Mahavira Jayanti | Jainism


    In News

    Recently, the Prime Minister of India has paid tribute to Lord Mahavira on the occasion of his birth anniversary, Mahavira Jayanti.

    • It is also known as Mahaveer Janma Kalyanak and is celebrated on the 13th day of the bright half of the moon in the month of Chaitra, according to the Hindu calendar.
    • In 2021, it is being celebrated on 25th April 2021.

    About Mahavira Swami

    • Birth: He was born to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala of the Ikshvaku dynasty, in 599 BC at Kshatriyakund (part of the well known Vaishali republic) in Bihar.
    • Early Life
      • He was named Vardhaman, which means continuously increasing.
      • He was a kshatriya prince of the Lichchhavis, a group that was part of the Vajji Sangha.
      • Though he was born with worldly comforts and luxuries, they never attracted him and at the age of thirty, he left home and went to live in a forest. For twelve years he led a hard and lonely life.
    • Kevaljnan
      • At the age of forty-two he attained Kevaljnan (omniscience) through right knowledge, right faith and right conduct (Three Jewels of Jainism).
      • He became a Jina (conqueror) and the twenty-fourth tirthankara.
        • Rishabh Deva was the first tirthankara.
    • Teachings and Contributions
      • All living beings have a soul and all souls are equal.
      • He questioned the authority of the Vedas and also emphasised individual agency and suggested the masses to attain liberation from the trials and tribulations of worldly existence.
        • This was in marked contrast to the Brahmanical position, wherein, an individual’s existence was thought to be determined by his or her birth in a specific caste or gender.
      • He added one more vow to the four great vows from the time of Lord Parshvanath. The five great vows are
    1. Ahimsa (non-violence)
    2. Satya (truth)
    3. Asteya (non-stealing)
    4. Aparigraha (non-possession)
    5. Brahmacharya (chastity, added by Mahavira).
      • There are two forms of these five vows
        • Mahavrata: The 5 great vows followed by Jain monks and nuns.
        • Anuvrata: The less strict version of great vows followed by Jain lay people.
      • As the last Tirthankar, he revived the Tirth (religious order) and this order is known as the Jain Sangh (order).
      • His first and chief disciple, called Ganadhar, was Gautamswami, who was a well known Brahmin scholar of the time.
      • Lord Mahavira had eleven Ganadhars, who compiled twelve scriptures based on his teachings and these are called Agamas.
        • Agamas were passed verbally from preceptor to pupil for a long time and were put into writing about 890 years after the death of Mahavira and are presently available at a place called Valabhi, in Gujarat.
      • He began his journey for twelve years propagating his religion, which took him across Magadh to the western boundaries of Bengal.
    • Language
      • He used Prakrit language so that ordinary people could understand the teachings as Sanskrit was not understood by many.
      • There were several forms of Prakrit, used in different parts of the country and named after the regions in which they were used.
        • For example, the Prakrit spoken in Magadha was known as Magadhi Prakrit.
    • Death: He attained mahaparinirvana at the age of seventy-two at Pavapuri near Patna in 527 BC and became a Siddha (free from the cycle of birth and death).


    • The word Jain comes from the term Jina, meaning conqueror.
    • The basic philosophy was already in existence in North India before the birth of Lord Mahavira.
      • According to Jain tradition, Mahavira was preceded by 23 tirthankaras (teachers), literally, those who guide men and women across the river of existence.
    • Jainism was supported mainly by Vaishyas (traders) in opposition to Brahmin-Kshatriya power dynamics.
    • The most important idea in Jainism is that the entire world is animated and even stones, rocks and water have life.
    • Non-injury to living beings, especially to humans, animals, plants and insects, is central to Jain philosophy.
    • According to Jain teachings, the cycle of birth and rebirth is shaped through karma and asceticism and penance are required to free oneself from the cycle of karma. This can be achieved only by renouncing the world, therefore, monastic existence is a necessary condition of salvation. In order to do so, Jain monks and nuns had to take the five vows.
    • Seven Tattvas (elements) of Jain Philosophy
    1. Jiva (living substance)
    2. Ajiva (matter or non-living substance)
    3. Asrava (influx of Karmic matter in the soul)
    4. Bandha (bondage of soul by Karmic matter)
    5. Samvara (stopping of Asrava)
    6. Nirjara (gradual removal of Karmic matter)
    7. Moksha (attainment of perfect freedom or salvation).
    • Karmas are responsible for distortions of the soul and fall into two groups, namely
      • Ghati (Destructive) Karma: These obstruct the true nature of the soul.
    1. Jnanavarniya (Knowledge obscuring) Karma
    2. Darshanavarniya (Perception obscuring) Karma
    3. Antaräy (Obstructing) Karma
    4. Mohniya (Deluding) Karma
      • Aghati (Non-destructive) Karma: These affect only the body in which the soul resides. As long as Aghati karmas will be present, human souls will stay caged in some kind of a body and will have to experience pain and sufferings in many different forms.
    1. Vedniya (Feeling producing) Karma
    2. Nam (Body determining) Karma
    3. Gotra (Status determining) Karma
    4. Ayushya (Age determining) Karma
    5. Vedniya (Feeling producing) Karma
    • Spread of Jainism
      • Over hundreds of years, it spread to different parts of north India and to Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
    • Literature
      • Jain scholars produced a wealth of literature in a variety of languages namely Prakrit, Sanskrit and Tamil.
      • Jain literature is classified into two major categories
        • Agam Literature: This consists of original scriptures compiled by Ganadhars and Srut-kevalis. They are written in the Prakrit language.
        • Non-Agam Literature: This consists of commentary and explanation of Agam literature and independent works, compiled by elder monks, nuns, scholars, etc. and are written in many languages such as Prakrit, Sanskrit, Old Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannad, Tamil, German and English.
    • Each Tirthankara revitalizes the Jain Sangh, which is composed of the following four groups
    1. Sadhus (Monks)
    2. Sadhvis (Nuns)
    3. Shravaks (Male householders)
    4. Shravikas (Female householders).

