Bahá’í Faith

Bahá’í Faith       Bahai star.svg


The Bahá’í Faith (Arabic: بهائيةBaha’iyyah) /bəˈh/[1]) is a monotheistic religion emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind.[2] Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá’í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, that there is only one God who is the source of all creation; the unity of religion, that all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God; and the unity of humanity, that all humans have been created equal, and that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance.[3] According to the Bahá’í Faith’s teachings, the human purpose is to learn to know and love God through such methods as prayer, reflection and being of service to humanity.

The Bahá’í Faith was founded by Bahá’u’lláh in 19th-century Persia. Bahá’u’lláh was exiled for his teachings, from Persia to the Ottoman Empire, and died while officially still a prisoner. After Bahá’u’lláh’s death, under the leadership of his son, `Abdu’l-Bahá, the religion spread from its Persian and Ottoman roots, and gained a footing in Europe and America, and was consolidated in Iran, where it suffers intense persecution.[4] After the death of `Abdu’l-Bahá, the leadership of the Bahá’í community entered a new phase, evolving from a single individual to an administrative order with both elected bodies and appointed individuals.[5] There are probably more than 5 million Bahá’ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories.[3][6]

In the Bahá’í Faith, religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and to the capacity of the people. These messengers have included Abrahamic figures – Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, as well as Dharmic ones – Krishna, Buddha, and others. For Bahá’ís, the most recent messengers are the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. In Bahá’í belief, each consecutive messenger prophesied of messengers to follow, and Bahá’u’lláh’s life and teachings fulfilled the end-time promises of previous scriptures. Humanity is understood to be in a process of collective evolution, and the need of the present time is for the gradual establishment of peace, justice and unity on a global scale


Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá’í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity.[3] From these postulates stems the belief that God periodically reveals his will through divine messengers, whose purpose is to transform the character of humankind and to develop, within those who respond, moral and spiritual qualities. Religion is thus seen as orderly, unified, and progressive from age to age.[12]


A white domed building

Bahá’í Temple, Ingleside, Sydney, Australia

The Bahá’í writings describe a single, personal, inaccessible, omniscient, omnipresent, imperishable, and almighty God who is the creator of all things in the universe.[13] The existence of God and the universe is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end.[14] Though inaccessible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of creation, with a will and purpose that is expressed through messengers termed Manifestations of God.[15][16]

Bahá’í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully comprehend, or to create a complete and accurate image of, by themselves. Therefore, human understanding of God is achieved through his revelations via his Manifestations.[17][18] In the Bahá’í religion God is often referred to by titles and attributes (for example, the All-Powerful, or the All-Loving), and there is a substantial emphasis on monotheism; such doctrines as the Trinity are seen as compromising, if not contradicting, the Bahá’í view that God is single and has no equal.[19] The Bahá’í teachings state that the attributes which are applied to God are used to translate Godliness into human terms and also to help individuals concentrate on their own attributes in worshipping God to develop their potentialities on their spiritual path.[17][18] According to the Bahá’í teachings the human purpose is to learn to know and love God through such methods as prayer, reflection, and being of service to others.[17]

A white column with ornate designs carved into it, including a Star of David

Symbols of many religions on a pillar of the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.


Bahá’í notions of progressive religious revelation result in their accepting the validity of the well known religions of the world, whose founders and central figures are seen as Manifestations of God. Religious history is interpreted as a series of dispensations, where each manifestation brings a somewhat broader and more advanced revelation, suited for the time and place in which it was expressed.[14] Specific religious social teachings (for example, the direction of prayer, or dietary restrictions) may be revoked by a subsequent manifestation so that a more appropriate requirement for the time and place may be established. Conversely, certain general principles (for example, neighbourliness, or charity) are seen to be universal and consistent. In Bahá’í belief, this process of progressive revelation will not end; however, it is believed to be cyclical. Bahá’ís do not expect a new manifestation of God to appear within 1000 years of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation.[20]

Bahá’í beliefs are sometimes described as syncretic combinations of earlier religious beliefs.[21] Bahá’ís, however, assert that their religion is a distinct tradition with its own scriptures, teachings, laws, and history.[14][22] While the religion was initially seen as a sect of Islam, most religious specialists now see it as an independent religion, with its religious background in Shi’a Islam being seen as analogous to the Jewish context in which Christianity was established.[23] Muslim institutions and clergy, both Sunni and Shia, consider Bahá’ís to be deserters or apostates from Islam, which has led to Bahá’ís being persecuted.[24][25] Bahá’ís, themselves, describe their faith as an independent world religion, differing from the other traditions in its relative age and in the appropriateness of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings to the modern context.[26] Bahá’u’lláh is believed to have fulfilled the messianic expectations of these precursor faiths.[27]

Human beings

A stylized Arabic figure which has intersecting lines that lock around rings and five-pointed stars to either side

The Ringstone symbol represents humanity’s connection to God

The Bahá’í writings state that human beings have a “rational soul“, and that this provides the species with a unique capacity to recognize God’s station and humanity’s relationship with its creator. Every human is seen to have a duty to recognize God through His messengers, and to conform to their teachings.[28] Through recognition and obedience, service to humanity and regular prayer and spiritual practice, the Bahá’í writings state that the soul becomes closer to God, the spiritual ideal in Bahá’í belief. When a human dies, the soul passes into the next world, where its spiritual development in the physical world becomes a basis for judgment and advancement in the spiritual world. Heaven and Hell are taught to be spiritual states of nearness or distance from God that describe relationships in this world and the next, and not physical places of reward and punishment achieved after death.[29]

The Bahá’í writings emphasize the essential equality of human beings, and the abolition of prejudice. Humanity is seen as essentially one, though highly varied; its diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance. Doctrines of racism, nationalism, caste, social class, and gender-based hierarchy are seen as artificial impediments to unity.[3] The Bahá’í teachings state that the unification of humanity is the paramount issue in the religious and political conditions of the present world.



The independent search after truth, unfettered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of human kind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship; the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind—these stand out as the essential elements [which Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed].[30]

Social principles

The following principles are frequently listed as a quick summary of the Bahá’í teachings. They are derived from transcripts of speeches given by `Abdu’l-Bahá during his tour of Europe and North America in 1912.[31][32] The list is not authoritative and a variety of such lists circulate.[22][32][33]

With specific regard to the pursuit of world peace, Bahá’u’lláh prescribed a world-embracing collective security arrangement as necessary for the establishment of a lasting peace.[36]

Mystical teachings

Although the Bahá’í teachings have a strong emphasis on social and ethical issues, there exist a number of foundational texts that have been described as mystical.[14] The Seven Valleys is considered Bahá’u’lláh’s “greatest mystical composition.” It was written to a follower of Sufism, in the style of  `Attar, a Muslim poet,[37] and sets forth the stages of the soul’s journey towards God. It was first translated into English in 1906, becoming one of the earliest available books of Bahá’u’lláh to the West. The Hidden Words is another book written by Bahá’u’lláh during the same period, containing 153 short passages in which Bahá’u’lláh claims to have taken the basic essence of certain spiritual truths and written them in brief form.[38]


The Bahá’í teachings speak of both a “Greater Covenant”,[39] being universal and endless, and a “Lesser Covenant”, being unique to each religious dispensation. The Lesser Covenant is viewed as an agreement between a Messenger of God and his followers and includes social practices and the continuation of authority in the religion. At this time Bahá’ís view Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation as a binding lesser covenant for his followers; in the Bahá’í writings being firm in the covenant is considered a virtue to work toward.[40] The Greater Covenant is viewed as a more enduring agreement between God and humanity, where a Manifestation of God is expected to come to humanity about every thousand years, at times of turmoil and uncertainty.

