Jainism is an independent and most
ancient religion of India. Jainsim
is an eternal religion. Jainism is revealed in every
cyclic period of the universe, and this constitutes the
pre-historic time of Jainism. And there is a recorded history
of Jainism since about 3000-3500 BC.
The discovery of the Indus Civilization
seem to have thrown a new light on the antiquity of Jainism.
The evidence suggests that Jainism was known among the people
of the Indus Valley around 3000-3500 B.C. Some nude figures,
considered to be of Lord Rishabha, on the seals have been
discovered at Mohenjodaro and Harrappa. There is an article
that suggests the representation of the seventh Tirthankara
SuParsvanath. The people of the Indus Valley not only
practiced Yoga but worshipped the images of Yogis. There are
figures in Kayotsarga posture of standing are peculiarly Jain.
In addition, the sacred signs of swastika
are found engraved on a number of seals.
Furthermore, there are some motifs on the seals found
in Mohen-jo-Daro and it is suggested that these motifs are
identical with those found in the ancient Jain art of Mathura. This presence of Jain tradition in
the earliest period of Indian history is supported by many
scholars. It strongly suggests that Jainism existed in
in Vedic Period
In the Rig -veda there are clear
references to Rishabhdev, the 1st Tirthankar, and to
Aristanemi, the 22nd Tirthankar. The Yajur-veda also mentions
the names of three Tirthankars, viz. Rishabhdev, Ajitanath and
Aristanemi. Further, the Atharva-veda specifically mentions
the sect of Vratya means the observer of vratas or vows as
distinguished from the Hindus at those times.
Similarly in the Atharva-veda the term Maha vratya
occurs and it is supposed that this term refers to Rishabhdev,
who could be considered as the great leader of the Vratyas.
in Buddha Period
Lord Mahavir was the senior contemporary
of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. In Buddhist books
Lord Mahavir is always described as nigantha Nataputta (Nirgrantha
Jnatrputra), i.e., the naked ascetic of the Jnätr clan.
Further, in the Buddhist literature Jainism is referred to as
an ancient religion. There
are ample references in Buddhist books to the Jain naked
ascetics, to the worship of Arhats in Jain chaityas or temples
and to the chaturyäma dharma (i.e. fourfold religion) of 23rd
Moreover, the Buddhist literature
refers to the Jain tradition of Tirthankars and specifically
mentions the names of Jain Tirthankars like Rishabhdev,
Padmaprabh, Chandraprabh, Puspdant, Vimalnath, Dharmanath and
Buddhist book Manorathapurani, mentions the names of many lay
men and women as followers of the Parsvanath tradition and
among them is the name of Vappa, the uncle of Gautama Buddha.
In fact it is mentioned in the Buddhist literature that
Gautama Buddha himself practiced penance according to the Jain
way before he propounded his new religion.
Neminath or Aristanemi, who preceded Lord
Parshvanath, was a cousin of Krishna. He was son of
Samudravijaya and grandson of Andhakavrsni of Sauryapura.
Krishna had negotiated the wedding of Neminath with
Rajimati, the daughter of Ugrasena of Dvaraka.
Neminath attained emancipation on the summit of Mount
Raivata (Girnar). There is a mention of Neminath in
several vedic canonical books. The king named Nebuchadnazzar
was living in the 10th century B. C. It indicates that even in
the tenth century B.C. there was the worship of the temple of
The historicity of Lord Parshvanath has
been unanimously accepted.
He preceded Lord Mahavir
by 25O years. He
was the son of King Asvasena and Queen Vama of Varanasi.
At the age of thirty he renounced the world and became
an ascetic. He
practiced austerities for eighty three days.
on the eighty fourth day he obtained omniscience.
Lord Parshvanath preached his doctrines for seventy
years. At the age
of one hundred he attained liberation on the summit of Mount
Sammd (Parsnath Hills). The four vows preached by Lord
Parshvanath are: not
to kill, not to lie, not to steal, and not to own property.
Mahavira was the twenty fourth, i.e., the last
to the tradition of the Shvetämbar Jains the Nirvän of Lord
Mahavira took place 470 years before the beginning of
the Vikrama Era. The tradition of the Digambar Jains maintains
that Lord Lord
Mahavira attained Nirvän 605 years before the beginning of the
Saka Era. By either mode of calculation the date comes to 527
B.C. Since the
Lord attained emancipation at the age of 72, his birth must
have been around 599 B.C.
This makes Lord Mahavira slightly elder contemporary of Buddha who probably lived
about 567-487 B.C. Lord
Mahavira was the head of an excellent community of
14,000 monks, 36,000 nuns, 159,00O male lay votaries and
318,OOO female lay votaries.
The four groups designated as monks, nuns, laymen and
laywomen constitute the four fold order (tirtha) of Jainism.
the eleven principle disciples (ganadharas) of Lord
Mahavir, only two, viz., Gautam Swami and Sudharma
Swami survived him. After
twenty years of Nirvän of Lord
Mahavira, Sudharma Swami also attained emancipation.
He was the last of the eleven gandharas to die. Jambu
Swami, the last omniscient, was his pupil.
He attained salvation after sixty four years of the
Nirvän of Lord Mahavira.
There were both types of monks, viz., sachelaka
(with clothes) and achelaka (without clothes), in the
order of Lord Mahavir. Both
types of these groups were present together up to several
centuries after Nirvän of Lord Mahavira.
Shrut Kevali & Das-Purvi Ächäryas
The keval-Jnani are those who have
eradicated four soul defiling karmas and attained the perfect
knowledge. Shrut-kevalis are those who know all 14 Purvas and
12 Ang-Pravishtha-Agams. Das-Purvis are those who knew the
first ten Purvas and 11 Ang-Pravishtha-Agams.
