PM recalls the noble teachings of Bhagwan Mahavir on Mahavir Jayanti

Context: The Jain community celebrates Mahavir Jayanti, one of their most important festivals, throughout India. The celebration honours the birth of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. 

History Of Mahavir Jayanti

  • Lord Mahavira was born in Kundalgrama, Bihar, in the Chaitra month, according to Jain traditions and religious writings. 
  • The cleansing of the Mahavir effigy with fragrant oil by the people symbolises the purity of the Lord.
  • People go to pilgrimage locations that are associated with the Jain community. 

Gomateshwara is a well-known place to visit during the festival.

Emergence of Heterodox Thinkers

  • In the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, North India had a remarkable awakening as a result of a number of heterodox philosophies challenging the pre-existing philosophy.
  • In order to reflect on the social and cultural climate of their times, philosophers like Gosala, Gautama Buddha, Mahavira, Ajita Kesakambalin, and others renounced the world and wandered across the Gangetic plains.

Causes of Intellectual Awakening

  • The rigidity of the Vedic religion and state creation limited people’s freedom of thinking and behaviour. 
  • In heterodox sects, a revolt against the practise of accepting dogmas as truthwas articulated.
  • The process of socio-political and economic change was expedited by the creation of territorial identities.
  • Disenchanted with the existing order, the wealthy class (thriving in Magadha or the mid-gangetic plains) started to act in opposition to the Orthodox faiths. 
  • Since the Vedic religion was not yet fully organised, its influence on society was limited, making it easy for individuals to adhere to the newly forming religious sects.
  • New classes of merchants and bankers like sethis sought higher social status in line with their economic standing as a result of urbanisation and the rise of trade.
  • Kshatriyas were upset because the Vedic writings only allowed Brahmins to live a staged life in ashramas. 


  • Vardhamana Mahavira’s sect, which Buddhist writings refer to as Nigantha Nataputta
  • grew into the religion known as Jainism.
  • Before, it was known as Nirgranthas (free from bonds).
  • Risabha is credited as the sect’s founder in Jaina mythology. 
  • He is regarded as the original   Tirthankara.  
  • Three of the Tirthankaras: Risabha, Ajitanatha, and Aristanemi, are mentioned in the Yajur veda. 
  • Mahavira, also known as Jina, the conqueror of the soul, organised his followers into secular and monastic groups. 

Life of Mahavira

  • About 540 BCE, Mahavir was born in Vajji, a democratic kingdom (Ganarajya)
  • where the ruler was chosen through popular vote. 
  • He was son of the King Siddharth of Kundagrama and Queen Trishala belonging to the Ikshvaku dynasty. 
  • Mahavir was given the name Vardhaman, which means “One who grows.”
  • His mother was a princess of the Lichchavi and Chetaka’s (chief of Lichchavi) sister. 
  • Mahavira was closely related to the rulers of Magadha, Anga, and Videha through his mother. 
  • At the age of 30, he left his home and spent 12 years wandering as a mendicant in search of the truth. 
  • He abandoned his clothes and engaged in strict penance.
  • He met Gosala while wandering, but they later parted ways because of their differences.  
  • Vardhamana gained Nirvana, or enlightenment, in the thirteenth year of his wandering,     when he was 42 years old. He attained Tirthankara status and came to be known as Jina or Mahavira (the Great Conqueror). 
  • He passed away at the age of 72 in Pavapuri, close to Rajgriha, around 468 BCE. He fasted unto death (Sallekhana) according to Jaina ideals.

Sects of Jainism 

  • A split in Jainism happened roughly 500 years after Mahavira’s departure, in or around 79 or 82 CE. 
  • Because of the severe famine in Magadha.
  • some of Jaina monks under Bhadrabahu left for south to maintain their rigorous discipline.
  • They remained without garments and were known as ‘Digambaras’ (space-clad or naked).
  • Others who remained behind under Sthulabhadra’s leadership, chose a white clothing, and came to be known as ‘Svetambaras’ (white-clad).
  • Jainism was weakened in Magadha as a result of the schism, but it flourished in Gujarat,       Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, and Karnataka.

