Jain History

Jain History. 1

Introduction. 1

Legendary Antiquity of Jainism.. 1

Jainism in the Time of Indus Valley Civilization. 1

Jain Tradition And Buddhism.. 2

Jain Tradition and Hinduism.. 2

Neminath as a Historical Figure. 2

Historicity of Parshvanath. 2

Lord  Mahavir: 2

Keval-Jnani, Shrut Kevali & Das-Purvi Ächäryas. 2

Jain Ägams. 3

Digambars And Shvetämbars: 4

Shvetämbar Sub‑Sects. 4

Digambara Sub‑Sects. 4

Kavi Panth. 5

Survival Of Jainism In Difficult Time. 5

Jainism In Various Regions Of India. 5

Jainism In East India. 5

Jainism In South India. 6

Jainism In West India. 6

Jainism In North India. 6

Jain Contribution To Indian Culture: 7

References. 7




Indian culture is consisted of two main trends:  Sramanic and Brahmanic.  The Vedic traditions come under the Brahmanic trend. The Sramanic trend covers the Jain, Buddhist and similar other ascetic traditions.  The Brahmanic schools accepts the authority of the Vedas and Vedic literature.  The Jains and Buddhists have their own canons and canonical literature and accept their author.


It is evident that Jainism is an ancient religion of India. It is an independent and most ancient religion of India.  It is wrong to say that Jainism was founded by Lord  Mahavir. Jainism is an eternal religion, it has always existed, it is existing now and it will always exist in future forever. Jainism is flourishing in India from times immemorial. In comparison with the limited and small population of Jains, the achievements of Jains in enriching the various aspects of Indian culture are really great. Jains are found all over India from ancient times. Jains are known everywhere for the strict observance of their religious practices in their daily lives.


Jainsim is an eternal religion. Therefore, there is a pre-historic time of Jainism and there is a historic time of Jainism. Jainism is revealed in every cyclic period of the universe, and this constitutes the pre-historic time of Jainism. And there is a recorded history of Jainism since about 3000-3500 BC.

Legendary Antiquity of Jainism


The Jain religion, according to the Jain scriptures is eternal, revealed in every cyclic period of the universe. The time is divided into two equal half cycles namely Utsarpini (ascending) Käl (time) and Avasarpini (descending) Käl. Each cycle is again divided into six divisions known as aras. (Spoke of a wheel). The äräs of Avasarpini are in reverse than in Utsarpini. There are 24 tirthankars in each half cycle. There has been infinite number of half cycles in past and there will be infinite number of half cycles in future. That’s why the Jainism always exited and will always exist. Jainism is based on laws of nature and truths of the universe. Therefore, the Jainism existed since the beginningless beginning.


Avasarpini (Duration in years)

Utsarpini (Duration in years)

1.Sushamä-Sushamä (4KKS)

1. Dushamä-Dushamä (21,000)

2.Sushamä (3KKS)

2. Dushamä (21,000)

3. Sushamä-Dushamä (2KKS)

3. Dushamä-Sushamä (1KKS – 42,000)

4. Dushamä-Sushamä (1KKS-42,000)

4. Sushamä-Dushamä (2KKS)

5. Dushamä (21,000)

5. Sushamä (3KKS)

6. Dushamä-Dushamä (21,000)

6. Suhshama-Suhshama (4KKS)

Note: Sushamä=Happy, Dushamä = Unhappy, KKS = Koti Koti Sagaropam


At present, we are in fifth ärä, Dushamä of Avasarpini half cycle and of which nearly twenty five hundred years have passed. The fifth ärä began 3 years and 3 ½ months after the nirvän of Lord  Mahavir in 527 BC Lord Rishabha Deva, the first Tirthankar lived in the later part of the third ärä and the remaining twenty three Tirthankars lived during the forth ärä. 

Jainism in the Time of Indus Valley Civilization


The discovery of the Indus Civilization seem to have thrown a new light on the antiquity of Jainism. The evidence suggests that Jainism was known among the people of the Indus Valley around 3000-3500 B.C. Some nude figures, considered to be of Lord Rishabha, on the seals have been discovered at Mohenjodaro and Harrappa. There is an article that suggests the representation of the seventh Tirthankar SuParsvanath. The people of the Indus Valley not only practiced Yoga but worshipped the images of Yogis. There are figures in Kayotsarga posture of standing are peculiarly Jain.


