Jainism in India

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History of Jainism Religion

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  • Founded by Rishabhanath.
  • There were 24 tirthankaras (Prophetsor Gurus), all Kshatriyas.First was Rishabhanath (Emblem: Bull). His reference is also 4n Rigveda. But there is no historical basis for the first 22 Tirthankaras. Only the last two Tirthankaras are historical personalities.
  • The 23rd Tirthankar Parshwanath (Emblem: Snake) was the son of King Ashvasena of Banaras. His main teachings were: Non-injury, Non-lying, Non-stealing, Non-possession.
  • The 24th and the last Tirthankar was Vardhman Mahavira (Emblem: Lion).

Vardhman Mahavira History :

  • He was born in Kundagram (Distt Muzafffarpur, Bihar) in 599 BC.
  • His father Siddhartha was the head of Jnatrika clan. His mother was Trishla, sister of Lichchavi Prince Chetak of Vaishali.
  • Mahavira was related to Bimbisara.
  • Married to Yashoda, had a daughter named Priyadarsena, whose husband Jamali became his first disciple.
  • At 30, after the death of his parents, he became an ascetic.
  • In the 13th year of his asceticism (on the 10th of Vaishakha), outside the town of Jrimbhikgrama, he attained supreme knowledge (Kaivalya).
  • From now on he was called Jaina or Jitendriya and Mahavira, and his followers were named Jains. He also got the title of Arihant, i.e., worthy.
  • At the age of 72, he attained death at Pava, near Patna, in 527 BC.
  • Mahavira preached almost the same message as Parshvanath and added one more, Brahmcharya (celibacy) to it.
  • After the death of Mahavira, during the reign of King Chandragupta Maurya, a severe famine led to a great exodus of Jain monks from the Ganga valley to the Deccan, where they established important centers of their faith.
  • This migration led to a great schism in Jainism. Bhadrabahu, who led the emigrants, insisted on the retention of the rule of nudity which Mahavira had established.
  • Sthulabhadra, the leader of the monks who remained in the north, allowed his followers to wear white garments, owing to the hardships and confusions of the famine. Hence arose the two sects of the Jains, the Digambaras (sky-clad, i.e., naked) and the Svetambaras (white-clad).

Teachings of Mahavira :

  1. Rejected the authority of the Vedas and do not attach any importance to the performance of sacrifices.
  2. He believed that every object, even the smallest particle, possesses a soul and is endowed with consciousness. That is why they observe strict non-violence.
  3. The Jains reject the concept of a Universal Soul or a Supreme Power as the creator or Sustainer of the universe.
  4. Jainism does not deny the existence of gods but refuses to give gods any important part in die universe scheme. Gods are placed lower than the Jina.
  5. Attainment of salvation (moksha) by believing in penance and dying of starvation (Main difference between Jainism and Buddhism).
  6. Universal brotherhood (non-belief in caste system).

Note: In Jainism, three Ratnas (Triratnas) are given and they are called the way to Nirvana. They are Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct.

History of Jain Councils :

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First Council : Held at Pataliputra by Sthulabhadra in the beginning of third century BC. It resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas to replace 14 Purvas.

Second Council : It was held at Vallabhi (Gujarat) in the fifth century AD under the leadership of Devridhigani. It resulted in final compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.

Growth of Jainism in India :

Causes of New Movement :

  • The Vedic rituals were expensive & the sacrifices prescribed were very complicated & had lost their meaning.
  • The caste system had become rigid.
  • Supremacy of Brahmins created unrest.
  • All the religious text was in Sanskrit, which was not understandable to the masses.

Other Points:

  • Jainism reached the highest point in Chandragupta Maurya’s time. In Kalinga, it was greatly patronized by Kharavela in the first century AD.
  • Various factors were responsible for the decline of Jainism in India. They took the concept of Ahimsa too far. They advised that one should not take medicine when one fell sick because the medicine killed germs.
  • They believed that there was life in trees and vegetables and so refrained from harming them. Such practices could not become popular with common man. There was moreover no patronage from the later kings.
  • Jain literature is in Ardh-Magadhi and Prakrit dialects.
  • Due to the influence of Jainism, many regional languages emerged out, like Sauraseni, out of which grew the Marathi, Gujarati, Rajasthani and Kannada.