With unity as an essential teaching of the religion, Bahá’ís follow an administration they believe is divinely ordained, and therefore see attempts to create schisms and divisions as efforts that are contrary to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Schisms have occurred over the succession of authority, but any Bahá’í divisions have had relatively little success and have failed to attract a sizeable following.[41] The followers of such divisions are regarded as Covenant-breakers and shunned, essentially excommunicated.[40][42]

Canonical texts

Main article: Bahá’í literature

The canonical texts are the writings of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice, and the authenticated talks of `Abdu’l-Bahá. The writings of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are considered as divine revelation, the writings and talks of `Abdu’l-Bahá and the writings of Shoghi Effendi as authoritative interpretation, and those of the Universal House of Justice as authoritative legislation and elucidation. Some measure of divine guidance is assumed for all of these texts.[43] Some of Bahá’u’lláh’s most important writings include the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, literally the Most Holy Book, which is his book of laws,[44] the Kitáb-i-Íqán, literally the Book of Certitude, which became the foundation of much of Bahá’í belief,[45] the Gems of Divine Mysteries, which includes further doctrinal foundations, and the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys which are mystical treatises.[46]


Bahá’í timeline

1844 The Báb declares his mission in Shiraz, Iran

1850 The Báb is publicly executed in Tabriz, Iran

1852 Thousands of Bábís are executed
Bahá’u’lláh is imprisoned and forced into exile

1863 Bahá’u’lláh first announces his claim to divine revelation
He is forced to leave Baghdad for Constantinople, then Adrianople

1868 Bahá’u’lláh is forced into harsher confinement in `Akká, Palestine

1892 Bahá’u’lláh dies near `Akká
His will appointed `Abdu’l-Bahá as successor

1908 `Abdu’l-Bahá is released from prison

1921 `Abdu’l-Bahá dies in Haifa
His will appoints Shoghi Effendi as Guardian

1957 Shoghi Effendi dies in England

1963 The Universal House of Justice is first elected
Main article: Bahá’í history

Bahá’í history follows a sequence of leaders, beginning with the Báb‘s May 23, 1844 declaration in Shiraz, Iran, and ultimately resting on an administrative order established by the central figures of the religion. The Bahá’í community was mostly confined to the Persian and Ottoman empires until after the death of Bahá’u’lláh in 1892, at which time he had followers in 13 countries of Asia and Africa.[47] Under the leadership of his son, `Abdu’l-Bahá, the religion gained a footing in Europe and America, and was consolidated in Iran, where it still suffers intense persecution.[4] After the death of `Abdu’l-Bahá in 1921, the leadership of the Bahá’í community entered a new phase, evolving from a single individual to an administrative order with both elected bodies and appointed individuals.[5]

The Báb

Main article: Báb
A domed building

Shrine of the Báb in Haifa, Israel

On May 23, 1844, Siyyid `Alí-Muhammad of Shiraz, Iran proclaimed that he was “the Báb” (الباب “the Gate”), referring to his later claim to the station of Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam of Shi`a Islam.[4] His followers were therefore known as Bábís. As the Báb’s teachings spread, which the Islamic clergy saw as a threat, his followers came under increased persecution and torture.[14] The conflicts escalated in several places to military sieges by the Shah‘s army. The Báb himself was imprisoned and eventually executed in 1850.[48]

Bahá’ís see the Báb as the forerunner of the Bahá’í Faith, because the Báb’s writings introduced the concept of “He whom God shall make manifest“, a Messianic figure whose coming, according to Bahá’ís, was announced in the scriptures of all of the world’s great religions, and whom Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, claimed to be in 1863.[14] The Báb’s tomb, located in Haifa, Israel, is an important place of pilgrimage for Bahá’ís. The remains of the Báb were brought secretly from Iran to the Holy Land and eventually interred in the tomb built for them in a spot specifically designated by Bahá’u’lláh.[49] The main written works translated into English of the Báb’s are collected in Selections from the Writings of the Báb out of the estimated 135 works.[50]


Main article: Bahá’u’lláh

Mírzá Husayn `Alí Núrí was one of the early followers of the Báb, and later took the title of Bahá’u’lláh. He was arrested and imprisoned for this involvement in 1852. Bahá’u’lláh relates that in 1853, while incarcerated in the dungeon of the Síyáh-Chál in Tehran, he received the first intimations that he was the one anticipated by the Báb.[3]

Shortly thereafter he was expelled from Tehran to Baghdad, in the Ottoman Empire;[3] then to Constantinople (now Istanbul); and then to Adrianople (now Edirne). In 1863, at the time of his banishment from Baghdad to Constantinople, Bahá’u’lláh declared his claim to a divine mission to his family and followers. Tensions then grew between him and Subh-i-Azal, the appointed leader of the Bábís who did not recognize Bahá’u’lláh’s claim. Throughout the rest of his life Bahá’u’lláh gained the allegiance of most of the Bábís, who came to be known as Bahá’ís. Beginning in 1866, he began declaring his mission as a Messenger of God in letters to the world’s religious and secular rulers, including Pope Pius IX, Napoleon III, and Queen Victoria.

In 1868 Bahá’u’lláh was banished by Sultan Abdülâziz a final time to the Ottoman penal colony of `Akká, in present-day Israel.[51] Towards the end of his life, the strict and harsh confinement was gradually relaxed, and he was allowed to live in a home near `Akká, while still officially a prisoner of that city.[51] He died there in 1892. Bahá’ís regard his resting place at Bahjí as the Qiblih to which they turn in prayer each day.[46]

Bahá’u’lláh wrote many written works taken as scripture in the religion of which only a fraction have been translated into English.[52] There have been 15,000 works both small and large noted[50] – the most significant of which are the Most Holy Book, the Book of Certitude, the Hidden Words, and the Seven Valleys. There is also a series of compilation volumes of smaller works the most significant of which is the Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.


Social practices


Main article: Bahá’í laws

The laws of the Bahá’í Faith primarily come from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, written by Bahá’u’lláh.[88] The following are a few examples of basic laws and religious observances.

