Jain monks
Jainism is an offshoot of Hinduism and has many similarities with Buddhism but is regarded as more rigid and ascetic. Founded by Mahavira, a 6th century B.C. ascetic, it emphasizes meditation, the sanctity of life and non-violence and maintains there is a basic life principal in all objects. Its adherents aim to attain identity through ascetic practices and even self mutilation.” The basic tenets of Jainism this religion influenced Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

The oldest continuous monastic tradition in India is Jainism, the path of the Jinas, or victors. This tradition is traced to Var-dhamana Mahavira (The Great Hero; ca. 599-527 B.C.), the twenty-fourth and last of the Tirthankaras (Sanskrit for fordmakers). According to legend, Mahavira was born to a ruling family in the town of Vaishali, located in the modern state of Bihar. At the age of thirty, he renounced his wealthy life and devoted himself to fasting and self-mortification in order to purify his consciousness and discover the meaning of existence. He never again dwelt in a house, owned property, or wore clothing of any sort. Following the example of the teacher Parshvanatha (ninth century B.C.), he attained enlightenment and spent the rest of his life meditating and teaching a dedicated group of disciples who formed a monastic order following rules he laid down. His life's work complete, he entered a final fast and deliberately died of starvation”[Source: Library of Congress]

Jainism and Hinduism share many social practices (several castes have both Hindu and Jain members) and many Hindus consider Jainism to be a branch of Hinduism. Jainism revolves around Jinas, Buddha-like human teachers who have attained “moksha” (enlightenment) and share their knowledge with followers. These teachers are also known as “tirthankaras” (“builders of the ford”), a reference to their efforts to lead souls across the river of rebirth.

There are 4 million Jains in the world today. Nearly all of them are in India, particularly in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka. There are about 50,000 Jains and 50 Jain temples in the United States.

Websites and Resources on Jainism: Jainism Resources cs.colostate.edu ; religious Tolerance Page religioustolerance.org/jainism ; Learn Jainism Images learnjainism.org/cid ; Jain Religion jainreligion.in ; Official Jain website djms.in/resident/djms_idx ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia

History of Jainism

Jainism is regarded as the oldest ascetic religious tradition in the world. Like Buddhism it traces its origins back to the Sramana movements in modern-day Bihar and Nepal in the 6th century B.C. and has been continuously practiced since then. The other Sramana movements, including Buddhism, died out.

Jainism was a Brahmin school that emerged around the same times as Buddhism. Buddhism and Jainism had a profound impact on Indian and Hindu culture. They discouraged caste distinctions, abolished hereditary priesthoods, made poverty a precondition of spirituality and advocated the communion with the spiritual essence of the universe through contemplation and meditation.

The origins of Jainism have been traced to Palanpur, a small town in Western India. It was reportedly founded about 30 years before Buddhism as as attempt to reform the less appealing aspects of Hinduism, namely the caste system. The Jain memorial mound in at Mathur is believed to be the oldest structure in India. There are old Jain temples in Kaligamalai, Ahmedabad, Ellora, Ajmere and Mount Abu.

Both Jainism and Buddhism "outlawed caste distinctions, abolished hereditary priesthood, made poverty a precondition of spirituality and advocated the communion with the spiritual essence of the universe through contemplation and meditation.” Both Jainism and Buddhism posited that existence was basically an unhappy cycle of death and rebirth and the goal of both religions was to break free from this cycle through meditation and discipline. They also both rejected the Hindu customs of sacrifice and appeasement of the gods.

By the first century A.D., the Jain community evolved into two main divisions based on monastic discipline: the Digambara or "sky-clad" monks who wear no clothes, own nothing, and collect donated food in their hands; and the Svetambara or "white-clad" monks and nuns who wear white robes and carry bowls for donated food. The Digambara do not accept the possibility of women achieving liberation, while the Svetambara do. Western and southern India have been Jain strongholds for many centuries; laypersons have typically formed minority communities concentrated primarily in urban areas and in mercantile occupations. In the mid-1990s, there were about 7 million Jains, the majority of whom live in the states of Maharashtra (mostly the city of Bombay, or Mumbai in Marathi), Rajasthan, and Gujarat. Karnataka, traditionally a stronghold of Digambaras, has a sizable Jain community. [Source: Library of Congress]

Mahavira, Founder of Jainism

Vardhamana Mahavira (599 and 527 B.C.) is the founder of Jainism and the prophet and prince of the Jains. He is mentioned in Buddhist scripture as the “Naked Ascetic” and was a contemporary of Confucius in China and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah in Israel and Aristotle and Plato in Greece. Like Buddha he forsook his life of wealth and privilege for a spiritual life, and rejected the sacrificial rites of the Hindus and the caste system. Vardhaman. Mahavira means “great hero.”

Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, and Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, both lived in the sixth century B.C., and both were princes who left their fathers’ kingdoms for the life of an ascetic. They shared the belief in karma and samsara, and sought release (moksha) through meditation and control of one’s desires. Unlike Buddhism, however, Jainism never spread beyond India. Today there are some two million Jains in western India, where Mahavira taught. [Source: Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts, The Art of South, and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]

“As a prince, Mahavira’s name was Vardhamana. The ideal Aryan prince was a vira, meaning “brave warrior.” Vardhamana also wished to be known as a brave warrior, not in a battle against human foes but in his battle against his own desires. So he took the name Mahavira (maha = great). A person who has absolute control over his senses and has become a great teacher is known as a jina or tirthankara. Mahavira’s followers believed that he was the last of twenty-four tirthankaras.”

Life of Mahavira

Mahavira was born on the Ganges into a princely family that belonged to the “Kshatriya” warrior caste. It is said that he lived in heaven before he was placed into his mother's womb after she had 14 prophetic dreams. While he was in his mother’s womb Mahavira ascribed to the doctrine of non-violence and never kicked inside his mother, not even once.

Mahavira married the daughter of another prince. At age 30, after his wife gave birth to a daughter he became an ascetic. According to legend, he tore out all of his hair in five handfuls and gave away all his possessions including his clothes and then wandered the countryside naked. He inflicted a number of tortures on himself in attempt to gain mastery over his body and soul.

Mahavira went about naked for 12 years and attempted to reach of state of “jina” . During the 13th year of his ascetic period , after a long fast he achieved his goal and achieved a "unobstructed, unimpeded, infinite knowledge called “kevala” while sitting underneath a sala tree. The story is similar to the story of Buddha’s enlightenment.

Mahavira then put on some clothes and devoted the rest of his life to teaching others how to experience what he did. Mahavira told his followers that they should not worship any person or object but should live "a life quiet and unperturbed, self denying, harmless and prayerless." He converted 12 disciples who structured his teaching into the Jain scriptures and expanded the community of followers. Mahavira died while meditating. After his death miracles grew up about his divine powers and people worshiped him and idolized images of him.

Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: Mahavira led an austere life, teaching, meditating, begging for food, and denying his body any comforts. When his clothes fell into tatters, he went without them, “sky-clad” for the rest of his life. Jain monks disagreed about how far their austerities should go. One group held that, like Mahavira, they should teach “sky-clad,” or naked. Those opposed wore white robes. Most present-day Jain monks are “white-clad.” Mahavira taught his followers to detach themselves from worldly desires and also from their own viewpoints. He suggested that it is often easier to give up material possessions than it is to part with one’s opinions. According to Mahavira, a person can see only a very small part of the truth, and what one believes to be true depends on many factors like social status, education, and context. An ancient Jain parable interpreted by a nineteenth-century poet [Source: Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts, The Art of South, and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]

It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind) That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.

The first approached the Elephant
And happened to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side
At once began to bawl:
“Bless me! But the elephant
Is very like a wall.”
The second, feeling of the tusk
Cried, “Ho! What have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear.”
The third approached the animal,
And happened to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he;
“the Elephant
Is very like a snake.”
The fourth reached out his eager h and And felt about the knee.

“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“’Tis clear enough the elephant is very like a tree.”
The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said “E’en the blindest man Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan.”
The sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the elephant
Is very like a rope.”
And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong.

—John Godfrey Saxe (American, 1816–1887) 22

Twenty Four Holymen

There is evidence that Jain practices existed before Mahavira. The Jain texts refer to a succession of prophets (“tirthankaras” ) that stretched back to the mythological past. Mahavira was the 24th and last of these) prophets. The tirthankkaras liberated their souls through meditation and ascetic practices and preached a message of salvation before leaving their mortal bodies.

