Jainism: History Study Notes

Jainism: History Study Notes

Jainism, Indian religion teaching a path to spiritual purity and enlightenment through disciplined nonviolence (ahimsa, literally “noninjury”) to all living creatures.


Along with Hinduism and Buddhism, Jainism is one of the three most ancient Indian religious traditions still in existence and an integral part of South Asian religious belief and practice. While often employing concepts shared with Hinduism and Buddhism, the result of a common cultural and linguistic background, the Jain tradition must be regarded as an independent phenomenon rather than as a Hindu sect or a Buddhist heresy, as some earlier Western scholars believed.
Jainism History Study Notes

The name Jainism derives from the Sanskrit verb ji, “to conquer.” It refers to the ascetic battle that, it is believed, Jain renunciants (monks and nuns) must fight against the passions and bodily senses to gain enlightenment, or omniscience and purity of soul. The most illustrious of those few individuals who have achieved enlightenment are called Jina (literally, “Conqueror”), and the tradition’s monastic and lay adherents are called Jain (“Follower of the Conquerors”), or Jaina. This term came to replace a more ancient designation, Nirgrantha (“Bondless”), originally applied to renunciants only.

Jainism has been confined largely to India, although the recent migration of Indians to other, predominantly English-speaking countries has spread its practice to many Commonwealth nations and to the United States. Precise statistics are not available, but it is estimated that there are more than four million Jains, the vast majority of whom live in India.

Important Facts about Jainism

  • Rishaba was the first Jain Thirthankara. Rishaba means bull.
  • Parshva was the 23rd Jain Thirthankara.
  • Mahavira was the 24th one.
  • Vardhamana Mahavira was born in 540 BC, in a village near Vaishali in North Bihar.
  • His father was the head of a famous kshayatriya clan and his mother was a Lichchhavi princess.
  • At 30, he became ascetic.
  • 42, he attained a state called Nirvana (Cessation) or Kaivalya (Omniscience). Ie a realization of one’s self.
  • He was acclaimed as Thirthankara (forth finder), Kailvalin (supreme omniscient), Jina (Conqueror) and Arhant (Blessed one).
  • He was called Mahavira (Great hero).
  • Died at the age of 72 in 468 BC. At pavapuri near rajgir.
  • Mahavira recognised the teachings of early 23 Tirthankaras aboyt which practically nothing is known.
  • Only Parshava was historical personage.
  • Mahavira was recognized as the historical founder of Jainism.
  • Mahavira told that they should follow 3 rights. (3 jewels or 3 ratnas)
  • Right Knowledge – is the knowledge of Jain creed.
  • Right faith – is the belief in what he knows.
  • Right action – is the practice of 5 vows. Non-injury to living organisms, truth, non-stealing, not to own property and to practice chastity.
  • First 4 given by parshava and 5th added by mahavira.
  • According to jains Vedas are not realiable and should be disregarded.
  • Reality in Jainism is characterized by anekatva or plurality or multistudiness and is beyond the scope of finite minds to know all aspects of a thing.
  • Jains believed in the dualistic principle of Jiva (eternal soul) and ajiva ( eternal element) everywhere.
  • According to them even stones have souls.
  • Plants and trees have 2 jivas. Animals have 3 or more jives.
  • Jains are permitted to eat things with 2 jivas only.
  • Eating a thing with 3 jivas leads to the breach of basic law of non-injury.
  • Mahavira preached in Magadhi, the language spoken by common people.
  • The teachings of Jainism were recorded at a council conducted at pataliputra in 5 AD.
  • At the time of the council jains divided into 2 sects. Svethambaras and Digambaras.
Jainism History Study Notes


  • First Tirthankara is Rishaba Natha / Adinatha
  • Upto 22 Tirthankara there is no historical evidence.


  • He was the 23rdTirthankara.
  • Lives in Varanasi around 800 BC
  • New Sect was founded by him : Nigrantha which means free from bonds.
  • Four Doctrines :   Non Lying, Non Accumulation of wealth, Non injury, Non steeling


  • Fifth principle Brahmacharya was added by Mahaveera.
  • Real Founder of Jainism.
  • He was born in 540BC at Kundagrama near Vaishali in Bihar.
  • At the age of 42, he become JINA( conqueror over all senses )
  • He denied the existence of god totally.  He said only the matter and soul are the two elements in the world.He believed in karma and rebirth.
  • He preached for 30years and died in 468BC by observing Sallekhana ( extreme fast to death ) method in Pava.
  • He preached in parkrit language.
SALLEKHANA : give maximum pain to senses without taking water and food

Jainism is divided into two sects.

  1. Swetambaras were in white cloth founded by stulabhadra, followers of Parshvanantha.
  2. Digambarasfounded by Bhadra Bahu followers of Mahaveera. They are naked monks.
  • Huge statue in Sravana  belgola of jain monk is called as Gomateswara / Bahubali statue.
  • Statue was about 56 feet height. It as built by minister of Mysore state, Chamundaraya.
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