  • Prayer in the Bahá’í Faith consists of obligatory prayer and devotional (general) prayer. Bahá’ís over the age of 15 must individually recite an obligatory prayer each day, using fixed words and form. In addition to the daily obligatory prayer, believers are directed to daily offer devotional prayer and to meditate and study sacred scripture. There is no set form for devotions and meditations, though the devotional prayers written by the central figures of the Bahá’í Faith and collected in prayer books are held in high esteem. Reading aloud of prayers from prayer books is a typical feature of Bahá’í gatherings.
  • Backbiting and gossip are prohibited and denounced.
  • Adult Bahá’ís in good health should observe a nineteen-day sunrise-to-sunset fast each year from March 2 through March 20.
  • Bahá’ís are forbidden to drink alcohol or to take drugs, unless prescribed by doctors.
  • Sexual intercourse is only permitted between a husband and wife, and thus premarital, extramarital, and homosexual intercourse are forbidden. (See also Homosexuality and the Bahá’í Faith)
  • Gambling is forbidden.
  • Fanaticism is forbidden.
  • Adherence to ritual is discouraged, with the notable exception of the obligatory prayers.
  • Abstaining from partisan politics is required.

While some of the laws from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are applicable at the present time and may be enforced to a degree by the administrative institutions,[89] Bahá’u’lláh has provided for the progressive application of other laws that are dependent upon the existence of a predominantly Bahá’í society. The laws, when not in direct conflict with the civil laws of the country of residence, are binding on every Bahá’í,[89] and the observance of personal laws, such as prayer or fasting, is the sole responsibility of the individual.[88][90]


Main article: Bahá’í marriage

The purpose of marriage in the Bahá’i faith is mainly to foster spiritual harmony, fellowship and unity between a man and a woman and to provide a stable and loving environment for the rearing of children.[91] The Bahá’í teachings on marriage call it a fortress for well-being and salvation and place marriage and the family as the foundation of the structure of human society.[91] Bahá’u’lláh highly praised marriage, discouraged divorce and homosexuality, and required chastity outside of marriage; Bahá’u’lláh taught that a husband and wife should strive to improve the spiritual life of each other.[92] Interracial marriage is also highly praised throughout Bahá’í scripture.[91]

Bahá’ís intending to marry are asked to obtain a thorough understanding of the other’s character before deciding to marry.[91] Although parents should not choose partners for their children, once two individuals decide to marry, they must receive the consent of all living biological parents, even if one partner is not a Bahá’í. The Bahá’í marriage ceremony is simple; the only compulsory part of the wedding is the reading of the wedding vows prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh which both the groom and the bride read, in the presence of two witnesses.[91] The vows are “We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.”[91]


Monasticism is forbidden, and Bahá’ís attempt to ground their spirituality in ordinary daily life. Performing useful work, for example, is not only required but considered a form of worship.[14] Bahá’u’lláh prohibited a mendicant and ascetic lifestyle.[93] The importance of self-exertion and service to humanity in one’s spiritual life is emphasised further in Bahá’u’lláh’s writings, where he states that work done in the spirit of service to humanity enjoys a rank equal to that of prayer and worship in the sight of God.[14]

Places of worship

A white domed building with palm trees in front of  it

Bahá’í House of Worship, Langenhain, Germany

Most Bahá’í meetings occur in individuals’ homes, local Bahá’í centers, or rented facilities. Worldwide, there are currently seven Bahá’í Houses of Worship, with an eighth under construction in Chile,[94] and a further seven planned as of April 2012.[95] Bahá’í writings refer to an institution called a “Mashriqu’l-Adhkár” (Dawning-place of the Mention of God), which is to form the center of a complex of institutions including a hospital, university, and so on.[96] The first ever Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in `Ishqábád, Turkmenistan, has been the most complete House of Worship.[97]


Main article: Bahá’í calendar

The Bahá’í calendar is based upon the calendar established by the Báb. The year consists of 19 months, each having 19 days, with four or five intercalary days, to make a full solar year.[3] The Bahá’í New Year corresponds to the traditional Persian New Year, called Naw Rúz, and occurs on the vernal equinox, March 21, at the end of the month of fasting. Bahá’í communities gather at the beginning of each month at a meeting called a Feast for worship, consultation and socializing.[14]

Each of the 19 months is given a name which is an attribute of God; some examples include Bahá’ (Splendour), ‘Ilm (Knowledge), and Jamál (Beauty).[98] The Bahá’í week is familiar in that it consists of seven days, with each day of the week also named after an attribute of God. Bahá’ís observe 11 Holy Days throughout the year, with work suspended on 9 of these. These days commemorate important anniversaries in the history of the religion.[98]


Arabic script inscribed on a metal plate

The calligraphy of the Greatest Name

Main article: Bahá’í symbols

The symbols of the religion are derived from the Arabic word Bahá’ (بهاء “splendor” or “glory”), with a numerical value of 9, which is why the most common symbol is the nine-pointed star.[99] The ringstone symbol and calligraphy of the Greatest Name are also often encountered. The former consists of two five-pointed stars interspersed with a stylized Bahá’ whose shape is meant to recall the three onenesses,[100] while the latter is a calligraphic rendering of the phrase Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá (يا بهاء الأبهى “O Glory of the Most Glorious!”).

The five-pointed star is the symbol of the Bahá’í Faith.[101][102] In the Bahá’í Faith, the star is known as the Haykal (Arabic: “temple”‎), and it was initiated and established by the Báb. The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh wrote various works in the form of a pentagram.[103]

Socio-economic development

A black-and-white photograph of several dozen girls seated in front of a school building

Students of School for Girls, Tehran, August 13, 1933. This photograph may be of the students of Tarbiyat School for Girls which was established by the Bahá’í Community of Tehran in 1911; the school was closed by government decree in 1934.[104]

Since its inception the Bahá’í Faith has had involvement in socio-economic development beginning by giving greater freedom to women,[105] promulgating the promotion of female education as a priority concern,[106] and that involvement was given practical expression by creating schools, agricultural coops, and clinics.[105]

The religion entered a new phase of activity when a message of the Universal House of Justice dated October 20, 1983 was released. Bahá’ís were urged to seek out ways, compatible with the Bahá’í teachings, in which they could become involved in the social and economic development of the communities in which they lived. Worldwide in 1979 there were 129 officially recognized Bahá’í socio-economic development projects. By 1987, the number of officially recognized development projects had increased to 1482.[107]

United Nations

Bahá’u’lláh wrote of the need for world government in this age of humanity’s collective life. Because of this emphasis the international Bahá’í community has chosen to support efforts of improving international relations through organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations, with some reservations about the present structure and constitution of the UN.[108] The Bahá’í International Community is an agency under the direction of the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, and has consultative status with the following organizations:[109][110]

The Bahá’í International Community has offices at the United Nations in New York and Geneva and representations to United Nations regional commissions and other offices in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Nairobi, Rome, Santiago, and Vienna.[110] In recent years an Office of the Environment and an Office for the Advancement of Women were established as part of its United Nations Office. The Bahá’í Faith has also undertaken joint development programs with various other United Nations agencies. In the 2000 Millennium Forum of the United Nations a Bahá’í was invited as the only non-governmental speaker during the summit.[



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Jain Prateek Chihna.svg          


Jainism /ˈnɪz(ə)m/, traditionally known as Jaina Shasana or Jaina dharma (Sanskrit: , is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of ahimsanonviolence – towards all living beings, and emphasises spiritual independence and equality between all forms of life. Practitioners believe that nonviolence and self-control are the means by which they can obtain liberation. Ascetism is thus a major focus of the Jain faith. The three main principles of Jainism are Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Anekantvad (Non-Absolutism) and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness).

