Antiquity and History of Jainism

Published: 23.12.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

Antiquity and History of Jainism

Culture is that complex which includes knowledge, belief art, morals, rules, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. In other words, culture is the sum total of man's learned behaviour. The culture of the individual is mainly dependent on the culture of the society to which that individual belongs. Thus, the acquisition of culture is predominantly a social phenomenon. The application of a particular culture may be social as well as individual.

There are individual differences in a group or class or society. Similarly, we find social differences in the world. Some of these differences are purely non-cultural, whereas some differences are definitely cultural. A number of causes, individual as well as social, may be attributed to these cultural differences.

Indian Culture:

Indian culture is remarkable for its peculiarities. It consists of two main trends: Śramaṇic and Brāhmaṇic. The Vedic, Aryan or Hindu (in a restricted sense) traditions come under the Brāhmaṇic trend. The Śramaṇic trend covers the Jaina, Buddhist and similar other ascetic traditions. The Brāhmaṇic schools accept the authority of the Vedas and Vedic literature. The Jainas and Buddhists have their own canons and canonical literature and accept their authority.

Jaina Culture:

Jainism is one of the oldest religions of the world. It is an independent and most ancient religion of India. It is wrong to say that Jainism was founded by Lord Mahāvīra. Even Lord Pārśva cannot be regarded as the founder of this great religion. It is equally incorrect to maintain that Jainism is nothing more than a revolt against the Vedic religion. The truth is that Jainism is quite an independent religion. It is even older than the Vedic religion. The Jaina culture, which represents now the Śramaṇic culture in India, is in negative terms, non-Vedic, non-Aryan and non-Brāhmaṇic. It has its own peculiarities. It is flourishing on this land from times immemorial. The Indus Valley civilization of Mohenjodaro and Harappa sheds some welcome light on the antiquity of Jaina culture. Of course, we cannot deny that there has been a good deal of mutual influences on both the currents of Indian culture. In fact, Indian culture is a composite culture. The two most predominant currents in the stream of Indian culture are Brāhmaṇism and Śramaṇism. They have greatly influenced each other, and thereby, contributed to the composite Indian culture. It is true that they have some similarities and certain common principles. But it is equally true that they have their own peculiarities and marked differences.

Iconism and Nudity:

The time assigned to the Indus Valley civilization is 3000 B. C. The Indus culture is quite different from the Aryan culture in the Vedic period. A comparison of the Indus and Vedic cultures shows that they were unrelated. The Vedic religion is generally not iconic. At Mohenjodaro and Harappa iconism is everywhere apparent. In the houses of Mohenjodaro the firepit is conspicuously lacking. There have been discovered at Mohenjodaro many nude figures which depict personages who are no other than ascetic yogis. Iconism and nudity have been two chief characteristics of Jaina culture.

The nude figures of Mohenjodaro clearly indicate that the people of the Indus Valley not only practised yoga but also worshipped images of yogis. Along with the seated deities engraved on some of the Indus seals the standing deities on them also show the kāyotsarga posture. This posture of yoga or meditation is peculiarly Jaina.

Followers of Arhats:

There existed in India sects different from the Vedic faith long before Mahāvīra and Buddha. Arhats and probably arhat-caityas were also in existence before their birth. The followers of those arhats were known as vrātyas. They had a republican form of Government. They had their own shrines, their non-Vedic worship and their own religious leaders. They with their well-built cities and non-violent, non-sacrificial cult were the indigenous rivals and enemies whom the first Aryans had to encounter for settling and extending in this country. In the Vedic period some saints were known as yatis who probably belonged to the non-Vedic group, i. e., the Śramaṇic society. Some of the saints are described as naked which indicates that they practised stern asceticism. Such people who liked renunciation and abandoned all pleasures were the pillars of the Śramanic society, i. e., the society of the non-Aryans. The Brāhmaṇic view of life was quite different. It longed for long life, heroic progeny, wealth, power, abundance of food and drink and the defeat of the rivals. It seems that the idea of renunciation did not much appeal in the beginning to the Brāhmaṇic. society, i. e., the society of the Aryans.

