Jainism is one of the oldest religions. A detailed discussion of Jain history would be very long. It covers many different periods of history.

I have divided the time-scale into seven periods so that we can correlate the events within the Jain history, and can also relate the history of Jainism with other events in India and outside of India. You will note that several famous philosophers were contemporary of Lord Mahavira, and that 13-15th century was the age of reform in India as well as in Europe.

It should be recognized that as we go back in time, it becomes harder and harder to date events exactly. The dates I have given below, have been taken from several different sources. We must distinguish between tradition and history. Tradition is the info- rmation that we have received through oral or written tradition. History on the other hand, is an analytical but approximate science. A historian takes a critical look at the information available to come to a conclusion. It is common for the historians to disagree. In many cases, the historians do not accept a tradition until supporting evidence becomes available. For example, the Kalpa-Sutra gives a list of ancient orders (Ganas etc.) Many historians were not convinced of the historicity of this information until the excavations at Mathura un-earthed many inscriptions mentioning the very same orders. Several archaeological discoveries and studies of the Buddhist and Vedic/Puranic literature has confirmed the antiquity of the jain tradition. I will gradually add additional items and links to detailed information. The outline below will serve as an index.


Jainism is an independent and most ancient religion of India. Jainism is an eternal religion. 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. 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 Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. There is an article that suggests the representation of the seventh Tirthankara 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.


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, abdi¬cated his throne in favor of his son Bindusara, joined Bhadrabahu's entourage as a monk-disciple, and stayed with Bhadrabahu at Shravana-belagola. 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 years 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 absence 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 (Umaswami) 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.


jain, jain practices, jainism, jain principles, jain ethical principles, jains, jain, Jain Vows Non-violence (Ahimsa) – to cause no harm to living beings. Truth (Satya) – to always speak the truth in a harmless manner. Non-stealing (Asteya) – to not take anything that is not willingly given. Celibacy (Brahmacharya) – to not indulge in sensual pleasures. Non-possession (Aparigraha) – to detach from people, places, and material things.


Ahimsa, "Non-violence", is sometimes interpreted as not killing, but the concept goes far beyond that. It includes not harming or insulting other living beings either directly or indirectly through others. There can be even no room for thought to injure others, and no speech that influence others to inflict harm. It also includes respecting the view of others (non-absolutism and acceptance of multiple view points).


Satya, "truthfulness", is also to be practiced by all people. Given that non-violence has priority, all other principles yield to it, whenever there is a conflict. For example, if speaking truth will lead to violence, it is perfectly ethical to be silent. Thiruvalluvar in his Tamil classic devotes an entire chapter clarifying the definition of 'truthfulness'.


Asteya, "non-stealing", is the strict adherence to one's own possessions, without desire to take another's. One should remain satisfied by whatever is earned through honest labour. Any attempt to squeeze others and/or exploit the weak is considered theft. Some of the guidelines for this principle are: Always give people fair value for labor or product. Never take things which are not offered. Never take things that are placed, dropped or forgotten by others Never purchase cheaper things if the price is the result of improper method (e.g. pyramid scheme, illegal business, stolen goods, etc.)


Brahmacharya, "monastic celibacy", is the complete abstinence from sex, which is only incumbent upon monastics. Householders practice monogamy as a way to uphold brahmacarya in spirit.


Aparigraha, "non-possession", is the renunciation of property and wealth, before initiation into monkhood, without entertaining thoughts of the things renounced. Jain ethical principles