In addition, the sacred signs of swastika are found engraved on a number of seals.  Furthermore, there are some motifs on the seals found in Mohen-jo-Daro and it is suggested that these motifs are identical with those found in the ancient Jain art of Mathura.


This presence of Jain tradition in the earliest period of Indian history is supported by many scholars. It strongly suggests that Jainism existed in pre‑Aryan time.

Jain Tradition And Buddhism


Lord Mahavir was the senior contemporary of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. In Buddhist books Lord Mahavir is always described as nigantha Nataputta (Nirgrantha Jnatrputra), i.e., the naked ascetic of the Jnätr clan. Further, in the Buddhist literature Jainism is referred to as an ancient religion.  There are ample references in Buddhist books to the Jain naked ascetics, to the worship of Arhats in Jain chaityas or temples and to the chaturyäma‑dharma (i.e. fourfold religion) of 23rd Tirthankar Parsvanath.


Moreover, the Buddhist literature refers to the Jain tradition of Tirthankars and specifically mentions the names of Jain Tirthankars like Rishabhdev, Padmaprabh, Chandraprabh, Puspdant, Vimalnath, Dharmanath and Neminath.  The Buddhist book Manorathapurani, mentions the names of many lay men and women as followers of the Parsvanath tradition and among them is the name of Vappa, the uncle of Gautama Buddha.  In fact it is mentioned in the Buddhist literature that Gautama Buddha himself practiced penance according to the Jain way before he propounded his new religion.

Jain Tradition and Hinduism


The Jain tradition of 24 Tirthankars seems to have been accepted by the Hindus like the Buddhists, as could be seen from their ancient scriptures.  The Hindus, indeed, never disputed the fact that Jainism was revealed by Rishabhdev and placed his time almost at what they conceived to be the commencement of the world.  They gave the same parentage (father Nabhiraya and mother Marudevi) of Rishabhdev as the Jains do and they even agree that after the name of Rishabhdev's eldest son Bharat this country is Known as Bharatavarsa.


In the Rg‑veda there are clear references to Rishabhdev, the 1st Tirthankar, and to Aristanemi, the 22nd Tirthankar. The Yajur‑veda also mentions the names of three Tirthankars, viz. Rishabhdev, Ajita‑nath and Aristanemi. Further, the Atharva‑veda specifically mentions the sect of Vratya means the observer of vratas or vows as distinguished from the Hindus at those times.  Similarly in the Atharva‑veda the term Maha‑vratya occurs and it is supposed that this term refers to Rishabhdev, who could be considered as the great leader of the Vratyas.

Neminath as a Historical Figure


Neminath or Aristanemi, who preceded Lord Parshvanath, was a cousin of Krishna.  If the historicity of Krishna is accepted, there is no reason why Neminath should not be regarded as a historical person. He was son of Samudravijaya and grandson of Andhakavrsni of Sauryapura.  Krishna had negotiated the wedding of Neminath with Rajimati, the daughter of Ugrasena of Dvaraka.  Neminath attained emancipation on the summit of Mount Raivata (Girnar).


There is a mention of Neminath in several vedic canonical books. The king named Nebuchadnazzar was living in the 10th century B. C. It indicates that even in the tenth century B.C. there was the worship of the temple of Neminath. Thus, there seems to be little doubt about Neminath as a historical figure but there is some difficulty in fixing his date.

Historicity of Parshvanath


The historicity of Lord Parshvanath has been unanimously accepted.  He preceded Lord  Mahavir by 25O years.  He was the son of King Asvasena and Queen Vama of Varanasi.  At the age of thirty he renounced the world and became an ascetic.  He practiced austerities for eighty three days.  on the eighty fourth day he obtained omniscience.  Lord Parshvanath preached his doctrines for seventy years.  At the age of one hundred he attained liberation on the summit of Mount Sammeta (Parsnath Hills).


