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Title: Mahavrata  
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Subject: Ahimsa, Yoga, Asceticism, Aranyaka, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Detachment (philosophy), Vrata, Shramana, God in Jainism, Acharya Mahapragya
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Template:Infobox Jainism

Jainism /ˈnɪz(ə)m/, traditionally known as Jaina dharma,[1] is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings and emphasises spiritual independence and equality between all forms of life. Practitioners believe that non-violence and self-control are the means by which they can obtain liberation. Currently, Jainism is divided into two major sects-- Digambara and Śvētāmbara.

The word Jainism is derived from a Sanskrit verb Jin which means to conquer. It refers to a battle with the passions and bodily pleasures that the jaina ascetics undertake. Those who win this battle are termed as Jina (conqueror). The term Jaina is thus used to refer to laymen and ascetics of this tradition alike.

Jainism is one of the oldest religions in the world.[2] Jains traditionally trace their history through a succession of twenty-four propagators of their faith known as tirthankara with Ādinātha as the first tirthankara and Mahāvīra as the last of the current era. For long periods of time Jainism was the state religion of Indian kingdoms and widely adopted in the Indian subcontinent. The religion has been in decline since the 8th century CE due to the growth of, and oppression by, the followers of Hinduism and Islam.[3][4]

Jainism is a religious minority in India, with 4.2 million followers, and there are small but notable immigrant communities in Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United States.[5] Jains have the highest degree of literacy of any religious community in India (94.1%),[6] and their manuscript libraries are the oldest in the country.[7]


Main article: Origins of Jainism

The origins of Jainism are obscure.[2][8] During the 5th century BCE, Mahāvīra became one of the most influential teachers of a Jainism. Mahāvīra, however, was most probably not the founder of Jainism which reveres him as their prophet, not the author of their religion. He appears in the tradition as one who, from the beginning, had followed a religion established long ago.[9]

Parsva, the traditional predecessor of Mahavira is the first Jain figure for whom there is reasonable historical evidence.[10] He might have lived somewhere in the 9th–7th century BCE.[11][12][13] Followers of Pārśva are mentioned in the canonical books; and a legend in the Uttarādhyayana sūtra relates a meeting between a disciple of Pārśva and a disciple of Mahāvīra which brought about the union of the old branch of the Jain church and the new one.[14]


Main article: Jain literature

The tradition talks about a body of scriptures preached by all the tirthankara of Jainism. These scriptures were contained in fourteen parts and were known as Purva. It was memorized and passed on through the ages, but became fairly vulnerable and were lost because of famine that caused the death of several jain saints, within a thousand years of Mahāvīra's death.[15]

Agamas are canonical texts of Jainism based on Mahāvīra's teachings. These comprise forty-six works: twelve angās, twelve upanga āgamas, six chedasūtras, four mūlasūtras, ten prakīrnaka sūtras and two cūlikasūtras.[16]

The Digambara sect of Jainism maintains that these agamas were also lost during the same famine. In the absence of authentic scriptures, Digambars use about twenty-five scriptures written for their religious practice by great Acharyas. These include two main texts, four Pratham-Anuyog, three charn-anuyoga, four karan-anuyoga and twelve dravya-anuyoga.[17]

Jains developed a system of philosophy and ethics that had a great impact on Indian culture. They have contributed to the culture and language of the Indian states Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh. Jaina scholars and poets authored Tamil classics of the Sangam period, such as the Civaka Cintamani and Nālaṭiyār.[18] In the beginning of the mediaeval period, between the 9th and 13th centuries, Kannada authors were predominantly of the Jain and Lingayati faiths. Jains were the earliest known cultivators of Kannada literature, which they dominated until the 12th century. Jains wrote about the tirthankara and other aspects of the faith. Adikavi Pampa is one of the greatest Kannada poets. Court poet to the Chalukya king Arikesari, a Rashtrakuta feudatory, he is best known for his Vikramarjuna Vijaya.[19]

Jains encourage their monks to do research and obtain higher education. Monks and nuns, particularly in Rajasthan, have published numerous research monographs. This is unique among Indian religious groups. The 2001 census states that Jains are India's most literate community.[6] Jaina libraries, including those at Patan and Jaisalmer, have a large number of well preserved manuscripts.[7][20]