Jainism is one of the oldest religions in the world.  Jains traditionally trace their history through a succession of twenty-four propagators of their faith known as tirthankaras with Rishabha as the first and Mahāvīra as the last of the current era.

Jainism is a religious minority in India, with 4.2 million adherents, and there are immigrant communities in Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United States. The population of the Jain community across the world is around 6.1 million.




Main article: Ahimsa in Jainism

The three main principles of Jainism are Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Anekantvad (Non-Absolutism) and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness). The principle of nonviolence or ahimsa is the most fundamental and well known aspect of Jain religious practice. Non-violence is seen as the most essential religious duty for everyone. The everyday implementation of ahimsa is more scrupulous and comprehensive than in other religions and the most significant hallmark for Jain identity.  Mahatma Ghandhi notably practiced and preached ahimsa.

Jainism defines violence as intentional or unintentional harm. It is intentional harm and the absence of compassion that make an action more violent. Jains believe in avoiding harm to others through actions, speech and thoughts. This is practiced first and foremost as it applies to interactions with other individuals.

Jains extend the practice of non-violence towards all living beings. Although every life-form is said to deserve protection from injury, Jains admit that this ideal cannot be completely implemented in practice. Hence, they recognize a hierarchy of life that gives less protection to immobile beings than to mobile ones, which are further distinguished by the number of senses they possess, from one to five. The more senses a being has, the more care Jains take for its protection. Among those with five senses, rational beings (humans) are the most strongly protected by ahimsa.

The Jain diet is one of the most rigorous forms of spiritually motivated diet found either on the Indian subcontinent or elsewhere (Jain vegetarianism). For Jains, lacto-vegetarianism represents the minimal obligation. Jain scholars and activists support veganism, as the production of dairy products involves violence against cows.

Jains also go out of their way not to hurt even small insects and other minuscule animals. Insects in the home are often escorted out instead of killed. Honey production is not supported if it amounts to violence against the bees. Jain monks and nuns may minimize going out at night when it is more likely that they might trample insects. Per Jainism, injury caused by carelessness is like injury caused by deliberate action.  Jain farming is careful to avoid unintentional killing or injuring of small animals, such as worms and insects.  Additionally, because they consider harsh words to be a form of violence, they often keep a cloth for a ritual mouth-covering, serving as a reminder not to allow violence in their speech.

Strict Jains, including Jain monks and nuns, do not eat root vegetables, such as potatoes, onions and garlic, because tiny organisms are injured when the plant is pulled up, and also because a bulb or tuber’s ability to sprout is seen as characteristic of a living being.   Jains make considerable efforts in everyday life not to injure plants any more than necessary. Although they admit that plants must be destroyed for the sake of food, they accept such violence only inasmuch as it is indispensable for human survival.

Jains agree that violence in self-defense can be justified and that a soldier who kills enemies in combat is performing a legitimate duty.  Jain communities have accepted the use of military power for their defense, and there have been Jain monarchs, military commanders, and soldiers.


Mahāvīra employed anekānta extensively to explain the Jain philosophical concepts (painting from Rajasthan, ca. 1900)

Main article: Anekantavada

The second main principle of Jainism is anēkāntavāda. It refers to the principles of pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints, and to the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, no single one of which is complete.[15][16]

Anekāntavāda encourages its adherents to consider the views and beliefs of their rivals and opposing parties. Proponents of anekāntavāda apply this principle to religions and philosophies, reminding themselves that any of these—even Jainism—that clings too dogmatically to its own tenets is committing an error based on its limited point of view.[17] The principle of anekāntavāda also influenced Mohandas Gandhi to adopt principles of religious tolerance, ahiṃsā and satyagraha.[18]

Jains contrast attempts to proclaim absolute truth with this theory, which can be illustrated through the parable of the blind men and an elephant. In this story, each blind man feels a different part of an elephant: its trunk, leg, ear, and so on. All of them claim to understand and explain the true appearance of the elephant but, due to their limited perspectives, can only partly succeed.[19] This principle is more formally stated by observing that objects are infinite in their qualities and modes of existence, so they cannot be completely grasped in all aspects and manifestations by finite human perception. Only Kevalins—omniscient beings—can comprehend objects in all aspects and manifestations; others are only capable of partial knowledge.[20] Accordingly, no single, specific, human view can claim to represent absolute truth.[15]

Syādvāda is the theory of conditioned predication, which recommends the expression of anekānta by prefixing the epithet Syād to every phrase or expression.[21] Syādvāda is not only an extension of anekānta into ontology, but a separate system of logic capable of standing on its own. The Sanskrit etymological root of the term syād is “perhaps” or “maybe”, but in the context of syādvāda it means “in some ways” or “from some perspective”. As reality is complex, no single proposition can express its nature fully. The term syāt- should therefore be prefixed to each proposition, giving it a conditional point of view and thus removing dogmatism from the statement.[22] Since it comprises seven different conditional and relative viewpoints or propositions, syādvāda is known as saptibhaṅgīnāya or the theory of seven conditioned predications. These seven propositions, also known as saptibhaṅgī, are:[23]

  1. syād-asti—in some ways, it is;
  2. syād-nāsti—in some ways, it is not;
  3. syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not;
  4. syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable;
  5. syād-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable;
  6. syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable;
  7. syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.

Each of these seven propositions examines the complex and multifaceted nature of reality from a relative point of view of time, space, substance and mode.[23] To ignore the complexity of reality is to commit the fallacy of dogmatism.[16]

Nayavāda is the theory of partial standpoints or viewpoints.[24] Nayavāda is a compound of two Sanskrit words: naya (“partial viewpoint”) and vada (“school of thought or debate”). It is used to arrive at a certain inference from a point of view. Every object has infinite aspects, but when we describe one in practice, we speak only of relevant aspects and ignore the irrelevant.[24] This does not deny the other attributes, qualities, modes and other aspects; they are just irrelevant from a particular perspective. As a type of critical philosophy, nayavāda holds that philosophical disputes arise out of confusion of standpoints, and the standpoints we adopt are “the outcome of purposes that we may pursue”—although we may not realise it. While operating within the limits of language and perceiving the complex nature of reality, Māhavīra used the language of nayas. Naya, being a partial expression of truth, enables us to comprehend reality part by part.[25]


Main article: Aparigraha

The third main principle in Jainism is Aparigraha (non-possessiveness). Aparigraha is the Sanskrit word for greedlessness or non-grasping. Jainism emphasizes taking no more than is truly necessary. Followers should minimize material possessions and limit attachment to current possessions. Wealth and possessions should be shared and donated whenever possible. Jainism believes that unchecked possessions can lead to direct harm to oneself and others.