The four vows preached by Lord Parshvanath are:  not to kill, not to lie, not to steal, and not to own property.  The vow of chastity was without a doubt, implicitly included in the last vow, but in the two hundred and fifty years that elapsed between the Nirvän of Parshvanath and the preaching of Lord  Mahavir, considering the situation of that time, included the fifth vow of chastity explicitly to the existing four vows. Thus, the number of vows preached by Lord  Mahavir was five instead of four. There were followers of Lord Parshvanath headed by Keshi Kumar at the time Lord  Mahavir. It is a historical fact that Kesi Kumar and Gandhar Gautam, chief disciple of Lord  Mahavir met and discussed the differences. After satisfactory explanation by Gandhar Gautam, Keshi Kumar and monks and nuns of Lord Parshvanath tradition accepted the leadership of Lord  Mahavir and they were reinitiated. It should be noted that the monks and nuns who followed the tradition of Lord Parshvanath were wearing clothes.

Lord  Mahavir:


Lord  Mahavir was the twenty fourth, i.e., the last Tirthankars.  According to the tradition of the Shvetämbar Jains the Nirvän of Lord  Mahavir took place 470 years before the beginning of the Vikrama Era. The tradition of the Digambar Jains maintains that Lord  Lord Mahavir attained Nirvän 605 years before the beginning of the Saka 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 Lord  Mahavir a slightly elder contemporary of Buddha who probably lived about 567-487 B.C.


Lord  Mahavir was the head of an excellent community of 14,000 monks, 36,000 nuns, 159,00O male lay votaries and 318,OOO female lay votaries.  The four groups designated as monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen constitute the four fold order (tirtha) of Jainism. 


Of the eleven principle disciples (ganadharas) of Lord  Mahavir, only two, viz., Gautam Swami and Sudharma Swami survived him.  After twenty years of Nirvän of Lord  Mahavir, Sudharma Swami also attained emancipation.  He was the last of the eleven gandharas to die. Jambu Swami, the last omniscient, was his pupil.  He attained salvation after sixty four years of the Nirvän of Lord Mahavir.


There were both types of monks, viz., sachelaka (with clothes) and achelaka (without clothes), in the order of Lord Mahavir.  Both types of these groups were present together up to several centuries after Nirvän of Lord Mahavir.

Keval-Jnani, Shrut Kevali & Das-Purvi Ächäryas


The keval-Jnani are those who have eradicated four soul defiling karmas and attained the perfect knowledge. Shrut-kevalis are those who know all 14 Purvas and 12 Ang-Pravishtha-Agams. Das-Purvis are thos who knew the first ten Purvas and 11 Ang-Pravishtha-Agams. The following provides the list of Keval-Jnani, Shrut-Kevali and Das-Purvi Ächäryas after the nirvan of Lord  Mahavir:



Shvetämbar Tradition

Digambar Tradition





Sudharma Swami


Gautam Swami


Jambu Swami


Sudharma Swami




Jambu Swami



Total = 64


Total = 62



Shvetämbar Tradition

Digambar Tradition


























Total = 106


Total = 100



Shvetämbar Tradition

Digambar Tradition







Visakh Ächärya


















Skandil (Samdilya)





























Total = 414


Total = 183


According to the Shvetämbars, the series of the Das-purvis (knowers of eleven Angas and ten Purvas only) completely ended with the death of Ächärya Vajra. His death occurred in 114 Vikram Samvat (584 years after Lord  Mahavir's Nirvän). But according to the Digambar, Dharmasen was the last Das-purvis, and 345 years after Lord  Mahavir's Nirvän,


After Arya-Vajra there flourished Arya-Rakshit, who remained Yug-pradhan for thirteen years.  Keeping in view that pupils could have less developed faculties of intelligences, grasping, and retention, he made four classification of the Agams, based on the four points of view exposition (anuyog).  Until his times each and every Agam Sutra work was expounded from all the four viewpoints of exposition.

Jain Ägams

For details click here:  Jain Ägams


The Jain literature, which was compiled by Ganadharas and Srut-kevlis, is known as Ägam literature.  These texts are the Holy Scriptures of the Jain religion. The Jain Ägams consisted of 1) 14 Purvas, 2) 12 Ang-pravishtha-Ägams and 3) Ang-bähya-Ägams (34 for Shwetämbar murtipujak, 21 for Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi and 14 for Digambar).