The nature of truth

Main article: Anekantavada

One of the most important and fundamental doctrines of Jainism is anēkāntavāda. It refers to the principles of pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints, and to the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, no single one of which is complete.[21][22]

Jains contrast all attempts to proclaim absolute truth with this theory, which can be illustrated through the parable of the blind men and an elephant. In this story, each blind man feels a different part of an elephant: its trunk, leg, ear, and so on. All of them claim to understand and explain the true appearance of the elephant but, due to their limited perspectives, can only partly succeed.[23] This principle is more formally stated by observing that objects are infinite in their qualities and modes of existence, so they cannot be completely grasped in all aspects and manifestations by finite human perception. Only Kevalis—omniscient beings—can comprehend objects in all aspects and manifestations; others are only capable of partial knowledge.[24] Accordingly, no single, specific, human view can claim to represent absolute truth.[21]

Anekāntavāda encourages its adherents to consider the views and beliefs of their rivals and opposing parties. Proponents of anekāntavāda apply this principle to religions and philosophies, reminding themselves that any of these—even Jainism—that clings too dogmatically to its own tenets is committing an error based on its limited point of view.[25] The principle of anekāntavāda also influenced Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to adopt principles of religious tolerance, ahiṃsā and satyagraha.[26]

Syādvāda is the theory of conditioned predication, which recommends the expression of anekānta by prefixing the epithet Syād to every phrase or expression.[27] Syādvāda is not only an extension of anekānta into ontology, but a separate system of logic capable of standing on its own. The Sanskrit etymological root of the term syād is "perhaps" or "maybe", but in the context of syādvāda it means "in some ways" or "from some perspective". As reality is complex, no single proposition can express its nature fully. The term "syāt" should therefore be prefixed to each proposition, giving it a conditional point of view and thus removing dogmatism from the statement.[28] Since it comprises seven different conditional and relative viewpoints or propositions, syādvāda is known as saptibhaṅgīnāya or the theory of seven conditioned predications. These seven propositions, also known as saptibhaṅgī, are:[29]

  1. syād-asti—in some ways, it is;
  2. syād-nāsti—in some ways, it is not;
  3. syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not;
  4. syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable;
  5. syād-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable;
  6. syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable;
  7. syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.

Each of these seven propositions examines the complex and multifaceted nature of reality from a relative point of view of time, space, substance and mode.[29] To ignore the complexity of reality is to commit the fallacy of dogmatism.[22]

Nayavāda is the theory of partial standpoints or viewpoints.[30] Nayavāda is a compound of two Sanskrit words: naya ("partial viewpoint") and vāda ("school of thought or debate"). It is used to arrive at a certain inference from a point of view. Every object has infinite aspects, but when we describe one in practice, we speak only of relevant aspects and ignore the irrelevant.[30] This does not deny the other attributes, qualities, modes and other aspects; they are just irrelevant from a particular perspective. As a type of critical philosophy, nayavāda holds that philosophical disputes arise out of confusion of standpoints, and the standpoints we adopt are "the outcome of purposes that we may pursue"—although we may not realise it. While operating within the limits of language and perceiving the complex nature of reality, Māhavīra used the language of nayas. Naya, being a partial expression of truth, enables us to comprehend reality part by part.[31]


Main article: Jain metaphysics

Soul and karma

According to Jains, souls are intrinsically pure and possess the qualities of infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite bliss and infinite energy.[32] In contemporary experience, however, these qualities are found to be defiled and obstructed, on account of the soul's association with a substance called karma over an eternity of beginningless time.[33] This bondage of the soul is explained in the jaina texts by analogy with gold, which is always found mixed with impurities in its natural state. Similarly, the ideally pure state of the soul has always been overlaid with the impurities of karma. This analogy with gold further implies that the purification of the soul can be achieved if the proper methods of refining are applied.[33] Over the centuries, Jain monks have developed a large and sophisticated corpus of literature describing the nature of the soul, various aspects of the working of karma, and the means of attaining liberation.[33]


Jaina metaphysics is based on seven or nine fundamentals which are known as tattva, constituting an attempt to explain the nature of the human predicament and to provide solutions to it:[34]

  1. Jīva: The essence of living entities is called jiva, a substance which is different from the body that houses it. Consciousness, knowledge and perception are its fundamental attributes.
  2. Ajīva: Non-living entities that consist of matter, space and time fall into the category of ajiva.
  3. Asrava: The interaction between jīva and ajīva causes the influx of a karma (a particular form of ajiva) into the soul, to which it then adheres.
  4. Bandha: The karma masks the jiva and restricts it from having its true potential of perfect knowledge and perception.
  5. Saṃvara: Through right conduct, it is possible to stop the influx of additional karma.
  6. Nirjarā: By performing asceticism, it is possible to shred or burn up the existing karma.
  7. Mokṣa: The jiva which has removed its karma is said to be liberated and to have its pure, intrinsic quality of perfect knowledge in its true form.