Five Major Vows

Jainism encourages spiritual development through cultivation of personal wisdom and through reliance on self-control through vows.[26] Jains accept different levels of compliance for strict followers and laymen.[26] Followers of this religion undertake five major vows:

  1. Ahimsa: Ahimsa means non-violence. The first major vow taken by followers is to cause no harm to living beings. It involves minimizing intentional and unintentional harm to other living creatures.
  2. Satya: Satya figuratively means truth. This vow is to always speak the truth. Given that non-violence has priority, other principles yield to it whenever they conflict: in a situation where speaking truth could lead to violence, silence is to be observed.[26]
  3. Asteya: The third vow, asteya, is to not take anything that is not willingly offered.[26] Attempting to extort material wealth from others or to exploit the weak is considered theft.
  4. Brahmacharya: The vow of brahmacharya requires the exercise of control over the senses by refraining from indulgence in sexual activity.[27]
  5. Aparigraha: Aparigraha means non-possessiveness. This vow is to observe detachment from people, places and material things.[26] Strict Jains completely renounce property and social relations.

Monks and nuns are obligated to practice the five cardinal principles of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possessiveness very strictly, while laymen are encouraged to observe them within their current practical limitations.[26] This may mean avoiding sexual promiscuity for laymen.

Additionally, Jainism identifies four passions of the mind: Anger, Pride(Ego), Deceitfulness and Greed. Jainism recommends conquering anger by forgiveness, pride(ego) by humility, deceitfulness by straight-forwardness and greed by contentment.


Soul and karma

According to Jains, souls are intrinsically pure and possess the qualities of infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite bliss and infinite energy.[28] In contemporary experience, however, these qualities are found to be defiled and obstructed, on account of the soul’s association with a substance called karma over an eternity of beginningless time.[29] This bondage of the soul is explained in the Jain texts by analogy with gold, which is always found mixed with impurities in its natural state. Similarly, the ideally pure state of the soul has always been overlaid with the impurities of karma. This analogy with gold further implies that the purification of the soul can be achieved if the proper methods of refining are applied.[29] Over the centuries, Jain monks have developed a large and sophisticated corpus of literature describing the nature of the soul, various aspects of the working of karma, and the means of attaining liberation.[29]


Jain metaphysics is based on seven or nine fundamentals which are known as tattva, constituting an attempt to explain the nature of the human predicament and to provide solutions to it:[30]

  1. Jīva: The essence of living entities is called jiva, a substance which is different from the body that houses it. Consciousness, knowledge and perception are its fundamental attributes.
  2. Ajīva: Non-living entities that consist of matter, space and time fall into the category of ajiva.
  3. Asrava: The interaction between jīva and ajīva causes the influx of a karma (a particular form of ajiva) into the soul, to which it then adheres.
  4. Bandha: The karma masks the jiva and restricts it from having its true potential of perfect knowledge and perception.
  5. Saṃvara: Through right conduct, it is possible to stop the influx of additional karma.
  6. Nirjarā: By performing asceticism, it is possible to shred or burn up the existing karma.
  7. Mokṣa: The jiva which has removed its karma is said to be liberated and to have its pure, intrinsic quality of perfect knowledge in its true form.

Some authors add two additional categories: the meritorious and demeritorious acts related to karma. These are called puṇya and pāpa respectively. These fundamentals acts as the basis for the Jain metaphysics.


Shape of Universe as per Jain cosmology in form of a cosmic man. Picture taken from 15-17th century Jain art.

Main article: Jain cosmology

Jain beliefs postulate that the universe was never created, nor will it ever cease to exist. It is independent and self-sufficient, and does not require any superior power to govern it. Elaborate description of the shape and function of the physical and metaphysical universe, and its constituents, is provided in the canonical Jain texts, in commentaries and in the writings of the Jain philosopher-monks. The early Jains contemplated the nature of the earth and universe and developed detailed hypotheses concerning various aspects of astronomy and cosmology.[31]

According to the Jain texts, the universe is divided into three parts, the upper, middle, and lower worlds, called respectively urdhva loka, madhya loka, and adho loka.[32] It is made up of six constituents:[33] Jīva, the living entity; Pudgala, matter; Dharma tattva, the substance responsible for motion; Adharma tattva, the substance responsible for rest; Akāśa, space; and Kāla, time.[33]

Time is beginningless and eternal; the cosmic wheel of time, called kālachakra, rotates ceaselessly. It is divided into halves, called utsarpiṇī and avasarpiṇī.[34] Utsarpiṇī is a period of progressive prosperity, where happiness increases, while avasarpiṇī is a period of increasing sorrow and immorality.[35]

Jainism views animals and life itself in an utterly different light, reflecting an indigenous Asian understanding that yields a different definition of the soul, the human person, the structure of the cosmos, and ethics.[36]

Universal history

According to Jain legends, sixty-three illustrious beings called Salakapurusas have appeared on earth.[37] The Jain universal history is a compilation of the deeds of these illustrious persons.[38] They comprise twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras, twelve cakravartins, nine baladevas, nine vāsudevas and nine prativāsudevas.[37]

Tīrthaṅkaras are the human beings who help others to achieve liberation. They propagate and revitalise Jain faith and become role-models for those seeking spiritual guidance. They reorganise the fourfold order that consists of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen.[39] Jain tradition identifies Rishabha (also known as Adinath) as the first tirthankara. The last two tirthankara, Pārśva and Mahāvīra, are historical figures whose existence is recorded.[40]

A cakravartin is an emperor of the world and lord of the material realm.[37] Though he possesses worldly power, he often finds his ambitions dwarfed by the vastness of the cosmos. Jain puranas give a list of twelve cakravartins. They are golden in complexion.[41] One of the greatest cakravartin mentioned in Jain scriptures is Bharata. Traditions say that India came to be known as Bharatavarsha in his memory.[42]

There are nine sets of baladeva, vāsudeva and prativāsudeva. Certain Digambara texts refer to them as balabhadra, narayana and pratinarayana, respectively. The origin of this list of brothers can be traced to the Jinacaritra by Bhadrabahu (c. 3rd–4th century BCE).[43] Baladeva are non-violent heroes, vasudeva are violent heroes and prativāsudeva can be described as villains. According to the legends, the vasudeva ultimately kill the prativasudeva. Of the nine baladeva, eight attain liberation and the last goes to heaven. The vasudeva go to hell on account of their violent exploits, even if these were intended to uphold righteousness.[44]