The 24 tirthankaras are regarded as holy men who acted as intermediaries between mankind and heaven. They are objects of great reverence. Jains honor them not so much to win favors on earth and rewards in the afterlife but rather to honor what they achieved and use their stories as model’s for one’s own behavior.

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Kalpasutra (legends of the Jain saviors), late 15th century

Jain temples are always dedicated to one of the tirthankaras, usually Rsabha and Nemi, the first two, and Parsva and Mahavira , the last two. Pasva may have been a historical figure that lived in Varanasi the 9th century B.C. Gomateshwara is a Jain saint that meditated in one place for so long, creepers grew up his legs and body.

Jain Beliefs

Jains believe that every soul is potentially divine and every individual has the potential to achieve “moksha” (nirvana) — the setting fee of the individual from “sanskura”, the cycle of birth and death — by following the teachings of the “tirthankaras”. The emphasis is on asceticism and arresting passion. Karma is not viewed as determinate but rather something that has be overcome and liberated from.

The Jains say that nature is complex and every objects has three aspects: a substance, its inherent qualities, and the infinite number of forms in can take in time and space. Jains have no creation myth because they believe the universe has no beginning or end and goes through an infinite number of cosmic cycles, each with periods of ascent and descent that are reflected in the rise and fall of human civilization. The 24 tirthankaras appear to help man cross the "great ford" to cosmic paradise during each half cycle.

The ancient belief system of the Jains rests on a concrete understanding of the working of karma, its effects on the living soul (jiva ), and the conditions for extinguishing action and the soul's release. According to the Jain view, the soul is a living substance that combines with various kinds of nonliving matter and through action accumulates particles of matter that adhere to it and determine its fate. Most of the matter perceptible to human senses, including all animals and plants, is attached in various degrees to living souls and is in this sense alive. Any action has consequences that necessarily follow the embodied soul, but the worst accumulations of matter come from violence against other living beings. The ultimate Jain discipline, therefore, rests on complete inactivity and absolute nonviolence (ahimsa) against any living beings. Some Jain monks and nuns wear face masks to avoid accidently inhaling small organisms, and all practicing believers try to remain vegetarians. Extreme renunciation, including the refusal of all food, lies at the heart of a discipline that purges the mind and body of all desires and actions and, in the process, burns off the consequences of actions performed in the past. In this sense, Jain renunciants may recognize or revere deities, but they do not view the Vedas as sacred texts and instead concentrate on the atheistic, individual quest for purification and removal of karma. The final goal is the extinguishing of self, a "blowing out" (nirvana) of the individual self. [Source: Library of Congress]

12 Vratas of Shravaka

Jains reject the authority of the Vedas and the spiritual supremacy of the Brahmin. They have no priests and don't worship individuals, even Mahavira; they only worships classes of human beings like “arhats” (holy ones) and “siddhas” (perfect ones). Gods are not given any kind of prominent role. They are regarded as living creatures no better or worse than other living creatures

Western religion has traditionally divided the world into the mortal and non-mortal. Hindus saw many more possibilities. "The Jains," wrote Boorstin, "declared there were not only two possibilities but seven, which gave them their doctrine of Maybe, wrapping both the darkness and the dazzling brilliance of creation in a twilight of doubt." The Jain hell has 8.4 million hells. The worst sinners end up in a bottomless forever.

Jain Doctrines

Jains believe in three basic principals: 1) “kantavada”, the belief there are no absolutes; 2) “karmas-vada”, efficiency of action; and 3) “ahimsa”, non violence. Part of the principal of non-absolutes is the "doctrine of maybe." which is further broken down into seven predictions: maybe yes, maybe no, maybe yes and no, maybe indescribable and three more combinations of these. The Jains said that a statement like "that is a book" is dogmatic and wrong because it is implies permanence. The Jains would say "maybe that is a book."

At the heart of individual worship for ascetics are the “Mahavratas” (“The Great Vows”): 1) “ahimsa” ( non violence); 2) “satya” (speaking the truth); 3) “brhmacharya” (abstaining from sex); 4) “asteya” (not taking nothing that is not given); 5) “aparigraha” (detachment from people). There is a parallel set of vows for lay people called “anuvratas” and they include vegetarianism and refraining from work that might hurt living things.