Some authors add two additional categories: the meritorious and demeritorious acts related to karma. These are called puṇya and pāpa respectively. These fundamentals acts as the basis for the Jain metaphysics.


Main article: Jain cosmology

Jaina beliefs postulate that the universe was never created, nor will it ever cease to exist. It is independent and self-sufficient, and does not require any superior power to govern it. Elaborate description of the shape and function of the physical and metaphysical universe, and its constituents, is provided in the canonical jaina text, in commentaries and in the writings of the Jain philosopher-monks. The early Jains contemplated the nature of the earth and universe and developed detailed hypotheses concerning various aspects of astronomy and cosmology.[35]

According to the jaina texts, the universe is divided into three parts, the upper, middle, and lower worlds, called respectively urdhva loka, madhya loka, and adho loka.[36] It is made up of six constituents:[37] Jīva, the living entity; Pudgala, matter; Dharma tattva, the substance responsible for motion; Adharma tattva, the substance responsible for rest; Akāśa, space; and Kāla, time.[37]

Time is beginningless and eternal; the cosmic wheel of time, called kālachakra, rotates ceaselessly. It is divided into halves, called utsarpiṇī and avasarpiṇī.[38] Utsarpiṇī is a period of progressive prosperity, where happiness increases, while avsarpiṇī is a period of increasing sorrow and immorality.[39]

Jainism "views animals and life itself in an utterly different light, reflecting an indigenous Asian scientific analysis that yields a different definition of the soul, the human person, the structure of the cosmos, and ethics."[40]

Universal history

According to jaina legends, sixty-three illustrious beings called Salakapurusas have appeared on earth.[41] The jaina universal history is a compilation of the deeds of these illustrious persons.[42] They comprise twenty-four tīrthaṅkaraa, twelve cakravartī, nine baladeva, nine vāsudeva and nine prativāsudeva.[41]

Tīrthaṅkara are the human beings who help others to achieve liberation. They propagate and revitalize Jaina faith and become role-models for those seeking spiritual guidance. They reorganize the fourfold order that consists of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen.[43] Jaina tradition identifies Rishabha (also known as Adinath) as the first tirthankara. The last two tirthankara, Pārśva and Mahāvīra, are historical figures whose existence is recorded.[44]

A cakravarti is an emperor of the world and lord of the material realm.[41] Though he possesses worldly power, he often finds his ambitions dwarfed by the vastness of the cosmos. Jaina purana give a list of twelve cakravarti. They are golden in complexion.[45] One of the greatest cakravarti mentioned in jaina scriptures is Bharata; tradition says that India came to be known as Bharata-varsha in his memory.[46]

There are nine sets of baladeva, vāsudeva and prativāsudeva. Certain Digambara texts refer to them as balabhadra, narayana and pratinarayana, respectively. The origin of this list of brothers can be traced to the Jinacaritra by Bhadrabahu (c. 3rd–4th century BCE).[47] Baladeva are non-violent heroes, vasudeva are violent heroes and prativāsudeva can be described as villains. According to the legends, the vasudeva ultimately kill the prativasudeva. Of the nine baladeva, eight attain liberation and the last goes to heaven. The vasudeva go to hell on account of their violent exploits, even if these were intended to uphold righteousness.[48]



Main article: Ahimsa in Jainism

The principle of non-violence or ahimsa is the most distinctive and well known aspect of jaina religious practice. The jaina understanding and implementation of ahimsa is more radical, scrupulous, and comprehensive than in other religions.[49] Non-violence is seen as the most essential religious duty for everyone.[50]

