Ancient India Simplified: Jainism, its philosophy, doctrines, councils, literature and sects


1. Jainism came into prominence in 6th century B.C., when Lord Mahavira propagated the religion.
2. The word ‘Jain’ is derived from jina or jaina which means the ‘Conqueror’.
3. There were 24 Tirthankaras (teachers) & the first Tirthankara was Rishabhanath or Rishabhadev.
4. The 23rd Tirthankara was Parshvanatha who was born in Varanasi.
5. The last – 24th Tirthkara was Vardhaman Mahavira.
6. The doctrine of Jaina is older than the Buddhist doctrine.
7. Important patrons: Chandragupta Maurya, Kharaveli of Kalinga and the royal dynasties of south India such as the Gangas, the Kadambas, the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas.

Jain Philosophy

  • Rejected the authority of Vedas and Vedic rituals.
  • Believed in Karma and transmigration of soul: Cycle of birth and death is due to Karma.
  • Advocated an austere and simple life and said Monastic life is essential for salvation.
  • Did not believe in the existence of God.
  • Opposed caste system.
  • Extreme Non-Violence
  • Anekantavada: Emphasises that the ultimate truth and reality is complex, and has multiple-aspects i.e. “theory of plurality”. In simple words, it means the simultaneous acceptance of multiple, diverse, even contradictory viewpoints.
  • Syadvada: Syadavada literally means the method of examining different probabilities. Saptabhangi Nayavada means seven modes of prediction.

Five Doctrines of Jainism

Three Jewels of Jainism (Triratna)

Jaina Councils

First Council Year: 300 B.C.
Place: Pataliputra
Called by: Stalabahu
Outcome: The sacred teachings of Mahavira were compiled into 12 Angas to replace the previous 14 Purvas.
Second CouncilYear: 512 A.D.
Place: Vallabhi (Gujarat)
Presided over by: Devardhi Kshemasarmana
Purpose: To collect the sacred texts and write them systematically.
Outcome: 1. The 12th Anga drawn at the first council was lost. 2. All the remaining Angas were written in Ardhamagadhi.

Jaina Literature

According to Shvetambaras, the original doctrine taught by Mahavira contained in 14 old ‘Purvas’ which was passed orally for 200 years. Most of the texts were written in Prakrit.
14 PurvasThe text books of old Jain Scriptures
12 AngasJaina doctrine/rules of conduct of Mahavir
12 UpangasAssociated with each Angas myth and dogmas
10 PrakirnasDoctrinal matters in verse form
6 ChedasutrasRules of monks/nuns
4 MulasutrasValuable rules in the form of Maxims, dialogues and parables.
NiryuktisCommentaries on Angas prepared on 100 A.D.
Kalpa SutrasHistory of Jainism from its birth, written by Bhadrabahu
Achrang SutrasOldest Jaina text containing monastic rules.

Important Jaina Architecture

Rock cut caves: Chaitya and ViharasMauryan and Post Mauryan Period
Ajanta and Ellora Caves Gupta Period
Rock cut caves at BadamiChalukya Period
Rock cut caves of AiholeChalukya Period
Hathigumpha CaveKharavela
Udaiagiri CavesOdisha
Statue of Bahubali: Gommateshwara Shravanabelagola, Karnataka
Dilwara TempleMount Abu, Rajasthan
Palitana TempleGujarat

Jain Terminology

Sects of Jainism

When Bhadrabahu (Guru of Chandragupta Maurya) left for South India, Sthulabahu remained in the North with his followers.
DigambarsSky-clad or Naked.
Bhadrabahu was their leader.
Arose out of the group, which had shifted to Shravanabelagola in Karnataka at the time of Famine.
Major Sub-Sects: Mula Sangh, Bisapantha, Terapanth, Taranpantha or Samaiyapantha. 
Minor Sub-Sets: Gumanapantha, Totapantha.
SvetambarasWore White garments Sthulabhadra was their leader.
Major Sub-Sects: Murtipujaka, Sthanakvasi, Terapanthi
SammiyasArose out of DigambarasRenounced Idol-worship
Terapanthis Arose out of Svetambaras

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