With a view to establish order in the preaching of Lord Mahavir, Jain Acharyas assembled three times and prepared three recensions of the preachings. Whenever the Acharyas saw that the Shrut was waning and that there was disorderliness into it, they assembled and established order in it. No documentation occurred during the first recension (320 BC in Patliputra under the leadership of Sthulibhadra) but during the second (380 AD in Mathura and Vallabi under the leadership of Skandil and Nagarjun respectively) and third (520 AD in Vallabhi under the leadership of Devardhigani Acharya)  conferences most of the scriptures, commentaries, and other works were documented.


All sects agree that 14 Purvas and Drastiväd, 12th Ang-pravishtha-Ägams are extinct. Digambars believe all Jain Ägams are extinct. While Shwetämbar sects accepts the existing Jain Ägams as authentic teachings of Lord Mahavir. However, Shwetämbar murtipujak believe there are 34 Ang-bähya-Ägams existing. while Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi believe there are 21 Ang-bähya-Ägams are existing.


The composition of scripture has a specific purpose of showing the listener the path of everlasting happiness and liberation.  The Ägam Sutras teach the eternal truth about conduct, equanimity, universal affection and friendship, and the eternal truths on thinking, namely, the principle of relativity, principle of non-one-sided-ness and many spiritual things including great reverence for all forms of life, soul, karma, universe, strict codes of asceticism, rules for householders, compassion, nonviolence, non-possessiveness.


Jains believe that Ang-Ägams were at all times in the past, are in the present, and will be at all times in the future. They are eternal, firm, permanent, non-destructive, non-decaying and everlasting.


Jains are people of books and there are many great books written on Jainism by many great Ächäryas and scholars.

Digambars And Shvetämbars:


Jains were divided into two groups, Shvetämbar and Digambar, nearly six hundred years after the Nirvän of Tirthankar Lord Mahavir. The process of the split continued from the third century B.C. up to the first century of the Christian Era. In the third century B.C. famous Jain saint Shrutakevali Bhadrabahu predicted a long and severe famine in the kingdom of Magadha (in modern Bihar) and with a view to avoid the terrible effects of famine Bhadrabahu, along with a body of 12,000 monks, migrated from Pataliputra, the capital of Magadha, to Shravanabelagola (in modern Karnataka State) in South India. Chandragupta Maurya (322‑298 B.C.). who was then the Emperor of Magadha and was very much devoted to Ächärya Bhadrabahu, abdi­cated his throne in favor of his son Bindusara, joined Bhadrabahu’s entourage as a monk‑disciple, and stayed with Bhadrabahu at Shravana­belagola. Chandragupta, the devout ascetic disciple of Bhardrabahu, lived for 12 years after the death of his teacher Bhadrabahu, in about 297 B.C. and after practicing penance died according to the strict Jain rite of Sallekhana on the same hill at Shravanabelagola. This Bhadrabahu ­Chandragupta tradition is strongly supported by a large number of epigraphic and literary evidences of a very reliable nature.


When the ascetics of Bhadrabahu‑sangha returned to Pataliputra after the end of twelve‑year period of famine, they, to their utter surprise, noticed two significant changes that had taken place during their absence. Among the ascetics of Magadha under the leadership of Ächärya Sthulibhadra. In the first place, the rule of nudity was relaxed and the ascetics were allowed to wear a piece of white cloth (known as Ardhaphalaka). Secondly, the sacred books were collected and edited at the council of Pataliputra in their absense in which they found some inconsistencies. As a result the group of returned monks did not accept the two things, introduced by the followers of Ächärya Sthulibhadra, namely, the relaxation of the rule of nudity and the recension of the sacred texts, and proclaimed themselves as true Jains. Eventually, the Jain religion was split up into two distinct sects, viz., the Digambara (sky‑clad or stark naked) and the Shvetämbar (white-clad) about 600 years after Nirvän of Lord Mahavir.


When it comes to the philosophy of Jainism, there is essentially no difference between these two major sects. The following main differences exist between the Digambars and Shvetämbars:


1. The Digambars believe that no original canonical text exists now. The Shvetämbars still preserve a good number of original scriptures.