A scrupulous and thorough application of non-violence to everyday activities, and especially to food, is the most significant hallmark of jaina identity.[51] The jaina diet, observed by the followers of jaina culture and philosophy, is one of the most rigorous forms of spiritually motivated diet found either on the Indian subcontinent or elsewhere. It is completely vegetarian, excludes onions and garlic, and may additionally exclude potatoes and other root vegetables. The strictest forms of jaina diet are practised by the ascetics.[52] For Jains, lacto-vegetarianism represents the minimal obligation: food which contains even small particles of the bodies of dead animals or eggs is absolutely unacceptable. Jain scholars and activists support veganism, as the production of dairy products is perceived to involve violence against cows. Strict Jains do not eat root vegetables, such as potatoes and onions, because tiny organisms are injured when the plant is pulled up, and also because a bulb or tuber's ability to sprout is seen as characteristic of a living being.[53]

Jains make considerable efforts in everyday life not to injure plants any more than necessary. Although they admit that plants must be destroyed for the sake of food, they accept such violence only inasmuch as it is indispensable for human survival, and there are special instructions for minimizing violence against plants. Jains also go out of their way not to hurt even small insects and other minuscule animals. They rarely go out at night, when it is more likely that they might trample insects. In their view, injury caused by carelessness is like injury caused by deliberate action.[54] Eating honey is strictly outlawed, as it would amount to violence against the bees. Jains avoid farming because it inevitably entails unintentional killing or injuring of small animals, such as worms and insects, but agriculture is not forbidden in general and Jain farmers exist.[55] Additionally, because they consider harsh words to be a form of violence, they often keep a cloth for a ritual mouth-covering, serving as a reminder not to allow violence in their speech.[56]

Although every life-form is said to deserve protection from injury, Jains admit that this ideal cannot be completely implemented in practice. Hence they recognise a hierarchy of life that gives less protection to immobile beings than to mobile ones, which are further distinguished by the number of senses they possess, from one to five. A single-sensed animal has touch as its only sensory modality. The more senses a being has, the more care Jains take for its protection. Among those with five senses, rational beings (humans) are the most strongly protected by ahimsa. Nonetheless, Jains agree that violence in self-defence can be justified,[57] and that a soldier who kills enemies in combat is performing a legitimate duty.[58] Jain communities have accepted the use of military power for their defence, and there have been Jain monarchs, military commanders, and soldiers.[57][59]


Jainism encourages spiritual development through cultivation of personal wisdom and through reliance on self-control through vows.[60] Jains accept different levels of compliance for ascetics and lay followers.[60] Ascetics of this religion undertake five major vows:

  1. Ahimsa: Ahimsa means non-violence. The first major vow taken by ascetics is to cause no harm to living beings. It involves minimizing intentional and unintentional harm to other living creatures.
  2. Satya: Satya literally means "truth". This vow is to always speak the truth. Given that non-violence has priority, other principles yield to it whenever they conflict: in a situation where speaking truth could lead to violence, silence is to be observed.[60]
  3. Asteya: The third vow, asteya, is to not take anything that is not willingly offered.[60] Attempting to extort material wealth from others or to exploit the weak is considered theft.
  4. Brahmacharya: The vow of brahmacharya requires the exercise of control over the senses by refraining from indulgence in sexual activity.
  5. Aparigraha: Aparigraha means non-possessiveness. This vow is to observe detachment from people, places and material things.[60] Ascetics completely renounce property and social relations.

Laymen are encouraged to observe the five cardinal principles of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possessiveness within their current practical limitations, while monks and nuns are obligated to practise them very strictly.[60]


Main article: History of Jainism

Royal patronage

The ancient city Pithunda, capital of Kalinga, is described in the jaina text Uttaradhyana Sutra as an important centre at the time of Mahāvīra, and was frequented by merchants from Champa.[61] Rishabha, the first tirthankara, was revered and worshiped in Pithunda and is known as the Kalinga Jina. Mahapadma Nanda (c. 450–362 BCE) conquered Kalinga and took a statue of Rishabha from Pithunda to his capital in Magadha. Jainism is said to have flourished under Nanda empire.[62]

The Mauryan dynasty came to power after the downfall of Nanda empire. The first Mauryan emperor, Chandragupta (c. 322–298 BCE), became a Jain in the latter part of his life. He was a disciple of Badhrabahu, a jaina ācārya who was responsible for propagation of Jainism in south India.[63] The Mauryan king Ashoka was converted to Buddhism and his pro-Buddhist policy subjugated the Jains of Kalinga. Ashoka's grandson Samprati (c. 224–215 BCE), however, is said to have converted to Jainism by a jaina monk named Suhasti. He is known to have erected many jaina temples. He ruled a place called Ujjain.[64]