Statue of Rishabha, the first tīrthaṅkara and the traditional founder of Jainism

Main article: Timeline of Jainism

The origins of Jainism are obscure.[2][45] During the 5 or 6th century BC, Vardhamana Mahāvīra became one of the most influential teachers of Jainism. Mahāvīra, however, was most probably not the founder of Jainism, which reveres him as the last of the great tīrthaṅkaras of this age and not the founder of the religion. He appears in the tradition as one who, from the beginning, had followed a religion established long ago.[46]

Pārśva, the traditional predecessor of Mahāvīra, is the first Jain figure for whom there is reasonable historical evidence.[47] He might have lived somewhere in the 9th–7th century BC.[48][49][50] Followers of Pārśva are mentioned in the canonical books; and a legend in the Uttarādhyayana sūtra relates a meeting between a disciple of Pārśva and a disciple of Mahāvīra which brought about the union of the old branch of the Jain ideology and the new one.[46]

The word Jainism is derived from the Sanskrit verb root jin (“to conquer”). It refers to a battle with the passions and bodily pleasures that the Jain ascetics undertake. Those who win this battle are termed as Jina (conqueror). The term Jaina is therefore used to refer to laymen and ascetics of this tradition alike.


Main article: Jain literature

A Jain manuscript giving instructions on how best to live a proper Jain life

The tradition talks about a body of scriptures preached by all the tirthankaras of Jainism. These scriptures were contained in fourteen parts and were known as the purvas. These were memorised and passed on through the ages, but were vulnerable and were lost because of famine that caused the death of several saints within a thousand years of Mahāvīra’s death.[51]

The Jain Agamas are canonical texts of Jainism based on Mahāvīra’s teachings. These comprise forty-six works: twelve angās, twelve upanga āgamas, six chedasūtras, four mūlasūtras, ten prakīrnaka sūtras and two cūlikasūtras.[52]

There are two major denominations of Jain monks and nuns, the Śvētāmbara (“white-clad”, who wear white garments) and Digambara, or “Sky Clad”, who, as a further austerity, eschew clothing altogether. The Digambara sect of Jainism maintains that these agamas were also lost during the same famine. In the absence of authentic scriptures, Digambaras use about twenty-five scriptures written for their religious practice by great Acharyas. These include two main texts, four Pratham-Anuyog, three charn-anuyoga, four karan-anuyoga and twelve dravya-anuyoga.[53]

Jains developed a system of philosophy and ethics that had a great impact on Indian culture. They have contributed to the culture and language of the Indian states Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Jain scholars and poets authored Tamil classics of the Sangam period, such as the Cīvaka Cintāmaṇi and Nālaṭiyār.[54] In the beginning of the mediaeval period, between the 9th and 13th centuries, Kannada language authors were predominantly of the Jain and Lingayati faiths. Jains were the earliest known cultivators of Kannada literature, which they dominated until the 12th century. Jains wrote about the tirthankara and other aspects of the faith. Adikavi Pampa is one of the greatest Kannada poets. Court poet to the Chalukya king Arikesari, a Rashtrakuta feudatory, he is best known for his Vikramarjuna Vijaya.[55]

Jains encourage their monastics to do research and obtain higher education. Monks and nuns, particularly in Rajasthan, have published numerous research monographs. The 2001 census states that Jains are India’s most literate community.[56] Jain libraries, including those at Patan and Jaisalmer, have a large number of well preserved manuscripts.[57][58]


Royal patronage

Chandragupta Maurya (c. 322–298 BCE), became a Jain in the later part of his life.

The ancient city Pithunda, capital of Kalinga, is described in the Jain text Uttaradhyana Sutra as an important centre at the time of Mahāvīra, and was frequented by merchants from Champa.[59] Rishabha, the first tirthankara, was revered and worshiped in Pithunda and is known as the Kalinga Jina. Mahapadma Nanda (c. 450–362 BCE) conquered Kalinga and took a statue of Rishabha from Pithunda to his capital in Magadha. Jainism is said to have flourished under the Nanda Empire.[60]

The Maurya Empire came to power after the downfall of the Nanda. The first Mauryan emperor, Chandragupta Maurya (c. 322–298 BCE), became a Jain in the latter part of his life. He was a disciple of Bhadrabahu, a Jain acharya who was responsible for propagation of Jainism in South India.[61] The Mauryan king Ashoka was converted to Buddhism and his pro-Buddhist policy subjugated the Jains of Kalinga. Ashoka’s grandson Samprati (c. 224–215 BCE) is said to have converted to Jainism by a Jain monk named Suhasti. He is known to have erected many Jain temples. He ruled a place called Ujjain.[62]

In the 1st century BCE, Emperor Kharavela of the Mahameghavahana dynasty conquered Magadha. He retrieved Rishabha’s statue and installed it in Udaygiri, near his capital Shishupalgadh. Kharavela[63] was responsible for the propagation of Jainism across the Indian subcontinent.

Xuanzang (629–645 CE), a Chinese traveller, notes that there were numerous Jains present in Kalinga during his time.[64] The Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves near Bhubaneswar are the only surviving stone Jain monuments in Orissa.[65]

King Vanaraja (c. 720–780 CE) of the Chawda dynasty in northern Gujarat was raised by a Jain monk Silunga Suri. He supported Jainism during his rule. The king of kannauj Ama (c. 8th century CE) was converted to Jainism by Bappabhatti, a disciple of famous Jain monk Siddhasena Divakara.[66] Bappabhatti also converted Vakpati, the friend of Ama who authored a famous prakrit epic named Gaudavaho.[67]


The Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara propagated Hinduism at the expense of Jainism.

Once a major religion, Jainism declined due to a number of factors, including proselytising by other religious groups, persecution, withdrawal of royal patronage, sectarian fragmentation and the absence of central leadership.[68] Since the time of Mahavira, Jainism faced rivalry with Buddhism and the various Hindu sects.[69] The Jains suffered isolated violent persecutions by these groups, but the main factor responsible for the decline of their religion was the success of Hindu reformist movements.[70] Around the 7th century, Shaivism saw considerable growth at the expense of Jainism due to the efforts of the Shaivite poets like Sambandar and Appar. Around the 8th century CE, the Hindu philosophers Kumārila Bhaṭṭa and Adi Shankara tried to restore the orthodox Vedic religion.