Jaina Philosophy:

The Jaina philosophy, no doubt, holds certain principles in common with Hinduism, but this does not disprove its independent origin and free development. If it has some similarities with the other Indian systems, it has its own peculiarities and marked differences as well. Its animism, atomic theory, karmic theory, etc., are quite peculiar.

Jaina Culture and Dravidian Culture:

In the opinion of some scholars the Jaina culture is identical with the pre-Vedic Dravidian culture. Both are simple, unsophisticated, clear-cut and direct manifestation of the pessimistic outlook. Jainism believes in pessimism, i. e., the conviction that life is full of misery. No trace of this type of pessimism is available in the optimistic attitude of the Vedic Aryans. An atheistic attitude and a kind of dualism between soul and matter characterise both the Dravidian religion and Jainism, The doctrines of transmigration and karma are peculiar to both the religions. They were unknown to the early Brāhmaṇas. The general tendency of scholars has been in favour of the theory that the Indus people were of Dravidian stock. The Mohenjodaro people were Dravidian, their language was a purely Dravidian language and their culture was also Dravidian.

Jainism and Buddhism:

Jainism and Buddhism represent the Śramaṇic culture. If we examine the antiquity of Jainism from the Buddhist and Jaina records, it will be clear that Jainism is older than Buddhism. The Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta of the Buddhist scriptures is none else but Lord Mahāvīra, the last Tīrthaṅkara (fordmaker) of the Jainas. The place of his death is mentioned as Pāvā. The Buddhists often refer to the Jainas as a firmly established rival sect. Buddha made several experiments in the quest of enlightenment. But such was not the case with Mahāvīra. He practised and preached the old Nirgrantha Dharma. He made no attempt to found or preach a new religion. Buddha is even said to have entered the Śramaṇic (Nirgrantha or Jaina) Order of ascetics in his quest of enlightenment.

The Sāmaññaphala-sutta of the Dīgha-nikāya refers to the four vows (caturyāma) of the Nirgrantha Dharma. It shows that the Buddhists were aware of the older traditions of the Jainas. Lord Pārśva, who preceded Lord Mahāvīra, had preached the four-fold Law (cāturyāma dharma). Mahāvīra adopted the same but added one more vow to it and preached the five-fold Law (pañcayāma dharma). This is clear from the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra of the Jainas. In this canonical text there is a nice conversation between Keśi, the follower of Pārśva, and Gautama, the follower of Mahāvīra. In this conversation the two leaders realise and recognise the fundamental unity of the doctrines of their respective teachers. They discuss the view-points of the four vows (non-injury, truth, non-stealing and non-possession) and five vows (chastity added) and come to the conclusion that fundamentally they are the same.

Historicity of Pārśva:

The historicity of Lord Pārśva has been unanimously accepted. He preceded Mahāvīra by 250 years. He was son of King Aśvasena and Queen Vāmā of Vārāṇasī. At the age of thirty he renounced the world and became an ascetic. He practised austerities for eighty-three days. On the eighty-fourth day he obtained omniscience. Lord Pārśva preached his doctrines for seventy years. At the age of a hundred he attained liberation on the summit of Mount Sammeta (Parasnath Hills).

The four vows preached by Lord Pārśva are: not to kill, not to lie, not to steal and not to own property. The vow of chastity was, no doubt, implicitly included in the last vow, but in the two hundred and fifty years that elapsed between the death of Pārśva and the preaching of Mahāvīra, abuses became so abundant that the latter had to add the vow of chastity explicitly to the existing four vows. Thus, the number of vows preached by Lord Mahāvīra was five instead of four.


Neminātha or Ariṣṭanemi, who preceded Lord Pārśva, was a cousin of Kṛṣṇa. If the historicity of Kṛṣṇa is accepted, there is no reason why Neminātha should not be regarded as a historical person. He was son of Samudravijaya and grandson of Andhakavṛṣṇi of Sauryapura. Kṛṣṇa had negotiated the wedding of Neminātha with Rājīmatī, the daughter of Ugrasena of Dvārakā. Neminātha attained emancipation on the summit of Mount Raivata (Girnar).