In the 1st century BCE the emperor Kharvela of Mahameghavahana dynasty conquered Magadha. He retrieved Rishabha's statue and installed it in Udaygiri, near his capital Shishupalgadh. Kharavela[65] was responsible for the propagation of Jainism across the Indian subcontinent. Hiuen Tsang (629–645 CE), a Chinese traveller, notes that there were numerous Jains present in Kalinga during his time.[66] The Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves near Bhubaneswar are the only surviving stone jaina monuments in Orissa.[67]

King Vanaraja (c. 720–780 CE) of cavada dynasty in northern Gujarat was raised by a jaina monk Silunga Suri. He supported Jainism during his rule. The king of kannauj Ama (c. 8th century CE) was converted to Jainism by Bappabhatti, a disciple of famous jaina monk Siddhasena Divakara.[68] Bappabhatti also converted Vakpati, the friend of Ama who authored a famous prakrit epic named Gaudavaho.[69]


Once a major religion, Jainism declined due to a number of factors, including proselytizing by other religious groups, persecution, withdrawal of royal patronage, sectarian fragmentation and the absence of central leadership.[70] Since the time of Mahavira, Jainism faced rivalry with Buddhism and the various Hindu sects.[71] The Jains suffered isolated violent persecutions by these groups, but the main factor responsible for the decline of their religion was the success of Brahmanic (Hindu) reformist movements.[72] Around the 7th century, Shaivism saw considerable growth at the expense of Jainism due to the efforts of the Shaivite poets like Sambandar and Appar. Around the 8th century CE, the Hindu philosophers Kumārila Bhaṭṭa and Adi Shankara tried to restore the orthodox Vedic religion.

The royal patronage has been a key factor in the growth as well as decline of Jainism.[70] The Pallava king Mahendravarman I (600–630 CE) converted from Jainism to Shaivism under the influence of Appar.[73] His work Mattavilasa Prahasana ridicules certain Saivite sects and the Buddhists, and also expresses contempt towards the Jain ascetics.[74] Sambandar converted the contemporary Pandya king back to Shaivism. During the 11th century Brahmana Basava, a minister to the Jain king Bijjala, succeeded in converting numerous Jains to the Lingayat Shaivite sect. The Lingayats destroyed various temples belonging to Jains and adapted them to their use.[3] The Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana (c. 1108–1152 CE) became a follower of the Vaishnava sect under the influence of Ramanuja, after which Vaishnavism grew rapidly in the present-day Karnataka.[75] As the Hindu sects grew, the Jains compromised by following Hindu rituals and customs and invoking Hindu deities in jaina literature.[3]

There are several legends about the mass massacre of Jains in the ancient times. The Buddhist king Ashoka (304-232 BCE) is said to have ordered killings of 18,000 Jains or Ajivikas after someone drew a picture of Buddha bowing at the feet of Mahavira.[76][77] The Saivite king Koon Pandiyan, who briefly converted to Jainism, is said to have ordered a massacre of 8,000 Jains after his re-conversion to Saivism. However, these legends are not found in the Jain texts, and appear to be fabricated propaganda by Buddhists and Saivites.[78][79] Such stories of destruction of one sect by another sect were common at the time, and were used as a way to prove the superiority of one sect over the other. There are stories about a Jain king of Kanchi persecuting the Buddhists in a similar way.[80] Another such legend about Vishnuvardhana ordering the Jains to be crushed in an oil mill doesn't appear to be historically true.[81]

The decline of Jainism continued after the Islamic conquest of India. The Muslims conquerors of India, such as Mahmud Ghazni (1001), Mohammad Ghori (1175) and Ala-ud-din Muhammed Shah Khilji (1298) further oppressed the Jain community.[4] They vandalized idols and destroyed temples or converted them into mosques. They also burned the Jain books and killed Jains. Some conversions were peaceful, however; Pir Mahabir Khamdayat (c. 13th century CE) is well known for his peaceful propagation of Islam.[4][82] The Jains also enjoyed amicable relations with the rulers of the tributary Hindu kingdoms during this period; however, their number and influence had diminished significantly due to their rivalry with the Saivite and the Vaisnavite sects..[3]