2. According to the Digambars, the omniscient no longer takes any earthly food.  The Shvetämbars are not prepared to accept this conception.


3. The Digambars 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 Shvetämbars hold that nakedness is not essential to attain liberation.  Whence, women are also capable of salvation.


4. The Digambars hold that Lord  Mahavir was not married.  The Shvetämbars reject this view.  According to them, Lord  Mahavir was married and had a daughter.


5. The images of Tirthankars are not decorated at all by the Digambars, whereas the Shvetämbars profusely decorate them.


Jain doctrine has been remarkably stable over the centuries and there has not been any serious change. This stability is largely due to Umasvati's Tattvarthasutra, written in the fourth or fifth century CE. This work was written before the divisions between the Shvetämbars and Digambaras became final and is accepted by both branches of Jainism.

Shvetämbar Sub‑Sects


The Shvetämbar sect has also been split into three main sub‑sects: a) Murtipujaka, b) Sthänakväsi, and c) Teräpanthi


The original stock of the Shvetämbars is known as Murtipujaka Shvetämbars since they are the thorough worshippers of idols. They offer flowers, fruits, saffron, etc. to their idols and invariably adorn them with rich clothes and jeweled ornaments. Their ascetics cover their mouth with strips of cloth while speaking, otherwise they keep them in their hands. They stay in temples or in the specially reserved buildings known as upaasrayas. They collect food in their bowls from the shrävakas or householders' houses and eat at their place of stay. The Murtipujaka Shvetämbars are found scattered all over India for business purposes in large urban centers, still they are concen­trated mostly in Gujarat.



The Sthänakväsi arose as reformers. This sect was founded in about 1474 A.D. by Lonkashaha, a rich and well‑read merchant of Ahmedabad. Except on the crucial point of idol‑worship, Sthänakväsi do not differ much from other Shvetämbar Jains and hence now‑a‑days they invariably call themselves as Shvetämbar Sthänakväsi. The ascetics of Sthänakväsi cover their mouths with strips of cloth for all the time. Moreover, the Sthänakväsi admit the authenticity of only 32 of the scriptures of Shvetämbars. The Shvetämbar Sthänakväsi are also spread in different business centers in India but they are found mainly in Gujarat, Punjab, Harayana and Rajasthan.


The Teräpanthi sub‑sect is derived from the Sthänakväsi section. The Teräpanthi sub‑sect was founded by Swami Bhikkanaji Maharaj. Swami Bhikkanaji was formerly a Sthänakväsi saint and had initia­tion from his Guru, by name Acharya Raghunatha. Swami Bhikkanaji had differences with his Guru on several aspects of religious practices of Sthänakväsi ascetics and when these took a serious turn, he founded Teraapanth in 1760 A.D. They prohibit mercy and charity to who are avirati (not practicing vows). The Teräpanthis are very organized under the complete direction of one Acharya.

Digambara Sub‑Sects


The Digambara sect, in recent centuries, has been divided into the following major sub‑sects: a) Bisapantha, b) Terapantha, and c) Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha.


The followers of Bisapantha support the Dharma‑gurus, that is, religious authorities known as Bhattarakas who are also the heads of Jaina Mathas, that is religious monasteries. The Bisapanthas, in their temples, worship the idols of Tirthankaras and deities.


Terapantha arose in North India in the year 1683 of the Vikram Era as a revolt against the domination and conduct of the Bhattarakas. i.e. religious authorities, of the Digambara Jains. As a result in this sub‑sect. the Bhattarakas are not much respected. In their temples, the Teräpanthis install the idols of Tirthankaras and not deities.


The sub‑sect Taranapantha is known after its founder Tarana‑Svami or Tarana-tarana-Svami (1448‑1515 A.D.). This sub‑sect worship sacred books and not the idols.

Kanji Panth

 Kanji Swami, a Shvetämbar‑Sthänakväsi by birth, largely succeeded in popularizing the old sacred texts of the great Digambara Jaina saint Acharya Kunda-Kunda of South India. But Kanji Swami’s efforts, while interpreting Acharya Kunda kunda's writings, to give more promi­nence to nischaya‑naya, that is, realistic point of view, in preference to vyavahara‑naya, that is, practical view point.