Other Tīrthaṅkaras:

The Jaina tradition believes in the occurrence of twenty-one more Tīrthaṅkaras. They preceded Neminātha. Lord Ṛṣabha was the first among them. It is not an easy job to establish the historicity of these great souls.


Mahāvīra was the twenty-fourth, i. e., the last Tīrthaṅkara. According to the Pāli texts, he was a contemporary of Buddha but they never met. The early Prakrit texts do not mention the name of Buddha. They totally neglect him. This indicates that Mahāvīra and his followers did not attach any importance to Buddha's personality and teachings. On the other hand, in the Pali Tripitaka Mahāvīra is regarded as one of the six Tīrthaṅkaras of Buddha's times. This shows that Mahāvīra was an influential personality and a leading venerable ascetic.

According to the tradition of the Śvetāmbara Jainas the liberation of Mahāvīra took place 470 years before the beginning of the Vikrama Era. The tradition of the Digambara Jainas maintains that Lord Mahāvīra attained liberation 605 years before the beginning of the Śaka Era. By either mode of calculation the date comes to 527 B.C. Since the Lord attained emancipation at the age of 72, his birth must have been around 599 B. C. This makes Mahāvīra a slightly elder contemporary of Buddha who probably lived about 567-487 B. C.

There are many references in the Buddhist canon to Nāṭaputta and the Nigaṇṭhas, meaning Mahāvīra and the Jainas. The Buddhist canon refers to the death of Nāṭaputta at Pāvā at a time when Buddha was still engaged in preaching. According to Hemacandra, Mahāvīra attained liberation 155 years before Candragupta's accession to the throne. This leads to a date around 549-477 B. C. for Mahāvīra and places his death slightly later than that of Buddha. Some scholars support this view.

There is no doubt that Pārśva preceded Mahāvīra by 250 years. The Jaina canon clearly mentions that the parents of Mahāvīra were followers of Pārśva whose death took place 250 years before that of Mahāvīra (527 B.C.). Since Pārśva lived for a hundred years, his date comes to 877-777 B. C.

Mahāvīra was not the inventor of a new doctrine but the reformer of a Law already long in existence. The Uttarādhyayana-sūtra gives a good account of this fact. The following is the essence of this account:

There was a famous preceptor in the tradition of Lord Pārśva. His name was Keśi. Surrounded by his disciples he arrived at the town of Srāvastī. In the vicinity of that town there was a park called Tinduka. There he took up his abode in a pure place.

At that time there was a famous disciple of Lord Mahavira. His name was Gautama (Indrabhūti). Surrounded by his pupils he, too, arrived at Śrāvastī. In the vicinity of that town there was another park called Koṣṭhaka. There he took up his abode in a pure place.

The pupils of both, who controlled themselves, who practised austerities, who possessed virtues, made the following reflection:

“Is our Law the right one or the other? Are our conduct and doctrines right or the other? The Law taught by Lord Pārśva, which recognises only four vows, or the Law taught by Lord Mahāvīra (Vardhamāna), which enjoins five vows?

The Law which forbids clothes for a monk or that which allows an under and an upper garment? Both pursuing the same end, what has caused their difference?”

Knowing the thoughts of their pupils, both Keśi and Gautama made up their minds to meet each other. Gautama went to the Tinduka park where Keśi received him. With his permission Keśi asked Gautama: “The Law taught by Pārśva recognises only four vows, while that of Vardhamāna enjoins five. Both Laws pursuing the same end, what has caused this difference? Have you no misgivings about this two-fold Law?” Gautama made the following reply: “The monks under the first Tīrthaṅkara are simple but slow of understanding, those under the last are prevaricating and slow of understanding and those between the two are simple and wise. Hence, there are two forms of the Law. The first can but with difficulty understand the precepts of the Law and the last can but with difficulty observe them. But those between the two can easily understand and observe them.” This answer removed the doubt of Keśi. He asked another question: “The Law taught by Vardhamāna forbids clothes but that of Pārśva allows an under and an upper garment. Both Laws pursuing the same end, what has caused this difference?” Gautama gave the following reply: “The various outward marks have been introduced in view of their usefulness for religious life and their distinguishing character. The opinion of the Tīrthaṅkaras is that right knowledge, right faith and right conduct are the true causes of liberation.” This answer, too, removed the doubt of Keśi. He, thereupon, bowed his head to Gautama and adopted the Law of five vows.