Present times

With 4.2 million followers,[6] Jainism is among the smallest of the major world religions. Jains live throughout India. Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat have the largest Jain populations among Indian states. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh also have relatively large Jain populations.[83] Outside India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Kenya have large Jain communities. Jainism is presently a strong faith in the United States, and several dozen jaina temples have been built there, primarily by the Gujarati community. American Jainism accommodates all the sects. Small Jain communities exist in Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Fiji, and Suriname. In Belgium, the very successful Indian diamond community in Antwerp, almost all of whom are Jain, opened the largest jaina temple outside India in 2010, to strengthen Jain values in and across Western Europe.[84]

Schools and branches

Main article: Jain schools and branches

The jaina community is divided into two major sects, Digambara and Śvētāmbara. Digambara monks do not wear clothes because they believe these, like other possessions, increase dependency and desire for material things—and desire for anything ultimately leads to sorrow. This practice restricts full monastic life (and therefore mokṣa) to males, as Digambaras do not permit women to be nude; female renunciates wear white and are referred to as Aryikas. Śvētāmbara monastics, on the other hand, wear white seamless clothes for practical reasons, and believe there is nothing in the scriptures that condemns the wearing of clothes. Women are accorded full status as renunciates and are often called sadhvi, the feminine of sadhu, a term often used for male munis. Śvētāmbara believe women may attain liberation and that the tirthankara Māllīnātha was female.[85]

The earliest record of Digambara beliefs is contained in the Prakrit Suttapahuda of the Digambara mendicant Kundakunda (c. 2nd century CE).[86] Digambaras believe that Mahāvīra remained unmarried, whereas Śvētāmbara believe Mahāvīra married a woman who bore him a daughter. The two sects also differ on the origin of Mata Trishala, Mahāvīra's mother.[87]

Excavations at Mathura revealed jaina statues from the time of the Kushan Empire (c. 1st century CE). Tirthankara, represented without clothes, and monks with cloth wrapped around the left arm are identified as the Ardhaphalaka ("half-clothed") mentioned in texts. The Yapaniyas, believed to have originated from the Ardhaphalaka, followed Digambara nudity along with several Śvētāmbara beliefs.[88]

Śvētāmbara sub-sects include Sthanakavasi, Terapanthi, and Murtipujaka. The Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi are aniconic. Śvētāmbara follow the twelve agama texts. Digambara sub-sects include Bisapanthi, Kanjipanthi, Taranapanthi and Terapanthi.[89] In 1974 a committee with representatives from every sect compiled a new text called the Saman Suttam.[90]

Art and architecture

Main article: Jain art

Jainism has contributed significantly to Indian art and architecture. Jains mainly depict tirthankara or other important people in a seated or standing meditative posture. Yaksa and yaksini, attendant spirits who guard the tirthankara, are usually shown with them.[91] Figures on various seals from the Indus Valley Civilisation bear similarity to jaina images, nude and in a meditative posture.[91] The earliest known jaina image is in the Patna museum. It is approximately dated to the 3rd century BCE.[91] Bronze images of Pārśva, can be seen in the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, and in the Patna museum; these are dated to the 2nd century BCE. A sandalwood sculpture of Mahāvīra was carved during his lifetime, according to tradition. Later the practice of making images of wood was abandoned, other materials being substituted.[92]

Remnants of ancient jaina temples and cave temples can be found all around India. Notable among these are the Jain caves at Udaigiri Hills near Bhilsa in Madhya Pradesh and Ellora in Maharashtra, and the Jain temples at Dilwara near Mount Abu, Rajasthan. The Jain tower in Chittor, Rajasthan is a good example of Jain architecture.[93] Decorated manuscripts are preserved in jaina libraries, containing diagrams from jaina cosmology.[94] Most of the paintings and illustrations depict historical events, known as Panch Kalyanaka, from the life of the tirthankara. Rishabha, the first tirthankara, is usually depicted in either the lotus position or kayotsarga, the standing position. He is distinguished from other tirthankara by the long locks of hair falling to his shoulders. Bull images also appear in his sculptures.[95] In paintings, incidents of his life, like his marriage and Indra's marking his forehead, are depicted. Other paintings show him presenting a pottery bowl to his followers; he is also seen painting a house, weaving, and being visited by his mother Marudevi.[96] Each of the twenty-four tirthankara is associated with distinctive emblems, which are listed in such texts as Tiloyapannati, Kahavaali and Pravacanasaarodhara.[97]

