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History Of Jainism

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Presented by - Rishabh Jain , Daliganj, Lucknow


There was a time when Jain religion was considered as the branch of Buddhist religion. But this misconception was soon evaded. Owing to new investigations it has been proved that Jain religion has not only separate entity of its own from Buddhist religion <br\> but its antiquity has well been established too.

Credit goes to Dr. Herman Yakobi for removing of such misconceptions. He has made a detailed study after the introduction of Jain hymns (Jain Sutras) elaboratory. He states the unanimous view about NATPUT better known as MAHAVEER or VARDHMAN to be accepted as the contemporary to Buddha. References in Buddha texts have such evidences to substantiate the Nirgranthas existing prior to Natput and are better known as Jains or Arhats. When Buddhist religion was originated, such Nirgranthas were existing in large number. In Buddha references it appears that some of these Nirgranthas were antagonist of Buddha and of his disciples, while some other became the followers of Buddha. This proves the above justification. On the contrary, no reference or indication can be observed to show such Nirgranthas as freshers with Natput, the founder. We can therefore, infer that these Nirgranthas were existing since long and their birth had been prior to Buddha.

Now the last Tirthankar Bhagwan Mahaveer is not considered as the founder of Jain religion when Bhagwan Parswanath born 250 years before Mahaveer, is recognized as the historic figure. Dr. Girnett in the introduction of “Bibliographia Jain” writes: “There is no doubt about Parswanath’s as the historic personality and according to Jain’s belief he had lived his 100 years of life and then got salvation 250 years before Mahaveer. Thus his period had been of 800B.C. Parents of Mahaveer had followed the religion of Parswanath.

In this way the beginning of Jain religion has been accepted since 800B.C. In the preface of “UTTRADHYAN & ITS TENETS”, Dr. Charpenteer says that we should keep in mind that Jain religion is older than the period of Mahaveer when Parswanath was his forefather and was the real person. Hence main tenets of Jain religion were in quite order and well established prior to Mahaveer.

Some learned believe Parswanath as the founder of Jain religion while others think Jain religion is further older than the age of Parswanath for instance, Dr. Herman Yakaubi and renowned Indian philosopher Dr. Radha Krishnan were quite clear in this respect.

Jain belief goes to accept unanimously Rishabh Dev as the founder of Jain religion. This belief supported by possible historicity Dr. Sir Radha Krishnana in his book “Indian Philosophy” which writes emphatically that Jain traditions start with the origin of Jain religion from Rishabh Dev, who had been there since many centuries ago. Evidences of this fact are available to donate that the worship of Tirthankar Rishabh Dev was in vogue before 1st Century B.C. There is no doubt that Jain religion has been practiced before Vardhman as well as before Parswanath. Names of Rishabh Dev, Ajitnath and Aristhnemi were indicated n Yajurveda. Bhagwat Puran also confirms that Rishabh Dev was the founder of Jain religion.

With these two points of view, it becomes un-question-able that Bhagwan Parswanath was not the founder of Jain religion but even before him Jain religion prevailed, Jain belief also admits Rishabh Dev as the founder of Jain religion. This confirmed by Jain traditions and historical material. Below are such things being clarified.


According to Jain tradition with mythology this visible universe continues like the revolving wheel of time. Although the flowing of time is endless and limitless, yet the time wheel has six spokes like period-

Extreme Happiness Period,- Happiness Period,- Happiness Misery Period,- Misery Happiness Period,- Misery Period,- Extreme Misery Period. Like the wheel of the running train moves from below to above and vice versa similar are the six periods, having their respective moving positions one by one. That is to say one time the universe moves from happiness to misery and then second time it moves from misery to happiness. Moving from happiness to misery is said to be Declining era (Avsarpini) period and from Misery to happiness is said to be Progressive era (Utasarpini). The time consumed by both of them is amounting to more than lacs and crores of era.

During each declining and progressive time schedule within Misery and Happiness, the 24 Tirthankars got births and attained the position of JIN and preached Jain religion. Present is the period of declining stage. Four eras from its beginning have been lapsed and now we are running in its fifth era.