It is clear from this account of the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra that there were two main points of difference between the followers of Pārśva and those of Mahāvīra. The first point was relating to vows and the second was regarding clothes. The number of vows observed by the followers (ascetics) of

Pārśva was four, to which Mahāvīra added the vow of chastity as the fifth. It seems that Pārśva had allowed his followers to wear an under and an upper garment, but Mahāvīra forbade the use of clothes. Preceptor Keśi and his disciples, however, adopted the Law of five vows without abandoning clothes. Thus, Mahāvīra's composite church had both types of monks: with clothes (sacelaka) and without clothes (acelaka).

Lord Mahāvīra was son of Kṣatriyas Siddhārtha and Triśalā of Kuṇḍapura (or Kuṇḍagrāma), the northern borough of Vaiśālī. He belonged to the Jñātṛ clan. He was born on the thirteenth day of the bright half of the month of Caitra when the moon was in conjunction with the Hastottarā constellation. As the family's treasure of gold, silver, jewels, etc., went on increasing since the prince was placed in the womb of Triśalā, he was named Vardhamāna (the Increasing One). He was known by three names: Vardhamāna, Śramaṇa (the Ascetic) and Mahāvīra (the Great Hero). The name of Vardhamāna was given by his parents. He was called Śramaṇa by the people, as he remained constantly engaged in austerities with spontaneous happiness. Since he sustained all fears and dangers and endured all hardships and calamities, he was called Mahāvīra by the gods.

Vardhamāna lived as a householder for thirty years. When his parents died, with the permission of his elders he distributed all his wealth among the poor during a whole year and renounced the world. After observing fast for two days and having put on one garment, Vardhamāna left for a park known as Jñātṛkhaṇḍa in a palanquin named Candraprabhā. He descended from the palanquin under an Aśoka tree, took off his ornaments, plucked out his hair in five handfuls and entered the state of houselessness. He wore the garment only for a year and a month and then abandoned it and wandered about naked afterwards.

The Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra spent his second rainy season in a weaver's shed at Nālandā, a suburb of Rājagṛha. Gośāla, the Ājīvika, approached the Venerable Ascetic and made a request to admit him as his disciple. Mahāvīra did not entertain his request. Gośāla again approached the Venerable Ascetic when he had left the place at the end of the rainy season. This time his request was, however, accepted and both of them lived together for a considerable period. While at Siddhārthapura, Gośāla uprooted a sesamum shrub and threw it away challenging Mahāvīra's prediction that it would bear fruits. Owing to a lucky fall of rain the shrub came to life again and bore fruits. Seeing this Gośāla concluded that everything is pre-determined and that all living beings are capable of reanimation. Mahāvīra did not favour such generalisations. Gośāla, then, severed his association with Mahāvīra and founded his own sect known as Ājīvika.

Mahāvīra had traveled up to Lāḍha in West Bengal. He had to suffer all sorts of tortures in the non-Aryan territory of Vajrabhūmi and Śubhrabhūmi. Many of his hardships were owing to the adverse climate, stinging plants and insects and wicked inhabitants who set dogs at him. The Venerable Ascetic had spent his ninth rainy season in the non-Aryan land of the Lāḍha country.

Mahāvīra passed twelve years of his ascetic life with equanimity performing hard and long penances and enduring all afflictions and calamities with undisturbed mind. During the thirteenth year on the tenth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Vaiśākha the Venerable Ascetic obtained omniscience under a Śāla tree in the farm of Syāmāka on the northern bank of river Ṛjupālikā outside the town of Jṛmbhikagrāma. He preached the Law in the Ardhamāgadhī language, taught five great vows etc., initiated Indrabhūti (Gautama) and others and established the four-fold Order (monks, nuns, male lay-votaries and female lay-votaries).