    Jain Philosophy


    • It is a metaphysical theory or a theory of reality.
    • It states that all entities have three aspects: substance (dravya), quality (guna), and mode (paryaya).
      • Dravya serves as a substratum for multiple gunas, each of which is itself constantly undergoing transformation or modification.
    • Thus, any entity has both an abiding continuous nature and qualities that are in a state of constant flux making the reality multifaceted and pluralist.
    • Simply, it means non-absolutism or many-sidedness of reality meaning things have infinite aspects that no determination can exhaust.


    • It is an epistemological theory or theory of knowledge.
    • It believes that all judgments are conditional, holding good only in certain conditions, circumstances or senses and is expressed by the word sy?t (Sanskrit: “may be”).
    • The ways of looking at a thing (called naya) are infinite in number and it is the method of examining different probabilities’
    • According to this doctrine, all statements can be judged as true or not true or as both true and not true and thus inexpressible, depending on the point of view.
    • The combinations of these possibilities can be stated in seven logical alternatives called Saptabhangi or Saptabhanginaya.

    Jain Councils

    Jain Councils






    300 BC



    Compilation of Angas.


    512 AD


    Devardhi Kshmasramna

    Final compilation of 12 Angas and Upangas.

    Sects of Jainism

    • Famine in Magadha led to the division of Jaisim into two sects namely Digambar (meaning sky clad) and Shwetamber (meaning white clad).
    • Digambar Sect: It was led by Bhadrabahu, leader of monks who moved to the south.
      • This sect is more austere and is closer in its ways to the Jains at the time of Mahavira.
      • In recent centuries, it has further divided into various sub-sects.
        • Major sub-sects
    1. Bisapantha
    2. Terapantha
    3. Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha
        • Minor sub-sects
    1. Gumanapantha
    2. Totapantha
    • Shwetambar Sect: It was led by Sthulabhadra, the leader of Monks who stayed in the North.
      • Like the Digambar Sect, it has also been divided into three main sub-sects.
    1. Murtipujaka
    2. Sthanakvasi (avoided Idol Worship/Murtipujak)
    3. Terapanthi (simpler worship pattern than Digambar TeraPanthi)

    Differences Between Digambar and Shwetambar





    They live completely naked.

    They wear white clothes.


    Women cannot achieve liberation.

    Women can achieve liberation.


    Digambara images of tirthankaras have downcast eyes, are plain and always carved as naked figures.

    Svetambara images have prominent staring eyes and are richly decorated.

    Related Terms


    Founder of four-fold order of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen.


    One who has conquered his inner passions such as desire and hatred.


    One who has destroyed his inner enemies such as greed, anger, desire, and hatred. It is made up of two words, ‘Ari’ (enemy) and ‘Hant’ (destroyer).


    One to whom nothing can be secret.


    A spiritual acquisition leading a man to the state of an Arihant.


    A religion of One who has gotten rid of all knots or attachments.


    Both the Tirthankara and ordinary-kevali destroy the remaining four Aghati Karmas at the end of their present life. After their Nirvana (death) all of them are known as Siddhas. The quality and attributes of all siddhas are the same yet they maintain their unique identity and form.

    Three Jewels of Jainism

    Samyak Darshan (Right Faith), Samyak Jnana (Right Knowledge) and Samyak Charitra (Right Conduct).

    Difference Between Jainism and Buddhism






    Does not believe in soul. No soul theory is propounded (Nairatmyavada).

    Believe in the soul, which is present in everything.



    Generally silent on questions related to the existence of God.

    Does believe in God, not as a creator, but as a perfect being.


    Varna System

    Condemn it.

    Do not condemn it.



    Do not believe in incarnations.

    Believe in incarnations.


    Both Jainism and Buddhism condemn the authority of Vedas and support the Karma Theory and rebirth doctrine.


    Source: PIB