History of Jainism

Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma, is an ancient Indian religion. Jain Dharma traces its spiritual ideas and history through a succession of twenty-four leaders or Tirthankaras.


Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal Dharma with the Tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain Cosmology. In this time cycle, Tirthankar Rishabhdev also known as Aadinath, believed to have lived millions of years ago, was the first one to show the way to liberation after attaining enlightenment himself.

A philosophy which was then refined, refreshed and reintroduced by the 24th Tirthankar Mahavira, 2600 years ago. Jainism came into prominence in 6th century B.C., when Lord Mahavira attained omniscience.

Tirthankara also called 'Jina' (Victor) in Jainism, is a saviour who has succeeded in crossing over life's stream of rebirths and has made a path for others to follow. In other words, conqueror of inner enemies like attachment and hatred. The one who follows the path shown by Jina is called Jain. Jainism says that anyone can become a Jain by following the path shown by Jina and get liberated.


Interesting Facts about Jainism

  • Mahavirais the 24th Tirthankarwho refined, refreshed and reintroduced Jainism to the world 2600 years ago.
  • The texts containing the teachings of Mahavira are called the Agams.
  • The supreme principle of Jain living is non-violence (ahimsa) one of the five Mahavratas (the five great vows). The other Mahavratas are Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (no stealing), Aparigraha (non-attachment), and Brahmacarya (chaste living).
  • The three guiding principles or the three jewels of Jainism are right belief, right knowledge and right conduct.
  • Jains do not believe that God is the creator.
  • 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 forever in a state of bliss.
  • Liberation is achieved by eliminating all karma from the soul.
  • In Jainism the belief is that karma is actually matter that attaches to the soul as a result of thoughts, actions, and words, regardless of whether they are positive or negative.
  • In Jainism, the swastika holds a different meaning than what the world associates it with 'The Nazis'. The four sections each represent one of the four states of existence (hellish beings, plants/animals, heavenly beings, humans). Until the soul is liberated it will keep transmigrating in each of these states, depending on the Karma it has accumulated.
  • Jainism teaches that there are six simple substances including soul, matter, time, space, adharmastikay, and dharmastikay
  • Jainism refers to the soul substance as Jiva. The other five substances are referred to as ajiva.
  • Jainism is a religion of self-help, where liberation is achieved only by one's own deeds.
  • In Jainism there are five kinds of knowledge including sensory knowledge, scriptural knowledge, clairvoyance, telepathy, and omniscience.
  • Jains are divided into two major sects; the Digambara (meaning 'sky-clad') sect and the Svetambara (meaning 'white-clad') sect.
  • Jains believe that animals and plants, as well as human beings, contain living souls. Each of these souls is considered of equal value and should be treated with respect and compassion.
  • Jains are strict vegetarians due to their non-violent beliefs. They may also become vegan to avoid the damage and destruction of modern farming to living things.
  • Fasting is very common practice in Jainism.
  • Some Jains fast to death which is called Sallekhana. This is done only after all responsibilities of the individual have been completed and with consent from the family members. Sallekhana is taken in a state of total peace and happiness.
  • In August or September Jains hold their most important festival. Swetambar Jains celebrate Paryushana over 8 days and right after begins the Digambar Jain festival called Das Lakshan which is celebrated for 10 days. During this festival Jains fast, meditate, and emphasize the five main vows of abstinence.
  • Jains live in a way that minimises their use of the worlds resources.
  • Many scientific studies which have been conducted in modern times prove the coherence of the Jain way of life.
  • Most Jains live in India where their population is 4.4 million as per the Government Census of India 2011.
  • Even thought the percentage of Jains in India is less than 1% their contribution to the country has been great.
  • Significantly large Jain communities are found in the United States, Kenya, UK, Canada and Japan, after India.
  • Jains make up India's most educated religious group. They have the highest literacy rate.
  • In India and America, Jains make up some of the richest people in the country.
  • The Jain Philosophy has had great influence on prominent personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Rabindra Nath Tagore, and many more.