Since the fourth era has been ended thus no tirthankar will be born during this period. In that fourth era, out of the 24 Tirthankars, Rishabh Dev was the first Tirthankar and Mahaveer was the last Tirthankar.

During third era, when 3 years and 8 months and 11 days remained there, Rishabh Dev got salvation and during fourth part when the same time remained there, Mahaveer got salvation. The gap of the time between the two was Kotakotti (one crore into one crore) Sagar (greatest unit of time as per Jain Puran).

In this way, as per Jain traditions as prime and the first Tirthankar was Rishabh Dev. Ancient Jain scriptures are unanimous on this subject and they have described the character sketch of Rishabh Dev in detail.


In Jainaiter literature name of ‘Srimad Bhagwat’ is notably mentioned. It’s fifth part (5th Iskand) Chapter II to VI has a fine description of Rishabh Dev which is to some extent similar with that of found in Jain literature. It writes that Lord Brahma, when found population number of human beings as static, he, then produced Manu and Satyarupa. A son named Priyavart was Agnidhra. Agnidhra’s son was Nabhi. Nabhi got married with Marudevi and Rishabh Dev was born to them. Rishabh Dev got his wife Jayanti from Indra who gave birth to 100 sons. Handing over the reign to his elder son Bharat, he took ‘sanyas’ (seclusion from world). During that period, only his physical body was with him and he wandered about all alone without clothes in naked form. He remained in perfect silence; anybody threatened him, stroke him, spit on him, threw stone on him, threw feaces over him, he did not pay heed to them. Taking the body as the house of untrue objects and after curbing ego and attachment he went on wandering alone. His body like of the beautiful sex god (kamdev) was reduced to filthy form. His routine became horrible. Relinquishing all the worldly pleasures he took determination to adopt ‘Aaajgar’varta. In this way experiencing the continuity of absolute happiness, theliberated soul Rishabh Dev after wandering and wandering reached at the places namely Kaunk and Baink, Kutak of Karnataka in the southern region at his own will. In the garden of Kutkachall hill, he began to mave as a Nude saint here and there freely. In the forest, spontaneous rubbing of bamboos created fire in which he wilfully entered and reduced to ashes.

Describing about Rishabh Dev in this way the writer of ‘BHAGWAT’, further writes: Having heard of the character and conduct of this Rishabh Dev and his preaching, king Arhan of Kainak, Baink and Kutak resolved to take rebirth as incarnation in ‘KALIYUG’ when the rule of vice would have been absolute for spreading negative and hypocretic religion. Degraded persons infatuated by myth, devoid of cleanliness and disbelievers of God would adopt this determination (or Vrata). Neither bathing nor sipping of water during worship but abuser of Brahma, Brahmins, Yajya and God, they people would go against Vedas and thus fall into hell. This type of incarnation of Rishabh Dev had been to show path of salvation to the pleasure seeking persons.

If this portion of ‘Srimad Bhagwat’ written for the sake of opposing the religion , would have been deleted, then the rest would depict Rishabh Dev as the preacher of Jain Religion because Jain Tirthankars with their perfection in knowledge were called JIN, ARIHANT etc. and by virtue of their names JAIN or Arhat religion was taught by them . Probably , being wider spread of Jain religion in south, the writer of ‘BHAGWAT’ would have imagined so. Had he emphasized Rishabh Dev as the originator of Jain religion, he could not have formed opportunity to abuse it. The teachings by Rishabh Dev to his sons as indicated in ‘Bhagwat’ are quite in consonance with the Jain Religion. They are enumerated as below:

1. Oh sons ! In the universe of human population, the physical body is of excessive panic and not pleasurably consumable. Hence hardship imposed over the body is conducive for absolute happiness.

2. One who loves me alone and is not infatuated by fair sex, woman, son or friend and having the attachments with this world for the sake of purpose only, is impartial, well balanced and a holy saint (Monk).

3. One whose deeds are meant for sensual pleasures alone, is not a fair being, because his physical body is also painful to his soul.

4. Till he has not got the deep insight spirit, the holy saint is supposed to be unwise. Till he involves in wordly affairs, he keeps on influx of karmas to his soul with physical actions and sensual mind.

5. Desiring without virtues the wiseman is apt to be involved in sexual pleasures that brings him many stresses and miseries.

6. Man’s sexual craving for woman is complexity in heart due to which he has had acute attachments with home, land, son, family and wealth.

7. When mind is not inclined to the complexity of heart, the soul is then liberated and reaches to the highest place (i.e. Moksha) after emancipation.

8. One who treats worshipping of me for eliminating darkness and differentiating truth and untruth and desires to get in sight and gives up all sexual cravings by practising ascetism, is liberated.

9. However cravings for worldly objects by the beings, lead them to fall into hell which is like a deep-dark well.

10. Human society with extreme lustfulness and truncated outlook does not know its upliftment and true essence of life.

11. An unwise, follows the wrong path after leaving the right one, is checked from going to wrong path by the kind hearted and wise persons.

12. Oh sons! Better treat all animated or inanimated objects like me.

All these teachings are in consonance with Jain religion. The fourth item therein is worth paying attention which explains that the acute worldly rituals are the cause of influx of Karmas and its binding of soul. According to Jain religion, liberation from the Karmic bondage can not be possible without inhabiting mind, speech and body. But such things are not found in vedic religion. Detachment with the physical allurement, observing penance with insight, treatment of all beings as equal, non involvement with sexual pleasure, all such things are the tenets of Jain religion. According to Shrimad Bhagwat, it is evident that Jain religion hs been originated by Rishabh Dev. In other Hindu ‘Purans’ such sort of description regarding Jain religion, is found. There is no such book found in which the founder of Jain religion is said to be Mahaveer or Parswanath. Although the ‘Puranic Literature’ is of later creation than the period of Mahaveer or Parswanath had been given besides the references of Jain religion there.

It therefore, confirms that all Hindu traditions are one of this respect while considering both of them not to be the founder of Jain religion.

Besides, we may notice that the worshipped and respected personalities of other religions have also been included among the Hindu incarnations. Even Buddha, the founder of Buddhist religion born in 6th century B.C. has been included in it. But his contemporary Mahaveer has not been included in it because he was not the founder of Jain religion. The founder of Jain religion Rishabh Dev as admitted by Hindu traditions, is already considered as the 8th incarnation. If Mahveer had been the founder of a new religion like Buddha, he would probably have not been excluded from it. Thus excluding him from it or admitting Rishabh Dev as the VIII Hindu incarnation are the reasons to believe that Hindu tradition since long antiquity, trteats Rishabh Dev as the founder of Jain religion. That is why, names of Ajitnath and Arishtnemi born after him, have been referred in Yajurved.


Thus it is evident from Jainaiter or Jain literature that Bhagwan Rishabh Dev was the prime propounder of Jain religion. It has also been proved by the ancient stone inscriptions that Rishabh Dev was the first Tirthankar and the Jains used to worship the idol of Rishabh Dev even during the age of Mahaveer. In the excavations done at hillocky named ‘Kankali’ in Mathura the Jain stone inscriptions of dating back 200 years with age prints of the Indo-synthenian King Kanishka, Huviska, Vasudeo as founded by Dr. Fuhereer have references of donations for their offsprings for the worship of Bhagwan Rishabh Dev. Mr. Vinscent Alexander Smith (the Jian stupe and other antiquities from Mathura), has stated about the written material obtained from Mathura amply reflecting in favour of Jain traditions and presented the unchangeable evidence about the ancientness of Jain religion practised in the same way as in the past. In the beginning of 1st century A.D., there was their staunch faith about the reality of their twenty four Tirthankars with their prescribed special marks.

Older and more important than them, is the inscription from the elephant caves from Khandgiri and Udai Giri (Orissa) which was inscribed by Jain Emperor KHARWELL. This 2100 year old ancient inscription depicts clearly that king Nand , predecessor of Pushya Mitra, the Emperor of Magadh, after conquering Kaling brought the victory gift idol of Rishabh Dev as the total earned valuable permanent possession (Mankula) with him. After 300 years of King Nand, Kharwell invaded Magadh and won it and thus Pushya Mitra having been compromised with him, handed over the idol to him. Had the Jain religion been of the period of Mahaveer and Paraswananth, these idols would have been either of their time or of the later time . But these older inscriptions etc. synchronizing with their history, have every reason to believe that traditions to accept Rishabh Dev as the first Tirthanker have their own depths.

Now the question remains as to when he was born . As indicated above by the Jain faith that Rishabh Dev was born in the 3rd part of this declining Era and the fifth part of these eras is insuing. Thus his birth has been of lacs and crores of years ago. As per Hindu faith in the beginning of creation , Lord Brahma created Prime Manu and Satyarupa and Rishabh Dev was in their 5th of generation and in this way he was born in the later stages of first SATYUGA. 28 Satyugas have now been passed. This fact also computes his quite ancientness. Hence the beginning of Jain religion is of quite older times.

At the advent of Aryas, when the Dravid Civilization being prevalent, was in true sense the Jain civilization.

Therefore, after the Jain traditions, the union formed was a Dravid union. Major General J.R. Fleming in the book named “The short History in Science of comparative religion”, writes that Jain religion was prevalent before uncountable years from Christ. Aryans when reached to the middle of India they found Jain religion prevalent there.


During the period of first and second division of the above six divisional time, (eras) neither any religion, nor any king, nor any society was there. In a family only two living beings, a wife and a husband live alone. They get requirements for their livelihood from the nearby erected trees called wish-fulfilling (i.e. Kalpavraksha) trees. They remain satisfied with them. After giving birth to a son and a daughter both of them got their lives expired. Both the kids after them, become grown by sucking of their own thumbs. The grown up beings lived as wife and husband. This tradition continued till the major period of third division, which was called as a land of enjoyment region (Bhoga Bhumi), ends during the time because the human life at that time is enjoyment oriented. They need no efforts for the maintenance of their lives.

But later on change is brought about, slowly and slowly the requirements to be fulfilled by the trees become hard to obtain and this cause mutual conflicts. The fourteen Manus, then have been originated. The fifth number of Manu fixes the demarcation of the trees. Such limits further also raise conflicts. The sixth number of Manu then puts specific marks to replace the limits. At that time nobody knows how to utilize animals and so their necessity is not felt too. But when their necessity is felt, seventh Manu teaches the art of horse riding etc. previously, parents died after giving birth to their progeny. When it has been stopped, the next Manus impart education for rearing up of the children.

When necessity arose to go out here and there, and their way obstructed by rivers, being experienced, twelfth Manu, then teaches how to cross the rivers with the help of the bridge and boat etc.

Previously nobody did crime, thus there was no need for any system of giving punishment etc. but hindrances in fulfilling of the needs of the beings were felt, the attitude of committing crime began to crop up, hence the necessity of having a system of punishment and just had arisen. From the time of the first to the fifth number of Manu, it is sufficient of a culprit to say ‘Yes’ for giving punishment. But when it did not work well, the instruction ‘Yes’ and do not do it again, was instituted as the punishment. Again that much was not found enough so the instruction “Shame” was added during the time of last five ‘Kulkars’. In this way fourteen Manus had developed the social organization to remove the difficulties of the human beings. The name of the fourteenth Manu was Nabhi Rai. During his time the Navel String of the born chld began to be developed longer, then it had to be cut. Thus his name became famous as NABHI. His wife was Marudevi. Rishabh Dev was born to them. This Rishabh Dev was the prime propounder of Jain religion in this era.

According to the treatise

Triloksar of Acharya Nemichandra Siddhant-Chakravarty’’, the organizations for villages and towns were well established during the time of Rishabh Dev and it was he who imparted education regarding worldly studies and worldly conduct and he propounded that religion whose foundation is on nonviolence. Therefore, he was named as ADI-BRAHMA. While he was in his mother’s conception, the gods were showering gold and so he was called HIRANYAGARBHA as mentioned in its sub section 8 of 203 sutras of HARIVANSH PURAN (783AD) by Acharya Jinsen.

During those days, life problems faced by the people, were quite hard because the wish fulfilling trees, supplying requirements for them thus disappeared and the newly grown vegetation could not be understood by any of them. Thus Bhagwan taught them to extract juice of the sugarcanes (IKSHA) to use it as food. So his family clan named Ikschwaku became popular and he was declared as the Prime man of the creation. The same writing is available in 210-Hymns (Slokas) of 8th sub-section of Harivansh Puran.

According to Acharya Samant Bhadra in VRAHAT SWAYAMBHU-STROTRA, he taught the people the six-acts about trade, skills, agriculture, craft, commerce and art for earning livelihood by the people. So he was also called PRAJAPATI.

For carrying out of the social organization, he had made three categories of the society. Those having responsibility for defence were named as ‘Kshatrias’. Those deputed for the work of Agriculture trade, cow rearing etc., were called ‘Vaishyas’ and those who were considered fit for doing and serving were named as ‘SHUDRAS’. Bhagwan Rishabh Dev had two wives – one of them was named as Sunanda and the other was named as Nanda. They had given birth to 100 sons and two daughters. The name of the elder son was Bharat became the first all powerful sovereign king (Chakravarti) of Bharatvarsh in his age.

One day Bhagwan Rishabh Dev was on his royal throne. The Royal Executive was going on and a female dancer Nilanjana was performing her dance. While dancing, her body fell down to death. This unprecedented event made the heart of Bhagwan to be non- attached to the world. At once he handed over the empire to all sons and adopted initiation and remained stand still like an ascetic for six months. Following his example, other followed suit, but they could not resist the temptation of hunger and thirst and so they lost the way. When his time of solitude was over after six months he went out in search of food. For having a glance of his face in serene nudity, his subjects gathered around him. Some offered clothes to him, some offered jewellery, some came to attend him and serve him with elephants, horses, but nobody knew the proper way of offering alms. Owing to this unawareness, six months have further passed on in this way.

While wandering thus, Rishabh Dev reached Hastinapur on one day. King of that place SHRIYANSH was great and generous. He respected Bhagwan very much. After giving good regard and veneration, he made Bhagwan to be seated on a high chair, washed his feet, worshipped him and after paying deep regards, he spoke, “This juice of sugarcane is completely pure and kindly accept it”. Then Bhagwan stood up and drank it by making a pot of his hands. The internal pleasure felt by the people at that time is indescribable. This taking of the food material by Bhagwan had been materialized on the third day of ‘VAISAKH SHUKLA’. Therefore this date is called as never ending third day of Vaisakh Shukla (Akshaya Tritiya).

After taking the food material Bhagwan went out to the forest and absorbed in spiritual meditation. Once Bhagwan was meditating in the garden of the city Purimtal. At that time he had achieved the omniscience- the perfect knowledge, in this way attaining the status of ‘JIN’. Bhagwan began to wander about for preaching of religious sermons. That Arena where the group of people were listening to his sermons, was called SAMAVASARAN. The most glaring point is that even the animals gathered at the place to listen to his sermons and even the animals like lions sat in peace to listen him. Whatever Bhagwan says, was understandable to all. Preaching through out of his life in this way, for the welfare of the people, Bhagwan Rishabh Dev got salvation at the mount of ‘KAILASH’.

The the descrition of Nabhi’s son Rishabh Dev as well as Rishabh’s son Bharat is quite common in the literature of all Purans of Hindus; (Markandeya Puran, Chapter 90, KURMA Puran, Ch. 41, Agni Puran, Ch. 10, Vayu Puran, Ch. 33, Garud Puran, Ch. 1, Brahmand Puran, Ch. 14, Varah Puran, Ch. 74, Ling Puran, Ch. 47, Vishnu Puran, Ch. 1, ISKAND Puran, Kumar Khand, Ch. 37, etc.) In all of them Rishabh Dev had been treated as the son of Nabhi and Maru Devi. There were 100 sons of Rishabh Dev. Handing over the reign to Bharat, Rishabh entered into asceticism. By the name of this Bharat, this country had been named Bharat Varsh.