A monolithic, 18 m statue of Bahubali referred to as "Gommateshvara", built by the Ganga minister and commander Chavundaraya, is situated on a hilltop in Shravanabelagola in the Hassan district of Karnataka state. This statue was voted by Indians the first of the Seven Wonders of India.[98]

A large number of ayagapata, votive tablets for offerings and the worship of tirthankara, were found at Mathura.[99]

Customs and Practices


Ṇamōkāra mantra is the fundamental prayer of Jainism. In this prayer there is no mention of names, including that of the tirthankara. Jains do not ask for favours or material benefits from the tirthankara or from monks. This mantra simply serves as a gesture of deep respect towards beings they believe are more spiritually advanced and to remind followers of Jainism of their ultimate goal, nirvana.[52]

In Jainism, the purpose of worship or prayer is to break the barriers of worldly attachments and desires, so as to assist in the liberation of the soul. Jains follow six obligatory duties known as avashyakas: samyika (practising serenity), chaturvimshati (praising the tirthankara), vandan (respecting teachers and monks), pratikramana (introspection), kayotsarga (stillness), and pratyakhyana (renunciation).[100] Related to the five auspicious life events of tirthankara called Panch Kalyanaka are such rituals as the panch kalyanaka pratishtha mahotsava, panch kalyanaka puja, and snatra puja.[101][102]


Paryushana is one of the most important festivals for Jains. Śvētāmbara Jains normally refer to it as Paryushana, with the literal meaning of "abiding" or "coming together", while Digambara Jains call it Das Lakshana. It is a time when the laity take on vows of study and fasting with a spiritual intensity similar to temporary monasticism. Paryushana lasts eight days for Śvētāmbara Jains and ten days for Digambara Jains.[103]

Mahāvīra Jayanti, the birthday of Mahāvīra, the last tirthankara, is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra, which date falls in late March or early April of the Gregorian calendar.[104]

Diwali is a festival that takes place during the month of Kartik in the Indian lunisolar calendar, around the new-moon day (amavasya). This usually falls in October or November. Mahāvīra attained his nirvana at the dawn of the amavasya (new moon).[105] According to the Kalpa Sūtra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BCE, numerous deva were present there, illuminating the darkness.[106] On 21 October 1974 the 2500th Nirvana Mahotsava was celebrated by Jains throughout India.[107]


Most Jains fast at special times, particularly during festivals. A Jain, however, may fast whenever it seems appropriate. A unique ritual in this religion involves a holy fast to death, called sallekhana. Through this one achieves a death with dignity and dispassion as well as a great reduction of negative karma.[108] When a person is aware of approaching death, and feels that all his or her duties have been fulfilled, he or she may decide to gradually cease eating and drinking. This form of dying is also called santhara. It can take as long as twelve years of gradual reduction in food intake. Considered extremely spiritual and creditable, with awareness of the transitory nature of human experience, santhara has recently been the centre of a controversy in which a lawyer petitioned the High Court of Rajasthan to declare it illegal. Jains see santhara as spiritual detachment requiring a great deal of spiritual accomplishment and maturity, a declaration that a person has finished with this world and chooses to leave.[109]


Jaina scriptures offer extensive guidance on meditation techniques. Jains have developed a type of meditation called Samayika, which term derives from the word samaya. The goal of Samayika is to achieve a feeling of perfect calmness and to understand the unchanging truth of the self. Such meditation is based on contemplation of the universe and the reincarnation of self.[110] Samayika is particularly important during the religious festival Paryushana. It is believed that meditation assists in managing and balancing one's passions. Great emphasis is placed on the internal control of thoughts, as they influence behaviour, actions and goals.[111]


In Jainism, monasticism is encouraged and respected. Rules for monasticism are rather strict. Jaina ascetics have neither a permanent home nor possessions, wandering from place to place except during the months of Chaturmas. The life they lead is difficult because of the constraints placed on them: they do not use vehicles and always travel barefoot from one place to another, irrespective of the distance. They do not use such basic services as telephones or electricity. They do not prepare food and live only on what people offer them.[112]

There are no priests in Jainism. The monks of Jainism, whose presence is not significant to most jaina rituals, should not be confused with priests. However, sects of Jainism that practice idol-worship often employ a servant, known as a pujari, who need not be a Jain, to perform special daily rituals and other priestly duties.[113]

See also



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