History of Jainism

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Jainism is a science and is founded by those Great Ones who have attained perfection with its aid. Scientific validity can't be claimed by mysticism or dogmatism. And it is unnecessary to add that nothing but scientific validity can be trusted for accurate and timely results.

FOUR AND TWENTY Tirthankaras[1] found Jainism in every half cycle of time. Rishabhdev was the first tirthankara of present descending half of the cosmic time cycle (avasarpini).

Jainism is a philosophy of eternity. All sciences are really eternal and so is Jainism (The Science of Salvation). According to Champat Rai Jain (author of "The Key of Knowledge"), Jainism is not only the oldest religion but it is also the parent of all forms of religions (Refer "Jainism Christianity and Science"). Scholars like Heinrich Zimmer believe that Jainism is the earliest known religious systems prevailing in India and was widespread in the Indus Valley. The relics found in Harrapan excavations like the standing nude male figures in Kayotsarga, idols in Padmasana and images with serpent-heads, and the Bull symbol of Rishabhdev, represent Jain culture.

Regarding the antiquity of Jainism, Dr. Heinrich Zimmer noted: "There is truth in the Jaina idea that their religion goes back to a remote antiquity, the antiquity in question being that of the pre-Aryan so called Dravidian period, which has recently been dramatically illuminated by the discovery of a series of great Late stone Age cities in the Indus Valley, dating from the third and perhaps even fourth millennium B.C.(Zimmer|1952|p=59)

Historicity of the Tirthankaras

Vardhaman Mahavira

Vardhaman Mahāvīrā was the twenty-fourth and last tirthankara of present half cycle of time.


There is reasonable historical evidence that Parshvanath (Buddha of the Chinese, Tibetans) lived in the 9th century B.C.


Neminatha was the predecessor of Parshvanatha and 22nd Tirthankara of the Jain tradition. In 1890-91, Kankali Tila (or Jaina mound) at Mathura was excavated by Dr. Fuhrer. After studying the findings of this excavation, Dr. Fuhrer was of the view that Neminatha was a historical figure.


Jain Agamas

Traditionally, the original doctrine of Jainism was contained in scriptures called Purva. There were fourteen Purva. These are believed to have originated from Adinath, the first tirthankara.[2] There was a twelve-year famine two centuries after the death of Mahavira, the last Jain tirthankara. At that time, Chandragupta Maurya was the ruler of Magadha and Bhadrabahu was the head of Jain community. Bhadrabahu went south to Karnataka with his adherents and Sthulabhadra, another Jain leader remained behind. During this time the knowledge of the doctrine was getting lost. A council was formed at Pataliputra where eleven scriptures called Angas were compiled and the remnant of fourteen purvas were written down in 12th Anga, Ditthivaya by the adherents of Sthulbhadra. When followers of Acharya Bhadrabahu returned, there was a dispute between them regarding the authenticity of the Angas. Also, those who stayed at magadha started wearing white clothes, which was unacceptable to the others who remained naked. This is how the Digambara and Svetambara sects arose, the Digambara being naked whereas the Svetambara were white clothed. According to Digambara, the purvas and the angas were lost.

According to Digambara tradition, Ganadhara knew fourteen Purva and eleven Anga. Knowledge of Purva was lost around 436 years after Mahavira and Anga were lost around 683 years after Mahavira.[3] The texts that do not belong to Anga are called Angabahyas.

Hindu scriptures

There is mention of the first tirthankara, Rishabhdev in [Rig Veda]. Rig Veda, X.166 states- "Risabhdev went on, unperturbed by anything till he became sin-free like a conch that takes no black dot, without obstruction ... which is the epithet of the First World-teacher, may become the destroyer of enemies."

India was named Bhāratavarsha or Bhārata after him. In the Skanda Purana (chapter 37) it is stated that "Rishabh was the son of Nabhiraja, and Rishabha had a son named Bharata, and after the name of this Bharata, this country is known as Bharata-varsha."

Buddhist records

Buddha is said to have followed every known ascetic practice. In Majjhima Nikaya, Buddha shares his experience Template:" These are in conformity with the conduct of a Digambara Jain monk.


The tirthankara are said to have attained perfect knowledge, known as kevala jnana. After Mahavira, one of his disciple Sudharma Svami is said to have taken over the leadership.(Thomas|1877|p=5-6) He was the head of Jain community till 515 BCE.[4] After his death, Jambuswami, a disciple of Sudharma Svami became the head of the monks. He was the head till 463 BCE.[5] Sudharma Svami and Jambu Svami are also traditionally said to have attained keval jnana. It is said that no one after Jambu Svami has attained it till now.

After Sudharma svami, a succession of five sutrakevalis, i.e. those who were well versed with scriptures, who headed the monks of the Jain community. Acharya Bhadrabahu was the last sutrakevali. After Acharya Bhadrabahu there were seven (or eleven) leaders. The knowledge of the scriptures was gradually getting lost with each one of them.

Royal patronage

The information regarding the history of Jainism is uncertain and fragmentary. Jains consider the king Bimbisara (c. 558–491 BCE), Ajatashatru (c. 492–460 BCE) Udayin of the Haryanka dynasty as a patron of Jainism. Jainism also flourished under the Nanda Empire (424–321 BCE).

Mauryan empire

Tradition says that Chandragupta (322–298 BCE), the founder of Mauryan Empire became disciple of Acharya Bhadrabahu during later part of his life. During Chandragupta's reign, Bhadrabahu Swämi moved to karnataka after sensing a twelve-year-long famine. Sthulbhadra, a pupil of Acharya Bhadrabahu, stayed in Magadha. Later, when the disciples of Acharya Bhadrabahu returned, they found that those who stayed back started wearing clothes. They found this as being opposed to the Jain tenets which, according to them, required complete nudity. Those who wore clothes are known as svetambara where as the other were known as digambar.

See also




  • {|last1=Zimmer

|first1=Heinrich |title=Philosophies Of India |year=1953 |editor=Joseph Campbell |publisher=Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd |location=London, E.C. 4 |url=https://archive.org/details/Philosophy.of.India.by.Heinrich.Zimmer |isbn=978-8120807396}

  • {

|last=Sangave |first=Vilas Adinath |title=Aspects of Jaina religion |url=http://books.google.com/books/about/Aspects_of_Jaina_Religion.html?id=I8RUPwAACAAJ |edition=3 |year=2001 |publisher=Bharatiya Jnanpith |isbn=81-263-0626-2}

Further readings

|archive-url=https://archive.org/details/shortstudiesinsc00forlrich |archive-date= 2008}}

External links