Jain literature, which was compiled by Ganadharas and
Srut-kevlis, is known as Ägam literature.
These texts are the Holy Scriptures of the Jain
religion. The Jain Ägams consisted of 1) 14 Purvas, 2) 12
Ang-pravishtha-Ägams and 3) Ang-bähya-Ägams (34 for Shwetämbar
murtipujak, 21 for Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi and 14 for
With a view to establish order in
the preaching of Lord Mahavir, Jain Acharyas assembled three
times and prepared three recessions of the preaching.
Whenever the Acharyas saw that the Shrut was waning and that
there was disorderliness into it, they assembled and
established order in it. No documentation occurred during the
first recension (320 BC in Patliputra under the leadership of
Sthulibhadra) but during the second (380 AD in Mathura and
Vallabi under the leadership of Skandil and Nagarjun
respectively) and third (520 AD in Vallabhi under the
leadership of Devardhigani Acharya)
conferences most of the scriptures, commentaries, and
other works were documented.
All sects agree that 14 Purvas and
Drastiväd, 12th Ang-pravishtha-Ägams are extinct.
Digambars believe all Jain Ägams are extinct. While Shwetämbar
sects accepts the existing Jain Ägams as authentic teachings
of Lord Mahavir. However, Shwetämbar murtipujak believe there
are 34 Ang-bähya-Ägams existing. while Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi
believe there are 21 Ang-bähya-Ägams are existing.
composition of scripture has a specific purpose of showing the
listener the path of everlasting happiness and liberation.
The Ägam Sutras teach the eternal truth about conduct,
equanimity, universal affection and friendship, and the
eternal truths on thinking, namely, the principle of
relativity, principle of non-one-sided-ness and many spiritual
things including great reverence for all forms of life, soul,
karma, universe, strict codes of asceticism, rules for
householders, compassion, nonviolence, non-possessiveness.
believe that Ang-Ägams were at all times in the past, are in
the present, and will be at all times in the future. They are
eternal, firm, permanent, non-destructive, non-decaying and
everlasting. Jains are people of books and there
are many great books written on Jainism by many great Ächäryas
Jains were divided into two groups,
Shvetämbar and Digambar, nearly six hundred years after the
Nirvän of Tirthankar Lord Mahavir. The process of the split
continued from the third century B.C. up to the first century
of the Christian Era. In the third century B.C. famous Jain
saint Shrutakevali Bhadrabahu predicted a long and severe
famine in the kingdom of Magadha (in modern Bihar) and with a
view to avoid the terrible effects of famine Bhadrabahu, along
with a body of 12,000 monks, migrated from Pataliputra, the
capital of Magadha, to Shravanabelagola (in modern Karnataka
State) in South India. Chandragupta Maurya (322‑298
B.C.). who was then the Emperor of Magadha and was very much
devoted to Ächärya Bhadrabahu, abdicated his throne in
favor of his son Bindusara, joined Bhadrabahu’s entourage as
a monk-disciple, and stayed with Bhadrabahu at Shravanabelagola.
Chandragupta, the devout ascetic disciple of Bhardrabahu,
lived for 12 years after the death of his teacher Bhadrabahu,
in about 297 B.C. and after practicing penance died according
to the strict Jain rite of
on the same hill at Shravanabelagola. This Bhadrabahu Chandragupta
tradition is strongly supported by a large number of
epigraphic and literary evidences of a very reliable nature.
When the ascetics of Bhadrabahu-sangha
returned to Pataliputra after the end of twelve years
period of famine, they, to their utter surprise, noticed two
significant changes that had taken place during their absence.
Among the ascetics of Magadha under the leadership of Ächärya
Sthulibhadra. In the first place, the rule of nudity was
relaxed and the ascetics were allowed to wear a piece of white
cloth (known as Ardhaphalaka).
Secondly, the sacred books were collected and edited at
the council of Pataliputra in their absence in which they
found some inconsistencies. As a result the group of returned
monks did not accept the two things, introduced by the
followers of Ächärya Sthulibhadra, namely, the relaxation of
the rule of nudity and the recension of the sacred texts, and
proclaimed themselves as true Jains. Eventually, the Jain
religion was split up into two distinct sects, viz., the
Digambara (sky-clad or stark naked) and the Shvetämbar
(white-clad) about 600 years after Nirvän of Lord Mahavir.
When it comes to the philosophy of
Jainism, there is essentially no difference between these two
major sects. The following main differences exist between the
Digambars and Shvetämbars:
1. The Digambars believe that no
original canonical text exists now. The Shvetämbars still
preserve a good number of original scriptures.
2. According to the Digambars, the
omniscient no longer takes any earthly food.
The Shvetämbars are not prepared to accept this
3. The Digambars strictly maintain
that there can be no salvation without nakedness.
Since women cannot go without clothes, they are said to
be incapable of salvation.
The Shvetämbars hold that nakedness is not essential
to attain liberation. Whence,
women are also capable of salvation.
4. The Digambars hold that Lord
Mahavir was not married.
The Shvetämbars reject this view.
According to them, Lord
Mahavir was married and had a daughter.
5. The images of Tirthankars are
not decorated at all by the Digambars, whereas the Shvetämbars
profusely decorate them.
Jain doctrine has been remarkably
stable over the centuries and there has not been any serious
change. This stability is largely due to Umasvati's (Umaswami)
Tattvarthasutra, written in the fourth or fifth century CE.
This work was written before the divisions between the Shvetämbars
and Digambaras became final and is accepted by both branches
The Shvetämbar sect has also been
split into three main sub-sects: a) Murtipujaka, b) Sthänakväsi,
and c) Teräpanthi
The Digambara sect, in recent
centuries, has been divided into the following major
sub-sects: a) Bisapantha, b) Terapantha, and c)
Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha.