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Founding and History

Jainism is a religion of India concentrated largely in Gujarat and Rajasthan, in the state of Karnataka (Mysore), as well as in the larger cities of the Indian peninsula. Jainism emerged towards the end of a time of great social transformation in north India which is usually called the Vedic period. The word "Jainism" derives from the Sanskrit word 'jina ' (to conquer). It is the struggle and the subsequent victory of the Jain tirthankaras, "makers of the river crossing", over passion and bodily senses. This victory is necessary for the complete purity of soul, which is the religious goal for every Jain. This religion has survived in India for almost 2,500 years and is the only Sanskritic non-Hindu religious tradition to have done so. It was founded in the 6th century BC by Vardhamana Mahavira (Great Hero), who was the 24th Tirthankar. The first Tirthankar, Rsabha, is the original founder of Jainism, but very little is known of him.

The real historical founder was Mahavira, born in 599 BC. Born in a warrior's family, his father was chief of the 'Nata' clan. When he was twenty-eight years old he became an ascetic, one who refuses physical pleasures and worldly attachments for spiritual advancement. Therefore, he spent the next twelve years in deep silence and meditation to conquer his desires and feelings. He conducted himself in a principle of nonviolence, ahimsa, by avoiding the harm or annoyance of other living beings. After years of meditation he attained enlightenment, perfect and complete knowledge, also known as kevala. He became a liberated soul, living eternally in a state of complete bliss. He preached Jainism for 30 years and died at the age of 72 in 527 BC.


Jainism believes that the universe and all its substances are eternal.