The ideas followed by Jains constitute Jainism. Jains are the followers of Jina. Jina means conqueror. It is the title given to Vardhamana for conquering misery. For the same conquest, he is also called Mahavira, the great hero.

Vardhamana Mahavira was born in 540 BC at Kundagrama near Vaishali, Died in 408 BC at Pavapuri. He belonged to 'jnatri' Kshatriya clan. He was born to Siddhartha (his father) and Trishala (his mother). He was married to Yasoda and they had a daughter Jamili. He attained Kaivalya under a Sal tree on the bank of river Rijupalika.

Origin of Jainism

Non-violence, truth, non-stealing, not acquiring property and observe continence (Brahmacharya). The first four ideas are supposed to have been contributed by Parsava the 23rd Thirthankara. The idea of Brahmacharya was added by Vardamana, the 24th Thirthankara. Rishaba was the first Thirthankara. According to Jain tradition, there existed 24 Thirthankaras, literally means bridges across the stream of existence which means those who guide in overcoming the problems during the life span of a person.

Jainism aims at attainment of Siddha Sila (blissful abode) which puts an end to transmigration of souls. The means of attaining Siddha Sila is three fold path of right belief, right knowledge, and right action. No ritual is needed to attain Siddha sila.

Factors that contributed to the spread of Jainism

  • Vaisyas who were dissatisfied with the lower status ascribed to them and the varna system patronised Jainism.
  • Use of prakrit language for propagation contributed to its spread as it was a people's language.
  • Royal patronage like that of Chandragupta Maurya's, Chalukyas', etc. also contributed to its popularity.

Causes for the limited popularity of the Jainism

  • It is difficult to follow due to its advocacy of extreme austerity like that of nudity, and extreme ahimsa including tilling of soils as it might lead to killing of earthworms.
  • Adoption of Brahminical ideas like acceptance of the service of the Brahmins, and idol worship blurred the difference between Jainism and Brahmanism.
  • Discarding of Prakrith and adoption, of Sanskrit from early medieval times alienated the common people from Jainism.
  • Rise of moderate Buddhism during the same period eclipsed Jainism. And, reform of Brahmanism checked the conversion of Vaisyas and others to Jainism.

Contribution of Jainism

Jaina scholars contributed to learning. Hemachandra a Jain monk who lived in the 12th century AD was a great grammarian and a poet. Narayanachandra, another Jain monk of the 14th century AD, was one of the last great poets in sanskrit. Jain monks showed exemplary love for literature. They considered copying manuscripts, even secular works, of great religious merit. Due to this attitude the old Jaina monasteries of Western India have preserved many rare works even of non-Jaina origin.

They contributed to the growth of Prakrit, Kannada and Sanskrit languages by adopting them for preaching and writing their works. The contribution of Jainism to architecture and sculpture is considerable. Bhilwara Jain temple at Mount Abu in Rajastan, and the temple at palithana in Gujrat are remarkable examples of its contribution to architecture. Jains have contributed to the erection of gigantic and magnificient statues. The 57-feet statue of Gomateshwara at sravana belagola in karnataka can be cited as an example.

The contribution of Jainism to the non-violent tradition in India is significant. It also made an attempt to mitigate the evils of Brahmanism by maintaining that lower caste men can also attain Siddasila (salvation or moksha) without rituals and sacrifices.

Jain Councils

  • First council held in 4th century BC at Pataliputra. Schism in Jainism DIGAMBARAS (the sky clad) and SHVETAMBARAS (the white clad).
  • Second council in 5th-6th century AD at Valabhi. Made a final compilation of Jaina scriptures.

Old Jaina literature was known as 14 PURVAS. Later compilation was known as 12 ANGAS. (Verbally compiled in the first council).

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Comments 2 comments

vydyulashashi profile image

vydyulashashi 5 years ago from Hyderabad,India

Wonderful Hub on Jainism.

God Bless You!

rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Very informative and thanks for sharing this, Dilip.

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