Gati or Existences

Some Jains are ordained as monks and nuns, and many of these live the lives of wandering ascetics. Most Jains are laity. They live in the material world. They support the wandering ascetics, by giving them food and shelter. The ascetics in turn give the laity religious guidance. The six acceptable occupation of Jains are government work, writing, the arts, farming, crafts and commerce. Farming is regarded as okay because the only harming of creatures that takes place is unintentional. Trade and commerce are regarded as the ideal profession because little harm is done to creatures.

The Tattvartha Sutra formally lays out the 14 stages which one must pass through to achieve moshka. Few advance beyond the 6th stage. The 14th stage is achieved when all karmas have been overcome and the soul is like a “rock” and can not be disturbed in any way. All Jain are expected to engage in “Samayika” , an ancient form of meditation that lasts for 48 minutes and involves renouncing all possessions, accepting and asking for forgiveness and reciting the prayer: “Friendship to all living forms, delight in the qualities of the virtuous ones, unlimited compassion for all suffering beings, equanimity toward all who wish me harm, may my soul have this dispositions now and forever.”

Jain Texts and Temples

The sacred Jain texts are called Agamas and the religion is broken into sects that disagree over how many sacred texts there are. The Sthanakvasi recognize 33, the Svetamba believe 45 are true and other sects accept as many as 84 Agamas. Jains in north of India also disagree with those in south about the wearing of clothes. The former wear clothes while the latter go around naked and worship naked idols except were they are forced to wear clothes. Jains in the south also believe that women can not receive salvation until they are reborn as men.


The “Kalpa Sutra”, the Book of Ritual, is one of the most popular Jan texts. It may date back to the 4th century B.C. Among other things it describes the lives of all 24 tirthankaras.

Jain temples are similar to Hindu temples in that they have a main tower and inner sanctum. Jain temples, however, are generally dedicated to a tirthankara rather than a god and an image of the tirthankara is in the inner sanctum. Temples are regarded as a place of study and meditation rather than worship. Prayers range from chanting mantras while having eye contact with an image to elaborately decorating and anointing the image. Many large temples have libraries and a guest houses where nuns and monks stay during the monsoon. Great effort is made to make sure the temple stays clean.

Jain Sects

There are two main Jain sects: the “sky-clad” Digambaras and the “white-clad” Svetambaras. The schism dates back to the 4th century B.C. At the heart of the schism are different attitudes over matters related to asceticism and clothing. The basic doctrines of the two groups is basically the same. The Digambaras argue that going around without cloths frees one from sexual feeling and helps in the quest for enlightenment. The Svetambaras argued that detachment is a process that takes place in the mind and it does not matter whether one wears clothes or not.

Punishment in Hells

The Digambaras are the most conservative of the two groups. The highest order of Digambaras monks go naked to express their complete indifference to their bodies and are allowed to have only one possession, a pot with water for washing. They are not even allowed to possess a begging bowl. They must accept food and water in their cupped hands, By contrast Svetambaras monks and nuns wear simple white clothing. The two groups also differ in attitude towards the scriptures, views of the universe and attitude towards women (the Digambaras believe that no woman has ever achieved liberation and women have to become a men through reincarnation first).

The Svetambaras are further divided into one sect that rejects all forms of idolatry and another group, the “murti-pujaka” (idol worshipers), who build temples with idols of the tirthankaras. The schism her dates back to 15th century Gujarat. Those that oppose idol worship worry that the worshipers will worship idols in their own right and ascribe them with magical powers. Their places of worship are bare halls used for meditation .

Jains and Living Things

The cornerstone of Jain philosophy is the belief that all living things, even the tiniest insects. have a immortal soul ( “jiva” ) that is continually reincarnated within the bounds of karma. Karma is seen as a form of matter that is attracted to the soul through good and bad desires.

20120502-Jain_universe 44.JPG
Jain universe

The Jains classify living things into five categories determined by how many senses they process: 1) invisible things with low levels of consciousness and no senses; 2) vegetables and plants that only have touch; 3) some insects with only touch and smell; 4) butterflies and wasps with taste, smell and touch; and 5) all higher animals including man with the five senses.

Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “Mahavira taught that to avoid accumulating bad karma, one should not harm any living things. This is the doctrine ahimsa, the most important concept in Jain teaching. Because of their reverence for all life, Jain monks preached against brahminical animal sacrifices and introduced strict vegetarianism. Since a human soul can be reborn as an animal or insect, and since all forms of life have souls, even the smallest creature should not be harmed. To prevent this, devout Jains wear face masks when they are out- side to avoid inhaling insects, and gently sweep the path in front of them before taking a step. Jains avoid farming because their ploughs might injure burrowing animals. The Jain emphasis on nonviolence influenced both Buddhism and Hinduism and established a tradition which many prominent Indians such as Gandhi have followed.” [Source: Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts, The Art of South, and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]

Jains believe all life shares a common soul and life can be found everywhere even in the wind, in the earth and in rocks. . Unlike Buddhism and Hinduism, they view all life forms as being equal: there were no higher orders or lower orders. Jains condemn the killing of all animals, and insist on a pure vegetarian diet. The concept of vegetarianism in India and the concept of non-violence promoted by Gandhi was invented by the Jains.

Jains, Animals, Insects and Plants

Jains don't eat meat or root vegetables. Jains eschew eating onions, garlic and other tubers because of insects that might be killed in the digging process and because they involve taking the lives of the plants. Jain filter their water so they don’t swallow any microbes. They believe even a blade of grass may have a soul. Strict Jains are fruitarians and believe that flames contain beings and they should never start or put out a fire. Bathing is forbidden because it harms both creatures in the water and creatures on the body. Lamps are not lit at night because they may harm the moths and insects that fly into them.

20120502-Hierarchy_of_Beings 2.jpg

Jain monks wear gauze masks over their nose and mouth, so they won’t accidently kill an insect by inhaling it, and don’t walk around in the dark lest they accidently injure some creature they can not see. Some Jains carry a kind of feather duster, or bristle brush to swish away insects that may cross their path. Some Jains have sweepers that clear a path so they will not accidently kill an ant by steeping on it. Some Jains were special hollow shoes that have minimum impact on the ground so no insects are crushed.

Some Jains wear a piece of white paper folded over their mouth. It symbolizes commitment to nonviolence. It is regarded a symbolic because its wearers can still inhale insects through their nose.

Jainism priest take care of stray cats and dogs and run hospitals for sick and injured animals and birds. In shelters for stray cats and dogs there is a special room for insects. Jain insect shelters are provided with grain, sealed and opened only after a dozen or so years so the insects have had a chance to die naturally.

Jain Nudity and Austerity

20120502-Jains Digambara_monk_Acarya_Pushpadantasagara.jpg
Digambara monk
Acarya Pushpadantasagara
Digambara worshipers are Jain men that believe that nakedness is an essential part of religion. They pray together in large numbers in certain Jain temples. Jain saints are always represented by nude statues with carefully rendered genitals.

According to Jain theology the great sage Bahubali and his brother fought a tremendous battle thousands of years ago over the inheritance of their father's kingdom. At the moment of his victory, however, Bahubal realized that greed and pride had debased him, and he renounced his kingdom and other worldly things. After the battle he meditated for so long that ant hills piled up around his feet and vines grew up his legs and arms. On Jain statues Bahubali is perfectly naked, with a serene and benevolent smile etched on his face, he is the picture of self-control, detachment and spiritual enlightenment."

Nudity and other forms of austerity are intended to strip away karma matter and create a detached state of desirelessness that will not attract further karma. The goal is “ahimsa”, a lack of desire in which no living thing is harmed. Jain ascetics sometimes fast to death as a severe penance for killing creatures and to work off as much karma as possible.

