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Antiquity of Jainism

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ANTIQUITY OF JAINISM

Jainism has a wonderful system of logic called Syadvad or `Anekantavad' for revealing the ultimate reality or truth. This wonderful system of logic is considered immensely helpful for developing universal love and human brotherhood and also to establish peace and harmony for making human life happy and prosperous. Many a distinguished scholar has hailed `Syadvad' as a right approach for peace, an unifying and compromising system to effect reconciliation in conflicts arising for misunderstanding, misapprehension and ignorance of the ultimate truth.

Lord Mahavira was not the founder of Jainism, but the last of the twenty four Tirthankaras or Omniscient Teachers of the half Avasarpini cycle, the current descending era. Tirthankaras Rishabhadeva was the first among the twenty four Tirthankaras of the half Avasarpini cycle who lived in the hoary past and whose exact date lies beyond the calculations of time. The Vedas are considered most ancient and also an authentic scriptures of India, and in these scriptures there are references to Lord Rishabha and other Tirthankaras. In these Vedic scriptures there are hymns in adoration of these Vedic scriptures there are hymns in adoration of these Tirthankaras. There will be no conflicting opinions about the Vedas being anetrior to Lord Mahavira. Therefore, it becomes clear that Tirthankaras Rishabha did live either prior to or in the Vedic period. Otherwise, there could not have occurred any reference to him in the Vedas. Lord Rishabha has been accepted as one of the incarnations of Maha Vishnu in the Srimad Bhagavat Purana. Similarly, there are also references to Lord Rishabha and his school of philosophy known today as Jainism in such scriptures as the Siva Purana, Brahmand Purana, Garuda Purana, Skanda Purana, Yoga Vasistham and other works of Vedic literature.

Modern historians have accepted the authenticity of the 23rd Thirthankaras Sri Parsvanatha, who lived before Lord Mahavira. Scholars have also reached certain logical conclusions about the 22nd Thirthankara Lord Neminath of the Yadu Vamsa. The parents of both Lord Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were followers of Lord Parasvanath according to scriptural evidence.

Mohenjadaro and Harappa are considered as the most ancient historical sites in India and from there archeologists have excavated some relics of Jaina religion. Besides these ancient centres of historical importance, there are also several other ancient centres of religious importance to Jainism, Taxasila, Ahichatra, Kankalitila near Mathura, Aghat, Mewar Rajasthan, Hastitundi, Verman, Mundasthala, Badami and several other monuments scattered in different parts of the country like Sravana Belgola and Chandragiri, Belur, Mudabhidri and Karkal in Karnataka, Elephanta in Maharashtra, Ajanta and Ellora in Andhra Pradesh, Hathi Gumpha in Kalinga, Sittanavasal in Pudukottai, Sramanagiri at Madurai, the rock cut cave temple of Trichinopoly and the rock temple of Chitral in Travancore, South India. There also exist several Nirgrantha basthies and monasteris in the dense forests of Karnataka and many other parts of India. All these ancient historical monuments prove not only the antiquity of Jainism but also the relics discovered from these centres give further credence to the view that Jainism had been flourishing throughout India from prehistoric times. These facts have been corraborated by the Vedic and Buddhist scriptures.