Jainism notes for UPSC


Vardhaman Mahavira is regarded as the founder of Jainism.

He was born in 599 BC near Vaishali in Bihar. He was twenty-fourth and the last Tirthankara of Jainism.

Jainism believed that the main goal of human life is the purification of soul and attainment of nirvana, which means freedom from birth and death.

Jainism believed that the main goal of human life is the purification of soul and attainment of nirvana, which means freedom from birth and death.

This can be achieved not through rituals and sacrifices but by the pursuance of Triratna and panchamahavrata.

Triratna or three jewels are right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct, which can lead to liberation.

Right conduct means observance of five great vows:

[1] Ahimsa (do not commit violence)

[2] Satya vachana (do not speak a lie)

[3] Asteya (do not steal)

[4] Brahmacharya (do not indulge in sexual act)

[5] Aparigraha (do not acquire property)

Householders were expected to observe the milder form of the practice of these virtues called anuvrata (small vows) in comparison to the monks.

The most distinguishing feature of Jainism was the concept of anekantavada or syadavada. It means that the truth can be viewed from aneka or various angels.

Another important feature of Jainism was its emphasis on extreme form of penance, austerity, and strict non-violence.

Perhaps the emphasis on strict discipline was one of the reasons why it could not attract the masses in large number.

Jainism did not condemn the varna system, as Buddhism did.

According to Mahavira, a person is born in high or lower varna is the consequences of his sins or virtues acquired by him in the previous birth.

In Mahaviras opinion through pure and meritorious life members of the lower cast can attain liberation.


The spread of Jainism:

In order to spread the teachings of Jainism, Mahavira organized an order of his followers which admitted both men and women.

Jainism gradually spread in south and west India.

The spread of Jainism in Karnataka attributed to Chandragupta Maurya.

The emperor became Jaina, gave up his throne and spent the last years of his life as a Jain ascetic.

The second cause of the spread of Jainism in south India is said to be the great famine that took place in Maghada that 200 years after the death of Mahavira.

The famine lasted for 12 years, and so in order to protect themselves many a Jaina went to the south under the leadership of Bhadrabahu, but rest of them stayed back in Magadha under the leadership of Sthalabhau.

The Southern is known as Digambaras and the Magadhans as Svetambara.

From the sixth century, numerous Jaina monastic establishments called basadis sprang up in Karnataka and were granted land by the kings of their support.

Jainism spread to Kalinga in Orissa in 4th century BC and 1st Century BC and enjoyed the patronage of the Kalinga King Kharavela.

Jainism spread to Tamil Nadu, Malwa, Gujarat and Rajasthan.


The early Jainas discarded the Sanskrit language mainly patronized by the Brahmanas.

They adopted the prakrit language to preach their doctrine.

Their religious literature was written in Ardhamagadhi, and the texts were finally compiled in 6th century A.D in Gujarat at a place called Valabhi, a great center of education.

Many regional languages developed out of Prakrit languages, particularly Sauraseni, out of which grew the Marathi language.

The Jaina composed the earliest important works in Apabhramsa and its grammar.

Jaina literature contains epics, Puranas, Dramas, and Novels. They contributed to the growth of Kannada, in which they wrote extensively.

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