Jamāli, who was the son-in-law of Mahāvīra and had entered his Church, left the Order after some time and founded a new sect known as Bahurata. He is regarded as the first schismatic (nihnava) in the Jaina Church.

Lord Mahāvīra passed the last thirty years of his life as the omniscient Tīrthaṅkara. He spent his last rainy season at Pāpā (Pavapuri). On the fifteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Kārttika the Lord attained liberation there at the age of seventy-two. The eighteen confederate kings of Kāśī and Kośala (and eighteen kings) belonging to the Mallaki and Lecchaki clans were present there at that time. Thinking that the spiritual light of knowledge has vanished with the passing away of the Lord they made a material illumination by lighting lamps.

Lord Mahāvīra was the head of an excellent community of 14000 monks, 36000 nuns, 159000 male lay-votaries and 318000 female lay-votaries. The four groups designated as monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen constitute the four-fold Order (tīrtha) of Jainism. One who makes such an Order is known as Tīrthaṅkara.

Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra's followers comprised three categories of persons: ascetics, lay-votaries and sympathisers or supporters. Indrabhūti (monk), Candanā (nun) etc., form the first category. Śaṅkha (layman), Sulasā (laywoman) etc., come under the second category. Śreṇika (Bimbisāra), Kuṇika (Ajātaśatru), Pradyota, Udāyana, Cellaṇā etc., form the third category. The Tīrthaṅkara's tīrtha or sagha consisted of only the first two categories.

Sudharman, Jamba, Bhadrabahu and Sthulabhadra:

Of the eleven principal disciples (gaṇadharas) of Lord Mahāvīra, only two, viz., Indrabhūti and Sudharman survived him. After twenty years of the liberation of Mahāvīra, Sudharman also attained emancipation He was the last of the eleven gaṇadharas to die. Jambū, the last omniscient, was his pupil. He attained salvation after sixty-four years of the liberation of Mahāvīra.

Bhadrabāhu, belonging to the sixth generation since Sudharman, lived in the third century B. C. He died 170 years after Mahāvīra. He was, the last śrutakevalin (possessor of knowledge of all the scriptures). Sthūlabhadra possessed knowledge of all the scriptures less four Pūrvas (a portion of the Dṛṣṭivāda). He could learn the first ten Pūrvas with meaning and the last four without meaning from Bhadrabāhu in Nepal. Thus, knowledge of the canonical texts started diminishing gradually. There are still a good many authentic original scriptures preserved in the Śvetāmbara tradition. Of course, some of the canons have, partly or wholly, undergone modifications. The Digambaras believe that all the original canonical texts have vanished.

Up to Jambū there is no difference as regards the names of pontiffs in the Digambara and Śvetāmbara traditions. They are common in both the branches. The name of Bhadrabāhu is also common, though there is a lot of difference regarding the events relating to his life. There is no unanimity with regard to the name of his own successor, too. The names of intermediary pontiffs are, of course, quite different. Judging from the total picture it seems that in fact there had been two different preceptors bearing the name of Bhadrabāhu in the two traditions. Probably they were contemporary. The Śvetāmbara account mentions that the death of śrutakevali Bhadrabāhu occurred 170 years after the liberation of Mahāvīra, whereas the Digambara tradition maintains that Bhadrabāhu died 162 years after Mahāvīra's emancipation.

According to the tradition of the Śvetāmbaras, Preceptor Bhadrabāhu had been to Nepal and remained there engaged in some specific course of meditation. Sthūlabhadra and some other monks went to Nepal to learn the Dṛṣṭivāda from Bhadrabāhu.

The Digambara tradition believes in a migration of Bhadrabāhu and other monks to South India. It holds that the Head of the Jaina Church in the time of Candragupta's reign (322-298 B.C.) was Bhadrabāhu. He was the last śrutakevalin. He prophesied a twelve-year famine and led a migration of a large number of Jaina monks to South India. They settled in the vicinity of Śravaṇa Belgolā in Mysore. Bhadrabāhu himself died there. King Candragupta, an adherent of the Jaina faith, left his throne and went to. Śravaṇa Belgolā. He lived there for a number of years in a cave as an ascetic and finally embraced death.