Royal patronage has been a key factor in the growth as well as decline of Jainism.[68] The Pallava king Mahendravarman I (600–630 CE) converted from Jainism to Shaivism under the influence of Appar.[71] His work Mattavilasa Prahasana ridicules certain Shaiva sects and the Buddhists and also expresses contempt towards Jain ascetics.[72] Sambandar converted the contemporary Pandya king back to Shaivism. During the 11th century Brahmana Basava, a minister to the Jain king Bijjala, succeeded in converting numerous Jains to the Lingayat Shaivite sect. The Lingayats destroyed various temples belonging to Jains and adapted them to their use.[73] The Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana (c. 1108–1152 CE) became a follower of the Vaishnava sect under the influence of Ramanuja, after which Vaishnavism grew rapidly in the present-day Karnataka.[74] As the Hindu sects grew, the Jains compromised by following Hindu rituals and customs and invoking Hindu deities in Jain literature.[73]

There are several legends about the mass massacre of Jains in the ancient times. The Buddhist king Ashoka (304-232 BCE) is said to have ordered killings of 18,000 Jains or Ajivikas after someone drew a picture of Buddha bowing at the feet of Mahavira.[75][76] The Saivite king Koon Pandiyan, who briefly converted to Jainism, is said to have ordered a massacre of 8,000 Jains after his re-conversion to Saivism. However, these legends are not found in the Jain texts, and appear to be fabricated propaganda by Buddhists and Saivites.[77][78] Such stories of destruction of one sect by another sect were common at the time, and were used as a way to prove the superiority of one sect over the other. There are stories about a Jain king of Kanchi persecuting the Buddhists in a similar way.[79] Another such legend about Vishnuvardhana ordering the Jains to be crushed in an oil mill doesn’t appear to be historically true.[80]

The decline of Jainism continued after the Islamic conquest of India. The Muslims conquerors of India, such as Mahmud Ghazni (1001), Mohammad Ghori (1175) and Ala-ud-din Muhammed Shah Khilji (1298) further oppressed the Jain community.[81] They vandalised idols and destroyed temples or converted them into mosques. They also burned the Jain books and killed Jains. Some conversions were peaceful, however; Pir Mahabir Khamdayat (c. 13th century CE) is well known for his peaceful propagation of Islam.[81][82] The Jains also enjoyed amicable relations with the rulers of the tributary Hindu kingdoms during this period; however, their number and influence had diminished significantly due to their rivalry with the Saivite and the Vaisnavite sects.[73]

Present times

With 4.2 million followers,[56] Jainism is the smallest among the major world religions. Jains live throughout India, with the largest populations concentrated in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu also have relatively large Jain populations.[83] Outside India, large Jain communities can be found in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Kenya. Jainism is a fairly strong faith in the United States, with several dozen Jain temples having been built there, primarily by the Gujarati community. American Jainism accommodates all the sects. Small Jain communities also exist in Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Fiji, and Suriname. In Belgium, the very successful Indian diamond community in Antwerp, almost all of whom are Jain, opened the largest Jain temple outside India in 2010, to strengthen Jain values in and across Western Europe.[84]

For long periods of time, Jainism was widely adopted in the Indian subcontinent. The religion has been in decline since the 8th century AD due to the growth of, and oppression by other religions.[69]

Jains, according to the 2001 census, have the highest degree of literacy of any religious community in India (94.1 per cent),[56] and their manuscript libraries are the oldest in the country.[57]

Schools and branches

The Jain community is divided into two major denominations, Digambara and Śvētāmbara. Digambara monks do not wear clothes because they believe these, like other possessions, increase dependency and desire for material things—and desire for anything ultimately leads to sorrow. This practice restricts full monastic life (and therefore mokṣa) to males, as Digambaras do not permit women to be nude; female renunciates wear white and are referred to as Aryikas. Śvētāmbara monastics, on the other hand, wear white seamless clothes for practical reasons, and believe there is nothing in the scriptures that condemns the wearing of clothes. Women are accorded full status as renunciates and are often called sadhvi, the feminine of sadhu, a term often used for male monastics. Śvētāmbara believe women may attain liberation and that the tirthankara Māllīnātha was female.[85]

The earliest record of Digambara beliefs is contained in the Prakrit Suttapahuda of the Digambara mendicant Kundakunda (c. 2nd century CE).[86] Digambaras believe that Mahāvīra remained unmarried, whereas Śvētāmbara believe Mahāvīra married a woman who bore him a daughter. The two sects also differ on the origin of Mata Trishala, Mahāvīra’s mother.[87]

Excavations at Mathura revealed Jain statues from the time of the Kushan Empire (c. 1st century CE). Tirthankara, represented without clothes, and monks with cloth wrapped around the left arm are identified as the Ardhaphalaka (“half-clothed”) mentioned in texts. The Yapaniyas, believed to have originated from the Ardhaphalaka, followed Digambara nudity along with several Śvētāmbara beliefs.[88]

Śvētāmbara sub-sects include Sthanakavasi, Terapanthi, and Murtipujaka. The Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi are aniconic. Śvētāmbara follow the twelve Jain Agamas. Digambara sub-sects include Bisapanthi, Kanjipanthi, Taranapanthi and Terapanthi.[89] In 1974 a committee with representatives from every sect compiled a new text called the Saman Suttam.[90]

Timeline of various denominations in Jainism

Art and architecture

Main article: Jain art

Bahubali monolith of Shravanabelagola

Jainism has contributed significantly to Indian art and architecture. Jains mainly depict tirthankara or other important people in a seated or standing meditative posture. Yakshas and yakshinis, attendant spirits who guard the tirthankara, are usually shown with them.[91] Figures on various seals from the Indus Valley Civilisation bear similarity to Jain images, nude and in a meditative posture.[91] The earliest known Jain image is in the Patna museum. It is approximately dated to the 3rd century BCE.[91] Bronze images of Pārśva, can be seen in the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, and in the Patna museum; these are dated to the 2nd century BCE. A sandalwood sculpture of Mahāvīra was carved during his lifetime, according to tradition. Later the practice of making images of wood was abandoned, other materials being substituted.[92]

Remnants of ancient Jain temples and cave temples can be found all around India. Notable among these are the Jain caves at Udaigiri Hills near Bhelsa(Vidisha) in Madhya Pradesh and Ellora in Maharashtra, and the Jain temples at Dilwara near Mount Abu, Rajasthan. The Jain tower in Chittor, Rajasthan is a good example of Jain architecture.[93] Decorated manuscripts are preserved in Jain libraries, containing diagrams from Jain cosmology.[94] Most of the paintings and illustrations depict historical events, known as Panch Kalyanaka, from the life of the tirthankara. Rishabha, the first tirthankara, is usually depicted in either the lotus position or kayotsarga, the standing position. He is distinguished from other tirthankara by the long locks of hair falling to his shoulders. Bull images also appear in his sculptures.[95] In paintings, incidents of his life, like his marriage and Indra‘s marking his forehead, are depicted. Other paintings show him presenting a pottery bowl to his followers; he is also seen painting a house, weaving, and being visited by his mother Marudevi.[96] Each of the twenty-four tirthankara is associated with distinctive emblems, which are listed in such texts as Tiloyapannati, Kahavaali and Pravacanasaarodhara.[97]