नाभिस्त्वजनयत् पुत्रं मरुदेव्यां महाधुतिः ऋषभं पाथि॔व श्रेष्ठसर्व-क्षत्रस्य पूव॔जम्ं।
ॠषभाद भरतो ज वीरः पुत्र शता ग्रजः सोऽा॔भषिच्यष॔भः पुत्रं महा प्रावाज्यमाइस्थितः॥
हिमाहृं दक्षिण वष॔ तस्य नाम्ना विदुबु॔धाः।

These scriptures with some changes in the wordings, are found in all the Purans. There is a complete description of Rishabh Dev in “Shrimad Bhagwat” (5,3-20) and the originator of Jain religion is stated to be Rishabh Dev in it.

बहि॔षि तस्मिन्ऩेव विष्णुदत्त भगवान परमाषि॔भिः
प्रसदितो नाभे प्रिय-चिकीर्षया तदवरोधायने
मरुदेव्यां धर्मान दर्शयितुकामों वात-रश्नानां
श्रमणानाम्रषीणा मूधर्वमन्थिनां शुकल्या तन्वाव ततार।
Above references, to show the religious duty of the anchorite devoid of clothes in the above writings indicate the meaning of Jain religion because the origin of Jain religion is said to be perpetuated by the preaching of Rishabh Dev. Former President of India and the renowned philosopher Dr. Radha Krishnan writes in its Bhartiya Darshan that Jain tradition explains the origin of the Jain religion by Rishabh Dev who had been many centuries ago. There are proofs available about the fact that worship of Rishabh Dev as Tirthankar had been in vogue before 1st century B.C.

There is no doubt that Jain religion was older than the age of Vardhman and Parswanath. In “Yajurveda”, names of Rishabh Dev, Ajitnath and Aristanemi are referred. ‘Bhagwat Puran’ also confirms that Rishabh Dev was the founder of Jain religion.

The writer of ‘Bhagwat ‘describes about Rishabh Dev in the same form as has been admitted by Jain tradition he was a stoic. His stoicism was based on activity-seclusion. In Jain religion, the austeric penance under activity seclusion has been practised. From Rishabh Dev to Mahaveer, all Tirthankars were ascetics or holy nude monks. From the age of Mauryas to this date, all idols are found in the posture of stoics (Holy Nude Monks).

The tradition of austerity (Yogi) is quite older. Vedic Aryas were not aware of it. But the Sindhu river civilization was not unaware of ir. According to the ‘Yogshastra’ (Ascetic science), three requirements are meant for it – • Posture (Aasan) • Putting brain, spinal cord and abdomen in a straight form • Half closed eyes or down tracked sight (Nasagra –drashti) as indicated in Bhagwat Gita

According to Ram Prasad Chandra, the idol stone found in Mohan Jodro which was called by Mr. Makey as the idol of a worshipper, is the idol of a Yogi (an ascetic). Shri Chanda had got a paper published in Modern review (June 1932)- in which he, by demonstrating the posture of Yoga, wrote that the sitting position of the figures of Gods inscribed on the excavated coins from Sindhu valley were not only in the right position of Yoga but those in standing position were also treated as that of in the right position of YOGA. In Mathura museum, we find an idol of Vrashabh Dev JIN in a standing posture of meditation (a form of yoga) which is dated back of 2nd century. The style of this idol has quite resemblance with the standing position figures on the coins found in Sindhu valley. The meaning of Rishabh or Vrishabh is an ox and the mark of identity or emblem of Rishabh is an ox. On the coins numbering 3 to 5, the Ox figure is inscribed with the figures of God idols which may be the earlier identity of Rishabh. Pushing aside the Shaiv Religion and Jain religion with the dark of Platonic age, would certainly be an endeavour of brave imagination . But , when a person is prepared to have a more courageous initiative between the history traditional and Sindhu Valley civilization, it would simply be a formal imaginative approach. The close resemblance between sitting and the standing figures on the excavated coins of Sindhu Valley with that of the distant history, indicates the prevalence of old yoga which might not be possible till one had reach to the highest state of spiritualism.