History Of Jainism

Jainism is an independent and most ancient religion of India. Jainsim 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 seems 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 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.

a) Janism in vedic period:
In the Rig -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, Ajitanath 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.
b) Jainism in Buddha Period:
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.

c) Renaissance:
As is the case with the Hindus, there has been a renaissance among the Jain community since the late I9th century. To begin with, attempt were made to attract the common masses by either writing in or translating many of the Jain scriptures into the vernacular Gujarati or Hindi. The first Jain literature conference held around the same time.
At the turn of the century, the various Jain's began, for the first time, to organize them under a centralized headquarters: in 1893, the Digambaras began with their headquarters in Khurai in central India. The Shvetambaras followed suit in 1903 with their headquarters in Bombay and. finally, the Sthanakavasi in Ajmer in 1906. This facilitated for the first time the founding of Jain schools and institutes, the publishing of their own series of books and literature and the establishment of social institutions such as homes for widows or orphanages. This example followed on a small scale by private enterprise that, for example, took up the cause of the protection of animals or the women's issues among the Jains. All this led to an enormous spiritual resurgence as well as to an expanded growth and the end to these activities is nowhere in sight yet.