Jaina Councils

Jaina Council YearVenueChairmanPatron Result 
First 300 BCPatliputra SthulabhadraChandragupta MauryaCompilation of 12 Angas 
Second 512 ADVallabhiDevardhi-KshmasramanaFinal Compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas 

Tenets of Jainism

  • Jainism places a strong emphasis on nonviolence.  
  • Jainism rejects the idea of a creator. Jainism did not initially worship any deities.
  • Mahavira disapproved of Vedic rule. 
  • It holds that there is no beginning or end to the world. 
  • Jainism promoted dualism:
    • According to which the universe is composed of everlasting souls (jivas) and substance (ajivas).
    • When jiva and ajiva combine, karma (action) is produced, which causes a never-ending cycle of birth and reincarnation. 
    • Severe penance and austerity must be practised in order to release oneself from karma.
    • As a result, only monks in Jainism were able to break free from the cycle of rebirth and birth.
  • It does not support any form of inequality based on birth. 
    • Birth does not determine one’s social standing; rather, one’s actions do. 
    • Birth-based status is regarded as a sin.
    • The monastic order accepted women.  
    • Nevertheless, a woman to find salvation need to be reborn as a man and then pursue redemption by accruing merit through good deeds.

Three Gems

Jains are required to follow three principles called Triratnas

(1) Right faith (samyag-darshana/samyak-shadha);

(2) Right knowledge (samyag-jnana); 

(3) Right conduct (samyag-mahavrata/ samyak-karma/samyak-acharana)

Five Great Vows/Pancha Mahavratas 

The monks have to undertake the five great vows

(1) Not to kill or injure (ahimsa); 

(2) Not to steal (asteya);  

(3) Not to lie (satya);

(4) Celibacy (brahmacharya); 

(5) Not to possess property (aparigraha)

The first four vows were laid down by Parshwanath and the fifth one was added by Mahavira.

Types of Knowledge

There are five types of Knowledge: 

(1) Mati jnana: Perception through activity of sense organs, including mind

(2) Shruta jnana: Knowledge revealed by scriptures

(3) Avadhi jnana: Clairvoyant perception

(4) Manahparyaya jnana: Telepathic knowledge

(5) Keval jnana: Temporal knowledge

Syadvada theory in Jainism

  • The “theory of perhaps” holds that all of our judgements must necessarily be conditional and relative.
  • Seven different types of prediction are conceivable, according to Syadvada (Saptabhangi      Nayavad). 
  • Both absolute affirmation and negation are incorrect. 
  • Anekantvada, or the philosophy of plurality, is another name for Syadvada.

Jaina Literature

  • The sacred literature of the Svetambaras is written in a type of Prakrit called Ardhamagadhi Prakrit (language of the common people) and can be classified as follows: 12 Angas, 12 upangas, 10 parikarnas, Chhedasutras, Mulasutras and Sutra-Granthas.
  • 14 purvas/parvas- It is the part of 12 Angas and the oldest text of Mahavira’s preachings. 
  • Besides this, the important Jain texts are:
    • Kalpasutra (Sanskrit)- Bhadrabahu
    • Parishishta Parvan (an appendix of Trishashthishalaka Purusha)- Hemachandra.

Practice MCQ: 
Q. Consider the following: 1.Theory of Syadvada emphasises on ‘pluralism’2.Mahavira composed all the ‘Panch-Mahavratas’3.Jainism accepted the idea of a ‘creator’
Which of the above is/are correct with reference to ‘Jainism’?
(a)1 only

(b)1 and 2 only

(c)2 and 3 only

(d)1, 2 and 3

Answer: (a)

Practice Question for Mains

Q. Against the background of rigid Vedic religion, based on sacrifices & polytheism, the 6th century India witnessed the rise of heterodox & monotheist belief. Comment.

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