Jainism – GK Notes (PDF)

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Jainism or Jain Dharma is an ancient religion derived from the culture of later Vedic Period. There are 24 Tirthankara according to Jain myth. The first Tirthankara was Rishabhanatha and the last was Mahavira.

The rise of Jainism

The movement against the Vedic religion in India in the sixth century BC at the end of the Vedic period is called the ‘religious reform movements‘. There were several reasons for this,

  1. Spiritual curiosity in the minds of people towards the end of the Vedic age,
  2. Superstitions and narrow-mindedness in Vedic Brahmanism towards the end of the Vedic age,
  3. Superstition and oppression of Brahmans.

There were also social reasons at the root of this movement. For example, according to Brahmanical religion, even in the Brahmin-ruled society, there is a lot of narrowness and lawlessness. For all these reasons, various philosophical doctrines and religious groups have emerged. Among them were Jainism and Buddhism.

Background of Jainism:

Jainism and Buddhism are almost contemporary. Although Mahavira is considered to be the founder of Jainism, the Jains believe that even before him, twenty-three Tirthankars, the pioneers of liberation, nurtured Jainism. Of these twenty-three Tirthankaras, no historical evidence can be found for any of the twenty-two Tirthankars. There is some information in Jain scriptures about the twenty-third Tirthankara Parshvanath or Pareshnath.

It was Parshvanath who actually introduced Jainism. It is known that he was the son of a king in the state of Kashi and was born about two hundred and fifty years before Mahavira. The teachings he preaches are four vows about religion that are known as ‘Chaturyama‘, namely, ahimsa, aparigraha (non-possession), asteya (non-stealing) and satya (non-lying).

Jains were devided into two classes, –

  1. Digambara (meaning sky clad)
  2. Svetambara (meaning white-clad)


About 540 BC, the last Tirthankar of the Jains, Vardhamana or Mahavira, was born in a Kshatriya family at Kundapur or Kunda village near Vaishali. Father Siddhartharaja was the ruler of the Nata or Jnatrika clan at Kunda village. His mother Trishla was the sister of Chetak and a leader of the Licchavids, a Kshatriya woman group.

Mahavira was married to a Kshatriya woman named Yashodha. His daughter’s name was Pryadarshana. But in spite of all this, in order to find a way of spiritual liberation, he left his family, and becoming an ascetic, and settled near Pareshnath hill. He immersed himself in severe religious austerities on the banks of a river. After years of rigorous austerities, he attained ‘Kaibalya ‘or ‘absolute knowledge’. After that, he is known as ‘Jinn’ or ‘Nigrantha’. The word Jain originates from the word “Jinn“.

According to popular belief, at the age of 72, Mahavira died on a voluntary in Paba Nagar (468 BC) in Magadha.

Sermon of Mahavira

After gaining Kaibalya, Mahavira took on the role of the preacher. He traveled for eight months, preached, and spent four months of the rainy season in one place. Gautama Buddha is said to be the preacher of a new religion, but Mahavira is not. He only reformed the religion introduced by Prashanth. His main role was as a reformer.

Mahavira combines another vow with the Chaturyama propagated by Parshvanath, which was Brahmacharya or celibacy. These five vows or ideals are known as ‘Pancha Mahavrata‘. He believed that through honest conduction, honest belief, and honest knowledge, man could be liberated from life.

He was a believer in karma and reincarnation. Furthermore, he believed that sin and virtue were inherent in human deeds and that the cause of reincarnation and karma. Mahavira’s advice was – “Abstain from all kinds of addictions, be clear like to the lotus, and pure like the water of autumn“.

One of the famous quotation of Mahavira was,-

“Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.”


Important events regarding the life of Mahavira

Real nameVardhaman
Place of BirthKundgram, Vaishali
Death468 BC at Pavapuri, Bihar

Jain scriptures

At a meeting of wounded Jains at Pataliputra in the third century BC, Mahavira’s advice was compiled in twelve parts, known as the twelfth Anga (limb). Other books worth mentioning were ‘Agam Sanhita‘, ‘Purba‘, ‘Kalpasutra‘ etc.

In the Jain text “Kalpa Sutra“, the biographies of Tirthankaras (Parshvanatha and Mahavira) are mentioned.

Spread of Jainism

In the sixth century BC, Jainism and Buddhism were rivals. For the spread of Jainism, Mahavira established the Shramana Sangha and entrusted the management of the Sangha to 11 chief disciples. These 11 disciples were called Gangadhar or Dalpati. Udayi, the son of Ajatashatru, the king of Magadha, and the Nandaraja were great patrons of Jainism. In the twelfth century AD, during the reign of the Chalukya king Kumar Pal, the Svetambara became very important in western India.

Questions on Jainism for IAS, UPSC SSC, and other competitive exams.

Jainism general knowledge (GK) and comprehensive notes for IAS, UPSC, WBCS, Public service commission, SSC, CGL, and other competitive government job examinations.

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