Kavi Panth


Shrimad Rajacandra wrote some eight hundred letters which follow his spiritual development. A collection of these letters is the one sacred text of the Kavipanthis. For him the spiritual goal was the experience of the self, and once this was achieved, then so was spiritual deliverance. In 1896 he wrote in one night a short verse treatise on his view of Jainism to his friend Sobhagbhai. This Atmasiddhi, 'Attainment of the Soul,' defined six principles central to true religion: the soul exists, the soul is eternal, the soul is the agent, the soul is the experiencer of its actions, the state of deliverance exists, and the means of gaining it also exists. In one of his letters, written in 1887, Shrimad Rajacandra defined his religion as being completely free from attachment and hatred. He emphasised that he did not belong to any gaccha, sect, but only to his soul. To him the nineteenth century decline of Jainism was due to excessive sectarianism and ritual. However, later in his short life, Shrimad Rajacandra accepted that image-worship was an aid to spiritual growth. To the Jains, Shrimad Rajacandra is seen as a great saint. One of the main reasons for this is the teacher-pupil relationship he had with Gandhi. His spiritual influence on Gandhi, and consequently on India and the world through the dissemination of ahimsa ( non-violence) and other Jain principles, is incalculable.

Survival Of Jainism In Difficult Time


After 12th century, there was significant impact of Vedic and Muslim religions and all non-vedic religions except Jainism essentially disappeared from India. Even being in a minority, Jains continued their existence and practice during this difficult time. The main reason for this is the interdependency between Jain monks and Jain householders. Jain monks put significant emphasis on the practice of “Shävakächär” (Code of condult for Jain householders). Based on the needs of Jain householders they compiled many rules while not compromising with the basis of Jainism. There are more than 40 cnonical books just on “Shävakächär” . Essentially, Jain monks gave a significant priority to Jain householders. In addition, Jains were financially well to do. They helped the rulers as well as non-Jain community. Jain monks increased the practical form of Jainism by including rites and rituals without compromising the essence of Jainism. The emphasis on rites and rituals was added since 5th century when Jains were attracted to the nature of simplicity of practicing Hindu religion by rites and rituals. Jains were being converted to Hinduism. Jain monks added more rites and rituals to stop the outflux of Jains to Hinduism, and also make Jain practice similar to Hindu practice. That is why when we see a Hindu and a Jain together, it is hard to differentiate who is who unless you get to know more details.


In 12th – 13th centuries, it became difficult to protect Jain temples, Jain properties, Jain canonical books. Jains made some adjustments, Jain made some monks fulltime administrators of the Jain Sangh known as Chaityaväsi for Shvetämbar tradition and Bhaattarak for Digambar tradition. This helped to serve the purpose. As time improved, it was realized that there was too much power with Chaityaväsi and Bhattarak. The real purpose of Jain monks is to practice and guide others the Jain path of liberation. Many Jain householders became aware of this situation and they were able to stop the Chaityaväsi tradition in Shvetämbar group. However, the Bhattarak tradition, in some part of Digambar section has even today continued.


Jainism In Various Regions Of India


According to 1981 Census of India, out of the total Jain population of 3,206,038 in India, the largest number of Jains, viz. 939,392 are in Maharashtra and next to Maharashtra the population of Jains in other states is. Rajasthan (624,317), Gujarat (467,768), Madhya Pradesh (444,960), Karnatak (297,974), Uttar Pradesh (141,549) and Delhi (73,917). It should not noted that majority of Jains in Maharastra are in Mumbai and most them are of Gujarat origin.

Jainism In East India


In the Saisunaga dynasty (642‑413 B.C.), Bimbisara or Srenika and Ajatasatru or Kunika were the two important kings who extended their full support to the Jain religion. Both Bimbisara and his son Ajatasatru were the near relatives of Lord  Mahavir, in whose contact they frequently came, and hence the Jains believe that they did belong to the Jain religion for a considerable period in their life-time.


