Jainism (Origin to Decline)

The changing features of social and economic life in the 6th century BC were closely linked with the changes in religion and philosophical speculations.

The rise of trading class, the vaishyas, gave a jolt to established hierarchies. Vedic sacrifices were seen as most complicated and time-consuming.

Religious text mostly in Sanskrit, which was the elite language doesn’t attract the normal peoples.

Jainism Origin

The origin of Jainism is still a mystery. But, in Rigvedi hymns there are clear references to Rishabha and Aristanem.Rishabha is known as first tiruthankara. Rishabha was described as incarnation of Narayana in the Vishnu Purana.

The total outcome of Jainism is from the teaching of 24 tiruthankaras. All of the tiruthankaras belongs to kshatriyas clan.

The 23rd tiruthankara named Parsavanatha, seems to left a well formed oraganization behind him. Vardhamana Mahavira family and parents itself Parsavanatha followers.

Vardhamana Mahavira (240-468 BC)

Vardhamana Mahavira was born in 540 BC, in a village called Kundagrama near Vaishali (North Bihar).His Parents were, Siddhartha ( Head of Kshatriya Jantrika )and Trishala (Lichchhavi Princess). Mahavira’s family connected with Magadha.

In the beginning Mahavira was in the normal life. His wife was named as Yasoda and they had a daughther named Anojja.


In search of truth, Mahavira became as ascetic at the age of 30. After 12 years he attained nirvana or Kaivalya ( Supreme knowledge or Perfect knowledge at Jimbhikagrama on the bank of river Rijupalika under the sal tree.

Through Kaivalaya, Mahavira conquered misery and Happiness. He was acclaimed as 24thtiruthankara. He was also known as Jina (Conqueror).

Mahavira hardly believed in Karma and transmigration of soul.

He rejected the Vedas and Vedic rituals. He didn’t believed in the existence of God.

Mahavira propagated Jainism for 30 years in Kosala, Magadha, Mithila, Champa.

He passed away in the age of 72 in 468 BC.

List of 24 tirthankaras

1          Rishabhanatha (Adinatha)            Bull

2          Ajitanatha               Elephant

3          Sambhavanatha      Horse

4          Abhinandananatha Monkey

5          Sumatinatha             Goose

6          Padmaprabha          Padma

7          Suparshvanatha      Swastika

8          Chandraprabha       Crescent Moon

9          Pushpadanta            Crocodile or Makara

10        Shitalanatha             Shrivatsa

11        Shreyanasanatha    Rhinoceros

12        Vasupujya                Buffalo

13        Vimalanatha            Boar

14        Anantanatha            Porcupine according to the Digambara

Falcon according to the Śvētāmbara

15        Dharmanatha           Vajra

16        Shantinatha              Antelope or deer

17        Kunthunatha            Goat

18        Aranatha                  Nandyavarta or fish

19        Māllīnātha               Kalasha

20        Munisuvrata          Tortoise

21        Naminatha              Blue lotus

22        Neminatha              Shankha

23        Parshvanatha          Snake

24        Mahavira                  Lion

Terms Associated with Doctrine of Jainism

Asceticism and Penance

Freeing oneself from cycle of birth and rebirth.

Monastic life

It’s an necessary condition of salvation.


No harm to the living beings.


Should always speak truth


Non- Stealing, Not to posses anything from others which is not willing to offered.


Control over one’s senses and to keep them free.


To attain detachment from people, places and materials.

Three Gems of Jainism

  1. Right Faith (Is the belief in what one knows)
  2. Right Knowledge (Knowledge of the Doctrines of Jainism)
  3. Right Conduct (includes 5 points)
  1. Ahimsa (Non- Violence)
  2. Satya (Truth)
  3. Asateya (Non- Stealing)
  4. Aparigraha (Non-possession)
  5. Brahmacharya (Chasity)

Sections of Jainism

Bhadrabahu, spread Jainism in South India, whereas Sthulabhadra spread Jainism in North India. The Followers of  Bhadrabahu were known as Digambaras  as they believed in the retention of the rule of nudity.

The followers of  Sthulabhadra known as Shvetambaras, as they wore white garments to emphasis Pure and Non- violence

Jain Councils

The First Jain Council was held at Pataliputra, under Sthulabhadra, around 300 BC. Compilation of 12 angas, replacement of last 14 purvas were completed in this council.

The second Jain Council was held at Vallabhi (Gujarat) in 512 AD and was presided by Devaradhi Kshamasramana. The main purpose of this council was to collect the sacred texts and write it systematically.

Spread of Jainism

Jainism was spread through the followers of Mahavira. Jainism gradually spread through the South and West India. Chandragupta Maurya (322-298BC) was the main reason for spreading Jainism in Karnataka.

Jainism also spreads through Gujarat and Rajasthan. (Shvetambaras section prevailed here)

Digambaras were dominant in Mysore (Karnataka).

Decline of Jainism

There are Various factors on Decline of Jainism

  • Extreme Ahimsa was the main reason for the Decline. Normal man cannot attain this.
  • Avoiding medicines when ill and Plucking of Fruits, Vegetables seems as Sin are some more reasons which doesn’t attract the normal peoples on the Jainism.
  • After Bimbisara and Ajastshatru, no king of the later dynasties extended help in spread.
  • Finally extreme austerity and penance could not find favour with common people.

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