Sthūlabhadra's pupil Suhastin had won King Samprati, the grandson of and successor to Aśoka, for Jainism. Samprati was very zealous in the promotion and propagation of Jainism. He showed his enthusiasm by causing Jaina temples to be erected over the whole of the country. During Suhastin's stay at Ujjain (Samprati's capital), and under his guidance, splendid religious festivals were celebrated. The devotion manifested by the king and his subjects on such occasions was great. The example and advice of King Samprati induced his vassals to embrace and patronise Jainism. He had sent out missionaries as far as to South India. In order to extend the sphere of their activities to non-Aryan countries, Samprati sent there Jaina monks as messengers. They acquainted the people with the kind of food and other requisites which Jaina monks may accept as alms. Having thus prepared the way for them, Samprati induced the superior to send, monks to those countries. Accordingly, missionaries were sent to the countries of Andhra and Dramila in South India.


Somewhere near Samprati's time there lived King Kharavela of Kaliṅga. His inscription in a cave of Khaṇḍagiri, dating around the middle of the second century B. C., tells among other things of how he constructed rock-dwellings and gave abundant gifts to Jaina devotees. There are some Jaina caves in sandstone hills known as Khaṇḍagiri, Udayagiri and Nīlagiri in Orissa. The Hāthīgumphā or Elephant Cave, as it is now known, was an extensive natural cave. It was improved by King Khāravela. It has a badly damaged inscription of this king. The inscription begins with a Jaina way of veneration.

Kalakacarya and Gardabhilla:

In the first century B.C. when Gardabhilla was the king of Ujjain, there lived a famous Jaina preceptor known as Kālakācārya. King Gardabhilla carried off Sarasvatī, a Jaina nun, who was the sister of Kālakācārya. After repeated requests and threats when Kālakācārya found that the king was not prepared to set the nun free, he traveled west of the Indus and persuaded the Śakas to attack Ujjain and overthrow Gardabhilla. The Śakas attacked Ujjain and established themselves in the city. Vikramāditya, the successor to Gardabhilla, however, expelled the invaders and re-established the native dynasty. He is said to have been won for Jainism by some Jaina preceptor.

Jaina Stupa at Mathura:

An inscription of the second century A.D. has been found in the ruins of a Jaina stūpa excavated in the mound called Kaṅkālī Ṭilā at Mathurā. The inscription says that the stūpa was built by gods. The truth underlying this type of belief is that at that time the stūpa was regarded as of immemorial antiquity. The sculptures and inscriptions found at Mathurā are of great importance for the history of Jainism. They corroborate many of the points current in the Jaina traditions. For instance, the series of twenty-four Tīrthaṅkaras with their respective emblems was firmly believed in, women also had an influential place in the Church, the Order of nuns was also in existence, the division between Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras had come into being, the scriptures were being recited with verbal exactitude, and the like.

Kumārapāla and Hemacandra:

Coming to the medieval period, King Siddharāja Jayasiṁha (A.D. 1094-1143) of Gujarat, although himself a worshipper of Śiva, had Hemacandra, a distinguished Jaina preceptor and writer, as a scholar member of his court. King Kumārapāla (A.D. 1143-1173), the successor to Jayasiṁha, was actually converted to Jainism by Hemacandra. Kumārapāla tried to make Gujarat in some manner a Jaina model State. On the other hand, Hemacandra, taking full advantage of the opportunity, established the basis for a typical Jaina culture by his versatile scientific work. He became famous as the Kalikālasarvajña, i.e., the Omniscient of the Kali Age. In South India the Gaṅgas, the Rāṣṭrakūṭas and the Hoysalas were Jainas. They fully supported the faith.

Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras:

There were both types of monks, viz., sacelaka (with clothes) and acelaka (without clothes), in the Order of Mahāvīra. The terms sacelaka and śvetāmbara signify the same sense and acelaka and digambara express the same meaning. The monks belonging to the Śvetāmbara group wear white garments, whereas those belonging to the Digambara group wear no garments. The literal meaning of the word digambara is sky-clad and that of the śvetāmbara is white-clad. It was, probably, up to Jambū's time that both these groups formed the composite church. Then they separated from each other and practised the faith under their own Heads. This practice is in force even in the present time. The Śvetāmbaras hold that the practice of dispensing with clothing has no longer been requisite since the time of the last omniscient Jambū.