Soon Ajatsatru was replaced by pro-Jain Nanda dynasty (413‑322 B.C. King Nanda I led a conquering expedition into Kalinga and brought an idol of the first Jain Tirthankar Lord Rishabhdev.  Nanda dynasty was replaced by mostly pro-Jain Maurya dynasty. Emperor Chandragupta Maurya (322‑298 B.C.), the founder of the Maurya dynasty, abdicated the throne, joined the Jain migration led by Ächärya Bhadrabahu to the South. He became the chief disciple of Bhadrabahu, by entering the ascetic order of Jain monks and died in a Jain way (i.e. by observing the vow sallekhana or peaceful death) at Shravanabelagola after leading a life of Jain ascetic for twelve years.


Emperor Ashok (273‑236 B.C.), grand son of Chandrgupta Maurya professed Jainism before his conversion to Buddhism. Emperor Ashok was responsible for introducing Jainism into Kashmir. Emperor, Samprati, the grand son and successor of Ashok, is regarded the Jain Ashok for his eminent patronage, and efforts in spreading Jain religion in east India.


Like Magadha, the kingdom of Kalinga or Orissa had been a Jain stronghold from the very beginning. Jainism made its way to south India through Kalinga.  In the second century B.C. Kalinga was the center of a powerful empire ruled over by Kharavela and that he was one of the greatest royal patrons of Jain faith.


Jainism had its influence in Bengal also. Even now Jain relics, inscriptions, idols, etc., are found in different parts of Bengal. Even the name 'Vardhamana' is given to one district in Bengal. The influence of Jain religion on the customs, manners and religions of Bengal is very much visible even at present.

Jainism In South India


Jainism entered into Karnataka and south India during the days of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya when Bhadrabahu, the distinguished leader of Jains and the last of the Jain saints known as shruta-kevalis, after predicting twelve years famine in the north India, led the migration of the Jain Sangha to the South. Thus it is stated that the Jain history in the South commences from the 3rd Century B.C. as according to all Jain authors the death of Ächärya Bhadrabahu took place in 297 B.C. at Shravanabelagola. Bhardrabahu was in fact the rejuvenator of Jainism in south India. It is asserted that Jainism had reached south India long before Shruta-kevali Bhadrabahu. In any case Jainism prevailed in south India in 3rd Century B.C. and it continued as a popular faith for more than one thousand years of the Christian Era and it is significant to note that up to the 14th century A.D. Jainism played an important role in the history of south India. 


Few monarchs of Kadamba rulers of Banavasi (from the 3rd to the 6th Century A D.) were devout Jains, and who were responsible for the gradual progress of Jain religion in Karnataka. Eventually Jain religion became a popular religion in the Kadamba Empire.


The Ganga Rulers (350 to 999 A.D.) of Talakada in Karnataka patronized Jain religion to a great extent and naturally practically all Ganga monarchs championed the cause of Jainism.  Chalukya Rulers of Badami in Karnataka (500 to 757 A.D.) and Rastrakutas of Malakheda in Karnataka (757 to 973 A.D) were pro-Jain. From the 10th to the 12th century A.D. the Western Chalukya rulers of Kalyan in Karnataka preferred to show the same liberal attitude to Jainism which the Kadambas, the Gangas and the Rastrakutas had shown. The Hoyasala rulers during their reign from 1006 to 1345 A.D. over their kingdom of Halebid in Karnataka did strongly extend their support to Jain religion. In addition to these major dynasties and their rulers it has been emphasized that the Kalachuri rulers (from 1156 to 1183 A.D.) of Kalyan were Jains and naturally in their time Jainism was the state religion.  There were several minor rulers also professed and promoted Jainism. There are also traces of Jain domination in Andhra and Tamilnadu.


The whole of south India comprising the Deccan, Karnataka, Andhra and Tamilnadu was a great stronghold of Jains, especially Digambara Jains, for more than one thousand years. Apart from the provincial capitals, Shravanabelagola in Karnataka was the center of their activities and it occupies the same position even up to the present day. Jainism, however, began to decline in south India from the 12th century due to the growing importance of Srivaisnavism and Virasaivism.

Jainism In West India


Jainism had very close relations with western India, that is, Gujarat and Kathiawar, where we find the largest concentration of the Jains at present. Here on the Mount Girnar in Junagarh district, Lord Neminath, the 22nd Tirthankar of the Jains, attained salvation. Here in the Council of Jain ascetics held at Valabhi in the year 980 years after Lord  Mahavir’s Nirvän, the Jain canon was, for the first time, reduced to writing. Just as south India is the stronghold of Digambara Jains, similarly, west India is the center of activities of Shvetämbar Jains.