Jain Pilgrimages

The Jain laity engage in a number of ritual activities that resemble those of the Hindus around them (see The Ceremonies of Hinduism). Special shrines in residences or in public temples include images of the Tirthankaras, who are not worshiped but remembered and revered; other shrines house the gods who are more properly invoked to intercede with worldly problems. Daily rituals may include meditation and bathing; bathing the images; offering food, flowers, and lighted lamps for the images; and reciting mantras in Ardhamagadhi, an ancient language of northeast India related to Sanskrit. Many Jain laity engage in sacramental ceremonies during life-cycle rituals, such as the first taking of solid food, marriage, and death, resembling those enacted by Hindus. Jains may also worship local gods and participate in local Hindu or Muslim celebrations without compromising their fundamental devotion to the path of the Jinas. The most important festivals of Jainism celebrate the five major events in the life of Mahavira: conception, birth, renunciation, enlightenment, and final release at death. [Source: Library of Congress]

At a number of pilgrimage sites associated with great teachers of Jainism, the gifts of wealthy donors made possible the building of architectural wonders. Shatrunjaya Hills (Siddhagiri) in Gujarat is a major Svetambara site, an entire city of about 3,500 temples. Mount Abu in Rajasthan, with one Digambara and five Svetambara temples, is the site of some of India's greatest architecture, dating from the eleventh through thirteenth centuries A.D. In Karnataka, on the hill of Sravana Belgola, stands the monolithic seventeen-meter-high statue of the naked Bhagwan Bahubali (Gomateshvara), the first person in the world believed by the faithful to have attained enlightenment, so deep in meditation that vines are growing around his legs. At this site every twelve years, a major concourse of Jain ascetics and laity participate in a purification ceremony in which the statue is anointed from head to toe. Carved in 981, the statue is considered the holiest Jain shrine. In addition to its lavish patronage of shrines, the Jain community, with its long scriptural tradition and wealth gained from trade, has always been known for its philanthropy and especially for its support of education and learning. Prestigious Jain schools are located in most major cities. The largest concentrations of Jains are in Maharashtra (more than 965,000) and Rajasthan (nearly 563,000), with sizable numbers also in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. [Source: Library of Congress]

Jain Festival

Once every 12 years, tens of thousands of Jains gather in Shravanabelagola to ritually pour hundreds of gallons of coconut milk, sacred water with sandalwood paste, turmeric and other sacred fluids on the thousand-year-old, 58-foot statue of Bhanwan Bahubali, the holiest shrine of the Jains. The statue has 26-foot-wide shoulders and 30-foot-long arms, and 9-foot-long and 2½-foot-high feet. It is carved from a sold piece of granite at the top of a 450-foot-high hill. It barely looks weathered after hundreds of years of exposure to the hot sun and monsoon rains. [Source: John Ward Anderson, the Washington Post]

The whole festival is beamed around India live on state-run and satellite television channels. Vendors sell commemorative wristwatches with pictures of Bhagwan Bahubali on them and stalls display leather handbags and jackets (even though it is taboo for Jains to sell the skins of dead animals). The night before the ritual, Jains bid at an auction to see who will pour water down on the statue first. One year a paper merchant paid 1.5 million rupees (about $50,000) to be the first one to anoint the statue. Many Jains wearing turbans and gold-colored crowns throw fistfuls of money on the statue. [Source: John Ward Anderson, the Washington Post]

The most important annual rite is Samvatsarri, which is performed during an eight-to-ten day period called Paryusana-parva during the Shvetambra festival in which ordinary people abstain from eating certain foods and fast. The event climaxes with a confession to family and friends and a plea for forgiveness for all the creatures that may been harmed. One of the primary purpose of the festival is link the laity and the acetic community by allowing laymen to live like ascetics for a brief period of time.

Jains also go on pilgrimages to Varanasi.

Modern Jains

Dharmavanshi Acharya
Many Jains are merchants, traders, wholesalers and moneylenders. Throughout Indian history they have been one of the most affluent groups in the country. Many Jains became traders because their religion forbade them from becoming farmers and soldiers. Some of India’s leading industrialists, bankers and jewelers are Jains.

More Jains live in the cities than in the countryside. They are particularly concentered in Bombay, Delhi and Ahmedabad and other cities and towns in western India, where they are dominant figures in commerce, business and trade. Some lay Jains have migrated to east Africa, Britain and North America in search of business opportunities. Most of them are descendants of Jains from Gujarat.

Mahatma Gandhi was strongly influenced by the Jain leader Raychandbhai Mehta, a political leader and holy man who promulgated non-violence.

Image Sources: Wikicommons Media

Text Sources: “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 3 South Asia “ edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); “The Creators” by Daniel Boorstin; “A Guide to Angkor: an Introduction to the Temples” by Dawn Rooney (Asia Book) for Information on temples and architecture. National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2011

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