The following main differences exist between the Digambaras and the Śvetāmbaras:

  1. The Digambaras believe that no original canonical text exists now. The Śvetāmbaras still preserve a good number of original scriptures.
  2. According to the Digambaras, the omniscient no longer takes any earthly food. The Śvetāmbaras are not prepared to accept this conception.
  3. The Digambaras strictly maintain that there can be no salvation without nakedness. Since women cannot go without clothes, they are said to be incapable of salvation. The Śvetāmbaras hold that nakedness is not essential to attain liberation. Hence, women are also capable of salvation.
  4. The Digambaras hold that Mahāvīra was not married. The Śvetāmbaras reject this view. According to them, Mahāvīra was married and had a daughter.
  5. The images of Tīrthaṅkaras are not decorated at all by the Digambaras, whereas the Śvetāmbaras profusely decorate them.

The two main Jaina sects, viz., the Śvetāmbara and the Digambara, are divided into a number of sub-sects. There are at present three important Śvetāmbara sub-sects:

  1. Mūrtipūjaka,
  2. Sthānakavāsī and
  3. Terāpanthī.

The number of present important Digambara sub-sects is also three:

  1. Bīsapanthī,
  2. Terahapanthī and
  3. Tāraapanthī.

The Mūrtipūjakas worship images of Tīrthaṅkaras etc. The Sthānakavāsīs are non-worshippers. The Terāpanthīs are also not in favour of idol-worship. Their interpretation of non-violence (ahiṁsā) is slightly different from that of the other Jainas. The Bīsapanthīs use fruits, flowers etc., in the idolatry ceremony, whereas the Terahapanthīs use only lifeless articles in it. The Tāraṇapanthīs worship scriptures in place of images. All these sub-sects have their own religious and other works in addition to the common ones. They have their own temples and other religious and cultural centres as well.


Jaina Culture: Parshvanath Vidyashram Series 13

Compiled by PK

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  1. Acelaka
  2. Ahiṁsā
  3. Arhats
  4. Aśoka
  5. Buddha
  6. Buddhism
  7. Cāturyāma Dharma
  8. Dharma
  9. Digambara
  10. Digambaras
  11. Dṛṣṭivāda
  12. Equanimity
  13. Gautama
  14. Girnar
  15. Gujarat
  16. Harappa
  17. Hemacandra
  18. Hinduism
  19. Indus Valley Civilization
  20. JAINA
  21. Jaina
  22. Jaina Canon
  23. Jaina Temples
  24. Jainism
  25. Karma
  26. Kāyotsarga
  27. Kāyotsarga Posture
  28. Kāśī
  29. Kṛṣṇa
  30. Mahavira
  31. Mahāvīra
  32. Mathura
  33. Meditation
  34. Mysore
  35. Mūrtipūjaka
  36. Neminatha
  37. Neminātha
  38. Nigaṇṭha
  39. Nihnava
  40. Nirgrantha
  41. Non-violence
  42. Omniscient
  43. Orissa
  44. PK
  45. Pali
  46. Parshvanath
  47. Pavapuri
  48. Pañcayāma
  49. Prakrit
  50. Pārśva
  51. Rājagṛha
  52. Sarasvatī
  53. Saṅgha
  54. Soul
  55. Sthānakavāsī
  56. Terāpanthīs
  57. Tīrtha
  58. Tīrthaṅkara
  59. Tīrthaṅkaras
  60. Udayagiri
  61. Ujjain
  62. Vardhamāna
  63. Vedas
  64. Vedic
  65. West Bengal
  66. Yatis
  67. Yoga
  68. Ājīvika
  69. Śaṅkha
  70. Śreṇika
  71. Śvetāmbara
  72. Śvetāmbaras
  73. Ṛṣabha
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