Regarding the migration of Jains to these parts of India, it is thought that the migrations must have taken place by 300 B.C. from Eastern India.  During this time, Jains were gradually losing their position in the kingdom of Magadha, and that they had begun their migration towards the western part of India, where they settled and where they have retained their settlements to the present day.


Jainism flourished in Gujarat during the days of Rastrakuta monarchs, many of whom were devout Jains, and it received a further fillip at the hands of that veteran Jain ruler Vanaraja of Chavada family. About 1100 A.D., Jainism gained a great ascendancy when the Chalukya king Siddharaja and his successor Kumarapala openly professed Jainism and encouraged the literary and temple building activities of the Jains.

During the days of Baghelas in the 13th century A.D. Jainism received patronage through the hands of Vastupal and Tejapal, the two famous Jain ministers of the time. They were responsible for constructing the beautiful temple‑cities at Satrunjaya, Girnar and Abu.


Afterwards, even though Jainism did not receive the royal patronage as before, still it continued to hold its position and the numerical and financial strength of Jains gave their religion a place of honor which is acknowledged even to this day.


As in Gujarat, in the region of Maharashtra also the Jain religion had settled and flourished from ancient times. In Maharashtra jain and ancient cave‑templesare found at Ellora (Dist. Aurangabad), Ter (Dist. Oosmana­bad) Anjaneri (Dist. Nashik) and at many other places in the interior areas. Renowned and influential Jain saints like Ächärya Samantabhadra. Virasena, Jinasena and Somadeva were intimately connected with Maharashtra and had composed their sacred works and literary masterpieces in this region. From the 3rd century A.D. the powerful ruling dynasties like the Satavahanas of Paithan. Chalukyas of Kalyan, Rastrakutas of Malakhed, Yadavas of Devagiri and Silaharas of Kolhapur and Konkan had extended their royal patronage, in a large measure to Jain religion. As a result we find that the Jains and the Jain religion had a prestigious position in Maharashtra during the ancient and medieval periods.


Jainism In North India


When by 300 B.C. the migration of Jains began from eastern India to different parts of the country. One of their branches was firmly established in north India from the middle of the second century B.C. and was settled in the Mathura region. It is clear that Mathura was a stronghold of Jains for nearly a thousand years up to 500 A. D.


Another center of Jain activities in the North was Ujjayini, the capital of Maurya Emperor Samprati. There are several references to Ujjayini in the Jain literature, and the city has played an important role in the history of Jain religion.


During the Mohammedan period Jainism could not get the royal and popular support as it used to receive before but it succeeded in holding its own without much trouble. Jains even could secure some concessions for their holy places and practices from the liberal minded Mughal emperors like Akbar the Great and Jahangir. It is recorded that emperor Akbar was very favorably inclined towards the Jain religion. In the year 1583 A.D. he made animal slaughter during the Paryusana days a capital offense throughout his vast empire. This tolerant policy of the Great Mohgal was revoked by his successor Jahangir. A deputation of the Jains which visited Jahangir in 1610 A.D. was able to secure a new imperial ruling under which the slaughter of animals was again prohibited during the days of the Paryusana.


During the Mohammedan period, however, the Jains particularly increased in the native States of Rajputana, where they came to occupy many important offices under the state as generals and ministers.

Jain Contribution To Indian Culture:


Jains have made remarkable contributions in the areas of languages and literature, arts and architecture (temples, temple cities, cave-temples, stups, mana-stumbhs, towers, sculptures and paintings), philosophy (multiplicity of views – Anekäntväd), ethical codes, business, political progress, religious, social and education equality to women, inculcation of self-reliance and emphasis on non-violence. Jains were known for their honesty. Jainism can change the world forever by making it everlasting peaceful place to leave.




  1. “Aspect of Jain Religion” from “Thirthankar Mahavir’s Life & His Teachings” CD, 1998 YJA Convention
  2. “Jaina Path of Purification” by P. S. Jaini
  3. Information from various Jain Web Sites