Jain Dharma and Mahavira All You need to know for UPSC

Origin of Jainism:

Jainism is an ancient religion which is rooted in philosophy. As per some traditions, it is as old as the Vedic religion. It highly came into existence in 6th century B.C., when Lord Mahavira disseminated the religion. The Jain tradition has a succession of great teachers who are also known as Tirthankaras. There were 24 Tirthankaras all of them were Kshatriyas by birth. The first of which is believed to be Rishabhanath and last one was Vardhaman Mahavira.

Jain Dharma and Mahavira
Jain Dharma and Mahavira credit NCERT

The 24 Tirthankaras:

Rishabha7. Supaarshva13. Vimala19. Mallinaatha
Ajita8. Chandraprabha14. Ananta20. Munisuvrata
Sambhava9. Pushpadanta15. Dharma21. Nami
Abhinandana10. Shitalnatha16. Shanti22. Nemi
Sumati11. Shreyaamsha17. Kuntha23. Paarshvanath
Padmaprabha12. Vaasupujya18. Aara24. Mahavira
The 24 Tirthankaras

Life of Vardhamana:

Vardhamana  (which means rising or growing) Mahavira was born in Kundagram, Vaishali in a Jantriak Kshatriya clan. His Father King Siddhartha was Head of Jnatrika Clan and Mother Trishala who was Sister of Lichchhavi chief Chetaka. (Chetaka’s daughter married Haryanka King Bimbisara). He got married to Yashoda and had a daughter Anojja also known as Priyadarsana.

At the age of 30, Vardhaman rejected his life of riches, renounced his home and became a wandering ascetic and devoted himself to self discipline. After 12 years of expiation (self punishment), at the age of 42 he attained the highest spiritual knowledge which is known as Kevala Jnan, under a sal tree at Jimbhikagrama village on the bank of river Rijupalika. This is also known as Kaivalya. After attaining kaivalya he was named as Mahavira or Jina or Jitendriya (the one who have conquered his senses) or Nigrantha (the one who is free from all bonds) or Kevalin. He preached his teachings for 30 years and died (attained nirvana) at Pava, near Rajagriha at the age of 72.

Mahavira gave his first sermon on the Vipula Peak at Rajgir. His first disciple was Indrabhuti Gautama (female).

Believes of Mahavira

Mahavira did not believe in God’s existence, instead, he stressed on the fact that the universe is a product of the natural phenomenon of cause and effect. He believed in the Karma and transmigration of the soul. According to him, only the body dies whereas the soul is immortal. He also rejected Vedic principles and Advocated a life of rigidity and non-violence. Mahavira believed in equality but did not reject the caste system. At the same time, he stressed on the fact that man may be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ according to his actions and not by birth. He have taken Asceticism to a great length and focused on the theory of Starvation, nudity and self-mortification.

Jainism mainly aims at the attainment of liberation, and according to Mahavira for attaining liberation no rituals are required. It can be attained through three principles of Jainism which are also known as Three Jewels or Triratna

  • Right Faith 
    • Right Knowledge 
    • Right Action 

Five Doctrines of Jainism

  • Ahimsa: Don’t injure a living being
    • Satya: Do not lie
    • Asteya: Do not steal
    • Aparigraha: Do not acquire property
    • Brahmacharya: Observe continence

Sects or Schools of Jainism

The division of Jain order has been divided into two major sects: Digambara and Svetambara. The division occurred mainly due to the extreme scarcity of food in Magadha. The groups were led by Bhadrabahu and Sthulabhadra. Bhadarbahu moved to South India with his followers while Sthulabhadra remained in north India. During the extreme scarcity of food for 12 years, the group moved to South India continued the strict practices while the group in Magadha (North India) adopted a more lax attitude and started wearing white clothes. After the end of famine stage, when the group shifted to south India came back to Magadha, the changed practices of jain followers there led to the division of Jainism into two sects namely Digambara and Svetambara

Led by BhadrabahuLed by Sthulabhadra
Monks of this sect believe in complete nudity.Monks of this sects wear white clothes
Follow all five vows Satya, Ahimsa, Asteya, Aparigraha and BrahmacharyaFollow all four vows Satya, Ahimsa, Asteya, Aparigraha
Believe women cannot achieve liberationBelieve women can achieve liberation

Jain Council

FIRST3rd Century B.CSthulbhadraPatliputraCompilation of 12 Angas to replace 14 purvas.
SECOND512 A.D. Devardhi KshmasramanaVallabhiCompilation of 12 angas and 12 upangas.
Jain Councils

Jain Architecture

Jain architecture was style of its own, it was almost an offshoot of all the Hindu and Buddhist styles of that time. Types of Jain Architecture were: caves, Statues and Jinalayas or temples.

Few examples are as follows:

  • Ellora Caves in Maharashtra
    • Mangi Tungi Cave in Maharashtra
    • Hathi-gumpha Cave in Odisha
    • Gometeshwara/Bahubali Statue in Shravanabelagola, Karnataka
    • Dilwara Temple in Mount Abu, Rajasthan
    • Girnar and Palitana Temple in Gujarat
    • Muktagiri Temple in Maharashtra

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