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 came into prominence in 6 century B.C., when Lord Mahavira propagated the religion.

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 Tirthankara was Rishabnatha.

The word ‘Jain’ is derived from jina or jaina which means the ‘Conqueror’.

Cause of Origin

Hinduism had become rigid and orthodox with complex rituals and the dominance of Brahmanas.

Varna system divided the society into 4 classes based on birth, where the two higher classes enjoy several privileges.

Kshatriyas’ reaction against the domination of the Brahmanas.

Spread of new agricultural economy in north-eastern India due to the use of iron tools.

It mainly aims at the attainment of liberation, for which no ritual is required. 

It can be attained through three principles called Three Jewels or Triratna i.e.

Right Faith (Samyakdarshana)

Right Knowledge (Samyakjnana)

Right Action (Samyakcharita)

Five Doctrines of Jainism

Ahimsa: Non-injury to a living being

Satya: Do not speak a lie

Asteya: Do not steal

Aparigraha: Do not acquire property

Brahmacharya: Observe continence

Vardhamana Mahavira

Vardhamana Mahavira, the 24 Tirthankara, was born in 540 B.C. in a village called Kundagrama near Vaishali.

He belonged to the Jnatrika clan and was connected to the royal family of Magadha. His father Siddharta was the head of the Jnathrika Kshatriya clan and his mother Trishala was a sister of Chetaka, the king of Vaishali. At the age of 30 years, he renounced his home and become an ascetic. He practised austerity for 12 years and attained the highest spiritual knowledge called Kaivalya (i.e conquered misery and happiness) at the age of 42 years. He delivered his first sermon at Pava. A symbol was associated with every Tirthankara and Mahavira’s symbol was a lion. His missions took him Koshala, Magadha, Mithila, Champa etc He passed away at the age of 72 in 468 B.C. at the Pavapuri in Bihar.

Sects/ School

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.


Monks wear white clothes.

Follow only 4 vows (except brahmacharya).

Believe women can achieve liberation.

Sthulabhadra was an exponent of this sect.

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.

Jain Council

First Jain Council

Held at Patliputra in 3 Century B.C. and was presided by Sthulbhadra.

Second Jain Council

Held at Vallabhi in 512 A.D. and was presided by Devardhi Kshmasramana.

Final Compilations 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.

Types of Jain Architecture:

Layana/Gumphas (Caves)

Ellora Caves (Cave No. 30-35)- Maharashtra

Mangi Tungi Cave- Maharashtra

Gajapantha Cave- Maharashtra

Udayagiri-Khandagiri Caves- Odisha

Hathi-gumpha Cave- Odisha

Sittanavasal Cave- Tamil Nadu


Gometeshwara/Bahubali Statue- Shravanabelagola, Karnataka

Statue of Ahimsa (Rishabnatha)- Mangi-Tungi hills, Maharashtra

Jianalaya (Temple)

Dilwara Temple- Mount Abu, Rajasthan

Girnar and Palitana Temple- Gujarat

Muktagiri Temple- Maharashtra

Jain Literature/Texts

Jain literature is classified into two major categories:

Agam or Canonical Literature (Agam Sutras)

Agam literature consists of many texts, which are the sacred books of the Jain religion.

They are written in the Ardha-magadhi, a form of Prakrit language.

Non‐agam Literature

Non-agam literature consists of commentary and explanation of Agam literature,

and independent works, compiled by ascetics and scholars.

They are written in many languages such as Prakrit, Sanskrit, Apabhramsa, Old

Marathi, Rajasthani, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannad, Tamil, German, and English.

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.