There are 26 caves, 200 stone beds, 60 inscriptions and over 100 sculptures in and around Madurai. It was in Madurai that Acharya Bhutapali wrote the Shatkhandagama. This is also the site where Jain ascetics of yesteryear wrote great epics and books on grammar in Tamil.[98]

Paintings at the Sittanavasal Cave,7th century, Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu, India

The Sittanavasal cave temple is regarded as one of the finest examples of Jain art. It is the oldest and most famous Jain centre in the region. It possesses both an early Jain cave shelter, and a medieval rock-cut temple with excellent fresco paintings of par excellence comparable to Ajantha paintings; the steep hill contains an isolated but spacious cavern. Locally, this cavern is known as Eladipattam, a name that is derived from the seven holes cut into the rock that serve as steps leading to the shelter. Within the cave there are seventeen stone beds aligned into rows, and each of these has a raised portion that could have served as a pillow-loft. The largest stone bed has a distinct Tamil- Bramhi inscription assignable to the 2nd centuryB.C., and some inscriptions belonging to 8th centuryB.C. are also found on the nearby beds. The Sittannavasal cavern continued to be the “Holy Sramana Abode” until the seventh and eighth centuries. Inscriptions over the remaining stone beds name mendicants such as Tol kunrattu Kadavulan, Tirunilan, Tiruppuranan, Tittaicharanan, Sri Purrnacandran, Thiruchatthan, Ilangowthaman, sri Ulagathithan and Nityakaran Pattakali as monks.[99]

The 8th century Kazhugumalai temple marks the revival of Jainism in South India.[100]

A monolithic, 18 m statue of Bahubali referred to as “Gommateshvara”, built by the Ganga minister and commander Chavundaraya, is situated on a hilltop in Shravanabelagola in the Hassan district of Karnataka state. This statue was voted by Indians the first of the Times of India’s list of seven wonders of India.[101]

A large number of ayagapata, votive tablets for offerings and the worship of tirthankara, were found at Mathura.[102]

Customs and practices

Jains praying at the feet of a statue of Lord Bahubali.

Sadhvis meditating


The Ṇamōkāra mantra is the fundamental prayer of Jainism. In this prayer there is no mention of names, including that of the tirthankara. Jains do not ask for favours or material benefits from the tirthankara or from monks. This mantra simply serves as a gesture of deep respect towards beings they believe are more spiritually advanced and to remind followers of Jainism of their ultimate goal, moksha.[103]

In Jainism, the purpose of worship or prayer is to break the barriers of worldly attachments and desires, so as to assist in the liberation of the soul. Jains follow six obligatory duties known as avashyakas: samyika (practising serenity), chaturvimshati (praising the tirthankara), vandan (respecting teachers and monks), pratikramana (introspection), kayotsarga (stillness), and pratyakhyana (renunciation).[104] Related to the five auspicious life events of tirthankara called the Panch Kalyanaka are such rituals as the panch kalyanaka pratishtha, panch kalyanaka puja, and snatra puja.[105][106]


Paryushana is one of the most important festivals for Jains. Śvētāmbara Jains normally refer to it as Paryushana, with the literal meaning of “abiding” or “coming together”, while Digambara Jains call it Das Lakshana. It is a time when the laity take on vows of study and fasting with a spiritual intensity similar to temporary monasticism. Paryushana lasts eight days for Śvētāmbara Jains and ten days for Digambara Jains.[107]

Mahāvīra Jayanti, the birthday of Mahāvīra, the last tirthankara, is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra, which date falls in late March or early April of the Gregorian calendar.[108]

Diwali is a festival that takes place during the month of Kartik in the Indian lunisolar calendar, around the new-moon day (amavasya). This usually falls in October or November. Mahāvīra attained his nirvana at the dawn of the amavasya (new moon).[109] According to the Kalpa Sūtra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BCE, numerous deva were present there, illuminating the darkness.[110] On 21 October 1974 the 2500th Nirvana Mahotsava was celebrated by Jains throughout India.[111]


Most Jains fast at special times, particularly during festivals. A Jain, however, may fast whenever it seems appropriate. A unique ritual in this religion involves a holy fast to death, called sallekhana. Through this one achieves a death with dignity and dispassion as well as a great reduction of negative karma.[112] When a person is aware of approaching death, and feels that all his or her duties have been fulfilled, he or she may decide to gradually cease eating and drinking. This form of dying is also called santhara. It can take as long as twelve years of gradual reduction in food intake. Considered extremely spiritual and creditable, with awareness of the transitory nature of human experience, santhara has recently been the centre of a controversy in which a lawyer petitioned the High Court of Rajasthan to declare it illegal. Jains see santhara as spiritual detachment requiring a great deal of spiritual accomplishment and maturity, a declaration that a person has finished with this world and chooses to leave.[113]


Main article: Jain meditation

Jains have developed a type of meditation called samayika, a term derived from the word samaya. The goal of Samayika is to achieve a feeling of perfect calmness and to understand the unchanging truth of the self. Such meditation is based on contemplation of the universe and the reincarnation of self.[114] Samayika is particularly important during the religious festival Paryushana. It is believed that meditation assists in managing and balancing one’s passions. Great emphasis is placed on the internal control of thoughts, as they influence behaviour, actions and goals.[115]


In Jainism, monasticism is encouraged and respected. The austerities ascetic disciplines practised by Jain monastics are severe; some will wear face masks at all times to avoid inadvertantly ingesting insects; most will carry a broom, made from peacock feathers, to sweep the ground ahead of them, or before sitting down, to avoid inadvertantly crushing small insects; likewise, monks and nuns will carefully inspect food for even the smallest amount of meat, or insects, to maintain their vows to avoid harming any living creatures. Jain ascetics have neither a permanent home nor possessions, wandering from place to place except during the months of Chaturmas. The life they lead is difficult because of the constraints placed on them: they do not use vehicles and always travel barefoot from one place to another, irrespective of the distance. They do not use such basic services as telephones or electricity. They do not prepare food and live only on what people offer them.[116]

There are no priests in Jainism. The monks of Jainism, whose presence is not significant to most Jain rituals, should not be confused with priests. However, sects of Jainism that practise idol-worship often employ a servant, known as a pujari, who need not be a Jain, to perform special daily rituals and other priestly duties.


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and education.
The Topics of these video documentaries are varied and cover almost everything, including ancient history, Rome, Greece, science, technology, nature, planet

earth, the solar system, the universe, war, education, Biographies, television, archaeology, Illuminati, Area 51, serial killers, paranormal, supernatural, cults, government

cover-ups, corruption, martial arts, space, aliens, ufos, conspiracy theories, Annunaki, Nibiru, Nephilim, satanic rituals, religion, strange phenomenon, origins of Mankind

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