2. Shruta Jnana:Knowledge revealed by sculptures
  3. Avadhi Jnana:Clairvoyant perception
  4. Manahparyaya Jnana:Telepathic Knowledge
  5. Keval Jnana:Temporal Knowledge or Omniscience
  • Anekantavada: Emphasises that the ultimate truth and reality is complex and has multiple aspects i.e. Theory of Plurality.
  • It refers to simultaneous acceptance of multiple diverse, even contradictory viewpoints.
  • Syadvada: All judgements are conditional, holding goods in certain conditions, circumstances, or senses.
  • Syadvada literally means the ‘Method of examining different probabilities.

Principles of Jainism

  1. Rejected the authority of the Vedas and Vedic rituals.
  2. Did not believe in the existence of God.
  3. Believed in Karma and the transmigration of soul.
  4. Laid great emphasis on equality.

Jain Literature

  • The sacred literature of the Svetambaras is written in a type of Prakrit called Ardhamagadhi Prakrit ,and may be classified as follows:
  • 12 Angas
  • 12 Upangas
  • 10 Parikarnas
  • 6 Chhedasutras
  • 4 Mulsutras
  • 2 Sutra-Granthas
  • Besides this, the important jain text are:
  • Kalpasutras( in Sanskrit)- Bhadrabahu
  • Bhadrabahu Charita
  • Parishishta Parvan-Hemchandra

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.


  • 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).
  • Believe women cannot achieve liberation.
  • Bhadrabahu was an exponent of this sect.
  • Major Sub-Sects
  • Mula Sangh
  • Bisapantha
  • Terapantha
  • Taranpantha or Samaiyapantha


  1. Monks wear white clothes.
  2. Follow only 4 vows (except brahmacharya).
  3. Believe women can achieve liberation.
  4. Sthulabhadra was an exponent of this sect.
  5. Major Sub-Sects
  6. Murtipujaka
  7.  Sthanakvasi
  8. Terapanthi

Difference between Digambara and Svetambara

      Digambara       Svetambara
Literally means “sky clad”. Digambaras emphasize on nudity, as it is the absolute prerequisite to attain salvation.Literally means “white clad”. Shvetambaras assert that complete nudity is not important for salvation.  
 They represent the Jainas who moved to the south under the leadership of Bhadrabahu when the great famine took place in Magadha (200 years after the death of Mahavira).They represent the Jainas who stayed back in Magadha under the leadership of Sthulabahu when the famine struck.
According to Digambara tradition, on attaining enlightenment, an omniscient does not experience hunger, thirst, sleep, disease or fear. According to Shvetambara tradition, an omniscient does require food.
 According to Digambara, a woman lacks the kind of body and will power required to attain liberation (Moksha), she has to be reborn as a man before such an attainment is possible. This school of Jainism does not accept the 19th Tirthankara as a female, but rather as a male named Mallinatha.Women are capable of attaining the same spiritual accomplishments as men. In Shvetambara tradition, the 19th Tirthankara is a female named Mali (the only female Tirthankara).
Digambara tradition holds that Mahavira did not marry and renounced the world while his parents were still alive. Mahavira did marry and led a normal householder’s life till the age of 30. It was only after his parents’ death that he became an ascetic.
  Digambara tradition represents the idols of Tirthankara as nude, unadorned and with downcast eyes in the contemplative mood. Shvetambara tradition depicts the idols of Tirthankara wearing a loin-cloth, adorned with jewels and with glass eyes inserted in the marble.
 For the hagiographies, the Digambaras make use of the term “Purana”.The Shvetambaras use the term “Charita”.
 The Digambara ascetic must give up all his possessions including clothes and is allowed to have Rajoharana (peacock feather broom to brush away insects) and a Kamandalu (a wooden water pot for toilet hygiene).The Shvetambara ascetic is allowed to have fourteen belongings including loin-cloth, shoulder cloth, etc.
 Digambaras hold that the original and genuine texts were lost long ago. They refused to accept the achievements of the first council which met under the leadership of Acharya Sthulibhadra and consequently the recasting of the Angas.The Shvetambaras believe in the validity and sacredness of canonical literature, i.e., the 12 Angas and sutras.

Jain Councils

Jain CouncilYearVenusChairmanPatronResult
1st300 BCPatliputraSthulabhadraChandragupta MauryaCompilation of 12 Angas
2nd512 BCVallabhiDevardhi Kshmasramana Final Compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.

Jain Architecture

Jain architecture cannot be accredited with a style of its own; it was almost an offshoot of Hindu and Buddhist styles.

Gumphas (Caves)

  • Hathigumpha- Odisha
  •  Baghagumpha- Odisha
  • Udaigiri and Khandagiri- Odisha
  • Sittanavasal Cave- Tamil Nadu
  • Gajapantha Cave- Maharashtra


  • Dilwara Temple- Mount Abu, Rajasthan
  • Girnar and Palitana Temple- Gujarat
  • Muktagiri Temple- Maharashtra
  • Rajagriha Temple and Pavapuri Temple- Bihar.


  • Gometeshwara/Bahubali Statue- Shravanabelagola, Karnataka
  • Statue of Ahimsa (Rishabnatha)- Mangi-Tungi hills, Maharashtra

Spread of Jainism

  • Mahavira organised an order of his followers which admitted both men and women.
  • Jainism did not very clearly mark itself out from Hinduism; therefore it spread gradually into West and South India where Brahmanical order was weak.
  • The great Mauryan King Chandragupta Maurya, during his last years, became a Jain ascetic and promoted Jainism in Karnataka.
  • Famine in Magadha led to the spread of Jainism in South India.
    • The famine lasted for 12 years, and in order to protect themselves, many Jains went to South India under the leadership of Bhadrabahu.
  • In Odisha, it enjoyed the patronage of Kalinga King of Kharavela.

Contribution of Jainism

  • Attempts to reform the evils of Varna order.
  • Growth of Prakrit and Kannada.
  • Contributed to architecture and literature immensely.

How is Jainism different from Buddhism?

  • Jainism recognised the existence of god while Buddhism did not.
  • Jainism does not condemn the Varna system while Buddhism does.
  • Jainism believed in the transmigration of soul i.e. reincarnation while Buddhism does not.
  • Buddhism prescribes a middle path while Jainism advocates its followers to live the life of complete austerity.